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What Are Pie Pumpkins?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pie pumpkins are any one of several varieties of pumpkin grown for eating rather than decorative purposes. Generally, they are smaller and more dense than decorative pumpkins. Recipes calling for pumpkin may use canned or fresh varieties, but should never have decorative pumpkins used as a substitute.

In North America, decorative pumpkins are carved into jack-o'-lanterns in honor of Halloween. Those bred for this purpose are usually meant to be very large, mostly hollow, and flat-bottomed for stability. The side effect of the large growth is that the flesh is usually watery and bland. Although the seeds inside are excellent for toasting, the flesh should not be eaten, as it is usually tasteless. Common varieties of decorative pumpkin include Howdon biggy and Connecticut field.

Pie pumpkins are small and dense and usually have a medium or dark orange color. They usually appear in markets and grocery stores in September, and continue to be sold through November. The most common variety is the deliciously flavorful sugar pie, but other eating pumpkins may include winter luxury, deep red, and golden cushaw.

The most obvious use for these pumpkins is to bake the autumn favorite pumpkin pie. To make the pie, cooks can cut the squash in half and remove all seeds and stringy "guts," then bake it until completely soft, usually about one and a half hours. In a blender, she should combine the cooked flesh with cream, eggs, brown sugar, and spices. Typically used spices include cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. The blended mixture is then poured into a single pie crust and baked at 350°F (176.6°C) for 40-50 minutes.

This type of pumpkin can be used in any recipe calling for the squash. Indian cuisine includes recipes for spicy pumpkin curry, which makes a delicious autumn meal. It can also be added to pancake batter before cooking, then topping with maple syrup and whipped cream. A variety of recipes are available for pumpkin soup, which can be hearty and filling on cool evenings.

For a moist and delicious pumpkin bread, bakers can cook pumpkin as in the pie recipe above and puree it or use canned pumpkin. The puree can be combined with flour, melted oil or butter, sugar, eggs, nuts and spices. Different recipes call for different rising ingredients, but many chefs prefer a mixture of baking soda and baking powder. To make this filling bread a delicious dessert, half a package of semi-sweet chocolate chips may be added. It can be baked in a 325°F (162.7°C) oven until a knife poked into the bread comes out clean.

Pie pumpkins are an excellent source of beta carotene, calcium and potassium. For vegetarians, it can make an excellent replacement for meat in winter stews and soups. Many people consider pumpkin pie to be the essence of fall, reminding them of crisp falling leaves, cool evenings and the approaching holidays. Any pumpkin recipe can be a source of comfort and warmth, but cooks be sure to use the correct type to achieve a richly flavored result.

Do Pie Pumpkins Have Seeds?

While seedless pumpkins can exist, they are uncommon and most pie pumpkins do have seeds. When you open a pumpkin, you'll find flat, oval-shaped seeds. Pumpkin seeds are small and easy to remove and while you don't want seeds in your pie, you may not want to throw them away either.

Why Keep Pie Pumpkin Seeds

Since pumpkin seeds are edible, there is no reason to toss them out. Despite their size, seeds are a powerhouse when it comes to nutritional value. They contain unsaturated fats, protein and omega-6 fatty acids. Additionally, they include nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, B2, iron and calcium.

The nutrients within the seeds may provide a variety of benefits. Since the seeds are a high source of magnesium, you may use the seeds to regulate blood pressure. Likewise, eating the seeds can help you maintain your blood sugar levels.

What To Do With Pie Pumpkin Seeds

Most people know you can roast pumpkin seeds. To roast them, start by removing and washing them. Dry the seeds well to avoid adding to the cooking time. Once dry, add your seasoning. Seasoning ideas include olive oil, salt, garlic, paprika and black paper. Once seasoned, place your seeds in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once you have roasted seeds, there is a lot you can do with them. Consider eating them straight out of the oven as a snack, garnishing a soup or topping a salad. When it comes to seeds, you can be creative with how you want to use them. Some may add them to tacos for a crunch or blend them into hummus.

What To Do With Pie Pumpkins

When you think of pie pumpkins, it's natural to think about pumpkin pie, but pie isn't the only option for your table. Instead of pumpkin pie, you may want to consider pumpkin butter. Pumpkin butter is delicious on toast, pancakes, in cereal and added to granola or energy bars.

Another idea is spicy pumpkin wedges. To create wedges, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and cut the pumpkin into half-inch slices. Drizzle the slices with olive oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin and cayenne pepper. Bake the wedges for about 12 to 15 minutes, flip and continue to bake for 10 to 12 more minutes.

For more dinner ideas, try ravioli stuffed with pumpkin. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and cut your pumpkin in half and remove the seeds. Rub the pumpkin with olive oil, butter and brown sugar before baking for an hour. Once finished, scoop out the pumpkin and place the pulp in a food processor with soft cheese, thyme, green onions and salt and pepper. Once you combine the items, you can spoon the mixture onto dough or wonton wrappers.

Pie Pumpkin Varieties

When it comes to pie pumpkins, there are many types and you may find yourself overwhelmed when it comes to all of the different choices. Most pie pumpkins can be used in pie, savory dishes and desserts. Your ultimate goal may dictate what type of pie pumpkin you choose.

Baby Bear

Baby Bear pumpkins weigh between one and a half and two pounds. These orange, disease-resistant and frost tolerant pumpkins can grow in colder climates and the plants produce up to 20 pumpkins. The Baby Bear pumpkin is perfect for pumpkin pie, spice ice cream and other sweet holiday treats.

Dickinson Pumpkin

If you have made a pumpkin pie out of the canned pumpkin, then odds are you've used Libby's. Libby's produces about 85 percent of all canned pumpkin in the world. For Libby's canned pumpkin, they use a type of Dickinson pumpkin. Dickinson pumpkins tend to look like butternut squashes.

Small Sugar

A small sugar pumpkin is classic with orange skin and little ribbing. It weighs only five to eight pounds and has a delicate sweet taste. Small sugar is commonly used in pumpkin pie.

Galeux d'Eysines

The glaeux d-Eysine is a warty pumpkin. It weighs about 10 to 20 pounds and has a unique appearance. The meat of the fruit is stringless and is a gold-orange color. It has a delicate flavor, similar to pumpkin, sweet potatoes and apples. It can be used in pie, soup or bread.


The Cinderella pumpkin is a brightly colored, flattish pumpkin with deep ribs. The Cinderella pumpkin has been used in French cooking for centuries. The pumpkin was used to create the Cinderella carriage, which is how it gained its name. The fruit may be up to six inches tall and 18 inches wide. Cinderella pumpkins weigh between 10 and 25 pounds and have no strings with little water content.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for DelightedCooking. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By anon992727 — On Sep 27, 2015

It all sounds like a gimmick to get people to spend more on something.

By Kristee — On Dec 17, 2012

I use pie pumpkins to make dog treats. Pumpkin is good for a dog with an upset stomach or diarrhea, and my dogs gobble these treats up like they are meat!

The only other ingredients are a small amount of milk, flour, and two eggs, so they are completely safe for my dogs to eat. I cut them with a small bone-shaped cookie cutter to make them just the right size. I bake them until they are rock hard like dog biscuits.

I believe that if I used a different kind of pumpkin, the dogs might not like the treats as much. Pie pumpkins have the most flavor, and I think the dogs pick up on that.

By healthy4life — On Dec 16, 2012

@orangey03 – I used to grow pumpkins, and I always found that a mixture of soap and water was helpful at keeping the bugs away. I cut up and dissolved a bar of soap into some water inside a big sprayer, and I saturated the plants with it daily.

You have to be sure to get the undersides of the leaves, because bugs tend to hide out there. The soapy water will not make your pumpkin taste weird, because it is only touching the outside of the pumpkin.

Another thing you can try is planting nasturtiums in your pumpkin garden. They are supposed to repel squash bugs, and if you plant a few in between each pumpkin plant, you could really do some prevention. They produce colorful flowers all summer, so they will liven up your pumpkin garden, too.

By orangey03 — On Dec 15, 2012

Pumpkin and pecan pie are two things I look forward to each fall. I sometimes find myself thinking about them during the summer months, but it is nearly impossible to find a pie pumpkin during that time of year.

I do like growing my own pumpkins to use in recipes. However, I am always met with one challenge, and that is those pesky squash bugs. They like to eat through the vine and leaves, and they can destroy a pumpkin plant.

I hate to use pesticides on something that I'm going to be consuming. Is there anything I can do to prevent these bugs from feasting on what will eventually be part of my Thanksgiving feast?

By DylanB — On Dec 15, 2012

I think that using canned pumpkin instead of a pie pumpkin is like using pumpkin pie spice instead of getting all the spices separately and then mixing them. It may still taste good, but it will be less intense and you will miss out on a more flavorful experience.

By ddljohn — On Dec 01, 2012
@anon50749-- There is no health risk. I think what the article means is that if you do eat a decorative pumpkin, you will be disappointed with the flavor. Pie pumpkins are more suitable for cooking.
By candyquilt — On Dec 01, 2012

Does anyone have a recipe for pumpkin soup? All I know is that I'm supposed to use pie pumpkins for it.

By literally45 — On Dec 01, 2012

When I first came to the US, I didn't know the difference between pie pumpkins and decorative pumpkins.

We bought a decorative pumpkin for Halloween, carved it to place outside and then used the flesh to make pumpkin dessert. The dessert was not good, now I understand why.

And all this while, I thought that pumpkin pie was made from those pumpkins.

By Ana1234 — On Nov 30, 2012

@umbra21 - That's one of the reasons I like trying to get heirloom pumpkin and squash seeds. There are a lot of tasty varieties that are just generally good all-arounders, because the article is right. If you breed a pumpkin to be big and flat, so it will make a good jack 'o lantern, it's not going to be as tasty as one bred to be a pie pumpkin.

But, if you are growing them yourself, unless you specifically want them for a particular purpose, like making homemade pumpkin pie.

You're more likely to want one pumpkin type that can do a lot of different things without too much compromise.

Pumpkins are big vines and they take up a lot of space, particularly if you want enough to last through a year. So, you don't really want to be fussing around with several different varieties if one will do everything.

By umbra21 — On Nov 29, 2012

@anon51057 - Oh I love halwa and I've never tried it with pumpkin. I've always had it with either banana or carrots. I'm definitely going to have to give it a go with pumpkin.

I actually thought there were varieties for every use. That pie pumpkins were mostly for pies, carving pumpkins were mostly for carving, and that there were pumpkins for seed roasting and for grilling as well. I mean, you can probably use pie pumpkin seeds for roasting, of course and use any kind of pumpkin for any kind of act, just that some were better than others.

By anon300111 — On Oct 28, 2012

I agree with 50749. My first assumption was health risk.

By anon296340 — On Oct 10, 2012

I made some pretty good dishes with carving pumpkins, so I can only imagine how good pie pumpkins taste! I found baking the pieces of pumpkin with the skins on helped add flavor and color, because yes, the jack 'o' lantern type can be pretty plain.

By anon51057 — On Nov 03, 2009

Indian cuisine recognises the pumpkin as a readily available and versatile vegetable all year round though the appearance and the taste of the flesh varies seasonally. Only someone finicky would decide against having a pumpkin preparation given the wealth of nutrients it carries. By the way it lends itself beautifully to a sweet dish called " Halwa."

By anon50749 — On Oct 31, 2009

"...flesh should not be eaten, as it is usually tasteless."

I wouldn't use the words "shouldn't" or "should never."

These imply a danger rather than a preference, and some old varieties were bred for use both ways.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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