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What is Pumpkin Butter?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Pumpkin butter has been called pumpkin pie in a jar, and though it can’t technically be called fruit butter because pumpkin is a winter squash, it falls into this class of preserved spreads. It is essentially cooked pumpkin that is pureed and combined with sugar and spices common in pumpkin pie, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Its very thick texture is similar to butter, hence the name.

The cooking process of pumpkin butter does change the color, and most butters end up a very dark orange or brown color. There are some uncooked recipes of pumpkin butter that retain the color but these cannot be canned and need to be kept in the fridge and used quickly. Most traditional butters call for cooking of the pumpkin with spices and sugar to create a thick wonderful mixture that is excellent as a spread.

When cooks are planning to can pumpkin butter, they do need to search carefully for recipes where this is suitable. Some recipes are very low acid and won’t work well if cans are to be kept outside of the fridge. Look specifically for those recipes with canning instructions.

Pumpkin choice is another part of making pumpkin butter. In general people should select pie pumpkins, with sugar pie pumpkins being among the best choices. These are smaller and weigh about three to five pounds (1.36-2.27 kg). Though some people use larger jack o’lantern style pumpkins, they are not as sweet or flavorful and texture can sometimes be a problem. For large recipes though, it can take several sugar pie pumpkins to get enough cooked pumpkin, and some people turn to canned pumpkin instead, which is fine.

It isn’t necessary to make homemade pumpkin butter. People may find this butter at a variety of places, and it has become so popular that a few companies like Trader Joes® make their own for sale. A lot of farms that sell pumpkins during the fall may also have butters available and the butter is fairly easy to find in specialty stores.

For those who love pumpkin or pumpkin pie, this butter can be a revelation. Many people find it truly delicious and so different from the numerous fruit spreads they might ordinarily use. It is excellent on a variety of toasts or breads, and some people enjoy it on granola or as a topping to yogurt. Fans of pumpkin ice cream may revel in topping vanilla ice cream with a dollop of pumpkin butter.

There are also recipes that call for pumpkin butter. Pumpkin cheesecake may require it. Some cakes are made even more delicious when this added. Muffins or waffles may contain the butter, and thumbprint cookies can be made that have their centers filled with this spicy spread.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By SarahSon — On May 16, 2011

I have a holiday tradition of making pumpkin bread for family and friends. I wonder what that would taste like with some fresh pumpkin butter on it. If you love the taste of pumpkin I don't think it would be too much pumpkin taste.

I have made apple butter before, I imagine the process is about the same. It really isn't very hard to do - just takes a little bit of time, but the results are always worth it.

By Mykol — On May 14, 2011

I really don't care for the taste of squash, but have always loved pumpkin, and after reading this article can't wait to try some pumpkin butter! I have some old cookbooks that have a few pumpkin butter recipes in them and think I will have to look them up.

I usually crave the taste of pumpkin in the fall and always try to get in a trip to a pumpkin farm to pick my own. They are fun to cut with the kids, but there are so many wonderful tasting recipes you can use them for too.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a DelightedCooking contributor, Tricia...
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