8 Ways To Hack Canned Pumpkin Puree So It Tastes Better

In between picking apples, visiting haunted houses, and navigating corn mazes, it can be tough to find time to bake in the fall. Sure, you'd give anything to whip up a fresh apple crisp or a scrumptious pumpkin pie, but who's got hours to spend chopping apples or hollowing out pumpkins? Few of us do these days, and that's where baking shortcuts come in handy. Canned pumpkin purée is a beloved, favorite, time-saving product for fall cooking. In addition to serving as our go-to pumpkin pie base, this magical ingredient can be used to make everything from pumpkin pancakes to pumpkin soup.

Still, for all of its versatility, canned pumpkin purée isn't exactly delectable. In fact, it has the tendency to taste bland or even metallic. On top of that, there's the mushy texture to contend with. But instead of throwing the canned pumpkin out with the bathwater, why not try upgrading it? There are abundant ways to hack canned pumpkin purée so it tastes better.

Roasting isn't just for whole veggies

If you're like us, then you're probably used to scraping pumpkin purée straight out of the can, combining it with filling ingredients (eggs, sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, and pumpkin pie spice), and then pouring the mixture into a pie crust. While there's nothing wrong with this tried-and-true technique, we're here to let you know that you're missing out on a whole lot of flavor if you're limiting yourself to straight-from-the-can pumpkin purée.

Instead of settling for the toned-down flavor found in canned pumpkin, we recommend roasting the purée before combining it with other ingredients. As is the case with other vegetables, roasting canned pumpkin brings out otherwise absent notes, which can be sweet, nutty, or toasted. To roast canned pumpkin, we recommend using a spatula or wooden spoon to spread the purée onto a lined baking sheet (parchment paper or silicone mats work particularly well) or a glass baking dish. Do your best to distribute the pumpkin evenly, but don't worry if the coverage isn't uniform. Heat in a 400 F oven for a couple of minutes or until you smell rich pumpkin smells emanating from the oven. Let it cool to room temperature before baking or cooking.

Cook it on the stove

Our next canned pumpkin purée hack solves two common issues with everyone's favorite seasonal canned veggie: the ho-hum flavor and the soupy texture. It involves nothing more than cooking canned pumpkin on the stove for a few minutes. This trick works because adding heat to the purée releases the natural pumpkin flavor, elevating it from barely there to wow.

Strangely enough, heating canned pumpkins can also help tamp down the metallic taste that often robs canned vegetables of their greatness. In terms of texture, heating canned pumpkins eliminates excess moisture, transforming the soggy mess into a respectable blend that won't drown out other ingredients. To take advantage of this hack, all you've got to do is heat canned pumpkin in a saucepan or skillet on medium-low heat for about five minutes. Keep an eye on it and stir often to prevent burns. As with the last hack, you'll want to cool the mixture to room temperature before using it in your favorite pumpkin recipes.

Strain it for a smoother texture

Far too many pumpkin-based baked goods have met an untimely demise as the result of overly watery pumpkin purée. Excess liquid may not seem like that big of a deal on the surface, but the truth is that watery canned pumpkin is responsible for uneven baking, subdued flavor, and even breakage. Thankfully, straining is an easy solution to this soggy purée dilemma.

New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel has a method for smooth pumpkin purée recommends passing both fresh and canned pumpkin through a sieve in order to remove excess moisture and improve the texture. He strains pumpkin three times in order to achieve maximum pumpkin flavor and a silky smooth texture, but if you've only got time for one round, that's more than enough to amp up the flavor of your pumpkin. If you don't have a sieve available (or you just prefer a more hands-off approach), another option is to wrap canned pumpkin in a coffee filter or cheesecloth, skewer it with a wooden stick, and leave the sack to drip over a bowl. After about eight hours, you'll be left with a drier, more concentrated pumpkin purée that won't mess up your recipe.

Change up your spices

When you're taking the canned pumpkin purée shortcut, it's a good idea to use fresh spices to liven up the flavor. Instead of using premixed pumpkin pie spice (which has probably been sitting around for months on a grocery store shelf), make your own by combining cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. If you really want to go all out, you can even grate whole cinnamon sticks, ginger knobs, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice berries. It's definitely more work, but the intense spice flavors work wonders to enhance the dull flavor of canned pumpkin.

Alternatively, you could scrap the expected spice blend and go for one that's a bit more surprising. One recommended pumpkin pie purée hack is to try replacing it with Chinese five-spice powder. Made from equal parts cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, star anise, and peppercorns (white or Sichuan), Chinese five-spice powder is close enough to blend seamlessly with pumpkin but just unique enough to stand out and even add a savory note. In particular, the addition of peppercorns will delight and befuddle anyone who tries your pumpkin treats.

Make a pumpkin purée infusion

Seasoning canned pumpkin purée with spices is a surefire way to improve the flavor. But don't stop at a teaspoon of cinnamon powder or a dash of nutmeg there. To really take advantage of spices' power, you've got to let them infuse into the veggie mash. Doing so helps elevate both the flavor of the pumpkin and the final dish, whatever that may be.

For example, if you're making pumpkin pie, combine the filling ingredients together and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (one to two hours is even better) before pouring it into the pie shell and baking. As well as this hack works for sweet recipes, we're particularly fond of using it when preparing savory dishes. Stronger ingredients have the tendency to overpower the delicate flavor of pumpkin. Take pumpkin ravioli, for instance. You can allow the pumpkin, cheese, and spices (nutmeg and sage) to sit while you prepare the pasta dough. Who knew multitasking could lead to more flavor?

Include a green apple

This canned pumpkin purée hack sounds bizarre but stay with us. Before dumping pumpkin out of the can, we recommend adding a few slices of a Granny Smith or other green apple to the mixture. Allow the slices to sit for a few hours before removing them and continuing with your baking. That said, you don't have to toss them if you don't want to. These tart apples are a favorite of chefs and home bakers alike, meaning they won't feel out of place in your next batch of pumpkin cookies or pumpkin banana bread.

Why green apple, you might be wondering? Compared to other types of apples, green apples tend to lean on the tart side of things. That flavor profile helps balance out the bitterness you sometimes find in canned pumpkin, leading to a fresher flavor profile that will bring all of your sweet and savory dishes to life. If you're intending to leave them in the mix, you might consider mincing the pieces so that they bake evenly with the purée.

Incorporate some fat

Julia Child is famous for saying, "If you're afraid of butter, use cream." She didn't specify when to apply this rule, but given her love of fatty dairy products, it's safe to say that it applies just about anywhere. So, don't be afraid to incorporate some feel-good fats the next time you use canned pumpkin purée.

Regardless of whether you're preparing a sweet or savory pumpkin dish, butter adds creaminess and smoothness to the vegetable mash, elevating its flavor and overall mouthfeel. Butter's high-fat content is also ideal when preparing pumpkin soups, sauces, and fillings as it gives liquidy dishes more heft and body. If you're not a fan of butter (or are following a plant-based diet), consider combining canned pumpkin with coconut oil instead. Unrefined coconut oil will lend a tropical flavor to your pumpkin preparations, while the unrefined version has a completely neutral flavor. Aside from its flavor contributions, coconut oil gives canned pumpkin a creamier texture.

Make other ingredients as fresh as possible

There's no shame in taking shortcuts in the kitchen, but if you always opt for the fastest preparation possible, you've got to be ready for mediocre results. Let's take the example of pumpkin pie so you can see what we mean. When pairing canned pumpkin with a store-bought crust and pre-made whipped cream, it shouldn't come as a surprise that your treats end up tasting just okay.

A better option is to carefully select which ingredients you're going to buy from the store and which ones you're going to make from scratch. Depending on what you're making, that could mean grinding up whole spices or chopping up fresh herbs. In the case of pumpkin pie, it means making whipped cream and a flaky pie crust from scratch. We recognize that this will require more work, but we promise the extra effort you put into the non-pumpkin ingredients will enhance the overall taste and quality of whatever you're making.