Is It Okay To Eat Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkins?

When you head to the grocery store in the fall, it's common to see a big box or display of pumpkins outside. But while most everything else you purchase at the store is intended for food preparation; these pumpkins are intended simply for decoration.

While there are many different kinds of pumpkins out there, the ones that are most often sold for Halloween festivities are called Howden pumpkins. Howden pumpkins are not intended to be used for pies or soups, and the majority of them end up in the landfill after being carved as Jack-o-lanterns and left outside, per NPR.

Pumpkins you'd use to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, a pumpkin cake, or a pumpkin soup would generally be one of the sweeter varieties like, a jack-be-little, Jarrahdale, sugar pie pumpkin, Hubbard or kabocha pumpkin (per NPR). But can you eat a Jack-o-lantern pumpkin? The answer to this question is more about if you should rather than if you can.

Yes, with an asterisk

While Howden pumpkins, like other pumpkins, are an edible squash, the Howden doesn't have the kind of flavor profile most people are accustomed to when eating pumpkins. According to, the Howden's flesh is stringy and more watery than a smaller and sweeter pumpkin so they're not ideal for eating.

This isn't to say that you can't eat them, but more to clarify that if you decide to try them, you should take extra care to flavor them nicely and prepare them in a way that reduces their unpleasant consistency. Hey Nutrition Lady notes that if you cook with a Howden pumpkin it's best to use the puree in desserts where sugar and spices can temper the flavor and other ingredients like flour and eggs will provide a more pleasant texture. It's also important to note that for safety, you should not eat a Jack-o-lantern pumpkin that's been sitting outside, per NPR. Exposure to insects, bacteria, wax, and smoke can be dangerous to ingest so best to compost that one instead. If you're looking for something fun to do with your hollowed-out pie pumpkin? Check out this clever idea.