Tis’ the season for pumpkin spice, and while people make a big to-do about the latte, I’m more of a baked goods person. You will often find a half-filled can of pumpkin puree in my fridge from September to November. Pumpkin spice pancakes with chopped walnuts, pumpkin spice crepes with whipped cream, and my very favorite: pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.
But Martha Stewart I’m not, so I don’t bake as often as I’d like. And since I hate to waste food, I have to get crafty with that second half of the pumpkin puree. Turns out, it’s incredibly useful to have in the kitchen.
For better or for worse, pumpkin is really bland in flavor. The thing that makes pumpkin spice is in the name: spice. Without it, it’s a pretty bland gourd. But it’s thick and creamy, and can be a great addition to so many dishes. Like chicken, it’s mild flavor can take on whatever seasonings it’s cooked with.
The other night, I was sauteing portobella mushrooms with garlic and onions. A pretty classic combination, and I was hoping to toss in the gnocchi I had just made. But the mix seemed dry and choppy, even with added butter, cream and olive oil. I needed to cook the mushrooms down, but didn’t have any broth or white wine. Adding more oil or butter would have made it too greasy. On a whim, I reached for the half-filled can of pumpkin puree, and just wow.
The dish instantly thickened and became creamy. The puree took on the flavors of the garlic and onion, and the mushrooms had a hearty coating to cook in. This opened my mind to endless possibilities, and I have listed them below.
Great uses for leftover pumpkin puree
Curry: Use pumpkin puree to thicken up a tomato or cashew-based curry sauce. If you’re entertaining, it’s a great base to stretch the dish out for more helpings.
Thicken up stew, soup, or chili: Like I had mentioned, the puree will take on any flavor.
Replacement for oil: In a recipe, you can switch pumpkin puree for oil, in equal parts. So if the recipe calls for a cup of oil, you can use a cup of puree in it’s place.
Replacement for butter: Like oil, puree can substitute for butter. Only in this case, the measurement is ¾ to one cup. If a recipe calls for a cup of butter, use ¾ cup of puree in its place.
Poppin’ topper: Mix leftover pumpkin puree with a dash of maple syrup and pumpkin spice mix (or a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger….and the teeeeeniest pinch of clove) and stir. Dollop this on top of your yogurt, and add some chopped walnuts for crunch.
Homemade PSL: Take the same mix from above, add in some cream (or half & half – I’m a purist myself) and pour it into your coffee for a homemade pumpkin spice pick-me-up.
Smoothies: Add some to a smoothie for extra calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Mac & cheese: Make your mac & cheese that much creamier, not to mention the nutrients you are adding.
Oatmeal: With a dash of cinammon, pumpkin puree would liven up your bowl of oats.
Crock pot: Sometimes you need more juice or broth in the slow cooker, or something to thicken things up. This puree works in a pinch!
For the doggo: If you happen to buy a bag of dog food that your pup is not impressed with, a dollop of leftover pumpkin puree will at least make the texture more interesting - not the same old same old. And who knows? With their sensitive sense of smell, they may be able to pick up subtle flavors we cannot.
And when in doubt, freeze! It keeps up to a year if well-sealed.