Pumpkin Puree: 11 Creative Ways Nutritionists Use It

Move over, PSL! Here, healthy, creative ways to use pumpkin puree to celebrate the season—without unwanted calories or sugar.

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Pumpkin spice parfait

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To resist leftover pumpkin pie, try a dessert parfait instead, using real canned pumpkin, yogurt, and chopped fruit. "A fruity dessert provides fiber, which helps you feel satisfied with a smaller portion," says Willow Jarosh, RD, co-owner of C&J Nutrition, a private practice and nutrition communications business in New York City. Pumpkin is also chock-full of satiating fiber (just 1/2 cup boasts nearly 4 grams of fiber in just 42 calories) and vitamins A and C.

The trick: For the first layer, combine almond butter and yogurt with a generous pinch of pumpkin spice. For a second layer, mix pumpkin puree with 1 tsp maple syrup. Top with chopped fruit for a third layer. Repeat as desired.

Pumpkin pasta

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It's easy to fall into an eating rut this time of year (heat up leftovers, curl up in a blanket, repeat nightly—sound familiar?). Pack vitamins and variety into your routine by adding pumpkin puree to basic dishes. "One night, I had leftover canned pumpkin puree and spaghetti, and needed a late-night dinner," says Michelle Dudash, RDN, a Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Dish with Dudash. "Pumpkin pasta is a savory way to use up leftover pumpkin, and is a delicious vegetarian meal you can make quickly."

The trick: Stir a dollop of pumpkin puree into cooked, whole-grain spaghetti. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic salt, onion powder, and nutritional yeast seasoning. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds.

Pumpkin soup

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In the mood to cook something simple? Soup's on. "I whip up a simple pumpkin soup that’s dairy-free, low in calories, and loaded with nutrients and antioxidants," says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of Slim Down Now. "It’s healthy but hearty."

The trick: Saute a golf ball-sized portion of yellow onion and garlic (combined) in 1/4 cup low sodium organic vegetable broth. Blend in a food processor with 1/2 cup each canned pumpkin and unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup of broth, and a dash of curry seasoning. Transfer to a saucepan, bring to a quick boil, and reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. To make it a meal, add a lean protein—like three ounces of grilled shrimp.

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Pumpkin latte

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Make a healthier version at home to cut calories and sugar. "You're saving yourself from coffeehouse sugary flavored syrup, and using real pumpkin puree gives you a major boost of the antioxidant beta-carotene," says Dudash. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body, where it promotes healthy skin, eye health and vision, and a strong immune system. Milk provides calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein.

The trick: Add one part hot coffee to two parts hot milk. Add 3 tbsp pumpkin puree, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice. For even mixing, use a blender or handheld milk frother.

Pumpkin-dilla

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Cooking for someone vegan or lactose intolerant? Note this trick if cheese is off the menu: "Pumpkin puree’s texture and color resembles that of melted cheese," says Jarosh. Surprise them with this creative dish—everyone at the table will ask for a second serving.

The trick: Spread pumpkin puree and vegetarian refried beans onto a whole grain tortilla. Add sautéed mushrooms and kale. Fold in half, and heat in a lightly oiled skillet until both sides are crispy and golden. Extra health perk: Mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light (look for "100% vitamin D" or "High in vitamin D" on the label) are a good source of the sunshine vitamin—important to get more of as the days get shorter.

Pumpkin brownies

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Swap butter for pumpkin puree to nix a sweet number of calories. "You don't taste the pumpkin at all because the chocolate overpowers it. But it makes the brownies more moist," says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, co-author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean.

The trick: Swap out half the butter the recipe calls for with twice the amount of pumpkin. For example: If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter, replace 1/4 cup of butter with 1/2 cup pumpkin to cut 373 calories and 46 grams of fat.

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Pumpkin pie smoothie

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Don’t eat pumpkin pie, slurp it. Use traditional smoothie ingredients (bananas, yogurt, and milk), then add pumpkin and almond butter for a filling seasonal drink. "Pumpkin and banana provide fiber, yogurt and milk provide protein, and the almond butter infuses healthy fat," says Jarosh. "That high-fiber, protein, and fat trifecta is a recipe for staying satisfied."

The trick: Blend 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 3 tbsp almond butter, 1 banana, and 2 tbsp raisins. Sprinkle with pumpkin spice. Blend until smooth. Add 1 to 2 cups ice and blend again.

Pumpkin hummus

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Bring this nutritionist-approved snack to your next fall potluck. "For fall parties, I love serving [flavored] hummus as an appetizer to create seasonal flair," says Jackie Newgent, RDN, chef, nutritionist, and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.

The trick: Add canned pumpkin puree to your favorite hummus to taste, sprinkle with garlic, and garnish with pumpkin seeds.

Another trick: Care to start from scratch? Sass whips up this pumpkin hummus: Combine 1/2 cup chickpeas with 2-3 tablespoons each tahini and canned pumpkin. Add 1 tsp garlic, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and dashes of cayenne pepper, black pepper, and cumin. Puree in a food processor until smooth. Use as an appetizer, or as a spread in place of mayo.

Pumpkin potatoes

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Mashed spuds are a comfort food staple. But nutritionists prefer to eat it when pumpkin puree is added. "It's a really easy way to boost nutrition and change up the same-old dish," says Bazilian. "The added fiber may reduce the overall glycemic load, which slows your blood sugar response."

The trick: Stir pumpkin puree into cooked mashed potatoes, to taste.

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Pumpkin yogurt

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The nutritionist-approved morning pumpkin fix: Pumpkin puree and pistachios mixed into Greek or Icelandic yogurt. This provides a sweet flavor without the added sugar in many store-bought flavored yogurts, says Dudash. Plus: "The protein in Greek or Icelandic yogurts and the good fats in pistachios keep you satisfied between meals."

The trick: Swirl 2-3 tbsp pumpkin puree into a single-serve cup of plain Greek yogurt. Spice with ground cardamom and cinnamon, sprinkle with pistachios, and drizzle with honey.

Pumpkin chili

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Adding pumpkin puree to chili won't make it taste much different, but it will provide a heartier texture and a vitamin boost, says Bazilian. You’ll taste just a hint of pumpkin, depending on how much you add.

The trick: Stir a dollop of pumpkin puree into your cooked chili, to taste.


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