25 Creative Ways to Use Your Leftover Halloween Pumpkins
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From delicious recipes to DIY beauty treatments and fun projects the kids will love, here are clever ways to use leftover pumpkins.
It’s pumpkin season! But unfortunately, come November 1 most Halloween pumpkins will end up tossed in the trash. In fact, approximately 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins in the United States end up in landfills. However, we don’t need to let our used jack-o-lanterns and decorative pumpkins go to waste entirely. Find out why we carve pumpkins on Halloween in the first place.
Start with pumpkin puree
Lots of pumpkin recipes including favorites like pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread call for pumpkin puree. The good news is making puree is a fast and easy—you can also freeze the puree to use at a later time. (Note that smaller pumpkins are sweeter and you should never eat a pumpkin that has been carved into a jack-o’lantern as its insides won’t be fresh.) Cut off the top of the pumpkin and remove the seeds. Then cut the rest of the pumpkin into larger chunks and place on a roasting pan with a small amount of water. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit until the pumpkin is soft when you prick it with a fork. Want a shortcut? Try a can of pumpkin in these 25 recipes, instead.
Enjoy a spicy pumpkin margarita
Ring in November with a delicious cocktail—spicy pumpkin margarita anyone? Start with two ounces of Tanteo Chipotle Tequila, a tequila infused with fresh peppers. Add an ounce each of fresh lemon juice and pumpkin puree, then ¾ ounce light agave nectar. Combine all the ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. If you have any leftover mini pumpkins, hollow those out and serve it in there, otherwise, a traditional margarita glass will do. Garnish with a sprinkling of ground nutmeg and cinnamon. These are 30 more pumpkin recipes you’ve never tried before.
Turn pumpkins into soup bowls
What could be a better vessel for serving pumpkin soup than a hollowed-out pumpkin? All you need to do is clean the pumpkin and carve out the middle before serving up a tasty soup like this chicken soup one that’s viewed by 7,000 people daily. You can even use larger pumpkins to serve festive side dishes like roasted pumpkin, carrots, or other colorful vegetables. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about fitting it into the dishwasher when you’re done. One caveat: you can’t use pumpkins that have been decorated with regular paint, though non-toxic ones are OK.
Make pumpkin soup
Sub in fresh pumpkin for the canned variety in this creamy soup recipe. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds for extra pumpkin flair.
Bake easy pumpkin muffins
wallaby68/Getty ImagesPumpkin muffins don’t have to be complicated. This recipe from Taste of Home includes apple for a sweet muffin that makes for an easy breakfast or quick snack on a fall day.
Whip up a honey CBD cocktail
It’s been a long season, so why not enjoy this Pumpkin Smash CBD Cocktail created by Monica Lo for Potli? Add four ounces pumpkin puree and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon to 1/2 cup water, and two tablespoons Potli CBD honey (or substitute with regular honey) to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly. Once the syrup is smooth, strain and let cool. Then fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add four ounces of pineapple juice, two ounces white rum, and the pumpkin honey syrup. Top the drink with soda water. Here’s what you need to know before trying CBD for the first time.
Indulge in pumpkin pesto sauce
Food blogger Yumna Jawad of Feel Good Foodie likes to use her leftover pumpkin seeds to make pesto sauce. Start by roasting the seeds and swap out where the recipe calls for pine nuts. “Their natural oils will give the sauce so much flavor, and you can throw it on pasta, chicken or flatbreads,” she says. Combine basil leaves, pumpkin seeds, and garlic in a food processor. Then process until it’s very finely minced. Finally, add lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Process again until it mixes.
Blend a pumpkin pie shake
Easily satisfy your sweet tooth with this healthy pumpkin pie shake—because it doesn’t have a crust, it’s healthier than the traditional pumpkin pie. Clare Langan, culinary consultant and recipe developer, shares her recipe for this nutritious take on the classic treat:
Combine pumpkin puree with your favorite milk along with a frozen banana, a sprinkle of cinnamon, vanilla protein powder, and/or yogurt, ice, and a scoop of nut butter. Mix in your blender. If you want it a little sweeter, Langan recommends drizzling in maple syrup.
Make curry shrimp with pumpkin
Turn your leftover pumpkin into a warm and spicy dish perfect for a fall evening, suggests, Amy Voloshin, founder of Printfresh. To make: Peel, devein, and wash three pounds of shrimp, and season with salt, pepper, and Caribbean seasoning. Let it sit for ten minutes while you cube three pounds of pumpkin. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add three cloves of diced garlic for three to five minutes until its dark.
Toss in the seasoned shrimp and cook on high for one to two minutes. Set shrimp aside and add two tablespoons of water to the pot. Toss in pumpkin and coat with the curry. Put on the lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add one teaspoon of brown sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Stir occasionally and put the shrimp back in when the liquid has evaporated. Cook for two to three minutes.
Brew up your own pumpkin spice latte
Anna Pustynnikova/Getty Images
Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes are delicious, but you can also try making a healthier version for yourself at home with this recipe from MyNetDiary. Stir six ounces of unsweetened almond milk, two tablespoons of cream or half-and-half, two tablespoons of pumpkin puree, and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in a saucepan until hot. Add five drops of liquid stevia to sweeten according to your personal preference. Use a milk frother or whisk to blend then add to four ounces of black coffee.
Flip paleo pumpkin pancakes
Even those on paleo diets or just trying to eat healthier can enjoy leftover pumpkin pancakes. Nutritionist Melissa Kathryn suggests this easy recipe for pumpkin paleo pancakes, which are so delicious and easy to make, you’ll forget about conventional pancakes made with flour and sugar. To make: Mix one egg, 1/4 cup of almond butter, three tablespoons of pumpkin puree, and one tablespoon cinnamon until it turns into a batter.
Pour a tablespoonful onto a hot pan that has been coated with coconut oil or grass-fed butter until the pancakes brown on both sides. Top off with ghee, organic maple syrup, or enjoy as is. If you wish, top it off with ghee or organic maple syrup.
Dive into pumpkin pie dip
Enjoy the best part of pumpkin pie without having to break out the rolling pin—best of all, this recipe from Taste of Home only takes five minutes. To make: soften one package of cream cheese, add one cup of pumpkin puree, and two cups of confectioners’ sugar. Then mix in 1/2 cup sour cream, one teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Beat in all of the ingredients until the mixture is blended and transfer into a bowl. Serve it with ginger snaps. Don’t forget to refrigerate the leftovers.
Make candied pumpkin seeds
These candied pumpkin seeds are delicious on their own or you can throw a few into a green salad for a sweet crunch. To make: Mix one cup fresh pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Then spread them onto a baking pan you’ve lined with foil and greased. Bake the mixture uncovered at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 50 minutes. Stir occasionally and then allow to cool completely before enjoying.
Donate your pumpkins
Will you have lots of leftover pumpkins this year? If you need someone to take them off your hands, consider donating them to one or more charitable organizations. For example, Scarce, a group dedicated to environmental issues, hosts an annual Pumpkin Smash event in more than 31 states where you can drop off your pumpkins to be composted. Another group, Pumpkins For The People, accepts pumpkins for composting and as food donations. Find out what Disney World is doing to reduce its own food waste.
Roast the seeds
Why spend money on an expensive bag of pumpkin seeds or make an unnecessary trip to the store just to buy a snack when you can make your own roasted pumpkin seeds at home? To do so, rinse the seeds in water and dry. Then toss them with some olive oil in a roasting dish. Finally, sprinkle some salt on top. Roast for approximately half an hour in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re excellent for road trips, as are these 25 other healthy snacks.
Plant your pumpkin
If your pumpkin is too old to eat, you can always plant it in your garden. Media personality and mom Ali Levine shares that this is a simple, fun, and easy activity to do with your kids. Just cut the top and clean the guts from the pumpkin, then make a few holes at the bottom for drainage. Fill the pumpkin approximately ¾ of the way with potting soil. “Don’t forget to push the seeds down into the soil with your fingers,” she says. Then take it outside and watch it sprout. Follow these tips to winterize your garden.
Turn gourds into vases
If you’re finished using your gourd as a Halloween decoration and it isn’t soft or rotting, try repurposing them into vases. Start by cutting a hole around the top and stem to create a wide opening. If the gourd is uneven at the bottom, be sure the use a paring knife to level it out. Then hollow out the gourd with a spoon. While you can pour water directly into the gourd, the flowers will last longer if you insert a glass or small vase. These helpful tips will have you arranging flowers like a pro.
Feed the birds
If your leftover pumpkin is too old, not grown to be eaten, or you’ve decorated it with toxic paint, you still have options for repurposing it, including turning a pumpkin into a bird feeder. “The pumpkin seeds are a feast for the birds,” says Jeanine Duval, co-founder of Edelwyn. “Clean out the inside and knot two lengths of rope from the pumpkin to the designated location (such as a tree). Fill with seeds and watch the birds as you help them through the winter!” Love birds? You’ll fawn over these adorable baby bird photos.
Give yourself a DIY beauty treatment
Pumpkin can be really beneficial for your skin; not only does it have Vitamin C and Vitamin A, but it also helps exfoliate and remove impurities. Duval suggests mixing pumpkin puree with ginger or lemon juice (but not both). Apply all over your face, avoiding the eye area, and leave on for ten minutes. After, your skin will be just as smooth as if you’ve had a professional pumpkin peel at a spa or purchased a pricy one to use at home. While this is safe, it’s best to avoid these dangerous beauty treatments.
DIY a Thanksgiving centerpiece
Create succulent planters from miniature or small pumpkins for stylish and inexpensive table decorations. Start by washing your pumpkin, cutting off the top and scooping out the inside. Plant the succulents and cover with soil. Top it off with a sheet of moss. Arrange the planters throughout the table. Even those without a green thumb can grow these low-maintenance houseplants.
Transform it into a science experiment
Kelly Wilson from Kelly’s Classroom Online suggests using your jack-o’lantern to teach kids about a chemical reaction with oozing pumpkins. In a small bowl, combine some dish soap, food coloring, and baking soda. “While exact amounts aren’t necessary, the more dish soap and baking soda you use, the larger the chemical reaction will be,” says Wilson. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the pumpkin along with some white vinegar. “Stand back and observe. You should see a big, foamy, mess ooze from the pumpkin’s eyes, nose, and mouth!”
Create pumpkin slime
Slime is always a winner with the junior set. Bridget Shannon of A French Tulip shares her easy recipe: Start by cutting off the top of the pumpkin, and pushing down the insides to clear enough room inside to hold about a cup of liquid. In a separate container, mix ½ cup each of water and Elmer’s Glue and stir. Add ½ cup of liquid starch to the pumpkin. Then, add your glue mixture. “Now knead all the liquid in with the pumpkin fibers and seeds until it forms a thick goopy slime,” says Shannon. The slime should last for a few weeks in a sealed container. These are more indoor activities that will keep the kids entertained for hours.
Soothe your pup’s tummy
Is your dog having digestive issues? Your leftover pumpkin puree may just do the trick, according to Matson Magleby, co-founder Rocco & Roxie, Supply Co. “We don’t currently make a formula for digestive issues, so I like to try natural remedies for Rocco, my Labradoodle, when he has an upset stomach,” he says. Magleby recommends trying a small amount first. “Pumpkin is very high in fiber and too much fiber is not good. It is best to start out with one to two tablespoons, and the amount given should not replace an entire meal.” Dressing up your pup this Halloween? Here are 22 of the best dog costume ideas.
Make mini lawn flamingos
Not into orange? That’s OK. This adorable mini lawn flamingo craft project on Awwsam proves it’s possible to create something in a vibrant pink color even if it isn’t what you would typically find this season. All you need to do is buy miniature pink lawn flamingos, then using a small saw, cut the heads off the flamingos. Paint your pumpkins pink. Once they’re fully dry, hot glue the flamingo head to the pumpkin and stick the legs on the bottom. Now they’re ready for your lawn.
Instead of throwing out your pumpkin in the trash, toss it into your compost bin or pile along with brown matter like dried leaves, sticks, or wood chips. “Ideally you should chop or break your pumpkin up into small pieces to help speed up the composting process, but it’s not necessary,” shares Mike Kane, Master Gardener at The Garden Shoppe. The most important thing is to cover the pumpkin entirely with the wood chips, dried leaves, and/or dried grass clippings so it doesn’t smell or attract pests. “This will also help create the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio that is ideal for the composting process,” he says. Don’t forget to turn the pile every so often to speed up the composting process. “When your compost is a dark black color and you can see no identifiable pumpkin left, your compost is ready to be placed in your garden.” New to it all? Start with these 11 things you need to know about composting.
- WasteDive: Oh my gourd! 1.3B pounds of pumpkins reach landfills every year