How to use up leftover Halloween pumpkin

Carving a pumpkin this Halloween? Use up leftover pumpkin with our ultimate guide - from cooking to storing, as well as recipe ideas...

How to use leftover pumpkins
(Image credit: Getty)

Carving a pumpkin for Halloween? Don't throw it away – make the most of it with our quick and easy leftover pumpkin ideas, tips, and recipes.

According to the latest research from environmental charity, Hubbub, a shocking 22.2 million pumpkins is predicted to go to waste this year - that's an average of £32 million worth of pumpkins. And during the current cost of living crisis, with our food bills constantly rising, we all need to consider reducing food waste – not adding to it. The survey also revealed that 56% of pumpkins bought for carving last Halloween were not eaten and use only for decoration. 

"Imagine yourself at a farm to pick your own pumpkin. There are pumpkins of every size as far as the eye can see. What is shocking is that one in two of those pumpkins is going to end up in the bin. That is the same weight as 180,000 hippos. Imagine that. 180,000 hippos worth of pumpkins is being thrown away. And that’s in the UK alone," says Imogen Tinkler, an expert in seasonal and foraged produce for Bangers and Balls

Another Hubbub survey found that although four in five people said they wanted to reduce their food waste, more than half admitted they do not actually see pumpkin as food – yet it’s a vegetable packed full of immune-boosting vitamins.

"We have all forgotten that the pumpkin we carve into a jack-o-lantern is actually food. Going to supermarkets at this time of year, it's not uncommon to see people buying pumpkins to carve as well as jars of pumpkin puree to cook with. It seems like madness to me," says Imogen. "The good news is that the rise of the 'pumpkin patch' means people have access to tastier pumpkins and different varieties, including squashes like the blue Crown Prince with its honey-sweet, nutty flavour. Not all pumpkins are created equally, so experiment and see which flavours you like the best."

carved pumpkin

Over 22 million pumpkins are thrown away uneaten at Halloween

(Image credit: Getty)

What can you do with leftover pumpkin?

Pumpkin's earthy-yet-sweet flavour is delicious when cooked - from pumpkin curries and soups to sweet dishes like pumpkin cheesecake and an all-American pumpkin pie. 

And lest we forget the seeds once you’ve scooped them out, as they deliver brilliant bursts of flavour and nutrients to salads and soups, and even on top of your morning granola bowl. They're tasty and packed with protein, antioxidants, healthy fats, magnesium, and vitamin K, so should never go to waste. On guide on how to cook pumpkin seeds reveals more.

Pumpkin is also a member of the squash family which means it can be prepared, cooked, and eaten in the same way as the more popular butternut squash.

"The thought of cooking the pumpkin after you have gone to all the effort of carving a scary face into it can be overwhelming. But pumpkin freezes really well, both raw and cooked, so you don’t have to do all the work at once," says Imogen Tinkler. "If the pumpkin is bought from a proper farm or supplier, then it shouldn't be watery and bland, but instead have a vibrant coloured and deeply flavoursome flesh that is exceptionally versatile, delicious and nutritious."

And even if you decide not to cook with your pumpkin, it should never be binned – instead, get it back into the food chain and stop waste; pumpkins make a great snack for birds or they can be composted.  

Scooping seeds and pith out of a pumpkin

Scoop out the seeds and pith out of the pumpkin before cooking

(Image credit: Getty)

How to prepare a pumpkin for cooking

  1. Cutting and peeling: The skin is tough so you need to use a sharp peeler, or you could peel using a large, sharp knife – but be very careful (plus you may lose more of the flesh than with a peeler). Never peel towards you and cut on a flat surface on top of a board (using a damp cloth underneath the board will stop it from moving too much). 
  2. The easiest option, though, is to roast the flesh with the skin on. "There is no need to peel the pumpkin before roasting, as the skin will soften and is edible," says Imogen Tinkler.
  3. Deseeding: Next, pull out all the seeds and pith, with either a spoon or your hands. "Try to separate them as much as possible, but you don’t need to worry too much. The pith makes great compost, and you can cook pumpkin seeds," advises Imogen. 
  4. "Next, scoop out a load of the flesh in order to make carving easier. Instead of throwing it away, put it straight into a baking tray with a little salt and oil. If you know what you are going to do with the pumpkin flesh, you might want to flavour it accordingly, but if you're just going to shove it in the freezer and work it out later, leave it plain."

Top tips for preparing pumpkin

If you opt for a pumpkin small enough to fit in your oven, you can save yourself the bother of unnecessary chopping. "Cut around the stalk as if you are carving it, remove the seeds and pith, and then stuff it. You can put anything you like inside, from curry to shepherd's pie (the pumpkin taking the place of the potato). Just put the stalk lid back on and roast it at 180°C (350°F) until soft," says Imogen.

"If the pumpkin in question is too big to fit in the oven whole then simply chop it up into roast potato-sized chunks, toss them in oil and salt, and perhaps a bit of garlic and rosemary, and roast at 200°C (400°F) for about 45 minutes."

Pumpkin in a roasting tray

Roast the flesh of your pumpkin until it is tender

(Image credit: Getty)

How to cook pumpkin

  1. Cook the seeds: "Put the pumpkin seeds straight into a roasting dish and into a preheated oven at 180°C (350°F) for about ten minutes, or until they have dried out and gone crunchy," recommends Imogen. "I like to do ‘trick or treat’ pumpkin seeds by seasoning half of them with salt and chilli flakes, and the other half with sugar and spices like cinnamon or mixed spice." The sweet seeds are brilliant as a topping for a granola bowl, the savoury ones scattered over an Autumnal soup, or either just as a nutritious snack on their own. 
  2. Roast the flesh: Drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil and scatter over some sage leaves, salt, and pepper, and roast at 200°C/Gas 6 until cooked. The cooking time will depend on how small the pieces are but it will usually take 25-45 mins. Smoked paprika, sumac, or thyme work as great flavours to go with the pumpkin – you could try sprinkling these over instead of sage. "With your oven still on at 180°C (350°F) from toasting the seeds, throw your baking tray of pumpkin flesh into the oven and let it roast. It should be ready in about 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t forget to turn it occasionally," says Imogen.  
  3. Puree the flesh: Either eat the roast pumpkin straight away or make pumpkin puree with a potato ricer or masher or blitz in a food processor (you could also boil the flesh for around 15 minutes until just tender and puree it instead) – either way, it makes a wonderful side dish for roast chicken or a delicious Autumnal pie. "With the puree, simply heat it up, add a knob of butter and black pepper and serve it as ‘Monster Mash," suggests Imogen. "You could also use it to make a fabulous soup, a pumpkin pie, Harry Potter’s favourite pumpkin pasties, or even pumpkin bread."
  4. Cook the peel: If you do decide to boil the pumpkin flesh, you will have to peel it first (as we've established, you don't need to do this before roasting). And even discarded pumpkin peel needn't go to waste as it can be used to make tasty baked crisps. Sprinkle the peel with salt and a drizzle of olive oil and bake for around 25 mins on the top rack of the oven at 200°C until crisp.

frozen chunks of pumpkin

Chop your leftover pumpkin into cubes and freeze in a freezer bag

(Image credit: Getty)

Storing leftover pumpkin

"If you are not carving the pumpkins and simply displaying them whole, then they will last in a cool dry place for weeks. But if you are carving, cut a round hole around the stalk, revealing at least an inch of fabulous flesh that can easily be cut from the skin. 

Put this straight into either a freezer bag or a roasting tin I prefer to freeze pumpkin cooked and pureed as it takes up less space and is easier to use when you need it," says Imogen Tinkler. 

"Put it into freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to three months." Once defrosted at room temperature, use it in your recipe of choice, or even as it is, as baby food for your little one when you're weaning them.

If you've done your best carving work for Halloween, after displaying your pumpkin, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. After that, it may start to show signs of mould or begin to soften, at which point it should be put out for the birds or composted.

Leftover pumpkin recipes

pumpkin pie recipe

A divine, seasonal treat, what better use for leftover pumpkin?

(Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo)

1. Classic pumpkin pie

Serves: 10 | Skill: Medium | Total time: 2 hrs 25 mins

The most iconic of all pumpkin recipes, an all-American sweet pie, delicious with a generous scoop of whipped cream or ice cream, drizzled with maple syrup. Carving pumpkins tend to have a higher water content, which makes them perfect for pureeing. 

This pumpkin pie recipe needs 450g of pumpkin flesh, which is steamed and pureed to make the spiced pie filling. You can store the flesh in a sealed container in the fridge so you can make the pie the next day.

Get the recipe: Classic pumpkin pie

Halloween pumpkin soup

How cool is the spider's web yoghurt topping on this seasonal soup?

(Image credit: Rights unknown)

2. Pumpkin soup

Makes/serves: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins

This easy and nutritious soup makes a tasty family meal any day of the week, but you can add a spider’s web on top for Halloween, made from natural yogurt (though you could always use creme fraiche or sour cream), and using a cocktail stick for a similar effect to feathered icing on cakes. 

Get the recipe: Halloween pumpkin soup

Pumpkin cupcakes with maple icing

Delicious cupcakes with a maple syrup infused buttercream topping

(Image credit: Rights Unknown)

3. Pumpkin and maple cupcakes

Makes/serves: 12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 50 mins

For life, not just for Halloween, these cupcakes work well all over the Autumn season. The addition of pumpkin to the cake mix makes for a really moist sponge, and the topping is a lovely twist on the usual cream cheese frosting. 

Made with mascarpone and maple syrup, the flavour is elevated to something quite special. Top with orange sprinkles if you want to appeal to young kids, or don’t if you want them all to yourself! These easy cupcakes would be just the ticket for a bonfire night celebration, too, or an October or November birthday bash. 

Get the recipe: Pumpkin cupcakes with maple icing

pork and pumpkin curry

A Thai flavoured curry packed with wholesome veggies

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4. Pork and pumpkin curry

Makes/serves: 4 | Skill level: Medium | Total time: 2 hrs 45 mins

A slow-cooked curry with fresh Thai flavours, this is a labour of love that will be well worth the wait on an Autumnal evening, maybe after a spot of family trick or treating on the chilly streets. As well as the pumpkin, this recipe features baby squash, potatoes and courgettes, and easily be made into a satisfying vegan dish by omitting the pork.   

Get the recipe: Pork and pumpkin red curry

pumpkin bread loaf

A seasonal alternative to the usual banana bread

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5. Pumpkin bread

Serves: 10-12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins

Vowed never to make banana bread again after that lockdown overload? Here's a welcome twist for you – a similar recipe but using leftover pumpkin, as well as the clever addition of a glug of maple syrup. Dust it with icing sugar and eat still slightly warm from the oven, with a frothy coffee or a milky tea.

Get the recipe: Pumpkin bread

Dish of pumpkin lasagne hot from the oven with a scoop of the meal removed

A low carb and gluten free choice, with pumpkin slices replacing lasagne sheets

(Image credit: Rights unknown)

6. Pumpkin lasagne

Serves: 8 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 1 hr 25 mins

The addition of your leftover pumpkin will elevate your classic lasagne to a different level, using it thinly sliced as a replacement for pasta sheets. This ups the veg content, reduces the calories, and makes it gluten free for anyone who needs or wants to cut out the carbs. Simply delicious.

Get the recipe: Pumpkin lasagne

pumpkin cheesecake

Add pumpkin puree to a classic cheesecake mix for added creaminess

(Image credit: Rights unknown)

7. Pumpkin cheesecake

Serves: 10-12 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins, plus chilling time

A classic cheesecake with the unusual addition of pumpkin puree in the mix, which pair perfectly with the ginger biscuits in the crumbly base. Topped with whipped cream and cinnamon, it would also be wonderful drizzled with maple syrup.

Get the recipe: Pumpkin cheesecake

Cheese and pumpkin salad

A tasty salad for a well balanced Autumnal lunch

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8. Cheshire cheese and pumpkin salad

Serves: 4 | Skill level: Easy | Total time: 45 mins

A wonderfully tasty Autumnal salad, providing a perfectly balanced nutritious lunch. The crumbly cheese (which could be substituted for Lancashire cheese, a Greek feta, or even a toasted goat's cheese) pairs beautifully with the earthy pumpkin, the red onion and the toasted pine nuts (which could, of course, be substituted for pumpkin seeds…). Tossed with green beans and spinach, and drizzled with a sesame oil and Dijon mustard dressing. Delicious.

Get the recipe: Cheshire cheese and pumpkin salad

gnocchi with pumpkin and pancetta

The pumpkin makes for a deliciously creamy pasta sauce

(Image credit: Rights unknown)

9. Gnocchi with pumpkin and pancetta sauce

Serves: 2| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 20 mins

Pumpkin might not be the first ingredient you'd think to put in a pasta sauce, but this recipe is made comforting and creamy thanks to the pumpkin puree. The fresh sage, pancetta (skip for a veggie version) and nutmeg, bring the flavour and, while it's perfect with gnocchi, it could also work wonderfully with a tortellini or a ravioli. Bellissimo. 

Get the recipe: Gnocchi with pumpkin and pancetta sauce

Pumpkin, mushroom and pea risotto

A comforting seasonal risotto

(Image credit: Rights unknown)

10. Pumpkin, mushroom and pea risotto

Serves: 2| Skill level: Easy | Total time: 30 mins

Eat the rainbow with this gloriously colourful risotto, where the pumpkin puree brings a comforting, creamy texture, making it perfect for dinner on a chilly mid-week evening. It's vegan (so long as you opt for veg stock), but a generous grating of salty Parmesan or Grana Padano wouldn't go amiss if you're a cheese lover.  

Get the recipe: Pumpkin, mushroom and pea risotto 

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Lara Kilner
Food Writer

Lara Kilner is a writer and editor with two decades of experience in national newspapers, magazines, and websites. She writes about food, lifestyle, travel, health and wellness, and entertainment, and regularly interviews celebrities and people with interesting life stories and experiences. Her foodie content has included interviews with Jamie Oliver, Rick Stein, Queer Eye’s food expert Antoni Porowski, the Hairy Bikers, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Raymond Blanc, Andi Oliver, Paul Hollywood, Prue Leith, and Nadiya Hussain.

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