Background: For the holiday Halloween in America, we make decorative lanterns -- Jack'o'Lanterns -- from large pumpkins. These pumpkins are bred to be large, durable, and dry to make them easy to carve. This also results in them being fairly mealy and tasteless as food.

Question: is there any food preparation I could make with a surplus jack'o'lantern pumpkin that wouldn't be a waste of the other ingredients? Some way to prepare it that would make up for its dry texture and weak flavor?

I've tried roasting one (Afgan-style) on previous years, and it didn't help; it was dry, mealy, and roasted. And yes, I do clean and toast the seeds, which are tasty. I'm looking to do something with the flesh.

  • Do you know the name of the pumpkin breed that is used for Jack'o'Lanterns?
    – Arsak
    Oct 31 '18 at 7:18
  • I don't, sorry.
    – FuzzyChef
    Oct 31 '18 at 15:18
  • 2
    @Marzipanherz Connecticut Field Pumpkin is one, plus "Howden or Howden's Field, a cultivar selected from Connecticut Field for improved production and uniformity of fruits, is 'the original commercial jack-o’-lantern pumpkin'." (from the wiki link)
    – Jolenealaska
    Nov 1 '18 at 1:03
  • I would not recommend eating a decorative husk of a pumpkin that sat outside being trod on by mice and insects Nov 28 '18 at 16:00

In the US, Jack-o-lanterns are typically common field pumpkins and many of the larger and specialty ones are actually gourds. I cannot talk to some of the gourds, so if you are looking at some of the white ghost pumpkins and they very warty ones, use may vary. But the common field pumpkin is certainly edible, but not usually be best choice. The are hard, stringy, dry, etc. To use the, I would recommend roasting, steaming, microwaving or boiling then running through a food mill to break up the stringiness. Boiling of course will remove a share of what flavor they do have. At that point, you would have a puree that could be used in cookies, pumpkin bread, cake, etc. Flavor-wise and texture, you will probably be more satisfied to use what in the US we would call winter squash, butternut is highly recommended, for savory, and pie pumpkins for dessert applications.

You can use the Jack if you simply do not wan to waste it or have some you want to use, but in my mind, roasting, grilling and such will likely lead to the least satisfying results. If you do, lots of spice, as sauce, and lean towards applications you can use a food mill. My experience is it will end put being a much less consistent flavor and more of a base for your spice though. For consistent results, go with a culinary variety. Jacks will typically give the mealy, tasteless leaning results you have encountered.

Cinderella is one variety I know that is large enough for carving but is still recommended for culinary use. It is a very stylized and gets its name from the story. If really that variety, it is of French origin and is a deep orange flesh. It looks great as a decoration on its own, can be carved and works either savory or in deserts. I have seen it grilled with just a bit of spice and olive oil and is very tasty that way. But, many people sell less tasty pumpkins as that variety just because they have the right shape.

ETA: If you have, or know someone with farm animals, they tend to love field pumpkins, as do deer.

  • 1
    @Joe and it is sad because culinary pumpkins really are not more difficult to grow and some are pretty interesting too. Many even have better color and shape. Size they tend to fall short on,
    – dlb
    Oct 31 '18 at 15:18
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    I suspect part of it's due to using determinant varieties (so they're ready for harvest at the right time, rather than risk having them rot before it's time for halloween) And there's what the demand is ... I didn't really see white pumpkins at halloween 'til painting started becoming popular. And that's one option -- paint a pumpkin that's good for cooking, then you're more likely to be able to cook it after halloween.
    – Joe
    Oct 31 '18 at 16:39
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    Moose love Jack-o-lanterns. Alaska will hit you with a $350 fine if one gets caught eating the one on your porch.
    – Jolenealaska
    Nov 1 '18 at 2:29
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    Sadly, I found out when I carved my white pumpkin that I should have kept that one and carved the orange one. The white pumpkin was thick and juicy, and could have been cooked.
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 3 '18 at 18:24
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    @dlb I find that the muscat pumpkin is a great example of a pumpkin which is both culinary great and reaches good sizes. Also, it looks good, if you want aesthetics - although not a classic jack o lantern style aesthetics.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 28 '18 at 17:30

Admittedly our carving pumpkins in the UK are smaller than yours, which may affect the texture, but this year and last I made:

  • three been and pumpkin chilli
  • pumpkin tagine
  • pumpkin spice cupcakes
  • pumpkin curry
  • pumpkin, pepper and mushroom fajitas

All of these get most of their flavour from other ingredients. All were successful.

The chilli, curry, and tagine all start by frying the diced/roughly chopped pumpkin until nicely browned with tasty ingredients (spices, onions, and plenty of garlic), before quite long simmering. The curry was last year but I think I went for quite hot, with a sauce based on tomato, coconut, and mango (I certainly did when I made it again this year). The fajitas were cut into strips and fried, just like the other veg, though I did the pumpkin first and reserved it, to be sure it was cooked through. Again, plenty of spices, garlic etc.

The cupcakes (for which there are plenty of recipes online) started by microwaving and pureeing, and ended up similar to carrot cake - moist and popular. I added latte buttercream.


In Mediterranean cuisine there is a dessert made with pumpkins. You cut the pumpkin into large cubes, add sugar to them and wait overnight. They will release some liquid, and the next day you can cook them until they're soft and no liquid is left. Then you can add shredded coconut and/or walnuts and/or tahini to serve, depending on your taste. Lots of fiber is a plus, even if the taste is a little poorer than the pumpkins of middle east (they look same as American ones with a little more flavor).

  • Thanks for the recommend! I don't think this recipe will work for field pumpkins, though, since Afgan slow-roasted pumpkins didn't work either. They're just too dry and stringy.
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 28 '18 at 17:28
  • 2
    I didn't try myself, I prefer butternut squash which is easier to handle in terms of peeling and cutting, but I have friends using these field pumpkins for this desert not to waste them after Halloween season. I tasted them and they are perfectly ok with slightly less tasty or more fibery.
    – Lily
    Nov 28 '18 at 17:43

In India, people use these huge pumpkins to make lentil stews. It goes a long way and is very delicious and nutritious. The bland taste of pumpkin is masked by the fresh seasonings and spices. The stew can be eaten with rice, but I like it just by itself as well.

The recipe, in a nutshell, calls for boiling the pumpkin cubes with yellow lentils(pigeon peas are preferred) and a pinch of turmeric and salt. Once the lentils cook, the stew can be seasoned with spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and chilies (the red/green ones).

There is a detailed recipe on this page, https://www.vegrecipesofindia.com/pumpkin-sambar-recipe/.

  • Wow, thanks! I do love a good sambar ...
    – FuzzyChef
    Nov 3 '18 at 18:20

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