14 Pumpkin Hacks You Need To Try This Fall

The crisp breeze of autumn is approaching and that can only mean one thing — pumpkin season. As the leaves turn golden and the days grow shorter, it's time to embrace the comforting flavors of fall. And what better way to do that than by venturing into the world of pumpkin cooking hacks?

Pumpkins are the undisputed stars of the fall kitchen. From pies and lattes to soups and stews, there's no shortage of delicious ways to incorporate winter squash into your culinary repertoire. But if you're looking to take your pumpkin game to the next level, you're in the right place.

In this article, we're going to explore a collection of pumpkin cooking hacks that will elevate your fall cooking adventures. Whether you're a seasoned home chef or just looking to dip your toes into the pumpkin-spiced waters, we've got something for everyone. These hacks aren't about reinventing the wheel but rather about making your pumpkin-inspired dishes even more flavorful, efficient, and enjoyable.

We'll delve into time-saving shortcuts for prepping pumpkins, ways to use parts of the pumpkin you might usually throw in the trash, and new methods for using pumpkin in recipes. Here are 14 pumpkin hacks you need to try this fall.

1. Roast your pumpkin whole

Roasting a whole pumpkin might not be the first cooking method that comes to mind when you think of preparing this fall favorite, but it's a game-changing technique. Roasting the pumpkin with its skin on allows the flavors to intensify and develop, resulting in a richer and more caramelized taste. Plus, it simplifies the cooking process. You don't have to worry about peeling and cubing the pumpkin before roasting, which can be time-consuming. It also reduces waste since you can easily scoop out all the tender flesh, leaving little behind.

So, how do you roast a whole pumpkin? Well, it's easy. Simply put your pumpkin on a baking tray and roast it at around 290°Fahrenheit for around 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin. Once the skin is blackened and shriveled and the pumpkin is fork tender, remove it and leave it to cool. When it's cool enough, you can peel away the skin, halve it, and scoop out the seeds, using the flesh as desired.

2. Cook a whole pumpkin in an Instant Pot

Cooking a whole pumpkin in an Instant Pot is not only convenient but also incredibly efficient. The Instant Pot is known for its ability to speed up cooking times while retaining flavors, and when it comes to preparing a whole pumpkin, it offers several advantages. Cooking a whole pumpkin in an Instant Pot significantly reduces the cooking time compared to conventional methods. It can be ready in a fraction of the time it takes to roast or steam it. And, there's no need to peel or chop the pumpkin beforehand. Simply place the whole pumpkin in the Instant Pot, and it does the work for you.

If you want to cook a whole pumpkin in your Instant Pot, you need to choose one that fits. You should be able to get a 2-pound pumpkin in a 6-quart Instant Pot. Wash the pumpkin thoroughly to remove any dirt. Place the Instant Pot trivet (the metal rack that came with your Instant Pot) at the bottom of the pot. Add 1 cup of water and cook it on the manual setting for 12 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is complete, allow the Instant Pot to naturally release pressure for another 12 minutes. Then, you can manually release any remaining pressure by turning the steam release valve to venting. Then, you can remove the skin, cut it in half to remove the seeds, and mash it or turn it into purée.

3. Turn pumpkin guts into stock

Pumpkin guts — or the pulp inside a pumpkin — are often overlooked and underutilized. Many people scoop the pulp out when preparing pumpkins, only to toss it in the trash. However, it's entirely possible to turn this pumpkin pulp into something valuable — homemade vegetable stock.

Traditionally, pumpkin pulp ends up in the waste bin primarily because it's perceived as messy and challenging to use. The stringy, gooey texture doesn't immediately lend itself to culinary inspiration. Yet, it's essential to remember that this pulp is packed with flavor, making it a valuable resource in the kitchen.

What you can do instead, is save it up and use it with other vegetable scraps — such as celery butts, carrot tops and peels, herb stems, and onion roots — to make a tasty vegetable stock. Once you've saved enough pumpkin guts and other ingredients to make stock (you can store them in your freezer until you're ready), add water and simmer the whole lot for 30-60 minutes. Strain out the vegetables and use the liquid wherever you need stock or broth.

4. Make your own pumpkin spice latte

Once fall comes knocking, we all know the drill — it's pumpkin spice latte season. If you're craving the cozy, spiced goodness of a PSL but want to enjoy it from the comfort of your own home, you're in luck! Crafting your very own homemade version is totally doable.

All you need is some brewed espresso or instant coffee, heated or foamed milk (you can use non-dairy milk if you like), pumpkin purée, sugar or other sweetener, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice or a pumpkin spice blend. Combining these ingredients gives you your very own homemade pumpkin spice latte — with real pumpkin in the mix. You can adjust the ratios to your liking to make your own creation or follow a pumpkin spice latte recipe.

By making your pumpkin spice latte at home, you can tailor it to your exact taste preferences and avoid the long lines and high prices at coffee shops. It's the perfect way to usher in fall — with a warm delicious beverage that you can enjoy whenever the mood strikes.

5. Make pumpkin skin chips

Stand aside, kale chips. Pumpkin skin chips are the new hot snack in town. If you're looking for a hack to help you use the whole pumpkin, making pumpkin skin chips is a way to transform often-discarded pumpkin skin into a crunchy, savory treat. These chips not only make a fantastic autumn snack but also contribute to a sustainable kitchen by minimizing food waste.

Start by washing your pumpkin before peeling it to use the flesh in whatever recipe you choose. Then, toss the pieces of pumpkin skin with a drizzle of olive oil — just enough to lightly coat them. This will help the skin become crispy during baking. Now it's your time to get creative — season the pumpkin skin with salt and pepper, along with whatever other herbs and spices you fancy. Make them spicy with cayenne or mildly aromatic with garam masala. Then, you just spread the seasoned pumpkin skin pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake them until they're crispy. Make sure they are not overcrowded to allow for proper air circulation, which helps them crisp up. Leave them to cool and then they're ready to eat.

6. Roast your pumpkin seeds as a tasty snack

Whether you're making a recipe that uses pumpkin or scooping out pumpkin guts to carve jack-o'-lanterns, you'll be left with a pile of pumpkin seeds. Often, these end up in the trash, but by roasting them, you can transform these often-discarded seeds into a delicious snack. It takes a little bit of work, but the results are tasty enough to make it worthwhile.

You start by removing the seeds from the inside of your pumpkin. Then, rinse the seeds under cold water to remove any remaining pulp. Use your fingers to separate the seeds from any clinging pumpkin fibers. Once you're rid of the pulp, dry your seeds to make sure they'll crisp up in the oven.

The next step is to toss the pumpkin seeds with a drizzle of olive oil and season the seeds with salt or your preferred seasonings. Get creative with your choice of spices, such as garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, or cinnamon, depending on whether you want a savory or sweet flavor. Preheat your oven to 350°Fahrenheit and roast the seeds on a baking sheet for around 15 minutes, until they're golden brown. Toss them every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking.

7. Whip up dairy-free Alfredo sauce using pumpkin

Whipping up a dairy-free Alfredo sauce using pumpkin is an unexpected way to use pumpkin this fall. It's a creative, flavorful twist on the classic Alfredo. It's a dairy-free alternative to traditional Alfredo sauce, making it suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance, vegans, or those simply looking to reduce their dairy intake. It's also a great way of getting more veggies into your diet, versus a classic Alfredo sauce, which is laden with heavy cream. Pumpkin purée provides a velvety, creamy texture to the sauce without the need for dairy products. It's a satisfying way to achieve that Alfredo creaminess. Plus, the addition of pumpkin lends a subtle earthy sweetness and a warm, autumnal flavor profile to your Alfredo sauce.

You can find plenty of recipes for pumpkin Alfredo online. Some use canned pumpkin to make the recipe quicker, while others involve blending cooked pumpkin into the sauce. This is mixed with ingredients such as stocks, seasonings, and herbs to boost the flavor. Some use extras such as cashew cream and nutritional yeast.

8. Halve and roast pumpkin to avoid peeling it

Peeling a pumpkin can be a laborious and, let's face it, annoying task. The tough, thick skin seems determined to resist your efforts, making the process both time-consuming and potentially hazardous to your fingers. Then, once you're done, you still need to slice or cube the pumpkin. Even if you're in possession of decent knives, the thought of going through the whole process can be enough to have you leave your pumpkin at the back of your pantry. However, there's a clever and time-saving solution that allows you to bypass the peeling process entirely — just halve and roast the pumpkin.

Roasting a pumpkin in two halves is a brilliant workaround to the peeling problem. Begin by carefully cutting the pumpkin in half. You can do this vertically or horizontally, depending on your preference, the shape of the pumpkin, and the recipe's requirements. Once halved, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp from the center of each pumpkin half.

Roast the pumpkin halves in the oven, cut side down, at around 350°Fahrenheit (190°Celsius) for approximately 45 minutes to 1½ hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin. You'll know it's done when the flesh is soft. Then, let the pumpkin halves cool slightly and either scoop out the now soft pumpkin flesh or peel off the skin and chop the flesh as needed for your recipe.

9. Make chutney out of pumpkin pulp

Do you ever feel wasteful when you scoop the stringy pulp out of the center of a pumpkin and throw it in the trash? If so, you might be pleased to know you can make a delicious chutney out of pumpkin pulp. Food52 user Panfusine posted a family recipe on the website that uses pumpkin pulp — or "pumpkin brain," as they refer to it. The recipe comes from Panfusine's great-grandmother, who called it Yaana Thalai, which means elephant's head in Tamil. It got this name because she said her grandkids could eat an amount the size of an elephant's head in one sitting — a resounding endorsement.

So, what goes into this chutney? Pumpkin pulp is the key ingredient, but it also contains garbanzo beans, fresh grated coconut, onions, and a variety of seasonings. Give this recipe a try and not only will you be reducing food waste, but you'll also get to try a sensational flavor.

10. Use an ice cream scoop to deseed pumpkins

Deseeding a pumpkin with a spoon can be a tedious task. Those slippery, stringy insides seem determined to make the process as frustrating as possible. However, there's a brilliantly simple hack that can turn this chore into a breeze — use an ice cream scoop.

Attempting to scoop out pumpkin seeds with a regular spoon can feel like trying to dig through a tangle of spaghetti with a fork — frustrating and slow. The seeds cling stubbornly to the pumpkin's fibrous interior, making it challenging to efficiently remove them without leaving behind a messy, gooey residue. But thanks to its large scoop-end and sturdy handle, an ice cream scoop is the perfect tool for ridding your pumpkin of those stubborn seeds and pulp. Simply cut your pumpkin in half — or cut off the lid if you're making a jack-o'-lantern — and scoop out the seeds and pulp as usual, but this time with an ice cream scoop instead of a spoon. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is.

11. Turn store-bought pumpkin pie into fancier desserts

Fall's here and you've been invited to a Halloween party or a Thanksgiving dinner. You said you'd bring dessert but time got away from you and you don't have time to prepare anything from scratch. Well, don't worry, because there are a couple of easy ways to turn store-bought pumpkin pie into fancier desserts.

One option is to turn a store-bought pie into several cute mini pies. Just take the pie and use a cookie cutter to cut out circular mini pies. Top them use whipped cream and a dusting of pumpkin spice or cinnamon and you've got a fancy-looking dessert that took mere minutes to prepare.

Then, there's a slightly more time-consuming option but one that still requires minimal effort — pumpkin pie cake pops. To make these, you just mash up your store-bought pie (both the crust and the filling) before rolling it into balls. Place the balls in the freezer for a couple of hours until they're solid. Then, melt some chocolate and dip each hardened ball into the melted chocolate. Throw some sprinkles or chopped nuts on them and you have some delicious fall treats to share.

12. Try five-spice instead of pumpkin spice

Pumpkin pie spice is a beloved staple in autumn recipes. It's not just used in pumpkin pie but also in pumpkin spice lattes and other pumpkin-based fall desserts and baked goods. However, there's a simple twist you can try to elevate your culinary creations — use Chinese five-spice powder instead of pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin pie spice generally includes cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Chinese five-spice powder uses a couple of the same ingredients — cinnamon and cloves — but also adds star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds. You get licorice or aniseed notes from the star anise and fennel seeds, plus a sweet heat from the Sichuan peppercorns. This is unexpected in a pumpkin pie, PSL, or pumpkin bread, but in a delicious way. You get sweetness and mild spiciness, along with sophisticated licorice and anise flavors that take dishes to the next level.

13. Make gnocchi

You've probably tried potato gnocchi, but did you know you can use pumpkin to make gnocchi? In this variation, pumpkin puree is incorporated into the gnocchi dough in place of potato, resulting in a distinctive pumpkin flavor and vibrant orange color. Pumpkin gnocchi is a perfect fall dish that showcases the earthy, sweet taste of pumpkin in a comforting form.

If you want to try pumpkin gnocchi, there are plenty of recipes online. Most start with homemade or canned pumpkin puree, which is combined with flour to make a dough. Salt and pepper are added — and occasionally cinnamon or other fragrant spices for an autumnal twist. You then roll the dough into ropes and cut it into

pieces, then roll each piece on the tines of a fork. Cook these in boiling water until they float to the surface. Once cooked, pumpkin gnocchi is delicious served with simple sage butter, but you can mix it with tomato sauces, cream sauces, or pesto. It's a creative way to use pumpkin that's a little different from your average recipe.

14. Transform pumpkin skins into marmalade

Using every part of a pumpkin is not only resourceful but can also lead to surprisingly delicious results. While the flesh and seeds often take center stage in pumpkin-based dishes, don't overlook the potential of pumpkin skins. One creative way to make the most of them is by turning them into pumpkin skin marmalade.

There are various ways to make pumpkin skin marmalade, but naturally, all of them center around pumpkin skins. You'll need to slice the skins into very fine matchsticks — think about the thickness of citrus peel in standard marmalade and you'll get an idea of what you're aiming for. Some recipes include apples, lemons, or other fruits to create some balance. You'll also need plenty of sugar, as is customary for marmalade. It's often cooked with cinnamon sticks in the mix to impart a classic taste of fall. Once it's cooked and cooled, you can use it wherever you'd usually eat marmalade, such as spread on toast or spooned on top of oatmeal.