6 Best Canned Pumpkin Puree Substitutes

It’s that time of year again. Fall is in the air, and everything is coming up pumpkins. What happens when you find the best pumpkin recipe but the stores are out of pumpkin puree? What is the best pumpkin substitute?

You can easily find pumpkin substitutes by heading to the produce section. The best pumpkin substitutes are acorn squash, zucchini. Sweet potatoes also make a great pumpkin puree replacement in a pinch. Even better? You might also find a substitute for pumpkin in the frozen section when choosing butternut squash.

Continue reading to learn more about these substitutes for pumpkin, including what options might be best for the recipe you’re making.

What Is Pumpkin Puree?

Pumpkin puree is exactly what it sounds like. You can grind pumpkin using a food processor or a blender. Essentially, cooked pumpkin is ground to create a smooth pulp with a delicate texture. 

You can make pumpkin puree at home by roasting, steaming, or even baking your pumpkin. You can experiment to determine which method you prefer. It’s interesting to note that the method of cooking the pumpkin might change the way that it tastes.

What Is the Difference Between Fresh and Canned Pumpkin Puree?

Knowing that you can make your own pumpkin puree, you might wonder if that’s easier than searching the store for a pumpkin substitute. Probably not. 

But, if you have a few hours to cut open the pumpkin, take out the seeds, cook the pumpkin, and then blend the pumpkin – that’s your prerogative. By the end of the afternoon, you’ll have fresh pumpkin puree to use in whatever recipe you want.

The differences between fresh and canned pumpkin puree continue when you think about baking with them. First, you’ll notice the difference in color and thickness. Fresh pumpkin is thinner, leaning more towards golden yellow than the dark orange you’re used to with canned puree. Canned pumpkin is darker and thicker in consistency.

Fresh pumpkin takes more prep and cooking time if you add in the need to bake or roast it before blending it into a puree. Once you’ve baked with both, you will see very little difference in the taste or texture of your finished goods.

In the end, unless you’re hoping to add something to your fresh pumpkin, say you like the nutty taste you get when roasting it, or want to add spices to your homemade puree, it might be easier to go with the canned puree.

What Can I Use Instead of Pumpkin Puree?

Some options for pumpkin puree replacement were mentioned earlier. Let’s discuss those and a few more. 

1. Fresh Pumpkin

We’ve discussed what is needed to make pumpkin puree from fresh pumpkins. When shopping, pay attention to the type of pumpkin your store offers. You can find pumpkins grown for baking and creating your own puree. They are typically smaller and rounder than the pumpkins used for carving and placing on your front porch. You might see them listed as sugar pumpkins. You can even find specialized pumpkins with names like Ghost Rider or Autumn Gold.

2. Frozen Butternut Squash

Frozen butternut squash is possibly one of the easiest options for a pumpkin substitute. All you need to do is roast or saute the butternut squash cubes until they’re soft to the touch. Cooking them decreases the moisture in them since they’re frozen. It also makes it easy to puree them. Be sure to cool the squash cubes before blending.

3. Sweet Potatoes

You have even more options when it comes to sweet potatoes. Choose canned, fresh, or even frozen. Be sure to drain the sweet potatoes if you opt for canned.

If you’re using fresh sweet potatoes, they can be cooked and cooled just like the butternut squash cubes before adding them to the food processor. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider leaving the skin on your sweet potatoes. This adds a different texture to your puree.

4. Roasted Acorn Squash

Did you know that acorn squash and pumpkins belong to the same family? They don’t look alike, but their textures are similar, as is the way they behave when cooked. When choosing roasted acorn squash as a substitute for pumpkin puree, you will need to deal with the seeds. Once you’ve scooped them out, you can roast your squash in a 350-degree oven for an hour before blending them in the food processor.

5. Homemade Canned Pumpkin

You will need a pressure canner if you’re going to can pumpkins. This works great as a pumpkin puree replacement if you have access to homemade canned pumpkins. The process is simple for an experienced canner but might be more difficult if this is your first foray into canning. 

When canning pumpkins, cut them into cubes to make them easier to cook, then blend when it’s time to create your pumpkin puree. If you’ve grown your own pumpkins, canning is a great next step to seeing your efforts come to fruition.

6. Other alternatives

If all other options don’t work, you can use a can of applesauce or carrots as a pumpkin substitute. The texture of your baked goods will be different, and you won’t get that iconic pumpkin taste, though. If at all possible, choose another substitute for pumpkin puree in baking.

How Do You Make a Canned Pumpkin?

Delving further into canned pumpkins, there is a process to follow in order to achieve success. First, you need to pick a pumpkin appropriate for canning. Just any old pumpkin won’t do. Steer clear of carving pumpkins and opt for smaller, rounder ones.

After you’ve picked your pumpkin, follow the steps below:

  • Clean out the pumpkin like you would if you were carving it – sectioning it into wedges will make this easier
  • Cut the pumpkins into cubes
  • Boil the pumpkin cubes in a large pot of water for two minutes
  • Place the cubes into jars – jars should be warmed
  • Cover the cubes with leftover hot water, leaving an inch from the top
  • Add lids and rings to the jars and follow the directions for your pressure canner


Is canned pumpkin and pumpkin puree the same thing?

Yes and no. Homemade canned pumpkin is created using a canning method and jarred for preservation. You will still need to make a pumpkin puree when using canned pumpkins. 

Pumpkin puree comes in a can and is ready to go right after opening. You are purchasing puree if you see canned pumpkin or pumpkin puree in the store. You might also see it labeled as solid-pack pumpkin. It is common to hear the two used interchangeably, which can be confusing.

Is canned pumpkin really pumpkin, or is it squash?

Check the label to ensure the canned pumpkin in your store is pumpkin. Some brands utilize squash or a combination of pumpkin and squash for their canned pumpkin puree.

Is Libby’s pumpkin pie mix the same as pumpkin puree?

Pumpkin pix mix is not the same as pumpkin puree. Pumpkin pie mix often has spices added to enhance the flavor, whereas pumpkin puree doesn’t.

Final Thoughts

You can use many things if you’re at home and don’t have pumpkin puree or if the store is out of puree. What you choose is up to you. You might find that you enjoy a combination rather than straight puree. This fall, enjoy experimenting with your baked goods. You might create a new favorite!