It Turns Out Pure Canned Pumpkin Isn’t Pure At All, And It’s Certainly Not Pumpkin

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, you’re probably busy stocking your pantry and refrigerator in preparation for the feast of all feasts. As you navigate the maze and holiday craze of your local grocery, you’ll likely toss a couple cans of pumpkin purée into your cart. After all, what better seasonal sweet fix than a velvety pumpkin pie?

But what’s actually inside the can may surprise you. It turns out pure pumpkin purée isn’t pure at all, and it’s certainly not pumpkin.

Wait for it… the pumpkin purée we buy in cans is actually winter squash. For instance, big name manufacturer Libby’s, which produces a massive 85% of pumpkin purée sold worldwide, actually uses its own special kind of winter squash. While Libby’s refers to it as “Dickinson pumpkin,” there’s no pumpkin about it – it’s squash. Other manufacturers use different types of winter squash in their “pure” purées, like butternut, Hubbard, Boston Marrow, and Golden Delicious.

Why the bait and switch? For starters, these squash varieties can be less stringy and richer in sweetness and color than pumpkin, so manufacturers use them to produce a more “pumpkin-like” product. And the USDA blurs the lines between pumpkins and winter squash. Its take on what makes a pure purée: “The canned product prepared from clean, sound, properly matured, golden fleshed, firm shelled, sweet varieties of either pumpkins and squashes by washing, stemming, cutting, steaming, and reducing to a pulp.”

What to do, what to do? For the pumpkin purists, this new information will mean longer prep time for pies. To make your own purée, you would have to buy a whole pumpkin, break it down, roast or steam it, puree it, strain the purée, and then add it to your pie filling. That’s quite a bit of work for one pie.

On the other hand, if you’ve been making Aunt Mabel’s pumpkin pie recipe for years and haven’t heard any complaints, perhaps the canned pumpkin squash medley isn’t the end of your culinary world.

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Cover Image via The Scrumptious Pumpkin

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