How to Use Pumpkin Guts After Carving a Jack-O-Lantern

Pumpkin guts

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Making a jack-o-lantern is a treasured annual ritual: Picking out the perfect pumpkin, choosing a design, and carving it to bring your vision to life. But then you’ve got to figure out how to use the pumpkin guts and seeds you scraped out of it.

Try these ideas for how to use pumpkin seeds in new ways this Halloween—and even turn those stringy, slimy pumpkin guts into something delicious.

Make Pumpkin Broth

If you’re planning to whip up some pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin curry, or pumpkin pasta sauce, you can boost the flavor by saving pumpkin guts and turning them into a flavorful broth.

After you’ve scraped out the innards, throw them—seeds and all—into a saucepan with aromatic veggies like onion, carrot, and celery and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes to one hour. Strain out the veggies, then refrigerate or freeze the pumpkin broth for use in recipes.

Make Pumpkin Liqueur

How about a festive pumpkin cocktail to go with your roasted pumpkin seed snack? The first step to sipping on a pumpkin martini is to infuse that seasonal flavor into vodka to make pumpkin liqueur.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup water with 1 cup of brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon ground pumpkin spice (you can also add a few cinnamon sticks, a clove, and a half-teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and ground ginger), 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pumpkin guts (no seeds).

Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, then strain and let cool completely. Combine with an equal measure of vodka and allow the mixture to meld flavors for a couple of days. You’re ready to make pumpkin cocktails! Store any leftover pumpkin liqueur in a sealed bottle in the fridge for up to three months.

Make Pumpkin Puree

Use this technique to get a meal out of your jack-o-lantern. In addition to the stringy guts and seeds, scrape out as much of the pumpkin’s flesh as you can without compromising its structural integrity (or the design you’re planning to carve). Separate out the seeds and reserve for another use. 

Put the pumpkin flesh and stringy bits in a pan with an inch or so of water, then bake them in the oven at 350 F until they’re tender—anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, depending on how much pumpkin flesh you end up with. Puree the cooked pumpkin and use it in pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie...you get the idea. It freezes well for later use, too. 

Roast Pumpkin Seeds

There’s a reason roasted pumpkin seeds are an autumn classic: it turns something you might be tempted to throw away into a delicious snack. After scraping out your jack-o-lantern, separate out the seeds from the stringy pumpkin guts. Rinse or soak the seeds in water to clean them off, then drain and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.

Toss the seeds with a little olive oil and salt to taste, then spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast them in a 300oF oven for 35 to 45 minutes, stirring once or twice to help the seeds toast evenly. 

The pumpkin seed possibilities are endless: You can mix things up with variations like pumpkin spice or garlic parmesan, candy your pumpkin seeds, and even mix them into muffins or use them to top pumpkin cake for added crunch.

Make Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal

That pumpkin puree you made isn’t just for baked treats and sweet desserts. It’s great for adding some variety and extra nutrition to your morning oatmeal, too. 

Stir a few spoonfuls of pumpkin puree into your oatmeal before you cook it, whether that’s on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in the Instant Pot. Add a pinch of complementary spices like ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or cloves to the mixture before cooking.

Top the finished oatmeal with maple syrup, brown sugar, or roasted pumpkin seeds to add a little texture. You add pumpkin flavor to overnight oats, too.

Save Seed to Grow Your Own Pumpkins

Seed saving is a great way to set yourself up for success in your garden next season. However, hybrid pumpkins don’t grow true to seed—meaning you won’t get the same kind of fruit. For this reason, your standard supermarket pumpkin isn’t a good candidate for seed saving.

Instead, seek out heirloom pumpkins, which often come in unique colors and shapes. You may have better luck finding heirloom pumpkins at a farmers’ market or local farmstand, where you can also ask the grower to confirm your pumpkin isn’t a hybrid variety. Here’s how to save your own pumpkin seeds to plant next year.