When we think of pumpkin we most often imagine Jack-O-Lanterns, and not necessarily an ingredient cooked in a dish. But pumpkin is a winter squash, and when sugar pumpkins--a smaller-sized variety of pumpkin–are used, they taste similar to several winter squashes that we are familiar with.
So, if your recipe calls for pumpkin but you do not have any in your kitchen, you can substitute other winter squash varieties, measure for measure. Good choices are acorn squash, hubbard squash, butternut squash, buttercup squash or calabaza. Sweet potatoes are also a good option as a substitute for pumpkin.
Good Squash Substitutes
Sometimes it can be overwhelming when shopping in the squash selection at the market--there are so many varieties in different sizes, shapes and colors. But the beauty is that many of them are interchangeable in recipes. The pumpkin we use in cooking is usually a sugar pumpkin, which is a little smaller and sweeter than the large pumpkins that grace our front steps on Halloween. These squash will impart a similar texture and flavor to sugar pumpkin.
- Acorn squash: Shaped like an acorn (hence the name) with deep ridges, this squash is commonly dark green with yellow stripes. When cooked, the flesh develops a mild, sweet, nutty flavor.
- Hubbard Squash: Possibly the largest squash in the produce section, this pumpkin-tasting squash is teardrop shaped with a blue-gray skin.
- Butternut Squash: With a pear-shaped figure, this familiar squash turns a deep orange when cooked, and offers a sweetness to any dish.
- Buttercup Squash: This round, squat squash has a dark green rind with grayish streaks. The meat is creamy and sweeter than other squash.
- Calabaza: Looking most like a pumpkin, this variety of squash offers a smooth, somewhat sweet taste.
When all else fails, use sweet potatoes in place of pumpkin. The taste may be slightly different but the appearance will be similar.
Measurements and Equivalents
Plan on purchasing 1/3 to 1/2 pound of pumpkin per serving as a side dish. Much of the weight will be discarded in the peel and seeds.
• 5 pounds fresh pumpkin = about 4 1/2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
• 1 pound fresh pumpkin = about 1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
• One 15-ounce can pumpkin = 1 3/4 cups mashed pumpkin
• One 29-ounce can pumpkin = 3 1/2 cups mashed pumpkin
More About Pumpkins
Find out more about pumpkin, as well as cooking tips and recipes.