Pumpkin 101: How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree, Calabaza Enmielada & Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


I really love pumpkin!  I can't imagine autumn or the holidays without it!  And I doubt my Hubby would ever forgive me if I didn't make a pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.   According to him, we can do without the turkey, but the pumpkin pie is a must!  Unfortunately, canned pumpkin is not available where I live.  So, when our friendly neighborhood calabaza vendor walks through the neighborhood with his wheelbarrow full of Mexican pumpkins, I buy a bunch of them to cook and make my own homemade pumpkin puree.  When I make a particularly huge batch of homemade pumpkin puree, I'll freeze it to use in all my favorite pumpkin recipes.

Cooking your own pumpkin is not difficult at all.  Some people prefer to bake theirs.  That's what my grandmother always did when I was growing up.  But you can also cook pumpkin on your stove top.

Making your own homemade pumpkin puree is something your kiddies can help you with too, especially when it comes to splitting the pumpkin open.  Don't worry!  There is no need for sharp knives.  My mother-in-law taught me a little trick that my kiddies love.  Take your pumpkin to your back patio or driveway, and let the kids drop the pumpkin, repeatedly, onto the hard cement floor until the pumpkin has split in half or into pieces big/small enough to fit in your stockpot.  And since you're going to rinse off the pumpkin in the sink before cooking it, you don't have to worry about any dirt that might get on your pumpkin.  

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

  • 1 medium pumpkin, split in half
  • 2 to 3 cups water 

Rinse the pumpkin off thoroughly with cold water.  Remove the pumpkin seeds and set aside. Using a spoon, scrape and remove any loose strands of pumpkin.  If necessary, cut the pumpkin into large chunks.  Arrange the pumpkin pieces in a large stockpot.  Fill with 2 to 3 cups of water, depending on how big your pumpkin and stockpot are.  Cover stockpot and simmer over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pumpkin flesh is tender.

Let pumpkin cool slightly.  Scoop out the cooked pumpkin into a strainer.  Press down slightly to drain any excess water.

Use the pumpkin puree in your favorite recipes or freeze in freezer baggies filled with 1-1/2 cups of pumpkin puree, which is about the same amount of pumpkin you get in a can of pumpkin puree.  Enjoy!!!



Now here in Mexico, the way to cook pumpkin is very similar to the method I shared above.  The only difference is that we add a cone or two of piloncillo to the pot of pumpkin.  The piloncillo melts with the heat, and combines with the water to make this gorgeous amber colored syrup that covers and sweetens all of the pumpkin.  The longer you cook the pumpkin in the syrup, the thicker the syrup gets.  We call this dish Calabaza Enmielada (cooked pumpkin with a piloncillo syrup).  It's so sweet and delicious.  I love to eat Calabaza Enmielada for breakfast.  But this also makes for a delicious pumpkin puree to use in your favorite pumpkin recipes.  (Just make sure to adjust the amount of sugar called for in your recipes.)  My grandpa used to make empanadas with his Calabaza Enmielada. Yum! 

Calabaza Enmielada
(Cooked Pumpkin with Piloncillo Syrup)

  • 1 medium pumpkin, cleaned and cut in large chunks
  • 2 to 3 cups of water
  • 2 cones piloncillo
  • 1 stick cinnamon (optional)
Clean the pumpkin as instructed in the previous recipe.  Arrange the pumpkin pieces in a large stockpot with 2 to 3 cups of water.  Place the piloncillo cones and cinnamon stick on top of the pumpkin pieces.  Cover the stockpot and let simmer over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Be sure to check occasionally, to make sure the syrup hasn't completely evaporated.



Traditionally, Calabaza Enmielada is served as is.  But...you can scoop out the sweetened cooked pumpkin into a bowl along with a couple tablespoons of the piloncillo syrup. Top with a splash of milk, and voila!  You have what we like to call Taninole.  


And now for those pumpkin seeds I had you set aside at the beginning of this post.  I'm going to show you how to make your own Pepitas (Roasted Pumpkin Seeds)!  This is a great way to use up all of those pumpkin seeds you might have left after carving your Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween.  

Toasting your own pumpkin seeds is so easy to do.  You can either roast them in the oven, or toast them on a comal or griddle on your stove top.  One taste and I'm sure you'll never want to buy store bought pumpkin seeds again.  My Hubby loves to snack on homemade Pepitas when he's watching futbol.  

(Roasted Pumpkin Seeds)

  • Raw pumpkin seeds 
  • Salt
Rinse pumpkin seeds completely.  Make sure to remove any loose strands of pumpkin.  Drain in a colander, but do not dry.

If baking Pepitas in an oven, preheat your oven to  375ºF.  Spread the wet pumpkin seeds onto a greased baking/cookie sheet.  (I like to line my baking sheets with aluminum foil for easy clean-up.)  Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds generously with salt.  Bake at 375ºF for 5 minutes.  Lightly toss the pumpkin seeds, then bake for an additional 5 minutes. The pumpkin seeds are ready when they are completely dry.

If making Pepitas on the stove-top, sprinkle the wet pumpkin seeds generously with salt, then toast on top of a cast-iron comal or griddle over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the Pepitas are completely toasted.  (My Hubby prefers this method, because he likes the rustic, slightly charred look of the toasted Pepitas.)    

Let the Pepitas cool slightly before eating.  Enjoy!!!  


Store any leftover Pepitas in an air-tight container.


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  2. I always cooked my pumpkin on the stove top also. I am interested in your recipe for pumpkin filling for empanadas, I just spent the morning making empanadas with my landlady. We used pineapple jam for filling and also cooked lechera. They are good also.

  3. BRENDA: Pumpkin filling is very simple to make. All you need to do is heat some pumpkin puree that you have sweetened with piloncillo or brown sugar and season with some ground cinnamon! My grandpa made pumpkin empanadas all the time.

  4. Good idea...the only thing I ever ate from a pumpkin was pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Sounds good!

  5. Thanks Leslie, very simple for sure.
    We added Maizena to the pineapple jam so that it would thicken as it cooked and not run out of the empanadas.
    Would think it might be a good idea to do with the pumpkin filling also, what do you think? Do you do that?

  6. I can't believe you can find pumpkin!  I have never seen a pumpkin here. 

  7. Pepitas! My favorite part of carving the pumpkin (don't tell my son that.) Do you know what I've had the hardest time finding on the East Coast? Dulces de calabaza y camote. No existen! My next trip to CA, I'm stocking up. Back when I drank milk, I used to throw ice cubes in my milk and down it with unos de estos dulces.

    I hope everything is going well with you, amiga. Un abrazo.

  8. oh my... I just read a recipe to let seeds dry before putting in the oven (letting them dry atm) I better go stick them in the oven now....

    Thank you Leslie!!!

  9. Thanks a ton it was a wonderful help, now to make homemade pumpkin puree, calabaza enmielada & roasted pumpkin seeds is without a doubt simple and easy utilizing your advice. Thank you

  10. Leslie yo soy mexicana y me casé con un "gringo". Vivo en E.U y hoy buscando una receta encontré tu blog. ¡Qué te puedo decir! Estoy fascinada de tu blog, todas esas recetas que he querido compartir con mi marido, ingredientes o recetas que no se como traducirlos al inglés los he encontrado aqui. Muchas gracias por tu blog, de verdad que "It warms my heart".

  11. Hi Leslie! Im so happy I just found your website. I am american and moved to mexico to live with my husband last year. I have been looking everywhere for canned pumpkin, but like you said, I cant find it! Finally I got a whole pumpkin from the store today and am ready to cook it! Thanks for the tips!