Whether you bought small Sugar Pie pumpkins to decorate whole or giant Howden pumpkins to carve into Jack-o'-lanterns for your front porch, the day after Halloween brings a dilemma: what to do with all of that leftover pumpkin that won't result in a ton of waste.
Luckily, you can do a lot with pumpkins after Halloween. Pumpkins that you haven't cut into provide fresh pumpkin for recipes, while old, carved pumpkins can be composted or, in certain cases, used as animal feed. Are you still wondering what to do with pumpkins after Halloween? Here are 11 suggestions to start.
Before getting into some scrumptious (and easy) recipes, here are two points about food safety: One, use only uncarved/uncut pumpkins for food. Once you cut into a pumpkin, even to shallowly carve the surface or stick a toothpick in to hold a decoration, you start that two-hour food safety clock running, after which the pumpkin won't be safe to eat, even if you cook it. And, given that most cut pumpkins are used for porch decoration – where they can be covered in dirt and bugs – you should save these pumpkins for non-food use once Halloween is over.
Two, uncut/uncarved pumpkins can be used for food, but be careful what you use if you draw on them. Look for edible markers sold in bakery supply and craft stores instead of using permanent markers or paint. If you've already used non-edible items on an uncut pumpkin, then, before you prepare the pumpkin for food, wash the exterior of the pumpkin and cut away the painted or inked sections.
The "meat" inside a pumpkin, once the seeds and stringy interior have been scooped out, can be made into fresh pumpkin puree and used in a pie. Whether you have a secret pumpkin pie spice recipe or want to use a great recipe from another source, this is an easy, easy way to use up the pumpkin. Save the peel for composting (more on that in a minute). Pumpkin puree does freeze well, too, so if you don't feel like making a pie just yet, divide the puree into measured portions, place each portion in a bag, and freeze for up to a year. Note that culinary varieties like Sugar Pie are better for this than the larger Jack-o'-lantern-style pumpkins, but you can still try to use those if you wish.
2. Make pumpkin soup
If you prefer savory food over sweet, try roasting the pumpkin and blending it into soup. You can find many recipes online that cover just about any dietary requirements, such as this vegan roasted-pumpkin soup. After removing the seeds and cutting up the pumpkin, you'll roast the sections and then peel them. (Cooking first makes the outer skin easier to remove.). Even small pumpkins can produce enough meat to make a lot of soup for leftovers.
3. Make a pumpkin spice latte with actual pumpkin
Most "pumpkin spice" items contain just the spices used in pumpkin pies. However, if you have a little extra puree left after making pie or soup, use it for a latte. With milk, a little coffee, spices, and a couple of tablespoons of puree, you can have a homemade pumpkin spice latte for you and a friend in a few minutes.
4. Roast pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds one of the easiest options no matter what type of pumpkin you get or what you do with the pumpkin. When you carve a Jack-o'-lantern, remove the seeds and immediately refrigerate them. If you have an old halloween pumpkin, save the pumpkin seeds as you cut up the pumpkin to make pumpkin puree. When you have time, remove the stringy bits from the seeds and roast your pumpkin seeds.
5. Make vegetable stock
Most vegetable stock is of the carrots/celery/onions/trimmings variety, but you can make a pumpkin-based stock, too. This is a use-it-all recipe in which you cut up a pumpkin and combine the whole thing, including seeds and stringy guts, with an onion and water. Boil, simmer, and strain, and within a few minutes, you have stock you can use for soup or in place of water when making pumpkin risotto or other delicious dishes.
6. Make pumpkin bread
Pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins are some of the better recipes to use if you have any leftover Jack o lanterns. As those are less flavorful to begin with, the spices in the bread take center stage. Pumpkin bread is a quick bread, so you don't have yeast rising times. Make a couple of loaves and freeze one for later; be sure to slice that loaf before freezing so you can remove slices when you want, instead of having to thaw the entire loaf.
Note: Any pumpkin that you'll use on your skin or use with edible foods should be one of the fresh pumpkins that you didn't cut into for Halloween.
7. Make pumpkin beauty products
Oatmeal isn't the only food you can use for a face mask; pumpkin puree, honey, and milk combine to make a soothing facial treatment that's loaded with vitamins. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes. Note: The mask will be bright orange.
8. Make a bird feeder
If you've got a small, light pumpkin and don't feel like making yet more pumpkin puree, hollow out the pumpkin and add stick perches to create a small bird feeder. Hang it using a rope sling, and monitor it so you can remove it once the pumpkin shell begins to degrade.
9. Make a garden planter
Pumpkins eventually degrade, so if you want to do something with the pumpkin that won't result in debris at the end, try making a degradable garden planter. Start by filling the shell with planting mix and adding flowers or another plant you like. When the pumpkin begins to break down, plant the whole thing in the ground, where the pumpkin will act as fertilizer.
Return It to Nature
Not into crafts or cooking? You still have options.
10. Donate it to a local zoo
You've cooked, pureed, and crafted as much as you can, and still you have a whole pumpkin staring at you in your kitchen. Clean off the pumpkin and call your local zoo or animal shelters. A lot of animals like pumpkins and get a real treat every November when patches and farms bring over their remaining pumpkins. There's no guarantee the zoo will accept pumpkins from everyone, but call and find out.
11. Compost it!
Got an old, carved pumpkin that you can't use for other purposes? Got a decaying pumpkin bird feeder or remnants from cooking? Composting is the answer.
It's easy to chop up your halloween pumpkin and put it in a counter-top composting machine. As more states pass compost-organic-waste laws, getting a home compost bin now is a good move. Lomi is a terrific option, offering super-fast composting that takes care of a pumpkin in as little as 4 hours in express mode. Non-express modes are still fast, creating nutrient-rich compost overnight. Combine the cut-up pumpkin with other organic materials like food scraps and leaves to create a nutrient-rich compost for your garden plants.
In our most recent Lomi compost test, we ran our old pumpkins through Lomi's Eco-Express mode. You can see the results below.
There's really no reason to throw away pumpkins. Next time a neighbour asks you what to do with pumpkins after halloween, share these creative ideas with them. Hopefully they'll share a tasty snack with you as thanks!