5 creative recipes that use canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling

From making velvety pasta sauces to flavoring cheesecake, canned pumpkin is a seasonal staple

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published October 15, 2021 11:59AM (EDT)

Butternut Squash Lasagna (Getty Images/Carlo A)
Butternut Squash Lasagna (Getty Images/Carlo A)

Compared to last autumn, it seems as though the pace is picking up again, for better or for worse. Kids are back in school, folks are returning to the office and social calendars are filling up in advance of the holidays. That may leave many people, myself included, feeling a little strapped for time when it comes to cooking filling, flavorful meals.

That's where a duo of secret ingredients comes into play: canned pumpkin pie filling and straight canned pumpkin.

Canned pumpkin is exactly what it sounds like — the canned flesh of a baked and pureed roasting pumpkin with no seasoning, which makes it perfect for savory applications like pasta and hot sauces. Pumpkin pie filling, however, is sweetened and seasoned with warm baking spices, which provides a seasonal lift to baked goods and sweet treats like breakfast bread and cheesecakes.

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Here are five of our favorite recipes that use canned pumpkin and pumpkin pie filling:

Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Bread

If you mastered a banana bread recipe during the pandemic, it's time to give those skills a seasonal update. Whereas banana bread takes on its signature moistness and almost caramelized sugar flavor from the use of overripe bananas, pumpkin spice breakfast bread uses pumpkin pie filling. Bonus: Pumpkin pie filling, as opposed to straight canned pumpkin, is already seasoned with pumpkin spice — a mixture of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg — which takes the guesswork out of seasoning. 

Smoky Pumpkin Hot Sauce

This hot sauce — which was featured on our weekly condiment column "Saucy" — takes the best flavors of fall and bottles them up. Start by tossing a small roasting pumpkin in the oven. Once it's tender, blitz it with apple cider vinegar, apple juice, maple syrup and spices. To save time, you can also use canned pumpkin! 

The combination of fresh peppers (like red cayenne) and dried peppers (like chipotle peppers and chile de arbol) gives the resulting hot sauce an approachable, smoky spice. It's perfect with breakfast burritos loaded with autumnal vegetables like bitter greens and butternut squash. 

Creamy Pumpkin Sage Pasta Sauce

Canned pumpkin once again saves the day in this cheap and easy weeknight dinner. Use it as the base of a cozy pasta sauce, which thanks to the use of heavy cream or oat milk, is flavorful, creamy and feels like fall in a bowl. The recipe is also easy to modify and veganize; some of my favorite add-ins include hot Italian sausage, crispy pan-fried mushrooms and roasted vegetables. 

Luxurious Pumpkin Cheesecake

As Kelly Fields (author of "The Good Book of Southern Baking") wrote, this recipe is "yet another result of my dislike of pumpkin pie." Canned pumpkin whipped with cream cheese, espresso powder (a beloved ingredient here at Salon Food) and brown sugar is folded into a simple gingersnap crust. The resulting pumpkin cheesecake introduces an unexpected flavor combination — pumpkin and espresso — that goes together as beautifully the classic duo of chocolate and peanut butter. 

Decadent PSL Milkshake

Alright, this is one of those recipes where I'm just going to need you to trust me. At least where I live, fall weather can be capricious. We still have plenty of 80-degree days through late October. On days when it's just too hot for a seasonal coffee drink, pull out the blender and make this PSL milkshake made with vanilla ice cream, pumpkin spice and cream. If you want to go more of a pumpkin pie route, feel free to add in 3 teaspoons of canned pumpkin pie filling, as well. 

Even more recipe inspiration: 

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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