These healthy and easy pumpkin recipes are all the best ways to use this nutritious orange squash! Use it in cookies, pasta, soup, and more.
Once cooler temperatures start to creep into the mornings, it starts: pumpkin mania. Yes, this nutritious orange squash has a cult-like following starting in September. It’s a short season, so the time is here. Let’s make all the pumpkin recipes!
Pumpkin is extremely versatile: it’s most popularly used in desserts, but it’s so much more than that. Try it in a creamy pasta sauce with Parmesan cheese, or even a bright orange hummus that’s perfect for fall parties. Here are all the top pumpkin recipes that are easy to make with healthy, whole food ingredients. Ready to get started?
These pumpkin oatmeal cookies are one of our most popular pumpkin recipes! They taste basically like oatmeal cream pies, but a healthy spin! They’re made with nutrient dense rolled oats and are totally plant-based. Made with coconut oil instead of butter, they’re topped with a powdered sugar icing. Omit the icing if you’d like them to be less sweet; they’re just as good!
Here's the very Healthy Pumpkin Bread you'll find. It’s so moist, so cozy spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, you’ll hardly notice that’s made purely of oats…no flour at all. We don’t exclusively eat gluten-free, but we do love eating a treat that’s made of heart-healthy oats and tastes incredible. Here are all the tricks to making this tasty quick bread at home!
Oatmeal is our go-to for healthy, whole grain breakfasts. So why not dress it up in fall glory? This Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal is like a cinnamon and ginger-spiced hug. It’s full of autumnal flavor, yet at the same time a healthy way to start the day! Whole grain oats provide lots of protein and fiber, and are the perfect backdrop for pumpkin puree and cozy spices. Make up a big pan and eat off of it all week, or make it for guests! This one's a fan favorite.
Wow, will a beautiful bite of these pumpkin cream cheese muffins have you thinking about it for hours! The moist cake is cozy-scented and just sweet enough, since after all it really is a muffin. Top that with a generous gooey mound of maple cream cheese, and each bite is like eating cheesecake and a muffin all at once. It’s really a bit of heaven in a muffin wrapper. The perfect pumpkin recipe!
This pumpkin recipe is all about using this ingredient to its ultimate savory goodness! This pumpkin pasta sauce is absolutely stunning, paired with penne pasta and Parmesan cheese. It cooks up in just 30 minutes! And it tastes like a sophisticated take on mac and cheese. Said one reader: “You NAILED IT! The whole family loved this pasta dish. So creamy and flavorful!” That’s what we like to hear.
Want to make pumpkin soup, but don’t want to roast an entire pumpkin? This is the recipe for you! All you need is a can of pumpkin puree. It’s got another secret ingredient too, that makes it more filling than a standard creamy soup: red lentils! The lentils thicken this soup and give it creamy body. Top sour cream swirls and crunchy homemade croutons, and well: it’s a cozy masterpiece.
These Pumpkin Waffles are the ideal fall breakfast, featuring cozy spices and pumpkin puree. It uses just enough pumpkin to bring in a light orange hue, but not so much that each bite is weighed down with vegetable puree. They’re just sweet enough and topped with a little pure maple syrup, they're absolutely delightful.
Many of the season’s recipes are sugar loaded: pumpkin cookies, cakes, and of course good old pumpkin pie. But why not enjoy all the flavors in a healthy and delicious way? This Pumpkin Smoothie is creamy and full of pumpkin-spiced flavor: and made with Greek yogurt and fruit! It’s a deliciously cozy way to usher in the season…without the sugar high. It’s also packed with protein from the yogurt.
This one is our most popular of these healthy pumpkin recipes: pumpkin baked steel cut oatmeal! It tastes like pumpkin pie—really!—but is made of steel cut oats. Who doesn’t want to eat pumpkin pie for breakfast? It’s also fairly healthy, with a minimal amount of maple syrup as a natural sweetener, it’s a nice gluten-free whole grain option for mornings.
Of course, no list would be complete without pumpkin pie! This mini version is half the serving of a normal piece of pie, making them a healthy dessert option. Each bite has the perfect ratio of silky smooth filling to flaky pie crust.
Here’s our personal favorite of these pumpkin recipes: our pumpkin gnocchi bake! It’s got a savory pumpkin sauce made creamy with a little Greek yogurt. Doughy gnocchi pillows are baked in the sauce along with gooey goat cheese. It’s probably one of the coziest comfort foods we’ve baked up, and it consistently gets rave reviews! Every time we serve it, it very quickly disappears.
This healthy pumpkin muffins recipe is pretty much the best fall use of a muffin wrapper that there is! (Except those cream cheese muffins above.) There’s the tender interior, perfectly moist with pumpkin puree and infused with pumpkin pie spice. Then there’s the streusel topping: oats and glittery turbinado sugar. It makes a satisfying crunch, and every bite is just the right sweet and spice. Even better? Each one is less than 200 calories.
Here’s a recipe for cool fall mornings when the leaves start to turn crimson: Pumpkin Oatmeal! On the first cooler fall morning, it’s like a switch flips. Pumpkin is instantly the most crave-worthy, novel flavor for everything from cookies to to soup to smoothies. So why not incorporate it into the first meal of the day? This oatmeal is perfect for using up that extra little bit in the can after you make pumpkin bread. It’s perfectly cinnamon-spiced and just sweet enough: the ideal fall breakfast!
To round out our healthy pumpkin recipes are these pumpkin pancakes! When Alex and I breakfast, we like oat pancakes: they’re made almost fully of oat flour, they’re heartier and more filling than the typical pancake. These oat pancakes are made with pumpkin puree and pumpkin spices. Topped with just a drizzle of pure maple syrup, these pumpkin pancakes are heavenly.
This one’s the simplest of the pumpkin recipes in this list: in just 5 minutes, you can make a killer fruit dip that’s pumpkin spiced! Just stir together Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and some pumpkin spices, and you’re in business! Served with sliced green apples, it’s a tangy and delicious snack. We’ve served it at fall parties and book clubs and it’s the perfect fall treat.
Vegetarian stuffed shells are always a crowd pleaser: especially when they’ve got pumpkin inside! This pumpkin recipe has pumpkin puree mixed with ricotta and fresh sage as the filling for these jumbo shells. Bake them, topped with gooey cheese, in a quick marinara sauce and you’re in business.
Have you tried pumpkin hummus? If you’re a pumpkin fan, this one’s worth a try. It takes just a few minutes to whip up, and adding pumpkin puree makes it extraordinarily creamy. Don’t worry, in contrast to some of the other pumpkin recipes this one’s got no pumpkin spices! It’s strictly savory: serve with pita chips for a tasty fall snack.
Here's one to feed your pumpkin spice latte addiction: pumpkin spice iced coffee! There's no real pumpkin in this one, so it's up to the pumpkin spices to deliver that cozy vibe. And man, do they deliver! It's a serious cinnamon clove flavor that comes through. This one is also a healthy pumpkin recipe because it's basically a healthy pumpkin spice latte. It's lightly sweetened with maple syrup, and has only a hint of milk (dairy-free works too).
Instead of pumpkin pie, why not…a pumpkin mousse that tastes just like pie filling? This unique spin is a vegan pumpkin mousse made by whipping coconut milk. And let’s just forget the crust: serving the pumpkin mousse in shot glasses topped with pumpkin seeds is cuter and easier!
In our list of pumpkin dessert recipes, this one’s a keeper! Greek yogurt that’s lightly sweetened with maple syrup is layered with a pumpkin filling made of pumpkin puree, pumpkin spices and mascarpone cheese. Add a bit of pecan skillet granola, whipped up in just 10 minutes in a skillet, and you’re in business. This one also works as a healthy breakfast or fall brunch recipe.
Pumpkin puree vs pumpkin pie filling
Let’s get technical for a moment. What’s the difference between pumpkin, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie filling?
Pumpkin refers the fresh pumpkin squash! All of the pumpkin recipes above don’t call for this because it’s easiest to find and work with pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin puree is cooked pumpkin that has been blended down into a puree and canned. It is unflavored. Take a taste out of the can, and it tastes very bland. When you’re shopping, do not accidentally grab pumpkin pie filling because…
Pumpkin pie filling is sweetened and includes pumpkin spices. Many of the pumpkin recipes above are savory, so you’ll want plain old pumpkin puree. (Remind us to tell you the time we accidentally made our pumpkin Parmesan penne with pumpkin pie filling…!)
Canned pumpkin can contain butternut squash, too
That can of pumpkin puree sometimes has other squashes too! Here’s what’s really in your canned pumpkin puree. Butternut squash is sweeter and creamier than pumpkin, which can be bitter and stringy. So many times manufacturers add butternut squash. Don’t worry, it’s not cheating: it’s just the best way to that creamy, sweet puree that we can call pumpkin!
What is pumpkin spice?
Now, some pumpkin recipes don’t even use that bright orange puree at all. They rely solely on pumpkin spices! Pumpkin has a fairly neutral flavor: our brains just associate the flavor of pumpkin with the spices in pumpkin pie. Some types of recipes simply don’t work with actual pumpkin: like iced coffee or energy bars.
Pumpkin spice can stand in to evoke the flavor in a pumpkin recipe where adding the actual vegetable would be too gooey. What spices are in pumpkin spice? Here’s our Pumpkin Pie Spice recipe. It’s a blend of:
More pumpkin recipes
There are so many ways to include pumpkin in recipes! Here are some more serving ideas:
In a medium bowl, combine the rolled oats, all-purpose flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and kosher salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the coconut oil, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium high for about 30 seconds, scraping the bowl as necessary, until well combined. Add in pumpkin and vanilla and combine on low for a few seconds until fully combined. Gradually add in the bowl with the dry ingredients, mixing on low, until combined into a dough.
Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the bowl with the dough from the refrigerator. Make 24 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls (a size 40 cookie scoop, if you have it) and place them onto the baking sheet. Lightly flatten the tops of each cookie with your hand.
Bake for 11 minutes until lightly browned on the bottom. Remove from the oven and allow to set on the baking sheet; after 2 minutes, transfer to a wire baking rack. For best results, bake in 2 batches (refrigerate the dough in between baking); this gets the most even bake. If making the glaze, allow to cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
To make the powdered sugar icing, stir together the confectioners’ sugar and milk until a smooth sauce forms and all lumps are dissolved (if using a thin consistency almond milk, start with 1 tablespoon and increase by little bits until it is smooth). Place the cookies on parchment paper, dip a fork into the glaze and drizzle in a zigzag pattern. Let the cookies sit at room temperature until the glaze is dry, about 20 minutes.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.