Food & Wine's Kelsey Youngman shares her tips for making a pumpkin butter that goes well with sweet and savory dishes.

By Bridget Hallinan
October 25, 2019

The first time Food & Wine Associate Food Editor Kelsey Youngman had pumpkin butter, she was at a farmers’ market in San Francisco—it was flavored with warm, seasonal spices, and a lot of sugar. When she got home, she got to work and tested it until she had a recipe with a little more tang and savory bite, all thanks to a secret ingredient.

In our latest F&W Cooks video, she shares that secret so you, too, can make this dreamy pumpkin butter at home. It’s delicious in everything from mousse and pancakes to pasta (yes, really). Or you could just eat a spoonful by itself—it tastes like pumpkin pie filling, and it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Read on for Kelsey’s key tips for making pumpkin butter at home.

Cut the pumpkin

For the recipe, Kelsey uses a sugar pie pumpkin, which is a hard squash. To cut it safely, she recommends using a long, heavy knife and pointing the tip toward the center of the pumpkin. Cut it on one side, then rotate it and cut on the other, working the knife to help you get a clean cut. You also want to cut through the bottom, so find the line you made and use that as a guide. In the end, the pumpkin should split cleanly in half.

Remove the seeds and pulp

You only need the “meat” of the pumpkin for this recipe, so Kelsey takes a spoon, using the edge like a knife, and scrapes out all of the seeds and pulp. (Save the seeds for roasting.) Make sure to cut off the stem, too.

Roast the pumpkin halves…

Kelsey takes the pumpkin halves and places them on a baking sheet, cut side down. This traps some of the moisture in them and lets them steam, creating tender flesh in a shorter amount of time. Make sure to coat the outsides in oil—any neutral vegetable-based oil is fine—so they get color and cook evenly. Then, pop the pumpkin halves in a 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes.

…and then stab them. Seriously.

The pumpkin halves should be “fork-tender” when they come out of the oven, and the easiest way to check that is to… stab them with a fork. Kelsey says the fork should slip in very easily, with the tiniest resistance from the skin. 

Add the pumpkin flesh to the food processor

Once the pumpkin halves are cool, take a spoon and scoop the flesh right into a food processor—it should come off the skin really easily. Then add apple cider to help loosen it up and get a nice puree, before adding honey, a pinch of cloves, ground ginger, light brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. A little salt is very important in sweet dishes, because it helps bring out all of the flavors and make them more balanced. 

Don’t use pre-ground nutmeg

Kelsey recommends using whole nutmeg for this recipe and grating it fresh into the mixture. It takes seconds, and really makes a difference.

And now, for the secret ingredient…

To make the pumpkin butter compatible with sweet and savory dishes, Kelsey adds some apple cider vinegar to the mixture. She says you want to get the kind with the “mother” in it (aka the cloudy kind), which is the real vinegar.

Puree, and then move to the stovetop

After everything is mixed in the food processor, Kelsey says that there’s still a little sharpness from the vinegar, and the spices haven’t been cooked out. So she transfers the puree to a saucepan and lets it bubble on medium-low until it cooks down. The end result should be dark, rich, and thick, not weeping any liquid.

Store it 

Once the butter is cooled, you can pop it in an airtight container. It’ll keep in the fridge for two to three weeks.

Get cooking

At the end of the video, Kelsey suggests a few different recipes to use the pumpkin butter in. The first is a pumpkin brown butter pasta sauce, which takes a spoonful of the pumpkin butter and combines it with browned butter, shallots, sage, crushed red pepper flakes, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The end result is savory and not too sweet, able to work well with any pasta you like. 

You can also simply spread the pumpkin butter on toast with cream cheese, or, use it to flavor an ultra-simple mousse made with whipped cream and crème fraîche. (Pro tip: don’t forget the ginger cookie crumbles on top.) It goes to show just how versatile pumpkin butter is, and that you can find ways to use it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.

Get the recipe here.

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