Picking out a potential jack-o’-lantern or two from the pumpkin patch, farmers market or grocery store is a time-honored tradition.
But if you’re going to spend money on these Halloween decorations, you won’t just want to trash them after the holiday passes.
After you’ve carved and shown off your Halloween pumpkin, try one of these options to get more use out of it.
What to Do With Your Pumpkin After Halloween
Whether it becomes a tasty snack or a creative project, your pumpkin can bring you a little more joy after Halloween.
Eat Your Pumpkin
Let’s not beat around the bush: Eating your pumpkin is probably the most enjoyable way to reuse it. I found a pumpkin recipe for every part of your gourd — even those stringy guts.
While carving pumpkins aren’t quite as flavorful as other varieties (such as sugar or pie pumpkins), they’ll still work for any of these dishes.
1. Make Pumpkin Puree
While it doesn’t sound appetizing on its own, pumpkin puree is one of my favorite things to make with leftover pumpkins.
It’s incredibly versatile: You’ll be able to turn your puree into pumpkin muffins, breads and soups down the road — even a delicious Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Pumpkin puree is the base for most of the delicious dishes on this list.
Creating the puree is simple: Just boil, bake or steam your pumpkin, according to Good Housekeeping. If you used a real candle in your jack o’ lantern, make sure to cut off and discard any burned sections or leftover wax.
The puree freezes well for future use; I like to use zip-closure freezer bags, filled and partially flattened for easy stacking.
2. Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice Latte
Tempted by the versions on offer at seemingly every coffee shop? Instead of dropping $5 on a pumpkin spice latte that doesn’t actually contain any pumpkin, make your own.
Inspired by a fall weekend in a town without a coffee shop, Betsy Officer created her own PSL. “Not only is this recipe delicious and super easy, but it also is 100% natural and can be made with organic ingredients,” she explained. “Plus, I can now drink pumpkin spice lattes as early/or late into the season as I like!”
She shared two variations of the recipe: a latte made with espresso, and a café au lait made with standard drip-brewed coffee.
- 3/4 cup milk, ideally 2%, for the latte (if you’re making cafe au lait, 1/2 cup milk will give you a 2:1 coffee/milk ratio)
- 1 espresso shot for the latte (or 1 cup drip coffee)
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice mixture (or mix your own cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg blend)
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon pumpkin puree
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Optional: cinnamon sticks and/or maple pumpkin butter as garnish
Measure and pour milk into a saucepan on your stove. Add in pumpkin pie spice, maple syrup, pumpkin puree and vanilla extract. Stir well. Heat the mixture on medium/hot heat, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, brew coffee or espresso. For cafe au lait, Officer recommends using a pumpkin spice blend such as Dunkin Donuts or Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice coffee.
Remove milk from the stovetop once it’s hot (Officer waits until it’s just about to boil) and use a milk frother to froth it. The mixture should double in size and create a nice foam. If you don’t have a frother, you can find one online for less than $20 (she uses this one) or use your blender.
Once milk is frothed, combine in a mug with espresso or coffee. Garnish with pumpkin pie spice. If you’d like, add a cinnamon stick or drizzle with a bit of maple pumpkin butter.
3. Enjoy a Pumpkin Cocktail or Pumpkin Beer
For those looking for something a little stronger than a latte, these seasonal drinks are just the ticket. You’ll need a few additional ingredients — and brewing equipment if you’re making beer — but these pumpkin drinks will spice up any post-Halloween party.
Enjoy planning ahead? Bottle your pumpkin beer or preserve your pumpkin now, then break out the drinks with your Thanksgiving dinner.
4. Have Pumpkin Lasagna
Need a dinner idea for Nov. 1? Try this yummy vegetarian pumpkin lasagna.
Taste of Home calls it a “comforting fall dish” — who doesn’t love those?
5. Make Pumpkin Butter
This seasonal treat is delicious on toast, in smoothies or on oatmeal. You can make it all year if you freeze extra pumpkin puree.
Check out this simple recipe on Oh She Glows (bonus if this is important to you: It’s vegan).
6. Snack on Roasted Seeds
They’re a classic snack for a reason. A handful of roasted pumpkin seeds is a delicious way to get iron, magnesium, zinc and a healthy dose of fiber.
Roasting them is simple — just dry out the seeds and bake them on a baking sheet with olive oil and salt — but play with toppings to find one that works for you: salt and pepper, chili powder or cinnamon are all good options.
7. Make Vegetable Stock with the Guts
While the flesh and seeds are often popular foods, the stringy insides of pumpkins usually go straight to the trash (or compost). No more!
Try adding them to other veggie bits (carrot tops, onion ends) to make a flavorful stock.
8. Bake Pumpkin Gut Bread
If you’re looking for something a little heartier than soup, try this recipe from Diana Johnson of Eating Richly. She calculates that making two loaves costs about $2.
9. Cook Pumpkin Risotto
Another way to put those guts to use: Try this delicious pumpkin risotto, which Gothamist Editor Nell Casey adapted from The New York Times.
10. Make Pumpkin Pickles
If you’re pickle-obsessed like me, you’ll want to try these babies. For a sweeter pickle to go with desserts or cheese platters, try this pickled sugar pumpkin recipe from Serious Eats.
Looking for something with a little more kick? Try these South Indian pumpkin pickles from Promenade Plantings.
11. Dry Pumpkin Skin into Chips
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the skin of the pumpkin.
Use a dehydrator or your oven to dry the skin into crispy chips for snacks or garnishes, recommends Gina Harney of Fitnessista.
Decorate With Pumpkins
Halloween might be over, but it’s still fall and pumpkins make great additions to your home, garden and holiday decorations.
12. Use Pumpkins as Serving Bowls
File this idea under “brilliant:” Save on decorations (and dishwashing) by using pumpkins as serving bowls for soup or cider.
Here’s an easy way to make a pumpkin bowl, from Sanam Lamborn of My Persian Kitchen.
13. Turn a Pumpkin into a Planter
Keep the fall festivities going by using your pumpkin as a planter for a small potted plant.
The planter will last for several weeks, and then you can plant it directly in your garden to decompose.
14. Create a Pumpkin Bird Feeder
Feeling artsy? Feed your neighborhood birds by making this simple bird feeder from Instructables.
15. Save Them for Your Thanksgiving Table
No need to spend extra money on table decorations — plan to keep a pumpkin or two, and you’ll be all set. Use Pinterest for ideas and inspiration.
Your pumpkins will make it to Thanksgiving, as long as you choose wisely. An uncarved, healthy pumpkin “can last 8 to 12 weeks,” Cornell University horticulturalist Steve Reiners told NPR.
16. Make Pumpkin Snowmen
Why not try this cute, crafty way to reuse some of your Halloween decorations?
You’ll get an early start on your winter decorating — or if you’re feeling entrepreneurial, you could even try selling your creations.
If you don’t want to cook or decorate with your leftover pumpkin, what else can you do? Try one of these fun ideas.
17. Relax With a Pumpkin Face Mask
Out late at a Halloween party? Recharge your skin with pumpkin’s good-for-you vitamins A, C and E.
18. Build a Pumpkin Catapult
(Just make sure you have enough space.)
19. Try Pumpkin Painting
This is a great chance for kids to have fun creating art with pumpkins, especially if they’re a little young for carving tools.
The best part? All you need is some butcher or craft paper, a few paper plates and washable paint. Or get a little more creative — The Artful Parent explains the details.
20. Save the Seeds
Not a fan of eating the seeds? Instead, hold onto them to plant in your garden next spring.
Growing your own pumpkins will save you money — and let you enjoy even more homemade treats next year.
21. Compost Your Pumpkin
At the very least, your leftover pumpkin can help you grow an incredible garden next year. Cut it into smaller pieces and toss it in the compost pile, then mix it into your soil next spring.
Heather van der Hoop is a freelance editor.