I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of pumpkin puree substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured I’ve got you covered.
You can use pureed sweet potato, butternut squash or acorn squash instead of pumpkin puree. Carrot puree also works, but you’ll need to add more sugar. For desserts and baking you can use pumpkin pie filling, mashed bananas, or applesauce.
Let’s jump right in.
I made (delicious) muffins to test out different pumpkin puree substitutes.
Pumpkin puree is cooked and mashed pumpkin. It’s typically canned and has a deep, orange color. The consistency is silky smooth, and it has a slightly earthy, sweet flavor.
It’s a staple in many fall-themed dishes and desserts, and it’s also used as a fat substitute for baking.
I was looking for substitutes that are just as versatile and can provide a similar autumnal vibe.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Canned sweet potatoes||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Homemade pumpkin puree||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Carrot puree||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Pumpkin pie filling||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Mashed ripe bananas||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Applesauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||7/10|
Common uses of pumpkin puree
Here are some common uses for pumkin puree and the best substitutes for those situations.
- For pumpkin pie: Try using pumpkin pie filling or homemade pumpkin puree. Canned sweet potatoes will also work.
- For desserts and other baked goods: Try using canned sweet potatoes, homemade pumpkin puree, or carrot puree. Mashed bananas or apple sauce will also work, but won’t taste the same.
- For soups, stews, and pasta: Try using canned sweet potatoes, homemade pumpkin puree, or carrot puree.
Pureed sweet potatoes
If your grocery chain runs out of canned pumpkin puree, don’t worry – puree a can of sweet potatoes instead! Or just mash a few.
They boast a color very close to pumpkin puree, allowing the substitute to blend seamlessly with the autumnal vibes of your dish.
The catch? Sweet potatoes are slightly sweeter than pumpkin puree.
This didn’t matter too much with my muffins.
But if you’re using it for something savory, you might want to dial up the herbs and seasoning to balance the extra sweetness.
Pro-tip: drain the canned sweet potatoes well before pureeing.
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with mashed canned sweet potatoes.
Homemade squash puree
The process for homemade pumpkin puree is mostly hands-off but takes some time.
You must roast the pumpkin for about an hour in your oven before scooping out the flesh and blitzing everything into a silky puree.
My go-to recipe from Inspired Taste recommends using sugar pumpkins for the best results.
You can also explore other squash varieties like the classic butternut, honey nut, buttercup, or acorn squashes.
The only downside with the homemade puree is that its color won’t be as deep as the canned stuff, which is more noticeable if you use this as a pie filling.
But it’s nothing good old orange food coloring can’t fix.
Pro-tip: a three-pound pumpkin usually yields two cups of puree.
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with homemade pumpkin puree.
Carrot puree is another decent pumpkin substitute that will keep the classic orange color.
But it was a lot less sweet than pumpkin puree, so I had to add more sugar and warm spices to my muffins to make up for it.
Ready-made carrot puree is available in most grocery chains in the baby food section, but you can also make it from scratch.
It’s quicker than homemade pumpkin puree because you only need to boil the carrots before blitzing them!
(but roasting can give you a deeper flavor).
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with carrot puree.
Pumpkin pie filling
If you’re making a sweet dish, pumpkin pie filling works well as a canned pumpkin substitute!
It comes sweetened and pre-spiced with the familiar and comforting notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, giving you a head start in your baking process.
The key here is adjusting the sugar content in your recipe to account for the extra sweetness.
If you’re making a savory dish, skip this substitute.
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with pumpkin pie filling.
Mashed ripe bananas
Pumpkin puree is used in baking as a natural sweetener, a moisturizer, and a fat source.
Mashed bananas can also offer all these things!
You’ll need ripe bananas so they mash up nicely (here are a couple of tips to ripen a bunch quickly)!
And be aware that bananas sweet, fruity flavor is dominant and won’t work in every recipes.
For example, this substitute isn’t going to work for pumpkin pie (where you’re relying on the pumpkin flavor).
You’ll also have to cut back on the sugar in your recipes because ripe bananas have lots of sugar.
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with mashed bananas.
Applesauce is another fruity swap for pumpkin puree in baking/
It will add a sweeter, spiced flavor to your baked goods. Or you can opt for the unsweetened version if you just want the fat and moisture components.
Pro tip: make sure your apple sauce is smooth.
How to substitute: replace pumpkin puree in a 1:1 ratio with applesauce.
Other substitute to consider
If you’re using pumpkin puree to replace or reduce fat in baking and you’re not worried about the flavor, here are some more options you can try.
Hopefully you already have some of these in your cupboards!
- Shredded zucchini – this will have more moisture than pumpkin puree, so squeezing out the extra water before you use it is vital. This will also add specks of green to your final dish.
- Yogurt – this is full of probiotics and will impart a light tangy flavor to your baked goods. You’ll need to add extra sweetener if you use yogurt.
- Mashed avocados – these won’t add too much flavor to your baked goods, but they’re great for adding a bit of moisture and fat. Again, you’ll need something to add sweetness.
- Peanut butter – this substitute will bring an added nutty twist to your baked goods. Use it in moderation because the flavor can get quite overwhelming!
Pre-made pumpkin soup – substitute to avoid
I’m all about taking shortcuts, so I was willing to give pumpkin soup a shot.
But after my experiment, I don’t recommend this as a substitute for pumpkin puree.
The pre-made pumpkin soup has way too much liquid and a robust, savory flavor that made it hard to work with.
10 Best Pumpkin Puree Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 1 baking pumpkin, a 3lb pumpkin will yield about 2 cups of puree
- fine sea salt, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wash the pumpkin and pat it dry. Cut the squash from stem to end. Avoid cutting through the stem because it's too tough. When you've cut through the pumpkin, pull the two halves apart.
- Scoop out the seeds and pull out the stringy bits. Sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with salt (if using). Place each half of the pumpkin cut side down onto the parchment-line baking sheet. Bake until both halves are fully tender, about 45 to 60 minutes.
- Leave to cool. Once fully cooled down, scoop the flesh and process until smooth.