by Erin Marissa Russell
Nothing compares to the beauty of a flourishing pumpkin patch in the garden—and in the kitchen, nothing compares to sweet, velvety pumpkin. In addition to the traditional pie, you can add golden pumpkin cubes to roasted veggie medleys, whir pumpkin into sweet soups, or add the flesh to hearty stews. But when it comes to choosing a variety of pumpkin to grow, things get more complicated. Not all pumpkins are bred to be good for eating. That’s where we come in. This list of pumpkin varieties will help you choose from the best pumpkins to grow for pie or for eating in savory dishes. See our favorite pumpkin recipes here.
This Japanese variety has a unique black color touched with a bit of orange. Their shape is also unique, with deeply lobed sections. Black Futsu pumpkins are best used in savory dishes, because the flesh has a nutty, earthy flavor.
Casper is often used as a decorative pumpkin because of its unique white skin. But don’t leave this pumpkin by the wayside when you consider the best pumpkins for cooking. In 115 days, it produces 15-pound fruits that are perfect to use in cooking, whether you’re making something sweet or not.
This variety produces lots of classic orange pumpkins. But don’t use these tasty specimens for jack-o’-lanterns. (Because then you wouldn’t be able to cook them.) Give your pumpkin patch plenty of room. Cherokee Bush needs four or five feet for the vines to spread out. If you plant Cherokee Bush, you’ll be harvesting lots of five- to eight-pound fruits with tasty golden flesh.
You often see these low-slung heirlooms in displays of fall veggies, where their pale skin provides contrast for the traditional orange and yellow of other fruits. But in the kitchen, that low-slung shape works great for dishes where the whole pumpkin is used and stuffed.
You’ve probably seen these fanciful pumpkins in whimsical fall displays. The squat, red-orange fruits resemble the carriage Cinderella’s fairy godmother sent to take her to the ball. In just 110 days, you’ll be harvesting a bumper crop of these pumpkins, which grow to around 15 inches across.
These pumpkins mature to look just like the traditional jack-o’-lantern pumpkin. They are great for carving, but we can’t recommend using them in this way. Connecticut Field is also a traditional pie pumpkin, and the flesh is so tasty in pies, why would you carve any up?
These unique pumpkins resemble a gourd or squash more than your standard pumpkin. The fruits are green and white striped with curved necks. Each one can grow to reach around 20 inches long. The flesh has a light color and delicious taste.
You may have seen a Dill’s Atlantic pumpkin taking the blue ribbon in a contest for the largest pumpkin at your state fair. These pumpkins can grow to seriously huge sizes. A 1,500-pound Dill’s Atlantic holds the world record for largest pumpkin. But if you choose to grow Dill’s Atlantic, be advised you will need to give the pumpkins some extra time and attention, as well as some extra space in the garden. The vines need around eight feet of room to spread out. And because the pumpkins grow so large, they need a heavy hand with hydration. However, this variety will reward your investment of time and energy. This pumpkin has some seriously tasty flesh, and with the large fruit size, you don’t have to grow many to fill your freezer.
This is another pumpkin that’s often compared to Cinderella’s carriage. Fairytale is a dusty tan with a squat shape and well-defined sections. The dark orange flesh is a boon in the kitchen. Because of the pretty shape of Fairytale pumpkins, they lend themselves well to recipes that use the whole fruit, like a stuffed pumpkin, for example.
Flat White Boer Ford
What makes these pumpkins so great for cooking with is that they’re seedless. You can just skip the messy, annoying step of removing their seeds. As the name suggests, they have white skin and a small, flat shape. The flesh is dense and delicious.
Jarrahdale is a quick-growing pumpkin, taking just 100 days to produce its harvest. The pretty pumpkins have an unusual blue-green hue and a flattened shape. You can use the flesh for sweet applications, but Jarrahdale is especially well suited to savory dishes. That’s because it has a stringless flesh that holds its shape well when cubed for roasted veggie dishes, stews, and other uses.
Often confused for a squash, these Japanese pumpkins are green and may be sold under the names “Delica,” “Ebisu,” “Hoka,” “Hokkaido Pumpkin,” and “Japanese Pumpkin.” The yellow flesh is firm and keeps its shape when cubed for stews or roasted dishes. The flavor is sweet and tasty.
While this pumpkin isn’t a good choice for cooking the flesh, we have it on this list for another reason. Kakai is known for its unusual blue seeds. Roast them up for a unique snack.
These pear-shaped pumpkins are red with mottled markings in green and black. At harvest time, you’ll have lots of five- to seven-pound heirloom fruits bred in the Midwest. The flesh is perfect for cooking and is very similar to that of a butternut squash.
These pretty white pumpkins are prized both for their appearance and for their flavor. The smooth texture also makes them good for carving, although we wouldn’t recommend sacrificing the delicious flesh of any of these pumpkins to a jack-o’-lantern. The bright yellow flesh is especially perfect for baking.
Musquee de Provence
You may also find these pumpkins sold under the name “Muscade de Provence.” The shells are deeply lobed and an understated brownish shade with a green gradient. They have a musky scent, for which they got their name. After 120 days of growth, you’ll be rewarded with a crop of 10- to 20-pound pumpkins.
You won’t want to eat the flesh of this variety, but we’ve included it on our list for good reason. Pepitas Hybrid produces shell-free, or “naked,” seeds that you can slow roast for snacks or as a topping for other dishes. The nine- to 10-pound fruits are pretty, with orange shells brushed with dark green. You can save the shells to use in decorating after you’ve removed the seeds. Although the fruits aren’t that huge, these vines need up to 13 feet of room in the garden.
Red Warty Thing
As the name suggests, these pumpkins are blaze orange-red and covered in warts. The pumpkins grow up to 20 pounds, yielding lots of the delicious fruit. However, you should know that the warty rind can be a little bit difficult to remove. Since they get so big, though, your hard work will pay off.
Rouge Vif d’Etampes
These pumpkins resemble Cinderella in shape, although their color is more red. You may also see these sold under the name “Red Etampes,” as a matter of fact. They’re prized for the tasty, dense flesh.
One tip for when you’re shopping is that pumpkins sold as “pie pumpkins” have been bred to be good for eating. Even if the variety isn’t on this list, a pie pumpkin should be a good bet for a pumpkin variety that is good for eating. A “sugar pumpkin” is another name for the same category of pumpkins.