Best Pumpkin Varieties for Cooking

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Photo By Tim Nauman
Pumpkins and winter squash are delicious served plain — grilled, steamed, baked, boiled or roasted — or whipped into beautiful holiday pies. They contain a boatload of nutrition, as well. 

Rambunctious, rambling pumpkin and squash vines are almost as uncontrollable as our desire to consume their fruits once fall colors start to show. This enthusiasm spills over into the kitchen, where pumpkins and squash (including acorns, butternuts, bananas, buttercups, turbans and Hubbards) can hardly be contained. Pumpkins are delicious served plain — grilled, steamed, baked, boiled or roasted whole in hot embers (an old-school way to prepare the humble pumpkin that works just as well today). Native Americans used pumpkins and squash in everything from breads to soups.

However you cook them, pumpkins and winter squash offer a boatload of color, flavor and nutrition. The specific nutrient profile depends on the variety (of which there are many), but these members of the cucurbit family generally are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Meanwhile, they’re low in fat and calories.

The seeds and seed oils from pumpkins and squash are good for you, too. The seeds are loaded with protein and fiber, and make a crunchy, delicious snack or salad topping. (Learn how to roast your own seeds in How to Roast Squash and Pumpkin Seeds.) The oil from certain pumpkin seeds, most notably from the ‘Styrian Hulless’ pumpkin of Austria, is incredibly dark, rich and flavorful and is full of heart-healthy fats.

You’ll have the best luck finding tasty pumpkin varieties and delectable winter squash by growing your own or shopping at farmers markets in late summer and fall. Be sure to stock up when you spot good prices, because most varieties are excellent keepers. There are tons of choices, from three species. After trialing dozens of varieties for her book, The Compleat Squash, Amy Goldman reports that the following heirloom varieties provide especially rich, sweet and tender meat with excellent cooking qualities.

Cucurbita maxima

• Betolatti 
• Blue Banana
• Buttercup
• Crown
• Delicious
• Galeuse d’Eysines
• Gill’s Blue Hubbard
• Gold Nugget
• Golden Hubbard
• Hubbard
• Kindred
• Marina di Chioggia
• Queensland Blue
• Sibley
• Silver Bell
• Strawberry Crown
• Triamble
• Valencia
• Victor
• Warren

Cucurbita moschata

• Brazil
• Canada Crookneck 
• Chirimen
• Futtsu
• Ponca Butternut
• Seminole
• St. Petersburg
• Sucrine du Berry
• Trombone

Cucurbita pepo

• Delicata
• Gill’s Golden Pippin
• Sugar Loaf 
• Sweet Dumpling
• Thelma Sanders

• Kumi Kumi
• Winter Luxury Pie

Our Best Pumpkin Recipes

Perfect Pie Crust
Homemade Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Pumpkin Purée Recipe
Soup in a Pumpkin!
Pumpkin Gnocchi With Sage Butter Recipe

If you’d like to grow your own pumpkins and squash, you can find seeds for the varieties you want via our Seed and Plant Finder.