The Best Pumpkins for Cooking

For great color, flavor, and nutrition, choose from this list of the best pumpkins for cooking.

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by Tim Nauman

For great color, flavor, and nutrition, choose from this list of the best pumpkins for cooking.

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).

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.

Pumpkin Seeds

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.

Selecting the Best Pumpkins for Cooking

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

Out Best Pumpkin Recipes

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.

  • Updated on Sep 1, 2023
  • Originally Published on Sep 4, 2012
Tagged with: pumpkin, Real Food, recipes, seasonal food
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