This time of year, pumpkin spice rules everything. It’s not just the lattes — it’s Oreos, candy corn, and super-sweet candles. That’s all fine and good if you’re interested in a cloying blast of nutmeg and cinnamon, but it’s important to remember that pumpkin is great all on its own, even without the spice. You can certainly bake up plenty of pumpkin spice muffins and sip your lattes, but that can of pumpkin that is constantly in your pantry this time of year is much more versatile than we give it credit for.
It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, which gives you yet another reason to add this vividly colored squash to your savory cooking routine. Try these five recipes that are a little more creative than your usual pumpkin bread. You’re going to be totally impressed at just how versatile and delicious the humble pumpkin can be.
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
It sounds a little bizarre, but you’re going to love adding pumpkin to your mac & cheese. In addition to cutting calories and fat from this traditionally heavy dish, pumpkin adds plenty of bright color and a sweet, subtle flavor to the average cheese-and-noodles combination. Be sure to grate in plenty of nutmeg. You already know how much you enjoy its bite with pumpkin, and this spice works equally well with sharp cheddar.
Mayonnaise and pumpkin doesn’t exactly sound like an ideal combination, but you’d be surprised how delicious this homemade condiment could be. Mix in a little pureed pumpkin with homemade mayonnaise, and add plenty of chopped chipotle peppers for a smoky-spicy punch. Use your aioli for jazzing up a basic turkey sandwich, or as a dipping sauce for chicken or beef satay.
When you’re making a vegetable curry, just about any veggie you throw in there is going to be delicious after sitting in that bath of herbs and spices, and pumpkin is no exception. Mix a can of the puree into your favorite spicy curry for a little balance and richness. If you’re feeling really ambitious, cut and de-seed a pie pumpkin, steam it in the oven, and chop it into bite-sized pieces for a more interesting texture and appearance.
No dairy here, but pumpkin butter is a seriously great topping for your toast. You can use that same blend of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon for a traditional take, or get creative with garam masala and other spices for a more interesting breakfast. Apple butter gets all the glory during fall, but a rich and creamy pumpkin butter will definitely impress you. If all that stirring doesn’t appeal to you, try this recipe that makes use of your handy slow-cooker.
It’s a bizarre combination, but it totally works. The fiber in pumpkin makes it both a healthy addition to your ground beef or turkey and helps a leaner meatloaf stick together. Before mixing into your meatloaf, you’ll want to make sure that you squeeze as much water out of the pumpkin as possible for the best results. For those serious pumpkin-heads, this recipe for a pumpkin-infused barbecue sauce is the perfect topping.
Amy McCarthy is Paste’s Assistant Food Editor. She shamelessly loves pumpkin spice lattes.