Our Best Pumpkin Carving Ideas

We've made this year's jack-o'-lanterns with goods from the grocery and craft store.

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September 27, 2021
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Photo By: Jeffrey Westbrook

Photo By: Jeffrey Westbrook

Photo By: Jeffrey Westbrook

Photo By: Jeffrey Westbrook

Photo By: Jeffrey Westbrook

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Ralph Smith

Photo By: Ralph Smith

Photo By: Ralph Smith

Photo By: Ralph Smith

Photo By: Ralph Smith

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

©Hearst Communications Inc., 2009

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Levi Brown

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Marko Metzinger/Studio D ©Copyright Hearst Commmunications Inc., 2008

Photo By: Trevor Dixon

Photo By: Trevor Dixon

Photo By: Trevor Dixon

Photo By: Trevor Dixon

Photo By: Trevor Dixon

Jumbo Hershey Kiss

Step One: Carve the top off a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and flesh. Paint the pumpkin and its lid (but not stem) with liquid silver leaf (available at craft stores); let dry.

Step Two: Paint the stem with white acrylic craft paint. Let dry, then write KISSES with blue acrylic craft paint. Let dry.

Photographs by Ryan Dausch

BUY IT - Metallic Silver Leaf: Amazon, $10.75

Giant Reese's Peanut Butter Cup

Step One: Carve the top off a pumpkin in a zigzag and scoop out the seeds and flesh.

Step Two: Paint wavy horizontal stripes, each about 2 inches wide, with light yellow acrylic craft paint. Let dry, then outline each stripe with brown acrylic craft paint; let dry.

BUY IT - Paint Brush Set: Amazon, $11.99

Colorful Starburst and Rainbow Skittles

Starbursts

Step One: Carve the top off a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and flesh. Place 1/8-inch masking tape (available at craft stores) vertically down the entire pumpkin, spacing the strips of tape about 1 inch apart.

Step Two: Repeat, placing the strips horizontally, to create a grid. Fill in every other square with acrylic craft paint in red, yellow, pink and light orange, alternating colors. Let dry, then remove the tape and paint a second coat, filling in any gaps between the squares left by the tape. Let dry.

Skittles

Step One: Carve the top off a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and flesh.

Step Two: Paint 2-inch-wide vertical stripes, alternating red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and pink acrylic craft paint; let dry. Paint a second coat and let dry.

BUY IT - Colore Acrylic Paint Set: Amazon, $17.99

So Twisted Twizlers

Step One: Carve the top off a pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and flesh. Spray-paint the pumpkin red and let dry. Pull apart a piece of Pull ’n’ Peel Twizzler.

Step Two: Using hot glue, attach six strands in the shape of an asterisk. Starting from the asterisk’s center, hot-glue curved shorter strands to create a web.

BUY IT - Twizzlers: Amazon, $16.99

Ghosts

Carve a hole in the back of the pumpkin and scoop out the insides.

Eyes: Carve two ovals, then pin yellow or orange fruit leather to the pumpkin from the inside to cover the openings. Stick a pin through yellow-and-black or pink-and-black licorice rounds (from an assorted pack) and then into the fruit leather to create pupils.

Arms: Mold two large marshmallows into rounded triangles and pin to the pumpkin.

Mouth: Carve a small teardrop shape, then pin fruit leather to the pumpkin from the inside to cover the opening.

Photographs by Jeffrey Westbrook

Mummy

Eyes: Attach two yellow-and-black licorice rounds (from an assorted pack) to the pumpkin with straight pins.

Wrapping: Use pins to attach long strands of white Wrigley’s Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape gum (Triple Treat flavor) to the pumpkin at varying angles, leaving the eyes exposed.

BUY IT - Assorted Licorice Wheels: Amazon, $19.99 for 1 lb

Witch

Carve a hole in the back of the pumpkin and scoop out the insides.

Hat: Affix black licorice twists around the brim of a (nonedible) witch hat with hot glue.

Hair: Thread wire through the center of green Sour Punch Straws, leaving extra wire at one end. Insert the exposed wire into the pumpkin, then bend to shape.

Brows: Attach small pieces of green Sour Punch straws to the pumpkin with pins.

Eyes: Form green Airheads into tiny beads; hot-glue the beads to yellow Necco Wafers, then hot-glue the wafers to the pumpkin.

Nose: Press two green Airheads together and sculpt them into a nose. Attach a green candy dot wart with glue, then pin the nose to the pumpkin.

Mouth: Carve a sideways droplet-shaped hole, then outline the perimeter with red licorice, securing with straight pins.

Teeth: Pin two Jelly Belly Champagne Bubbles gummy candies along the inner edge of the mouth.

BUY IT - Sour Punch Straws: Amazon, $16.64 for pack of 12

Cat and Mouse

For the cat:

Head: Paint the pumpkin with black acrylic paint and let dry.

Ears: Pin two triangular gummy grapefruit slices to the top of the pumpkin, then hot-glue black licorice twists around the edges.

Eyes: Carve two semicircular holes. Make vertical slits in two green gumdrops, then insert a black licorice piece into each. Place the gumdrops in the eyeholes, using hot glue if necessary.

Nose: Attach a gummy raspberry to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Mouth and Whiskers: Attach small pieces of red and white Twizzlers Pull ’n’ Peel Candy with hot glue.

For the mouse:

Ears: Push the sticks of two swirled lollipops into the top of the pumpkin.

Eyes: Push tiny pieces of black licorice laces into the holes of white Life Savers, then attach to the pumpkin wih hot glue.

Nose: Pin a black jelly bean onto a red gumdrop, then pin onto the pumpkin.

Whiskers and Mouth: Cut pieces of purple Twizzlers Pull ’n’ Peel Candy and black licorice laces and attach with hot glue.

Tail: Thread wire through the center of red Sour Punch Straws, leaving extra wire at one end. Insert the exposed wire into the pumpkin, then bend to shape.

BUY IT - Hot Glue Gun: Amazon, $9.99

Skeleton

Eyes: Carve round holes, then hot-glue coiled black licorice to the inside of each hole.

Nose: Cut two thin slices of black licorice twists and hot-glue to the pumpkin.

Mouth: Carve a thin mouth with perpendicular stitch lines.

Hand: Thread heavy-gauge wire through mini and large marshmallows and shape into a hand and wrist.

BUY IT - Jet Puffed Marshmallows: Amazon, $1.96

Ginger Queen

Ginger Crown: Trim the base of the gingerroot. Use a T-pin to attach the back of each piece to the pumpkin.

Radish Eyes: Carve two eye sockets slightly smaller than the radishes; push them into the holes.

Broccoli Nose: Carve a circle in the center of the pumpkin to hold a broccoli stem.

Kale Hair: Use T-pins to attach the leaves.

Photographs by Levi Brown

BUY IT - Stainless Steel T-Pins: Amazon, $5.99

Uncle Buck

Scallion Antlers: Trim the white part of two scallions. Thread a wooden skewer through each green stalk, then push into the pumpkin.

Parsnip Horns: In front of each antler, carve a hole to hold a parsnip.

Artichoke Lids: Cover the back of two artichoke leaves with craft glue and paste one above each eye cutout.

Eggplant Nose: Carve a hole to hold a purple eggplant, stem-end out.

Carrot Grin: Bend a thin carrot into a smile and attach each end to the pumpkin with a straight pin.

BUY IT - Elmer's Craft Glue: Amazon, $7.84

Nutty Professor

Beet Ears: Use T-pins to attach the back of the beets to the pumpkin.

Kale Hair: Use T-pins to attach kale around the beets.

Shallot Nose: Press a toothpick halfway into the pumpkin, then push a shallot onto the exposed half.

Dill Mustache: Trim stems and use T-pins to attach bunches above the mouth cutout.

Almond Teeth: Push the pointy ends of almonds into the upper edge of the mouth cutout.

BUY IT - Blue Diamond Almonds: Amazon, $10.72

Bok Choy Cyclops

Bok Choy Hair: Split a head of bok choy, leaving some of the stem intact. Fan the leaves out over the pumpkin, and pin in place.

Rutabaga Eye: Carve an eye socket slightly smaller than the rutabaga; push it halfway into the hole.

Dill Eyelashes: Drape a thin bunch over the top of the rutabaga and pin in place.

Pepper Nose: Carve a circle to hold a pepper.

BUY IT - Vivreal Pumpkin Craving Kit: Amazon, $13.99

Veggie Locks

Artichoke Hair: Working from the bottom up, use T-pins to attach artichoke leaves to the pumpkin.

Almond Pupils: Push the rounded end of an almond into the lower edge of each eye cutout.

Pepper Nose: Carve a circle to hold a pepper.

BUY IT - Artichoke: Amazon, $3

Doctor Peppers

Potato Nose: Press a toothpick halfway into the pumpkin, then push a small potato onto the exposed half.

Pepper Ears: Press a toothpick halfway into each side of the pumpkin, then push a pepper onto the exposed half.

Parsley Whiskers: Use T-pins to attach small bunches of parsley above and below the mouth cutout.

BUY IT - Good Cook Toothpicks: Amazon, $2.58

Goblin Zombie

Eyes: Attach a mint to a red licorice wheel with hot glue, then attach to the pumpkin. Or attach a red candy-coated chocolate to a thumbprint cookie with hot glue, then glue to the pumpkin.

Mouth: Carve a hole and, using straight pins, outline the mouth with red sour straws (or just make the outline).

Teeth: Pin Chiclets along the edge of the sour straws.

Photographs by Ralph Smith

BUY IT - Chewing Gum: Amazon, $7.78 for 9 packs

Frankenstein's Monster

Complexion: Paint the pumpkin with green acrylic paint; let dry.

Hair: Unroll licorice wheels and snip into 3-inch pieces; affix to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Eyes: Cut a sugar cookie in half and use hot glue to stick a raisin on each piece. Affix to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Brows: Cut the tops off two asparagus stalks; affix to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Nose: Cut a Persian cucumber in half lengthwise, then cut a piece off one end. Use toothpicks to attach to the pumpkin.

Lips: Cut a pea crisp in half lengthwise; stick both pieces to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Ears: Cut a slit into each side of the pumpkin. Snip the stick off two lollipops; insert a lollipop into each slit.

Neck bolts: Pin a button mushroom to each side of the pumpkin.

BUY IT - Sargent Acrylic Paint: Amazon, $9.69

Bride of Frankenstein

Hair and brows: Paint uncooked ramen noodles and let dry; affix to the pumpkin with hot glue.

Eyes: Pierce a raisin and apple slice with a toothpick, then insert into the pumpkin.

Cheeks: Affix a gummy peach with a toothpick.

Lips: Slice a Swedish fish in half, then affix the pieces to the pumpkin with hot glue.

BUY IT - Instant Ramen Noodles: Amazon, $3.84 for 12 packs

Scary Clown

Face makeup: Paint a circle on the pumpkin with white acrylic paint; let dry.

Hair: Pin large florets of purple cauliflower onto the pumpkin.

Eyes: Pierce a black jelly bean and a slice of star fruit with a pin, then insert into the pumpkin.

Nose: Use a toothpick to attach a small red potato to the pumpkin.

Ears: Stick one end of a toothpick into a yam slice, then press the other end into the pumpkin.

Mouth: Carve a hole with a knife. Outline with red licorice, securing with pins.

Teeth: Pin candy corn into the cut edge of the mouth.

BUY IT - Brach's Candy Corn: Amazon, $7.70

Count Dracula

Hair: Snip a cabbage leaf into a widow's-peak shape and pin to a white Lumina pumpkin.

Brows: Pin a piece of black licorice to the pumpkin.

Eyes: Attach a red ring-shaped candy to the pumpkin with hot glue; glue a black licorice nib into the hole.

Nose: Peel a parsnip and trim the stem end. Cut it in half lengthwise and use a toothpick to attach it to the pumpkin.

Ears: Affix gummy grapefruit slices to the pumpkin with a pin.

Lips: Secure red pepper slices with pins.

Teeth: Slice a Chiclet in half diagonally; attach to the lips with hot glue.

Collar: Place the pumpkin on two curled cabbage leaves.

BUY IT - Red Cabbage: Amazon, $3.73

Sweet Teeth

Mouth: Carve a crescent shape out of the pumpkin with a serrated knife. Insert a toothpick into a piece of candy (we used gum, candy corn and gumdrops) and push the other end into the pumpkin's mouth.

Eyes: Cut a gumdrop or marshmallow in half and press the sticky side onto the pumpkin. To add pupils, poke a hole in each eye with a toothpick and fill the opening with a piece of licorice string or Nibs.

BUY IT - Dots Gumdrop Candies: Amazon, $1.21

Mad Scientist

Edible glue: Sift 2 tablespoons meringue powder and 1 pound powdered sugar into a bowl. Beat in 6 tablespoons water until glossy. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag; snip the tip of one corner to pipe.

Hair: Attach cotton candy to the pumpkin with icing.

Eyes: Separate 2 sandwich cookies and, using icing, attach the 2 pieces that have filling to the pumpkin, filling-side out. Stick 1 M&M into each cookie.

Ears, nose and mouth: Attach Circus Peanuts with icing for the ears and nose, then draw a mouth and eyeglasses with the icing; cover the lines with licorice.

BUY IT - JustSnackin' Cotton Candy: Amazon, $8.99

Aliens

Eyes: Use a spoon to carve out small holes, then push in gumballs so they fit snugly. Draw pupils with an edible marker. For the eyelids, attach pieces of sour belt candy with royal icing.

Ears and mouth: Attach 2 sour watermelons with royal icing for the ears, then add a sour apple ring or a peach ring (either whole or cut in half) for the mouth.

Antennae: Push 2 lollipops into the top.

BUY IT - Original Gourmet Lollipops: Amazon, $28.80 for 60 lollipops

Best Use of a Flaw: Ellie Krieger

After purposely picking out a pumpkin with a big ol' dent, Ellie laid it on its side and let the stem stand in for a nose. "I let the pumpkin speak to me!" she said.

Tools: knife, pencil

Photographs by Levi Brown

Best Hairdo: Robert Irvine

On Dinner: Impossible, Robert often makes emergency stops for last-minute supplies, and he did the same to salvage his jack-o'-lantern. When his plan to use foam as hair didn't work out, he ran to a costume shop for a wig: "I hit a few bumps, but I worked around them."

Tools: knife, paint, pencil, wig, scissors, glue, toothpicks

Best Update on a Classic: Sandra Lee

The Semi-Homemade Cooking host is famous for her over-the-top Halloween episodes: She has dressed up as Cher, Madonna, even Marilyn Monroe (catch this year's costume October 24 at 11:30 a.m. ET). But she kept this pumpkin simple, glamming it up with long eyelashes.

Tool: knife

Best Use of Power Tools: Ted Allen

Ted couldn't resist breaking out his blowtorch and drill for this project. His inspiration: "More Jack Bauer than Martha Stewart." He "drew" hair by burning the top with a torch and made eyeballs and pupils with drill bits. Then he stuffed the mouth with "sad-looking veggies from the crisper." Appropriately, the Chopped host finished off his creation with a cleaver.

Tools: blowtorch, drill, knife, cleaver

Most Kid-Friendly: Melissa d'Arabian

As the mother of four girls under the age of 5, the Ten Dollar Dinners host took pains to make her pumpkin as un-scary as possible. She drew on big eyelashes, made a candy-corn tiara and even wrapped a rubber band around the stem to make a ponytail. "She's a princess!" Melissa said. "My girls will love this."

Tools: knife, toothpicks, rubber band, marker

Most Nostalgic: Aida Mollenkamp

As a child of the '80s, Aida logged plenty of hours playing video games, so she was able to sketch this Pac-Man ghost freehand. "I was really into Space Invaders," she says. "But Pac-Man felt right for Halloween."

Tools: knife, pencil

Most Evil-Looking: Aaron Sanchez

The scrap piece hanging from this pumpkin's mouth started off as a cigar, but then the chef came up with a better story: "He’s Pepe, the cannibal pumpkin. Watch out! He feasts on other pumpkins."

Tools: knife, pencil, toothpicks

Silver-Screen Scream: Sunny Anderson

Sunny Anderson saw our pumpkin-carving feature last year and jokingly disapproved of one star’s sweet, kid-friendly creation. “We can’t have a prissy Halloween,” the Cooking for Real host said. Sunny, a huge movie buff, looked to The Shining for inspiration: She printed a stencil of Jack Nicholson’s creepy character from the film, painted her pumpkin black, then carved “REDRUM” by — what else? — hacking into the flesh with a sharp knife.

Tools: paint roller, nontoxic black paint, tape, stencil, paring knife

Supersize Burger: Claire Robinson

Claire Robinson had burgers on the brain when she showed up to carve, so she couldn’t resist turning her pumpkin into a deluxe cheeseburger. “Burgers are my favorite,” the 5 Ingredient Fix host says. She cut off the stem, sliced the pumpkin in half and arranged lettuce, burger patties, cheese and tomatoes between the halves. Her finishing touch: gluing pumpkin seeds to the “bun.”

Tools: knife, lettuce, hamburger patties, cheese, tomatoes, superglue

Lovely Lioness: Aarti Sequeira

Growing up in Dubai, Aarti Sequeira never celebrated Halloween. In fact, she had carved a pumpkin only once before we asked her to do this one. “I’ve been practicing all week,” she said when she arrived at the studio. She has been obsessed with lions lately, so the Aarti Party star turned her pumpkin into a friendly jungle cat. For a personal touch, she finished it off with one of her signature flower hairpins.

Tools: knives, felt flowers

Flickering Mask: Anne Burrell

On Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, Anne Burrell always has a plan, but she came to this pumpkin-carving session without one. She eventually decided to make a mask with strategic cutouts and slits so the light from the candle inside could flicker through. “I don’t know if it’s a man or a woman,” she said midway through the project before finally clarifying the gender with a mustache.

Duff's Side Act

Cake whiz and bakery owner Duff Goldman has been carving pumpkins since childhood: He has a scar from an early accident when he ditched his safety carving kit for a real knife. For this design ("not my idea," he admitted), he cut a slice off one side so the pumpkin would sit flat with the stem facing forward as a nose. Then he scraped eyes and a mouth with an X-Acto knife and used toothpicks to "nail" in toasted pumpkin seeds.

Tools: knife, X-Acto knife, toothpicks, marker (to darken seeds)

Photographs by Marko Metzinger/Studio D

Elena's Cute Cat

Cake decorator Elena Fox didn't let her pumpkin scraps go to waste: She repurposed the eye punch-outs as ears and attached them with toothpicks.

Tools: knife, carving tools, toothpicks

Erica's Wise Owl

Diehard Ace of Cakes fans know that cake decorator Erica Harrison has a thing for owls: She made her own owl-themed wedding cake on air. "I wanted my pumpkin to feel personal," she says. She sketched the owl with a pencil, then shaved off layers of pumpkin without cutting through to give the bird a translucent glow. The eyes are punched out, so they really shine.

Tools: pencil, knife, carving tools

Mary Alice's Laughing Jack

Bakery manager Mary Alice Yeskey grabbed a box of toothpicks (always on hand in bakeries, for testing a cake's doneness) and snapped dozens of them in half to make scary, jagged teeth. "My brother tried this on our family pumpkin once when we were younger, and I thought it was really spooky-looking," she says.

Tools: knife, toothpicks

Anna's Bat Girl

Anna Ellison, the bakery's artistic director, gave her pumpkin a clever bat-shaped mouth. She chose the weathered, flat back side of the pumpkin for the face and used an orange marker to hide the sketch lines. "It just looks cooler," she says.

Tools: knife, carving tools, orange marker

Geof's Evil Bunny

Geof Manthorne, Duff's executive sous chef, said this was the first time he'd ever carved a pumpkin. "I’ve never cared to do so," he says. But he seems to have had some fun with the challenge: He snapped off the pumpkin stem and cut it into thin strips, then broke out the bakery's belt sander to smooth down each piece. He stuck the pieces of stem into the pumpkin as whiskers and hand-carved tiny holes to complete the bunny’s face.

Tools: knife, belt sander, carving tools

Double Take

Cut holes from the bottoms of two pumpkins, remove the seeds, then replace the bottoms of the pumpkins. Carve the words "Tricks" and "Treats" into the pumpkins (draw the letters with a pencil, or print out our stencil). Fill the "Tricks" one with plastic spider rings and the "Treats" one with candy.

Photographs by Trevor Dixon

Wide Receiver    

Carve eyes, a nose and a larger-than-average mouth, remove the seeds, then fill with candy.

Chain of Demand

Cut a hole in the bottom of a large pumpkin, remove the seeds, then replace the bottom of the pumpkin. Using a small serrated knife, carve a few 2-to-3-inch circles around the pumpkin. Use double-sided tape or glue dots (available at craft stores) to make several chains of fun-size candy bars. Place the chains inside the pumpkin and feed one through each hole.

Pop Art

Cut off the top of the pumpkin's stem, drill a hole through the base of the stem and insert a dowel. Carve out a lid and remove the seeds. Photocopy a lollipop wrapper — enlarged at 400 percent — and tape a few sheets together (we used 11-by-17-inch paper). Wrap the lid in foil and cover it with a wrapper as shown; tie the gathering with string. Wrap the main pumpkin with the rest of the paper, taping as you go. Fill the pumpkin with matching lollipops and replace the lid.

Full Metal

Carve lids from two pumpkins, remove the seeds, then spray-paint the pumpkins silver and gold. Fill with matching foil-wrapped candy.

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