The Best Store-Bought Canned Pumpkin, Tested by Food Network Kitchen

We sorted out the gourd from the bad!

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Updated on October 26, 2023

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Photo by: Photograph by Melissa Gaman

Photograph by Melissa Gaman

Written and tested by Melissa Gaman for Food Network Kitchen

Pumpkin season is officially upon us! From frothy pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin-flavored yogurts, cookies, cereals, ramen noodles and other groceries, the options for satisfying your seasonal pumpkin cravings are truly endless. While we will always be pumpkin spice superfans, but we can also admit that a lot of pumpkin spice-flavored products don’t actually contain pumpkin; instead, they boast a flavorful combination of the warming spices usually associated with the gourd, like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves. When it’s time to make real deal pumpkin cake, cookies or pie, however, a can of pure pumpkin is essential. But does the brand of pumpkin puree you use really matter? How different can cooked vs uncooked pumpkin puree really be anyways? We bought, tasted and baked with six different brands of store-bought canned pumpkin to answer both of these questions. Keep reading to find out which pumpkin purees you should add to your shopping cart this holiday baking season, and which should be squashed.

How We Tested

For this taste test, we gathered six nationally available cans of 100% pure pumpkin puree. We judged each pumpkin puree based on color, texture and aroma. To start, we first tasted a very small amount of each one right from the can. We then used the puree to bake up this Classic Pumpkin Pie. Despite the fact that each brand contained one single ingredient (pumpkin or pumpkin puree), everything from the colors to the textures between them were very, very different. Keep reading to find out which brand took our #1 spot.

Photo by: Photograph by Melissa Gaman

Photograph by Melissa Gaman

A Note About Canned Pumpkin

A few years ago, there was an article that circulated around the internet suggesting that canned pumpkin was, in fact, not pumpkin at all, but rather a mixture of different squash varieties or a combination of squash and pumpkin together. It’s a little bit of a tricky point since pumpkins are technically considered to be a version of squash. In fact, the pumpkins usually used in canned puree are a far cry and color from the bright orange orbs you normally carve at Halloween (which, by the way, is really not a good option for pie making as they are usually watery and stringy).

This question became so popular that Libby’s addressed it on their website. They explain, "All pumpkins, including the Dickinson pumpkin variety LIBBY’S Special Seed were bred from, are a variety of squash belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family or gourd family (which also includes melons and cucumbers)." This seems to open up some gray area about exactly what variety of pumpkin, or blend of pumpkins, brands can use while still being able to call and market their products pumpkin puree. With that said, all we could do for this taste test was trust what was inside the can.

$2.62

There is a reason that Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin has been the go-to brand for so many people for so long. The 100+ year old company bought the rights to grow a special kind of Dickinson pumpkin for their brand, and that is one of the key reasons their canned pumpkin is so reliable and consistent year after year. Libby's was the only brand that nailed both the flavor and texture categories in this taste test. The baked pie filling we made using this puree was creamy and soft, and we could actually taste the pumpkin itself along with the other spices the pie recipe called for. Even right out of the can, this canned pumpkin offering had a pleasant squashy flavor and a silky texture that was neither bitter nor gritty. Libby's canned pumpkin is a pretty shade of orange when uncooked, and it produces a pie in an oh-so-familiar and classic brownish-orange color when baked.

$2.79

This pumpkin puree from Whole Foods’ 365 line produced a delicious pie! Right out of the can, the puree had a nice, thick texture and a rich orange color. It smelled like pumpkin, but not in an off-putting or savory way. Before baking, the puree had a somewhat mealy texture , but it was not detectable once baked. The resulting pumpkin pie had a beautiful color, a custardy texture and the pumpkin worked well with the other spices we used. The flavor of the pumpkin puree itself was mild in the baked pie, with the spices being the bolder of the ingredients, but all in all, this pumpkin puree is a solid choice if you want a classic looking and tasting pie.

$7.96

Amazon's Happy Belly pumpkin puree was very solid. The puree itself had a neutral flavor and an orangey-brown color right out of the can, and it baked up really nicely. The resulting pie filling was light and silky, but not watery or gritty. The pumpkin flavor itself wasn’t super assertive, making it a great choice for those bakers who love the spices featured in a traditional pumpkin pie to shine through. The online availability of this brand is also a plus for emergency pie needs or last-minute holiday grocery shopping.

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