Pumpkin Gets a Boozy Makeover

Pumpkin Gets a Boozy MakeoverIn my mind, no other food is more notoriously indicative of the fall season than pumpkin. The slightest scent of pumpkin pie, wafting from a nearby oven, immediately transports us to the Thanksgiving dinner table. It’s quite a shame actually that pumpkin has been boxed in as the pie staple and little else. Pumpkin is an incredibly versatile ingredient, which can be mixed in to many recipes you’d never think of.  A little creativity plus a can of organic pumpkin puree, and you’re in business.

With next to zero fat, no cholesterol, and an abundance of vitamins and minerals, pumpkin is a powerhouse ingredient. The season for fresh pumpkins runs from September through November, but canned pumpkin puree is available year round and is just as good not to mention ridiculously easier to use.

For lower-fat muffins, cakes, and breads, pumpkin puree can be used as an awesome substitute for butter or oil. Simply substitute half the fat in the recipe for the same volume of pumpkin. You won’t even miss the calories as the finished product still retains a lovely crumb, richness, and moisture. The pumpkin will impart a slight pumpkin-y flavor, and with the addition of a little cinnamon, nutmeg, or a pinch of clove, you have a wonderful, healthy, fall dessert. Who knew?

In addition to being used in the classic pumpkin pie or as a clever substitute for fatty butter or oil, pumpkin can be swapped in to many other dishes. Think of it as you would potatoes, custard, or even soft cheese, basically as any pureed or creamy ingredient. For example, use pumpkin in place of some of the mashed potatoes you would use on a classic Shepherd’s pie. Instead of the traditional potato or ricotta for gnocchi, use pumpkin. Soup is a fall favorite for sure: simply use pumpkin in place of the potatoes or squash in your favorite soup recipe for a creamy transformation.

Pumpkin is a fantastic ravioli or tortellini filling. Paired with a little ricotta, minced sage, and nutmeg, it’s a delicious savory fall supper. Dress the pasta with the classic brown butter sauce for a rich classic.

Pumpkin is also easily transformed in countless dessert applications. Think about using it as the texture and flavor component in pasty creams or tapioca or rice pudding. Try whisking it into the eggs and cream when making a batter for French toast. Then serve with maple syrup and cinnamon. It’s to die for.

Pumpkin ice cream is delicious if you have an ice cream maker. Or if you don’t, simply use canned pumpkin, mix with agave nectar and cinnamon, then fold in whipped cream. Use as a delicious topping for vanilla bean or butter pecan ice cream.

Pumpkin milkshake, anyone? Add canned pumpkin to vanilla ice cream and milk in a blender, and frappe to perfection. For the adults, add a few healthy pours of brandy or bourbon for an after-dinner boozy dessert that will leave your guests speechless (and perhaps a little tipsy.) See my recipe below for this delicious contemporary take on a Brandy Alexander. This is hands-down what I’m serving for dessert this holiday season. With pie on the side, I can’t resist!


Fall Over Delicious Boozy Pumpkin Shake

Makes 3 to 4 servings.


  • 1 pint good-quality vanilla bean ice cream
  • ½ cup canned organic pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cups B&B Brandy or Maker’s Mark Bourbon
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk if you want the milkshake consistency thinner


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender, and pulse until well combined and creamy.
  2. Pour into a tall glass, and serve with a few crushed candied pecans on top.