What’s Really in Your Canned Pumpkin Purée?

source: LAUREN BEACH/Tasting Table

When fall arrives, and the air turns crisp, one thing that immediately comes to mind is the comforting aroma of pumpkin treats wafting through the kitchen. Whether it’s pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin coffee creamer, or even pumpkin ravioli, canned pumpkin has become synonymous with the spooky, autumnal spirit. But have you ever wondered if what’s in those cans is truly pumpkin? 

The FDA’s Definition of Pumpkin

The FDA is quite lenient when it comes to allowing foods to be called “pumpkin.” They let companies use the label “pumpkin” for their purees as long as they’re made from Cucurbita pepo (field pumpkins) or similar types like Cucurbita maxima (sweet squashes like acorn, kabocha, and Hubbard).

Libby’s Controversy

Libby’s, the brand that produces a whopping 85% of the world’s canned pumpkin, has faced criticism for cultivating its own type of squash. Some argue that the company is misleading buyers by boasting about selling “100% pure” pumpkin when it doesn’t actually use the pie pumpkins or carving pumpkins you’d find in stores.

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The Pumpkin vs. Squash Debate

Here’s where it gets interesting – there’s no real difference between a pumpkin and a squash. It all comes down to what sounds appetizing. So, what about the “squash” Libby’s uses? It’s a variety of Dickinson pumpkin. Yes, you read that right – pumpkin.

The pumpkins Libby’s uses may not look like the usual round, orange ones we think of at Halloween. They’re more tan or beige and have a longer shape. But Libby’s isn’t keeping their pumpkins a secret. They even have a video that tells you all about them. These pumpkins have been grown specially to be less stringy than the original Dickinsons, but they’re still definitely pumpkins.

source: Getty Images/iStockphoto

So, What’s the Verdict?

Instead of fretting over whether the squash in your puree would have made a nice jack-o’-lantern, you might as well just enjoy your pie. The truth is, whether it’s called pumpkin or squash, it’s the flavor and texture that truly matter. Libby’s and other companies are providing us with a convenient and delicious way to enjoy those beloved autumnal dishes.

Before we wrap up, a special thanks to Reader’s Digest for providing us with useful information about canned pumpkins. It’s essential to stay informed about the foods we consume, and knowing what’s in that can of pumpkin puree is certainly enlightening.

While the canned pumpkin debate may continue, rest assured that your favorite pumpkin-flavored treats are still as tasty as ever, regardless of what’s printed on the label. So, this fall, savor the flavors of the season and indulge in all things pumpkin – because, in the end, it’s all about enjoying the delightful taste of this beloved gourd.