pumpkin pie
Butternut squash, or pumpkin?

In the U.S., fall is synonymous with big, orange pumpkins. We carve pumpkins at Halloween, and they grace our tables as pumpkin pie Thanksgiving. It’s always the same type of pumpkin: round and orange, with a thick green stem. It’s time to shake that image up. Emotional ties aside—there’s nothing sacred about that particular gourd. 

There are hundreds of varieties of squash and pumpkin. In fact, many of the pumpkin pies and pumpkin ravioli you’ve eaten over the years have been filled with another variety of sweet, orange, winter squash. You never would have noticed the difference. 

What’s the difference between pumpkin and squash?

pumpkin and squash puree
Top: pumpkin puree, bottom: butternut squash puree

Technically speaking, there isn’t much of a difference. Any hard-shelled squash could be called a pumpkin. 

What is canned pumpkin? 

Canned pumpkin puree can be a variety of winter squash. It could be a sugar pumpkin or a butternut squash, but it also could be a lesser known variety, like the hubbard squash. Make sure you read the labels, some canned pumpkin will be marked as pumpkin pie filling, that means it already has spices and sweeteners mixed in. If you want to know exactly what type of pumpkin is in your pie, you can always make your own pumpkin puree at home.

When it comes to pumpkin pie, what’s the best squash? 

pumpkin and butternut squash pie
Top: butternut squash, bottom: pumpkin

Any winter squash can make a pretty good pie. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re adding cinnamon and topping with whipped cream. If you’re making pumpkin pie from scratch, try swapping in butternut squash for a sweeter, smoother pie. Sugar pumpkin tends to have stringy fibers. These are broken up when it’s pureed, but pumpkin will never get as silky smooth and butternut squash.

Ready to get baking? Try one of our variations on classic pumpkin pie.