Pumpkins aren’t just a decorative gourd. Sugar pumpkins, the small orange pumpkins you find at the grocery store in the fall, are sweet and edible. Sugar pumpkins can be the star of vegetarian dinners, or the base of a seasonal dessert. Read on for our favorite ways to cook and prepare whole pumpkins.

How to cut a whole pumpkin

These tiny squash are cute, but they can be a little hard to crack. We tested a few methods for breaking open a pumpkin. In the end, we found that the easiest method is to knock, slam or drop the pumpkin onto a hard, sturdy surface—a counter, floor, or driveway—until the shell cracks. Insert a strong knife into the crack  and cut into wedges from there.

Here’s a close up of that crack we created after slamming our pumpkin against a butcher board. Feel free to use this as an opportunity to release a little stress.

how to prepare a pumpkin

After you’ve inserted the knife, you’ll be able to split the pumpkin in half. Remove the seeds with a spoon, and cut away the stem of the pumpkin. From there, you can prepare the pumpkin following your recipe instructions.

How to Use a Whole Pumpkin Instead of Pumpkin Puree

If your pumpkin pie recipe calls for canned pumpkin puree, you can easily use a whole pumpkin instead. To make homemade pumpkin puree, start by preheating the oven to 400°F. Then cut your pumpkin in half using the method above, scoop out the seeds, and get ready to roast.

Place your pumpkin halves cut side up on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until the flesh is soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven, and let it sit until it is cool enough to handle. Once cool, peel away the outer pumpkin skin, and place the flesh in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, and use in place of canned pumpkin puree.

Looking for more recipe ideas? Here’s how to cook that winter squash or pumpkin up for a savory dinner.