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Pie pumpkins vs. carving pumpkins: How they're different and why it matters

Melissa Dunlap is a writer, editor and blogger specializing in lifestyle communications. Fueled by curiosity, and a tad too much coffee, Melissa enjoys dissecting current trends for the modern woman. When she's not having dance parties w...

Surprise! Those jack o' lantern pumpkins don't make the best pies

Spending an afternoon at the pumpkin patch is what fall is all about, but you can't drive just any pumpkin off the lot. While all pumpkins share some similarities — they're round and orange and gourd-y — there's a big difference between pumpkins used for carving and pumpkins used for baking. Meaning, if you try to make a pie out of a carving pumpkin, or vice versa, you're not going to like what you see.

Not to worry, lovers of fall and all things pumpkin spice. It's pretty easy to separate the jack-o'-lantern pumpkins from the pie pumpkins once you know what you're looking for.

Carving pumpkins

In contrast to the flesh-packed pie pumpkin, carving pumpkins, commonly referred to as jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, were designed to make it easier to, well, carve. Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins have a thinner shell and typically have less flesh (or pumpkin guts) on the inside. The flesh is grainier and stringy. The inside of a carving pumpkin tends to contain more water than pie pumpkins.

Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins, also called carving pumpkins, are less fleshy and easier to carve:

  • Thinner shell
  • Less flesh/guts inside
  • Grainier/stringier flesh
  • Contain more water than pie pumpkins

More: DIY gilded pumpkins make for simple and elegant Thanksgiving decor

Pie pumpkins

Pie pumpkins, also called sugar pumpkins, are smaller in shape than the monstrous pumpkins you'd find at your typical pumpkin patch. Pie pumpkins are commonly found in the grocery store in the produce section or at farm stands. This small, round pumpkin is packed full of flesh that makes it a good choice for cooking. The pulp also has a better texture (less grainy) and is sweeter.

More: Pumpkin pie cheese appetizers

Compared to carving pumpkins, pie pumpkins, aka sugar pumpkins, are smaller and easier to bake:

  • Small and round
  • Normally found in the grocery store or at farm stands
  • Full of flesh that's good for cooking
  • Pulpy, sweeter flesh on the inside

Next up: The 6 best pumpkins for baking

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