How to Cook Low-Carb With Pumpkin

Chopping Pumpkin
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When you think "low-carb vegetable", pumpkin might not come to mind, but pumpkin is one of the vegetables (technically categorized as a fruit) allowed during the Atkins diet induction phase. They are chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and can work well in any of the popular low-carb diets. But eating pumpkin isn't just about making pies during the holidays.

Pumpkin Nutrition

Pumpkin is one of those vegetables that is almost emblematic of fall — it makes us think of harvest, of holidays, of frost, of lengthening nights and the oncoming winter. And yet, the only way it usually gets to the table is in a store-bought pie, or perhaps a can of pie filling that goes in a pie we made ourselves.

But pumpkin can be so much more — and since pumpkin keeps for 6 months whole or for years in a can, it can be a year-round addition to our diets.

Half a cup of canned pumpkin has 6.5 grams of carbohydrate and 3.5 grams of fiber.

Vitamins and Minerals

Pumpkin is chock full of nutrients. You can tell by its bright color that it’s going to be good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, but it’s also a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron.

The seeds are also worth latching on to. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, provide polyunsaturated fat and are loaded with minerals, seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis. A quarter cup has about 5 grams of carbs and 1.5 grams of fiber.

Selection and Storage

For cooking, you want a pumpkin that is heavy for its size. The lighter ones are drier, with a larger open space in the middle. For the most part, stay away from the large pumpkins when selecting a pumpkin for eating — 2 to 5 lbs is about right.

Pumpkins can keep for a long time in a cool (ideally 50 to 60 degrees) dry place. Put newspapers underneath just in case, though. Once the pumpkin is cut open, you need to use it within a couple of days (or freeze it) as it can mold quickly. Cooked, it’s fine in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days.

Preparation and Recipes

For pumpkin puree you don’t need to cut the pumpkin open before you roast it. Simply just jab it with a knife once or twice to vent the steam, put the whole thing on a baking sheet, and pop it in the oven at 350 F for an hour or so, until you can easily stick a knife into it.

Cool the pumpkin then scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff with a spoon, or pull it out with tongs. It is much easier to do this step when the pumpkin is cooked than when it is raw.

If you want chunks of pumpkin, you’ll have to cut into it raw or par-roasted. Some stores have pumpkin pre-cut into chunks.

To roast the seeds, let them dry on paper towels, then oil and salt them (and any other seasonings you want) and slow roast them in a 250 F oven until they smell good — about 45 to 60 minutes. Stir them every 15 minutes or so. 

Pumpkin can be used in any squash recipe, and it has a depth of flavor that many other winter squashes don’t. Of course, we have to have pumpkin pie, and my low-carb pumpkin pie never fails to get raves.

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