We Tried 7 Brands of Canned Pumpkin — And the Winner Is Not What You Think

published Sep 22, 2023
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Photo of a group of canned pumpkin cans
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Prop Styling: Thomas Hoerup

We’re about to enter peak pumpkin mode, which means there will be ample bowls of creamy, one-pot pastas and 20-minute soups, seasonal riffs on breakfast classics (pancakes! Muffins! Lattes!), and desserts for days months. To make these and dozens of other pumpkin recipes, we’re going to need one crucial ingredient: canned pumpkin purée.

If you are someone who makes your own pumpkin purée from scratch, we 👏 applaud 👏 you 👏. Most of The Kitchn editors here have never done that, opting to stock the canned stuff in their homes instead, which is a big reason why we set out to find the very best canned pumpkin on shelves. 

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Prop Styling: Thomas Hoerup

We tested seven pumpkin purées straight from the can and in pumpkin pie form, using the absolute easiest five-ingredient pumpkin pie recipe for all contenders. We focused on the few national brands readily available and several store brands sold at retailers with locations across the country. All of the purées had one single ingredient listed, although that ingredient did range from pumpkin to organic pumpkin, or the hyper specific organic pumpkin purée. Prices were all within $2 of each other, so that was a non-factor for this taste test. We also looked at recent sales data and past taste tests to round out the selection. 

After one day of baking and another of tasting and tallying, these are the canned pumpkin purées we’d absolutely buy again.

Quick Overview

The Best Canned Pumpkin

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ola Wadley

Best Canned Pumpkin: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pumpkin Purée

This can received the most #1 rankings (it was also the only one to earn all 3s or higher). Tasters really responded to Whole Foods Market Organic Pumpkin Purée’s bright color, “very smooth” texture, and “gentle fall” flavor. Chanel, our director of product design & UX, says, “It really tastes like squash [or] how I imagine a fresh blended squash would taste.”

Served in pumpkin pie form, that smooth texture transforms into a silky filling (although one taster says it’s “a littler airier than I like”). But even that person is all-in on the flavor, noting the nice balance between sweetness and spice, or what Chanel describes as a “more ‘updated’ taste of the classic.” The pie is so impressive that our Senior Lifestyle Editor, Mara, says, “I would ask whoever for the recipe.” 

What’s So Great

  • Bright with “the best flavor.”
  • The update your classic pumpkin pie deserves.

Good to Know

  • Has a smooth, more airy texture.

Buy: 365 by Whole Foods Market Organic Pumpkin Puree, $2.39 (in-store) or $2.99 (online) for 19.5 ounces at Whole Foods

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Ola Wadley

Best Budget Buy: Baker’s Corner 100% Pure Pumpkin

As if we needed another reason to swing by Aldi, the fan-favorite store is giving us one anyway. Baker’s Corner is one of the grocer’s many store brands, and its 100% Pure Pumpkin is a full dollar less than our newly crowned champ (more if you’re shopping online). Tasters didn’t know any of that, though, when sampling cups of purée and slices of pie. This brand earns the second-highest marks on merit alone. (The savings is a bonus!)

The deeper orange purée gets props for its “pretty” and “lovely” hue, a light yet distinct scent, and a mild yet enjoyable flavor. It’s still-smooth texture is noticeably thicker than several other contenders, which tasters compared to both “mashed potatoes” and “baby food.” When baked into a pie, it gets mostly rave reviews for its balanced taste (“the aftertaste is too sweet,” says one person) and mousse-like texture. It’s the “first pie bite where I said, ‘MMM!,’” says Camey, our director of partnerships.

What’s So Great

  • “Smells like a pumpkin patch.”
  • Thick, with a milder flavor.

Good to Know

  • Results in a slightly sweeter pumpkin pie.

Buy: Baker’s Corner 100% Pure Pumpkin, $1.39 (in-store) and $1.65 (online) for 15 ounces at Aldi

Credit: Mara Weinraub

How We Tested the Canned Pumpkins

We held a blind taste test of seven different cans of pumpkin purée and recruited six pumpkin enthusiasts and one canned-pumpkin-lover (so you know they’re qualified), who work in our office to participate in this one-day test.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Tasters use canned pumpkin to make pumpkin pie, of course, but also pumpkin bread and other baked goods, overnight oats, pastas, soups, and more. What’s in the can itself is important (many check to make sure there’s no other ingredients listed and one specifically buys organic) and if it plays well with others is vital. Nobody wants it to taste artificial (like a pumpkin spice candle smells), too sweet or too bitter, or too much like nothing. Smoothness is also key; please keep the sandy and grainy textures at bay. 

While we don’t typically don’t eat canned pumpkin, well, straight from the can (IYKYK), for the purposes of this taste test we did just that and then again in pumpkin pie form. Each pumpkin purée was scooped into generic sample-sized cups by Thomas, our studio producer, and given a letter to conceal the brand’s identity. We used this absolute easiest five-ingredient pumpkin pie recipe for the tasting because the minimal ingredients allow the purée to shine through (and it only requires one bowl). Pies were baked one day ahead of the tasting by Ola, our culinary assistant, using the same ingredients with the exception of the canned pumpkin, which were swapped in accordingly. Pies were set out next to their corresponding purée. We also had water on hand for palate cleansing.

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Tasters rated each of the canned pumpkins and pumpkin pies on a scale of one to five (1 = No, thanks; 2 = Meh; 3 = Pretty good; 4 = Really like; 5 = Yes, Please!) across four criteria — look, smell, texture, and flavor — and included any specific observations, tasting notes, and general opinions worth mentioning. They were also asked to answer, arguably, the most important question of all: Would you buy this canned pumpkin?

Credit: Mara Weinraub

Why You Should Trust Us

This was a blind taste test, which means tasters had no knowledge of the brands being evaluated ahead of or at the time of the tasting. It was held over one day and tasters were instructed to sample the canned pumpkins (and pumpkin pies!) in random order (to stave off palate fatigue and not give any one can an unfair advantage). The group of tasters included a mix of food professionals and pumpkin enthusiasts who work at The Kitchn and/or Apartment Therapy Media (The Kitchn’s parent company). All participated in the taste test voluntarily, and we thank them for being so generous with their time and feedback. 

Speaking of, each taster filled out a score sheet (without discussion or influence) ranking the canned pumpkins across several criteria (listed above). The results were also tabulated without any visibility into the brands. Only after the numbers were finalized did we reveal which brands corresponded to the winners.

Did your favorite pumpkin purée make the list? Tell us about it in the comments below.