Pumpkin is a nutrient-packed vegetable that can be used in a variety of ways. To save time, microwave pumpkin when preparing your pumpkin recipes. Because this cooking method is quick, more nutrients stay in your food, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Pumpkin has only 50.4 calories per 1/2-cup serving and is packed with vitamin A, containing 280 percent of the daily value, according to the USDA. Pumpkin also supplies vitamin C, iron, potassium, magnesium and folic acid.
Microwaving pumpkin saves time and preserves nutritional benefits because when you use the microwave, you don't need to cook the pumpkin in water, which takes away some nutritional value.
Choose the Right Pumpkin
Choose a pumpkin that has no blemishes or soft spots. The shell should feel firm and the pumpkin should have a 1- to 2-inch stem. A shorter stem can indicate decaying or lead to quicker decay, according to the University of Illinois Extension.
When you pick up the pumpkin, it should feel solid and heavy, rather than spongy. Also, choose a pumpkin that has uniform coloring. If your pumpkin recipe calls for 4 cups of cooked pumpkin, you will need about a 5-pound pumpkin or two smaller pumpkins that equal 5 pounds.
Microwave a Large Pumpkin
It doesn't take long to prepare your pumpkin for microwaving. Simply cut a large, unpeeled pumpkin into quarters and cover the exposed pumpkin flesh with waxed paper or parchment paper.
If cutting into a pumpkin seems intimidating, the University of Illinois Extension recommends starting by removing the stem with a sharp knife, then continuing to make the necessary cuts. They also suggest smashing the pumpkin against a hard surface to break it open.
Place the four pumpkin pieces, skin side down, onto a paper towel and microwave on high for approximately five minutes per pound. Rearrange the pieces every two minutes, so the pumpkin cooks evenly without any raw areas.
Cooking times can vary, depending on the wattage of your microwave.
Preparing a Small Pumpkin
If you have a small baking pumpkin — sometimes called a "pie pumpkin," — just prick the pumpkin shell in several spots using a fork. The small holes let the steam escape from inside the pumpkin. Set the microwave on high and cook the pumpkin for about 20 minutes.
Rotate the pumpkin every few minutes for even cooking. After cooking the pumpkin, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then cut it in half and remove the seeds. Next, spoon out the cooked pumpkin and use it in your pumpkin recipe.
Read more: Can I Eat Pumpkin Seed Shells?
Add Some Variety
Pumpkin pie is one of the traditional ways to include pumpkin in your diet, but there are many other alternatives for serving this versatile food and incorporating it into your meal plan.
Make our Turkey Pumpkin Soup or a stew or serve pumpkin puree, flavored with cinnamon and molasses or your favorite herbs, as a side to your main meal for lunch or dinner.
Try our no-bake Pumpkin Mousse or use pumpkin in any cookie recipe, like oatmeal pumpkin cookies or pumpkin drop cookies, to enjoy the nutritional benefits of pumpkin in a sweet treat other than pie.