Greg DuPree

Read your recipe so you don’t buy the wrong product.

You know fall has arrived (even if the outside temps don’t always agree) when you walk into your grocery store and see pumpkins piled up at the produce stand. The appearance of farm fresh apples and sweet potatoes, and yes, even the pungent smell of cinnamon brooms, are all harbingers that your favorite baking season has arrived. Your family loves everything pumpkin, from pumpkin bread to pumpkin soup, so your mission at the store on this particular day is to purchase as many cans of pumpkin as the store will allow. But wait – do you need canned pumpkin or canned pumpkin pie filling? What is the difference? No worries, it really is simple.

Canned pumpkin is just that and nothing more: cooked, pureed pumpkin. There are not any added sugars or spices. When baking this pecan-pumpkin bread, all you need is plain canned pumpkin. The recipe directs you to add sugar and spice, and in this case, pumpkin pie spice. Using plain pumpkin enables you to adjust the level of sweetness and play around with the spice mix to suit your personal taste. This bread, by the way, freezes beautifully and makes a fabulous food gift. 

Pumpkin pie filling is pumpkin flavored with spices like cinnamon, clove, allspice and ginger, and is also pre-sweetened. This is a very nice convenience product when you want to make a quick and easy recipe, like this pumpkin pie dip. The ease of using pumpkin pie filling in a pie (like the recipe on the back of the can) gives a novice baker some much-needed confidence; without fussing over a long ingredient list, she can simply stir a couple of ingredients and pour into a ready made piecrust.

Both products have their place on the shelf during baking season. Just be mindful of which one your recipe calls for, and happy baking!