Does anything say autumn as unmistakably as a pile of pumpkins? The familiar jack-o'-lantern type works best as a decoration, but many exotic varieties are superb for kitchen use. There's no single list of best seasonal uses for pumpkin — everybody's favorite will be different — but these are some surefire crowd-pleasers.
Your Mug of Coffee
A fragrant, spicy pumpkin latte is right up there among autumn's greatest pleasures, along with colorful leaves and cozy sweaters. As a bonus, you can fine-tune the flavors and sweetness to suit your personal palate.
A Thick, Luscious Shake or Smoothie
You can add pureed pumpkin to almost any smoothie or shake for added nutrition, fiber and sweetness, but it's best in recipes that are already loaded with fall flavors. Try it instead of sweet potato in an autumn sweet potato smoothie. If you're looking for straight-up indulgence, whip up a pumpkin pie smoothie in your Vitamix machine.
A Silky, Satisfying Soup
If ever there was a food created with soup in mind, it's pumpkin. It purees into a rich, silky texture on its own, and even more so when you add coconut milk. Use veggie broth instead of chicken broth for a fast and easy vegan meal. For a more exotic take on the theme, make a spicy Thai pumpkin soup.
A Rockin' Spread or Dip
Pureed pumpkin brings richness and moisture wherever it goes, so it's excellent in dips and spreads. For a seasonal twist, add some your favorite spinach dip, or substitute it for the peppers in roasted red pepper hummus. If you're looking for something a little more exotic, check out the mix of flavors in this pumpkin walnut spread.
A Classic Dessert
Pumpkin pie is a classic, but it can also be a bit repetitive. If you want to change it up a bit, bake your filling in ramekins with a gingersnap cookie at the bottom of each in place of a crust. Turn the traditional pie into finger-friendly pumpkin pie bars, or transform it into an unusual, almost-instant frozen dessert.