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Dinner in a Pumpkin is a hearty casserole cooked right inside a pumpkin! Perfect for serving on Halloween night before the kids go trick-or-treating.
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What is Dinner in a Pumpkin?
Dinner in a Pumpkin is a warm, hearty meal with the delicious flavors of fall. I always hope it will fill my kids tummies before trick-or-treating and prevent them from eating too much candy. One can dream!
The best part of this dinner is that the pumpkin shell cooks along with the casserole inside. Before serving the casserole, you scoop chunks of pumpkin from the inside and stir it into the casserole. The pumpkin is sweet and tender, similar to butternut squash, and it adds color and the sweet taste of pumpkin to the dish.
Ingredients for Dinner in a Pumpkin
- Pumpkin – This is the key ingredient of dinner in a pumpkin. And yes, you will use the entire pumpkin! Make sure to pick a medium pumpkin that sits up well on its own so it will stay upright on the baking sheet.
- Sautéed Vegetables and Herbs – Diced onion, celery, mushrooms, and garlic are sautéed in brown butter to add a savory taste to the filling. For added flavor, throw in some sage and thyme.
- Ground Beef – For lack of a better term, this is the “meat” of the filling.
- Water Chestnuts – These add such a nice crunch to the filling.
- Rice – You can use white or brown rice to fill out this Dinner in a Pumpkin casserole. Cook rice ahead of time for quicker dinner prep.
- Sauce – The rich sauce for this casserole includes brown sugar, cream of chicken soup, soy sauce, vinegar, and salt & pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 375. Then, work on your pumpkin. Clean off the top and sides of the pumpkin so it is free of any dirt. Next, carve a hole in the top to make a lid. Angle your knife into the center of the pumpkin so that the pumpkin lid stays on during baking. Then, scoop out all the seeds and pulp.
- In a large skillet, sauté the vegetables and then brown the beef. Next, drain the grease from the meat. Then, add salt, pepper, and water chestnuts.
- In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, cream of chicken soup, soy sauce, vinegar, and salt & pepper. Then, add the beef mixture and the cooked rice. Stir until everything is coated in the sauce.
- Time to cook the “Dinner in a Pumpkin”! Spoon mixture into the pumpkin. Then, replace the pumpkin lid. Next, place the pumpkin on a foil lined cookie sheet. It will be heavy so be careful!
- Bake for an hour and fifteen minutes. The pumpkin should turn a deep reddish orange color. Check the inside of the pumpkin, it should scrape off easily. If it is still tough, bake for another 15 minutes and check again. Baking times can vary depending on the thickness of the pumpkin.
- Before serving, mix the casserole around and scrape the sides of the pumpkin so the meat of the pumpkin gets mixed in with the casserole.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Did you know there are many health benefits to eating pumpkin? Just ½ cup of pumpkin provides 100% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin A which aids vision. Pumpkin is a rich source of the antioxidant beta carotene, and 1 cup of pumpkin has more potassium than a banana! Now, you can feel good about making Dinner in a Pumpkin for your family.
Pumpkin seeds are also good for you, so don’t throw away the seeds when you clean out your pumpkin! You can turn them into a yummy treat as well, a treat that is much healthier to snack on than candy, but just as fun!. Pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, protein, and zinc. You can toss them with butter and salt and roast them in the oven, or for more flavor, you can season them. This Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds recipe is my favorite!
If I haven’t convinced you to make this hearty and delicious Dinner in a Pumpkin for your family yet, I’ll throw in one more benefit – the clean up is super easy. Instead of having to scrub a casserole dish, you get to throw it away!
Frequently Asked Questions
With all of the faux meat out there nowadays, it’s super easy to replace something like ground beef with Beyond or Impossible ‘ground meat’, as well as replacing the cream of chicken soup with something like cream of potato soup, or whichever your favorite is. Deliciousness awaits!
You can cook and eat the inside of a pumpkin! This recipe is an example of how to do it. You still want to scrape out the stringy “guts” and seeds before cooking. Save the seeds and make sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds. Once cleaned, the flesh of the pumpkin can be cooked and eaten like any other roasted winter squash. Of course, it can also be cooked and used to make a pumpkin pie.
Casseroles, stews, and soups can be cooked in a pumpkin. Select recipes that would be enhanced by stirring in chunks of pumpkin that cook along with the dish inside the pumpkin. We love this recipe for dinner in a pumpkin. Our soup in a pumpkin recipe is also a favorite!
More Pumpkin Recipes
Now that you have a Dinner in a Pumpkin, serve some of these sweet pumpkin treats for dessert! Our Nothing Bundt Cake Pumpkin Bundt Cake, Pumpkin Pasties, and Easy Pumpkin Trifle make great recipes for holiday sweets. See more of our recipes below.
How to Make Dinner in a Pumpkin
Dinner in a Pumpkin
- 1 pumpkin medium
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion small, diced
- 1 cup fresh mushrooms sliced (canned mushrooms also work)
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 8 ounces water chestnuts
- Salt and pepper
- 10 ounces cream of chicken soup
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 4 cups cooked rice white or brown
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Thoroughly wash and dry the outside of the pumpkin. Cut the top off the pumpkin and clean out the pulp and seeds. Place the pumpkin on the baking sheet. Save the top.
- In a large skillet, sauté onion, celery, mushrooms, and garlic in butter. Add ground beef, sage, and thyme and cook until the beef is no longer pink. Drain the grease from the beef. Add salt, pepper, and water chestnuts.
- In a large bowl, mix soup, brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce.
- Add ground beef mixture and cooked rice to the bowl. Mix until everything is evenly coated with sauce. Empty bowl into the cleaned out pumpkin and replace pumpkin top. Bake for 1 hour on the lower rack of the oven, or on the rack where the pumpkin can be most centered in the oven.
- After 1 hour and 15 minutes, remove the top and check the sides of the pumpkin for doneness. The outside of the pumpkin will turn a dark orange, and the inside of the pumpkin should be tender and easily scoop off the sides with a spoon.
- If the inside of the pumpkin is still not fully cooked, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin. Sometimes I've cooked the pumpkin as long as an hour and a half before it is ready.
- Using hot pads, place the pumpkin onto a serving plate, remove the lid, and stir. Be sure to scoop off chunks of cooked pumpkin into the casserole as it is served. That's the best part!
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