Dinner in a Pumpkin

5 from 15 votes

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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. 

A spoonful of dinner in a pumpkin casserole
Featured with this recipe
  1. What is Dinner in a Pumpkin?
  2. Ingredients for Dinner in a Pumpkin
  3. Process
  4. Health Benefits of Pumpkin
  5. Easy Clean-up!
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. More Pumpkin Recipes
  8. How to Make Dinner in a Pumpkin
  9. Dinner in a Pumpkin Recipe

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.
A bowl of dinner in a pumpkin casserole topped with fresh rosemary


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Easy Clean-up!

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

How to make dinner in a pumpkin vegetarian?

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!

Can you cook and eat the inside of a pumpkin?

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.

What do you eat in a pumpkin?

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!

Read More:25+ Best Halloween Dinner Ideas: Perfect for Your Fright Night Party!

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

A spoonful of dinner in a pumpkin casserole

Dinner in a Pumpkin

5 from 15 votes
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.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8




  • 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.
    A pumpkin with the pulp and seeds removed
  • 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.
    Ground beef and sauteed vegetables in a pan
  • In a large bowl, mix soup, brown sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce.
    Savory sauce in a glass bowl
  • 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.
    Dinner in a Pumpkin Casserole
  • 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.
    A cooked pumpkin on a baking sheet
  • 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.
    A spoonful of dinner in a pumpkin casserole
  • 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!
    A bowl of dinner in a pumpkin casserole topped with fresh rosemary


Don’t throw away the seeds when you clean out your pumpkin! You can turn them into a yummy treat as well! 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!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 497kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 21gFat: 24gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 75mgSodium: 734mgPotassium: 1022mgFiber: 3gSugar: 14gVitamin A: 14747IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 96mgIron: 5mg

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About the author

Echo Blickenstaff

Echo lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah with her husband, Todd, who works in advertising, and her four kids: two girls and two boys. She deploys her accounting degree as the blog’s resident problem solver. In her time outside the kitchen, Echo loves to get away from the phones and busy schedules and spend quality time with the family. Anywhere’s great – but getting out into nature in the mountains or on the beach – is the best kind of getaway.

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  1. Having cooked for many many years, I knew That a tablespoon of Sage and a tablespoon of thyme would be way too much and would be overpowering. So I cut the amount to 1 teaspoon. A third of what it called for. I served it at a family party and only got complaints that it was too overpowered with sage and thyme!! Imagine if I had put the entire tablespoon!! If I made it again I would cut the sage and thyme down to a half teaspoon each.

    1. Glad you were able to make this recipe to your liking! We all have different tastes and preferences.

  2. I rhink that a vegetarian version could contain some beans or lentils in place of the ground beef. Brans and a grain will afford complete protein to the dish. Switching out creal of mushroom soup for the cream of chicken id easy. For more flavor cook the rice (or use barley) in vegetable stock.

    1. To make this recipe vegetarian, omit the ground beef and replace the cream of chicken soup with cream of mushroom soup. Hope this helps!

    1. You could substitute pasta, but it will become very mushy while the pumpkin is cooking. If you want to use pasta instead of rice, cook the pasta just before the pumpkin is done cooking and then stir in the pasta just before you serve the dinner. Thanks for asking!

    1. That is a good question. I’ve never partially baked it and then baked it more later. If you are worried about the cooking time, it is better to have it in the oven longer than shorter. You will be safe planning on an hour and a half for the cooking time. I’ve actually adjusted this in the recipe. If it is fully cooked and you are not quite ready to eat, the dinner inside the pumpkin will stay plenty warm outside of the oven for up to 30 minutes if you keep the lid on. You can make the filling for the pumpkin a day ahead and keep it in the fridge, and then scoop it into the pumpkin the next day when you are ready to cook it. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any more questions.

  3. 5 stars
    I hope you’re still around, because I have a question! This looks great but there’s no indication of how many servings you made this recipe for.

  4. Sadly mine took over 2.5 hours to cook and it’s still not quite done (the pumpkin is still stringy). Any tips for me? I’ve done these twice and both times it didn’t cook in the time it was supposed to. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

    1. This is kind of tricky– have you had problems with your oven not cooking hot enough. You could try increasing the temperature by 25-degrees and see if that helps? Let us know if that works for you.

    1. You could do steamed green beans, a green salad, or any steamed veggies in general. Hope this helps!

  5. Hey Ladies-You Know I’m making this w/ the Pumpkin Poke Cake for Dessert! I’ve been wanting to stuff a Pumpkin for a while now-so this weekend- I’ll be having this .Thanks so much for all of the great recipes you share. : )

  6. This looks so cool! I wish my kids liked pumpkin…I know they’re weird right? I may make this for my Halloween party. Thanks!

    1. You could still make this for your kids, and not mix in the chunks of pumpkin until after you’ve scooped their portion out…just an idea! I’m glad you like the idea! Thank you for your comment!

  7. I just made this and loved it! I changed just 2 things, I don’t like to add sugar to stuff so I eliminated the brown sugar and replaced the soy sauce with worchestersire. So Good, thank you!

    1. I make this with beef stew. It is delicious. I lightly oil the outside of the pumpkin and it makes a wonderfully colored pumpkin. I usually make a sling out of aluminum foil and place the pumpkin lid on it. Much easier to remove the lid after baking

    1. Hmmm… this is a great question. None of us have done the paleo thing so I’m not sure what to recommend. If you make substitutions to make it paleo-friendly, come back and let us know! We would love to hear!

    1. I think it would work for stuffing. The trick will be getting the amount of liquid right in your recipe. You will want to make sure your bread is at your preferred level of “moistness” before you put it in the pumpkin. It’s a great idea!

  8. This is so similar to the recipe I just shared, but different. They must have come from the same place years ago! Your picture is so pretty! My pumpkin was too big, and I had to put a bowl inside to “lift up” the food for the picture, ha!

    1. haha thanks, it’s not easy getting an appetizing shot of food in a pumpkin lol! I think your picture looks great! The color is so vibrant!

    1. It’s hard to say an exact size. I try to pick a pumpkin that is about the size of a basketball. I’ve used pumpkins that are taller and skinnier than that and pumpkins bigger and smaller. The good news is it doesn’t have to be exactly the perfect size. If there is some room left at the top, it’s fine. The ingredients that go inside of the pumpkin are already cooked, and it won’t burn inside the pumpkin. The desired result is for the pumpkin to cook so you can mix it in with the casserole. Good luck! I think your co-workers are going to love it!

  9. When you say 4 cups cooked rice, is that 4 cups of rice before cooking or after?
    I can’t wait to try this, but don’t want to overwhelm it with rice!

  10. INTERESTING… And they look sooooo yummy too!! I love anything pumpkin, and since it’s just me and the hubby, I’m wondering if it might make more sense to scale this down a bit and prepare it in two small/”personal size” pumpkins?? Though it might make for double the work preparing the pumpkins… How do you think this might work, and how might oven temps/times change? LOVE your site!! THANKS!!!

    1. You can definitely prepare it in smaller pumpkins. I think it’s a great idea! Still cook the pumpkins at 350 degrees, but watch them closely after about 30 minutes. You will start to smell the pumpkin when it starts to cook. After 30 minutes, start to check the pumpkin every 10 minutes or so until it is done. It really depends on the thickness of the pumpkin. The pumpkin turns a darker orange and it is easy to insert a fork. Good luck and thank you for visiting our site!

      1. 5 stars
        Well, I found this recipe and was just scrolling through and saw who posted the recipe 🥰 hello old friend!! I love this dinner! Would love to hear from you! It has been way too long!

        1. Hi again Jennifer – I was blocked by your email. Please email me at echo@favfamilyrecipes so we can catch up!

        2. This recipe gets made every year sometimes twice and it never fails to be gone by the next day….small difference in the recipe I like to cover the inside of the pumpkin all over with butter and the brown sugar coated all over instead of adding brown sugar to the soup…it sweetens the bits of pumpkin you scoop out and leaves the mixture more savory!

    1. You probably could, we haven’t done it that way before — if you try it, let us know the adjustments you made and how it turned out!!