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What’s the Difference Between a Carving Pumpkin and a Pie Pumpkin?

variety of pumpkins and squashes laid out for a autumn display
Jacqui Martin/Shutterstock

You’ve gone to the pumpkin patch to choose the perfect shape and size for your carving extravaganza, but is this the same type of pumpkin you’d use for baking?

There is, in fact, a difference between a pumpkin you carve and a pumpkin you can eat. Learn all about what sets these two types of winter squash apart, and whether or not you can use them interchangeably.

What Is a Carving Pumpkin?

Some carved pumpkins sitting on grass at night.

Carving pumpkins are used to create fun or scary jack-o’-lanterns. They have a much thinner outer shell and less flesh on the inside. That makes them easier to carve and create all sorts of fun and spooky designs.

Elmchee Halloween Pumpkin Carving Set

From big cutouts to fine detailing, this kit has tools for all your carving needs.

You’ll also notice that they are stringier than pie pumpkins and contain more water, which makes them less ideal for creating sweet treats. So pick the most giant pumpkin you can find and get your carving tools out because Halloween is almost here!

What Is a Pie Pumpkin?

A pie pumpkin in the center, with a basket of gourds, and a large carving pumpkin in the background.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Pie pumpkins are used for cooking or baking and are also called sugar pumpkins. They are more petite and are often used to decorate or paint rather than carve.  Although they make adorable front porch décor, they are best when roasted in the oven and baked into your favorite fall desserts.

Lodge 9-Inch Cast Iron Pie Pan

Glass pie pans might look pretty, but this cast iron pie pan is built to last for generations.

You can find sugar pumpkins at the supermarket or a farmer’s market stand. They have more flesh, aren’t as stringy as carving pumpkins, and contain less water, giving them a sweeter and more delightful flavor.

So if you have baking plans, grab yourself a few sugar pumpkins and preheat that oven. Roasting a pumpkin can be done in just a few simple steps.

Can You Use One for the Other?

By all means, you’re more than welcome to use a big carving pumpkin to roast and puree, but we don’t recommend it. Because the larger pumpkins are full of water, you’ll have to rid of all that liquid before creating most dishes.

Carving pumpkins aren’t as high in sugar as pie pumpkins, so they aren’t ideal for all the sweet treats you’ll want to make. The thicker amount of pumpkin meat inside a sugar pumpkin is just what you’ll want and need.

As far as carving a sugar pumpkin goes, we wouldn’t recommend that either. Sugar pumpkins are denser and have thicker skin, which makes carving more difficult and dangerous. For safety’s sake, stick to carving pumpkins for, well, carving.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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