Dinner in a Pumpkin (Pumpkin Casserole)

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Dinner In a Pumpkin Baked (Pumpkin Casserole)

Dinner in a Pumpkin is a casserole cooked right inside a pumpkin! As you serve it, scrape out the tender pumpkin to eat along with the delicious filling!

I get SO excited for Halloween! One of the things I always look forward to is Dinner in a Pumpkin, or pumpkin casserole. Since this dish is seasonal, it’s always really special when I get to eat it. So, I make it as often as I can while pumpkins are still available.

To make dinner in a pumpkin, prepare the casserole filling ingredients. Then, stuff the pumpkin, and bake. As you serve the casserole, also scoop out portions of the pumpkin to eat! After dinner, just throw the pumpkin away! Since there are no casserole dishes, clean-up is so easy.

Speaking of which, why are pumpkins not available AFTER Halloween?! You can find so many other seasonal types of squash. Why not pumpkin? Maybe, if more people make this dish, we don’t have to waste all the after-Halloween pumpkins with a pumpkin smash. #savethepumpkins

Dinner in a Pumpkin Equipment

Because this casserole is cooked directly inside a pumpkin, you do not need a casserole dish. Although, I still recommend the following items:

If your skillet is large enough, you can mix all of the ingredients together in that instead of a large mixing bowl.

Dinner in a Pumpkin Ingredients

Several years ago, our family received this recipe from a neighbor. The original version is made with white rice and condensed cream of chicken soup. By substituting cauliflower rice and a homemade low-carb sauce, my dad adapted this recipe to be lower-carb. While both versions are delicious, I prefer the low-carb version better. Although, my husband prefers the original version with rice.

All that to say, use the ingredients you like best!

Dinner in a Pumpkin (Pumpkin Casserole) Close Up

Choosing the Rice

In the recipe card, I provide instructions for using cauliflower rice. However, if you want to use white rice, substitute the cauliflower rice with 2 cups of cooked rice.

Cauliflower rice is simple to make from fresh cauliflower. This recipe from the Minimalist Baker provides instructions to make it.

Although, I prefer to use frozen cauliflower for several reasons. First, frozen cauliflower tends to be much less expensive than fresh cauliflower. Second, fresh cauliflower is not always in season. So, by using frozen cauliflower, I can always find it. Third, it’s much more convenient since it’s already prepared for me.

If you can only find cauliflower florets, microwave them for 1-2 minutes, and blend the pieces in a blender or a food processor until it resembles rice. Or to use frozen riced cauliflower, microwave it for about 1-2 minutes to break up any large pieces. Then, proceed with the recipe as written.

Making or Buying a Sauce

To amp up the flavor and to reduce the number of carbs, I prefer to make my own sauce. Basically, it’s an Alfredo sauce make with chicken stock instead of cream.

To make preparation faster, feel free to use about 20 oz of condensed cream of chicken soup.

TIP: If you use a prepared sauce, you’ll still need to add the brown sugar and soy sauce. These ingredients are essential to the final flavor of the dish.

If you want to lower the carbs even more, you can use homemade or store-bought Low-Carb Brown Sugar Substitute.

Choosing a Pumpkin

If you’ve never eaten pumpkin, it is sweet and tender, similar to butternut squash. Plus, it adds color and a slight sweetness to the dish.

Over the years, I have tried making this pumpkin casserole with many types of pumpkin. To date, I haven’t tried one I haven’t liked yet. You can use pie pumpkins or smaller carving pumpkins.

While the kind of pumpkin used doesn’t matter, the size of the pumpkin will affect the cooking time. For this recipe, I recommend a 4-5 lb pumpkin. If you get one that is too small, the filling ingredients will not fit. But if you get one that’s too big, the cooking time will be longer. Although, if you have to choose, I would choose a pumpkin that is too big. If you have some empty space in the pumpkin, the final flavor will still be the same. You may not want to serve as much of the pumpkin with the casserole.

Dinner in a Pumpkin Preparation Tips

The hardest thing about this recipe is cleaning the pumpkin. However, if you have the right tools, it’s not that bad.

First, wash the outside of the pumpkin with water to remove any dirt or debris. Then, using a sharp knife, cut a lid from the top of the pumpkin.

TIP: Don’t try to cut lid with a perfect circle shape! They are hard to cut and hard close. Instead, cut straight lines and make a square or other geometric shaped lid.

To hollow out the pumpkin, I love using a Flat Spade Ice Cream Scoop. It makes cleaning out the pulp and seeds so easy! Just like cutting through hard ice cream, it scrapes away the insides with ease. If you don’t have a ice cream spade, a thick large spoon works well too.

TIP: My dad loves to use a sharp knife to cut a face into the pumpkin before filling it. As the pumpkin cooks, the face becomes more pronounced. Plus, it’s so fun for presentation!

For extra bang for your buck, don’t throw away your pumpkin seeds! Save them and roast them for a healthy snack! Let me know if you’d be interested in seeing a tutorial on how to make them.

Want more Pumpkin or Casserole Recipes?

Dinner in a Pumpkin (Pumpkin Casserole) Bite

I absolutely love this pumpkin casserole. What’s more fun than eating Dinner in a Pumpkin with family before or after trick-or-treating? I hope you love this recipe too for years to come! Maybe, if it becomes popular enough, we can have pumpkins all season long–not just before Halloween!

If you love this casserole, you should check out some of my other tried-and-true recipes:

If you want to try more pumpkin recipes, stay tuned during the next few weeks!

Or check out all my other low-carb recipes here.

Dinner in a Pumpkin

Dinner in a Pumpkin is a casserole cooked right inside a pumpkin! As you serve it, scrape out the tender pumpkin to eat along with the delicious filling!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Casserole, Cheese, Low Carb
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 552kcal
Author Clean Fingers Laynie


  • See post for recommended equipment.


Sauce Preparation

  • 4 oz Cream Cheese
  • 4 oz Butter
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Brown Sugar

Pumpkin Ingredients

  • 1 medium Pumpkin about 4-5 lbs
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 1 small Onion Diced
  • 5 oz Water Chestnuts Diced (1 can)
  • 2 stalks Celery Diced
  • 10 oz Riced Cauliflower*
  • 2 cups Cheddar or Colby Jack Cheese Grated


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a quarter-sized baking sheet (12 x 8 x 1 inch) (or other oven-safe baking dish) with aluminum foil.
  • Evenly spread cauliflower rice onto baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.
  • Reduce oven temperature to 380 degrees.
  • While the cauliflower is cooking, wash the outside of the pumpkin with water to remove any dirt or debris. Hollow out the pumpkin reserving the lid**. Set aside.
  • In a large saute pan, heat oil and add celery, onion, and ground beef. Cook for about 6-8 minutes until beef is browned and cooked through.
  • While the beef and onion mixture is cooking, add cream cheese and butter to a small sauce pan. Heat over medium heat whisking continuously until butter melts and cream cheese is softened. (Mixture may appear curdled.) Add chicken stock, garlic powder, salt, pepper, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Whisk until smooth, and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce begins to thicken.
  • To a large mixing bowl, add browned beef mixture, roasted cauliflower rice, water chestnuts, and prepared sauce. Mix until combined.
  • Place pumpkin on the aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Add 1/3 of shredded cheese to bottom of pumpkin. Next, add 1/2 of filling mixture and an addition 1/3 of shredded cheese. Top with remaining 1/2 of filling mixture and last of cheese. (Do not overfill pumpkin). Add pumpkin lid on top of pumpkin, slightly ajar, allowing steam to escape.
  • Bake for 1 hour, or until pumpkin is tender.***

  • Portion out servings of the filling while scraping out sides of the pumpkin.
  • Add additional salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!


Estimated Nutrition (per serving):  Calories 552, Fat 45 g, Carbohydrate 16 g, Dietary Fiber g, Protein 24 g, Sodium 1000 mg
*Can substitute cauliflower rice with 2 cups cooked rice. 
**Save the pumpkin seeds to make roasted pumpkin seeds. 
***Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkin. If after 1 hour, the sides of the pumpkin are not tender, and do not pull away easily from the skin, continue baking for additional 10-15 minute increments. 

2 Replies to “Dinner in a Pumpkin (Pumpkin Casserole)”

  1. My husband is very picky about what he will/won’t eat. No watercress nor riced cauliflower. Could I use instant rice in place of cauliflower and perhaps leave out the watercress, would it come out about the same adding additional seasonings

    1. Hi Sharlene! Yes, rice can definitely be used! In fact, the version I grew up eating used rice! So, it should be a great substitute. There’s no watercress in this recipe, but there is water chestnuts. We like to add them to add a crunchy texture, but you can definitely leave them out without a lot of change to the flavor. (I don’t think you need to add additional seasonings to account for leaving them out). I hope this helps, and I’d love to hear how it turns out for you!

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