Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Butter Can’t Be Canned


This time of year, a canner’s fancy turns to pumpkins. Tis the season for all things round, orange and squashy, after all. However, as you start searching for recipes for home canned pumpkin butter from reputable sources, you’re going to find yourself disappointed. You see, both the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation are going to tell you the same thing. Don’t do it.

I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there saying to yourself, “but I’ve been making and water bath canning pumpkin butter for years!” And it’s true, many years ago, there were USDA-approved recipes for pumpkin butter. Unfortunately, the rules of canning are not a static canon and so, in 1989 the USDA changed their recommendations and the NCHFP followed suit. No home canning for pumpkin butter, not even in a pressure canner.

The reasons why homemade pumpkin butter isn’t recommended are several. When cooked down into a butter, pumpkin flesh becomes quite dense, making it difficult for the heat produced in a canner to penetrate fully through the contents of the jar. This means that even in a pressure canner, the interior of the jar may not reach the 240 degrees needed to kill those pesky botulism spores.

Additionally, pumpkin and all other winter squash are a low-acid vegetables, meaning that without careful treatment, they could potentially be a friendly environment in which botulism spores might grow into their toxic adult state. In tests, it’s been found that the pH of pumpkin has a fairly wide range, meaning that it’s not possible to offer a basic acidification ratio as there is for other borderline and low acid foods.

The good news is that pumpkin butter can be frozen and also keeps quite well in the fridge, so it doesn’t have to be entirely off the menu. I’ve also been pondering whether one could make a an apple-pumpkin butter that would be high enough in acid to be safe for canning, but would contain enough pumpkin to be sufficiently autumnal. I may do a bit of playing around, to see if I can get somewhere close to the flavor I’d like to eat.

If you’re curious to read more about the safety hazards of canning pumpkin butter and other squash purees, click here to download the PDF that was the primary source for this post.

Related Posts:

, , ,

203 Responses to Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Butter Can’t Be Canned

  1. 101
    kristin says:

    I just wanted to say that I was going to can my pumpkin butter after reading several people on other sites say they’ve done it safely for years. But then I came across your site. I do NOT want to risk anyone’s lives – and especially those of my children – just to can pumpkin butter. I think I will just freeze it now! Thank you so much for your many comments addressing all of the concerns, so helpful. :)

  2. 102

    […] a pint of spread. Note that I split that into three jars, though. Squash doesn’t can safely (it’s too low in acid), so cold is its best preserver. I kept one jar in the fridge to enjoy over the next couple weeks, […]

  3. 103
    Hat says:

    I was looking for the official government info on pumpkin canning for a friend and came here knowing you would be the one to have the link to it. You do! But sadly, the link you offer (and everyone else too! ) is dead :-(.
    Has the opinion of our great and wonderful government changed on this topic?

    • 103.1
      Marisa says:

      Oh shoot. I’m sad to hear that that link is now dead. However, the government hasn’t changed its opinion on canning pumpkin.


  1. Savvy Selections: 10.30.10. — Savvy Eats - October 30, 2010

    […] For those who’ve been asking, Food in Jars explained why we (sadly) can’t can pumpkin butter. […]

  2. Apple Butter « Bakers Gonna Bake - October 26, 2011

    […] But for other foods which are lower in acid content (like most vegetables), a boiling water bath is not enough to avoid danger. Instead, the jars must be processed for quite a bit longer in a pressure cooker, which can reach temperatures much higher than the boiling water bath, high enough to kill the botulism bacteria. But even this isn’t enough for some foods, which due to the variability of the acid content or the density of the food can’t be safely canned at home (e.g. pumpkin butter). […]

  3. Recent Recipes from My Serious Eats Column ‘In a Pickle’ | Food in Jars - November 1, 2011

    […] that, I pickled up a small sugar pumpkin. I know that I go on and on here about how pumpkin isn’t safe for boiling water bath canning, but this is the one […]

  4. Pumpkin Butter Recipe - - August 20, 2012

    […] can thi sbe canned for shelf life or does it have to be used right away? FDA says no: Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Butter Can't Be Canned – Food in Jars | Food in Jars But, you can freeze it. WUC Moderator FREEDOM by the 4th of […]

  5. Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Butter | the squinny - August 29, 2013

    […] freeze it. Since it is August, I will put some in the freezer and save it for fall.   Why you cannot can pumpkin is explained at this […]

  6. Slow Cooker Pumpkin Butter - Recipes That Crock! - September 25, 2013

    […] A reader has pointed out to me that it is no longer recommend to can Pumpkin […]

  7. Last Outdoor Market Already?! | Barton Farms and Gardens - October 24, 2013

    […] Pumpkin butter is delicious. And several of you have suggested I make it for sale at the market. Sorry folks but the USDA says no can do! […]

  8. Crockpot Pumpkin Butter - The Momma Knows - October 28, 2013

    […] internet search turned up this page– Canning 101: Why Pumpkin Can’t be Canned. ARG! I turned off the burner, removed the jars from the canner, loosened all the lids that had […]

  9. Queensland Blue Pumpkin Butter | grow it cook it can it - November 3, 2013

    […] to question authority, I’m not a scientist so I’m just going to follow the rules.  Marisa from Food In Jars has a thorough explanation over on her website here.  If you don’t have a freezer and are desperate for something that can go in a jar, SB […]

  10. Pumpkin Butter | Baking Memories - December 7, 2013

    […] *Note* It is NOT safe for canning. Pumpkin butter can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, but cannot be canned.  Read more here.* […]

  11. Swap-Box Hero: Roasted Pumpkin Butter | Boxing Day - October 14, 2015

    […] a pint of spread. Note that I split that into three jars, though. Squash doesn’t can safely (it’s too low in acid), so cold is its best preserver. I kept one jar in the fridge to enjoy over the next couple weeks, […]

Leave a Reply