Louisa Shafia

Pumpkin Smoothie

I may have found the perfect base for a delicious smoothie-and it’s big, bright and orange! That’s right, a pumpkin. Pumpkins are seasonal in Fall, local, inexpensive, and full of beta-carotene, iron, and potassium.

All you need to do to use them in a smoothie is to cut the pumpkin into large chunks, steam them until soft, then let them cool and plop them into a blender in much the same way you would a banana. Pumpkins work well because they are starchy and smooth and naturally sweet. You can steam a large amount of pumpkin and store it in the refrigerator for 5-7 days, using it throughout the week as needed.

So, why not just use a banana? Well, ever since I started research for my cookbook, I’ve been on the lookout for a good banana substitute, because I’ve learned that a large percentage of commercial bananas are heavily treated with toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Most of the bananas on our store shelves come from Central America, where pesticides may be used that are actually illegal here in the United States. Those chemicals leach into our air and water, pollute the winter resting places of our summer songbirds, and threaten the health of banana plantation workers.

While buying Organic Fair Trade bananas certainly helps by supporting the elimination or reduction of toxic chemical use, Fair Trade bananas are generally more expensive, harder to find, and flown in from far away, requiring more fuel (and creating more greenhouse gases) to get them to market. Our banana supply is also threatened by long-term problems: The “Cavendish” banana variety that we generally eat is under attack from a virus that threatens to wipe it out or at least make it unfit to supply the global market.

Enter the Pumpkin-a healthy and delicious ingredient that we have growing right in our backyards-and several other varieties of winter squash such as butternut, delicata, or sweet “sugar loaf” squash. You might say, the time is “ripe” to look for banana alternatives!


Pumpkin Smoothie

Pie pumpkins or sweet pumpkins work better here than the jack-o-lantern variety, as their flesh is sweeter and less watery. These varieties are also smaller and thus easier to work with. Save the pumpkin seeds for toasting; pumpkin seeds are a rich source of magnesium, iron, and zinc, and recent studies suggest that they can help lower cholesterol and have anti-inflammatory effects, alleviating chronic conditions like arthritis.


  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet apple
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla extract
  • Milk or juice


Scrub the pumpkin and cut it in half. Scoop out the seeds. Chop the pumpkin into 2-inch chunks. Steam the cut pumpkin for about 12 minutes, until tender. Cool.

Put approximately ¾ cup of pumpkin, or the equivalent of 1 small banana, into a blender. Add chopped apple and spices to taste. Pour in enough milk or juice for desired consistency. Blend.

In November of 2009, Ten Speed Press/Random House will publish Louisa’s first cookbook, Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life, a collection of healthy, eco-conscious recipes, tips, and entertaining ideas.

12 Responses to “Pumpkin Smoothie”

  1. mary says:

    I just made this with the butternut squash and it tasted like pumpkin pie in a glass – delicious and so good my 1yr old just loving it warmed up!

  2. Blanca says:

    This is a great alternative for someone like myself who makes a smoothie for breakfast every morning. Since I’m not much of a pumpkin eater (pun intended) I would never have thought of this myself. My only question is are you blending the peel or taking it off first?

  3. Louisa says:

    Hey Blanca, great question! I just scrub the pumpkin and cut it up without peeling. However, if you have concerns about pesticides on winter squash, by all means you should peel them or spend the extra money to buy organic. I buy produce from small farms where not a lot of pesticide is used, but it is a concern if you’re not sure where your squash was grown. I’ve often peeled butternut squash for cooking and it’s very easy if a bit time consuming. Thanks for bringing up this point!

  4. Carla says:

    Hi…I think this is a great recipe…we have a small “specialty smoothie-icee-soft-serve” shop in town and they make a great pumpkin-pie ice topped with vanilla soft serve! But the line is always out “the door”….so this will be a great alternative. But back to the bananas…we love them and eat them every day….is there a brand out there that is safe? I couldn’t stand the thought of giving up bananas!!!! Thanks L.!!

  5. Katie says:

    I just used pumpkin to make baby food and plan on stealing a few of those frozen cubes from my little one to use as a smoothie. This sounds fabulous!

  6. Louisa says:

    Hi Carla, not to worry! Fair Trade organic bananas are a good choice because they aren’t sprayed with pesticides, and the workers who grow them are safe from toxins and generally fairly compensated.

    The problem is that the bananas on our store shelves are all of the Cavendish variety. Because this one variety is grown throughout the world on a massive scale, it’s susceptible to disease, just like with the Irish Potato Famine – when the virus hit the potatoes there was no resistance because every single potato was genetically the same. This is the danger with growing only one variety of a fruit or vegetable. I’m trying to explore alternatives to bananas because they may not be around forever.

    Also, bananas come to us from tropical climates, which means a lot of non-renewable energy sources are needed to transport them. With our climate situation reaching the breaking point, I want to highlight foods that use less resources and cause less environmental damage – like winter squash!

  7. Brenda says:

    Does anyone remember a guest from last week who made a low calorie chocolate cake with canned pumpkin? What size can of pumpkin was used?

  8. margaret says:

    Can you use canned pumpkin instead of fresh?

  9. betsy says:

    Could you use a juicer instead of steaming and using a blender or will it be too watery?

  10. Louisa says:

    Thanks for your questions. Yes, you can used canned pumpkin instead of fresh in this recipe. I always try to encourage people to use fresh ingredients because they have more nutrients than processed foods, and there’s less waste because there’s no packaging to throw away. But if you’re short on time, canned pumpkin will work beautifully.

    I love the idea of juicing the pumpkin, I’ve never tried it and it might result in a wonderful juice, but it would be too watery to work in this recipe. The idea here is to make a rich drink that has the consistency of a banana smoothie.

  11. Eleanor says:

    I have been trying to find the recipe for low-fat pumpkin egg nog that was on the show about a week ago. They used vanilla soy milk. I want to have this egg nog for T-giving. Please, please, does anyone have this recipe from the show.

  12. benita michelle wheeler says:

    give me a plate…

Leave a Reply