At the Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, there seems to be no beverage the students enjoy more than a glass of this peculiar ice cold beverage.
Harry Potter aside, is pumpkin juice real? Is there such thing as it?
Yep! It is a real beverage people drink and it’s good for your health. Thanks to the low amount of calories, many tout it for weight loss and dieting purposes.
While you can now buy it for sale, there is actually a history of its use going back to the early days of America. Five years before the United States officially became a country, this pumpkin juice recipe is dated from 1771 (1):
“Let the pompion [pumpkin] be beaten in a trough and pressed as apples. The expressed juice is to be boiled in a copper [pot] a considerable time and carefully skimmed that there may be no remains of the fibrous part of the pulp. After that intention is answered let the liquid be hopped culled fermented & casked as malt beer”
Basically, they smashed and boiled them. Skimming the fibrous content from the pot, they were left with a juice.
Now they took it a step further and then fermented into beer, which is no surprise given that almost everyone was the equivalent of an alcoholic in those days. Not necessarily because they were addicts, but rather that fermented alcoholic beverages were considered safer to drink than water. Remember, that’s before the days of water treatment plants, where getting sick from drinking H2O was a very real health risk.
While not juice, it has also been consumed for centuries in another liquid version – as a soup. A recipe from that era describes making a stew spiced with nutmeg, with cream and butter for the base along with the fruit.
Is pumpkin a fruit? Yes. The word vegetable is not a botanical term, but rather a culinary description whose definition is largely subjective. On the other hand, the definition of fruit is botanical – it’s an edible portion of a plant which is formed from a flowering bud or that have seeds inside. Pumpkins actually do both and are therefore a fruit.
It used to be just pumpkin pie, but during the past decade or two, our obsession with this bright orange squash has reached a fever pitch. It started with simpler things, like the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Now, that seasonal coffee drink is accompanied by literally hundreds, if not thousands, of products containing this ingredient, ranging from pumpkin ice cream (from Trader Joe’s) to pumpkin spice kale chips (sold at Sprouts Farmers Market).
Even without the influence of Harry Potter, it was likely just a matter of time before it would be used for juicing. Though no doubt, J.K. Rowling’s books and movies are what put it on the fast track to actually being made.
Want to drink it? You have 3 options:
- Use the recipe below to make it yourself with fresh or frozen (easy)
- Make it instead with canned pumpkin (easier)
- Buy the juice premade (easiest)
Where to buy pumpkin juice?
In the fall, you may have luck finding it at a local juicer. Though even that is an uncommon sight. Here in Los Angeles, several of the biggest do not sell it.
Starting last year, Trader Joe’s pumpkin juice launched as a seasonally available item. You will find it for sale during October and Halloween but after that, it’s gone. The same applies to their many other foods and beverages of the same flavor, like their pumpkin almond milk, cereal, and cookies.
Unlike their pasteurized bottled and canned juices, you will find this one in the refrigerated section – it’s cold pressed and unpasteurized, which keeps more of the natural vitamin content intact.
What does the juice taste like? Like pumpkin pie filling, except it’s not overtly sweet. Enough sweetness to be enjoyable, but not so much that you have to feel guilty. It’s more diabetic friendly than orange or apple juice, given that its sugar concentration is lower.
If you want it to taste more like a dessert, you can always jazz up the flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and a sugar free sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
Now the caveat is that the Trader Joe’s version is not 100% pure pumpkin juice, as they add other things to it. However that fruit – Cucurbita pepo – is the first listed on the ingredients list, which means it is in higher concentration than all the other things.
Ingredients: Pumpkin Juice, Carrot Juice, Celery Juice, Sweet Potato Juice, Orange Juice, Ginger Juice, Turmeric
Data for 100% pure juice has not been published, but here is what the nutritional values look like for the cold pressed version from TJ’s.
|Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Juice Nutrition Facts|
|Serving Size: 1 bottle (450 mL)|
|Calories From Fat||0|
|% Daily Value*||% Daily Value|
|Total Fat 0g||0||Vitamin A||440%|
|Trans Fat 0g||Vitamin C||4%|
|Total Carbs. 28g||9%||Iron||0%|
|*Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet|
While it is an excellent source of vitamin A, the bad news is that the starring ingredient is a poor source of antioxidants. The ORAC value of raw pumpkin is 483, which is only a smidgen higher than iceberg lettuce at 438.
While no one has conducted ORAC tests on the juice extract, it is safe to assume it would be higher. Why? Because the ORAC scale looks at how much antioxidants there are in about 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Once you remove the heavy fibrous pulp – which has zero antioxidants – you would be left with the liquid concentration which inevitably, would contain a higher amount. How much more though is unknown without proper testing to find out.
The biggest health benefits of pumpkin juice will be for your vision. Beta carotene plays an important role in eyesight because it is used for your body’s production of rhodopsin, which is a type of protein used in your eyes for the absorption of light in the retina (2).
Additional benefits will be for your vital organs like the heart and kidneys, as it plays an important role throughout your body for the healthy function of cells.
Getting your vitamin A from a natural source is preferable over multivitamins and supplements.
Why? Because many of the dietary supplements don’t use the natural form (beta carotene) and instead, use the artificial synthetic form (retinyl palmitate).
The natural form is actually the precursor to vitamin A, meaning your body only converts what it needs. The latter is vitamin A already in its pre-formed state, meaning your body is forced to use it whether it needs it or not.
Retinyl palmitate can be overdosed on and that is especially dangerous for pregnant women. With natural beta-carotene in food, the side effects of too much are considered harmless… your skin may turn temporarily orangish.
They are also a rich source of other carotenoid phytonutrients. You will find 1,500 µg of lutein and zeaxanthin in 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of the whole raw fruit (3). White pumpkins are less nutritious, since they will have lower content of all carotenoids.
Whether it’s the vitamin A or the other carotenoids, all of them are fat-soluble nutrients so in order to maximize absorption, it’s best to eat or drink pumpkin with a meal or snack that a contains some fat. For example, a few almonds with your drink will do the trick.
You may be surprised to hear how much protein is in them. For every 100 calories worth, you are getting 4 grams of protein.
It has more protein than quinoa on a per calorie basis!
However the drawback (or benefit for weight loss?) is that because it’s such a low calorie food, to consume 100 calories worth you would need to eat 14 ounces, which is almost one full pound! Juicing it will allow for you to get this protein content in a more feasible way.
Harry Potter pumpkin juice review
Aside from Trader Joe’s, the only other mainstream place to buy it is at Universal Studios Orlando or Hollywood. You can also buy it on Amazon.
It comes in a cute 16 ounce bottle which perhaps is the most creative cap you will ever see for a beverage. It makes an excellent gift for any Harry Potter fan.
When it comes to nutritional value though, this is a shelf-stable product which has been pasteurized and some of the ingredients are not nice, but naughty.
Ingredients: Water, Apple Juice Concentrate, Pumpkin Puree, Apricot Puree, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Acesulfame Potassium, Sodium Benzoate.
Conclusion? It’s a great novelty item to add to your collection of wizardry, but this is far from being a superfood. One bottle contains a total of 48 grams of sugar. That’s bad, but one good thing we applaud them for is not loading it with salt – it only contains 70 mg of sodium (2% of the daily value). Dietary qualities aside, it’s too expensive to drink regularly.
How to make pumpkin juice?
Ultimately, your best bet may be to make your own.
The Trader Joe’s juice is a nice simple option, but it is only available seasonally and at $5 a bottle, that can turn into an easy albeit expensive habit as a daily drink.
Our review of the official Harry Potter version makes it pretty clear that it is not something you want to be adding your dietary regimen for health. Its best purpose would be as a Christmas or birthday gift for a true fan.
The recipe to make your own is not rocket science, but it will require proper equipment.
Since pumpkin is very high in fiber, you can’t simply dump the stringy pulp or harder pieces into your NutriBullet and blend it up – that would leave you with a puree, similar to the stuff you buy in the can for making pies.
Rather, what you will need is a real juicer which has the ability to remove the fibrous content. Otherwise, you would be left with a cup of that stuff you scoop into the trash during Jack o’ Lantern carving. If you have a real juicer, here is how to make it.
Step 1: Using either fresh or thawed frozen pumpkin, chop into chunks which easily fit into a juicer (1/2″ to 1″ cubes).
Step 2: Place chunks into juicer. Due to the high fiber content, some lower end machines may need water to accompany it (appx. 1 part water for every 2 parts pumpkin).
Step 3: Serve immediately over ice or chill by refrigeration for later enjoyment.
- Spice to your taste with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
- Add monk fruit, honey, or sweetener of your choice.
Use half pumpkin, half fresh apples. This will yield more juice since the apples have higher water content. Plus the fructose coming from the fruit will reduce or even eliminate the need for added sweeteners. If going this route, try Honeycrisp apples.
A pumpkin juice recipe with canned pumpkin is very easy to do. Using a blender, combine 1 cup the puree, 1 cup ice, and 2 cups water. Optionally, you may also use spices and sweetener.
As far as where to find fresh pumpkin for sale, you have a few options:
1. Save and freeze
If your family carves Jack o’ Lanterns at Halloween, it’s basically like you’re getting it for free, because you otherwise would be throwing out the innards. Instead, you can use them for juicing – either immediately or freezing for later use. Obviously this will require a more sanitary mindset during the carving process, since you will be eating what you carve out. If you freeze any, for safety purposes it would be best to freeze immediately before bacteria starts growing.
2. Buy frozen pumpkin
A number of ethnic cuisines – especially Thai – make use of this ingredient. Some specialty and health grocers will carry frozen chunks year ‘round. If you can find it, simply keep them on hand in your freezer. When want to juice, place them in your refrigerator to de-thaw overnight. The next morning, they will be ready to throw in your juicer! If you’re in a hurry, just leave the unopened bag on the counter for two hours.
3. Use other varieties
What we think of as a traditional pumpkin is simply a cultivated variety of the Cucurbita pepo plant. Other forms come from this very same species, even though they are not always orange on the outside:
- C. pepo var. pepo – This is what you think of as a regular pumpkin. Also known as a winter squash.
- C. pepo var. turbinata – An acorn or winter squash.
- C. pepo var. ovifera – Ornamental gourds, often egg shaped with long stems, sometimes warty in appearance.
Since these are all from the same species, any which are orange inside will produce a very similar flavor. Sometimes it’s easier to find one of these other forms versus the more seasonal variety which is usually only sold in the fall with decorative purposes in mind.
The Cucurbita moschata or butternut squash is a very close cousin with a similar nutritional profile. Making the juice using butternut squash works great too, as we all know how delicious the soup is which is made from it!
Be aware that white pumpkin juice won’t be as good for your health, since it will have less vitamin A and similar phytonutrients.
If you don’t have a juicer, we recommend The Juice Fountain Cold from Breville. It’s reasonably priced and well-reviewed.