What to do with leftover Halloween pumpkins – 5 zero-waste options

Clever ways to make the most of leftover pumpkins as shared by professional gardeners, minimalists and natural remedies experts

(Image credit: Future)

Avoid wasting pumpkins now spooky season has come and gone with our list of eco-friendly and fun ways to use leftovers. Decorating with pumpkins is synonymous with fall and Halloween, but a lot ends up going to waste once the festivities are over.

Bearing in mind that an uncarved pumpkin will last two to three months if it's been stored somewhere fairly cool, there’s really no reason you can’t enjoy them in the kitchen afterward. Check for signs that the pumpkin has gone bad, and clean them thoroughly.

The same can’t be said for carved pumpkins, which will only last a day or two, but there are options out in the backyard that put pumpkins to good use providing nutrients to your yard and local wildlife.

What to do with leftover Halloween pumpkins

From feeding birds to cooking up something magical, here's how to ensure your Halloween decoration ideas don't go to waste.

halloween front porch decor

(Image credit: Shea McGee / Studio McGee)

1. Compost

compost used as a mulch

(Image credit: Future)

‘The best thing to do with leftover pumpkins after Halloween is to add them to your compost pile and reduce waste,' says professional landscaper Quinten O'Dea. 'Pumpkin seeds can be harvested from the guts when making jack-o'-lanterns. These seeds can be dried, and saved for planting next year.'

Quinten O’Dea
Quinten O’Dea

Quinten O’Dea is a professional landscaper with over 13 years of experience completing quality projects. His company Q&A Landscaping has been planting flowers, shrubs and trees for over a decade now throughout the Pittsburgh area.

Add them to your compost by cutting up pumpkins into small pieces, and putting them in your compost bin. 'Make sure to break up the pumpkin to help it break down quicker and spread it around the compost pile,' says Drew Swainston, Homes & Gardens content editor and former professional gardener. 'Also, if you haven’t already for carving, remove the seeds if you do not want new pumpkins to grow next year.'

Making compost gives you a nutrient-rich fertilizer for the plants in your yard, so your Halloween decorations can benefit your spring plants.

Drew Swainston
Drew Swainston

Drew qualified as a journalist and wrote for many websites and publications, before studying for a horticulture qualification. He worked as a professional gardener for several years, specializing in kitchen gardening. He's now bringing his expertise and passion to Homes & Gardens as a member of our team. 

2. Bury them

No compost heap? Drew Swainston adds that you can simply chop up pumpkins and bury them around the garden to decompose in the ground if you do not have a dedicated compost heap. Dig a hole and fill it with scraps before covering over with soil.

3. Cook with them

pumpkin slices baked with herbs on a dish

(Image credit: Future)

The most obvious way to make the most of leftover Halloween pumpkins is to make them into a delicious seasonal snack. We recommend washing pumpkins thoroughly before blitzing them into a comforting soup using a blender

This Ninja blender, at Amazon, is one of the best we have tested. Alex David, Homes & Gardens' head of e-commerce says, 'We tried this in the test kitchen recently and it made an amazing sweet potato and squash soup, so it will probably be great on pumpkin, too.'

If you're looking for something quicker and with less washing up, cook seasoned, sliced pumpkin in the air fryer. This Instant Essentials air fryer, at Amazon is a great option if yours has seen better days. 'Over the years we've found that smaller, cheaper air fryers like this are better for roasting vegetables. The smaller capacity means that they're more efficient and therefore a lot faster,' says Alex.

For sweet tooths, bake muffins or a simple pumpkin pie in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Alex David author profile photo
Alex David

As head of eCommerce, Alex David makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from the University of Cambridge, Alex learned the tricks of the trade at the Good Housekeeping Institute, testing everything from vacuums and washing machines to dog toys to exercise bikes. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, where he got into the weeds to discover the best gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. At a time when it can be tricky to know what's what, and when budgets are tighter than ever, helping readers to find the right products to make their lives a little easier is a genuine passion.

4. Donate them

Minimalist blogger Ashley Mann points out that one of the best options is to donate them to a charity or animal shelter. 'In my area, we have a local horse rescue that asks for people to donate their leftover pumpkins for them to feed the horses as treats,' Ashley shares.

'There are many types of horse-related charities that might appreciate such a donation, for example, I used to volunteer at a non-profit ranch that offered horseback riding as therapy. It would just be extremely important that any donated pumpkins have not been sprayed with any chemicals that could be harmful to the horses.

Ashley Mann
Ashley Mann

On her blog, Moving Toward Minimalism, Ashley Mann shares tips and resources that helped her to downsize and move into a fifth wheel travel trailer.

5. Make a bird feeder

pumpkin bird feeder with seeds

(Image credit: Alamy)

A wonderful way to repurpose your leftover pumpkins is by transforming them into a natural bird feeder for your garden,' comments Barbi Gardiner founder of blog Outdoor Apothecary. To do this, you can either hang smaller pumpkins from branches with string or simply slice the pumpkin in half and set it out in a spot where birds frequent. 

'This not only provides a feast for your local bird community but also adds a touch of autumnal charm to your outdoor space. You'll find that cardinals and blue jays are particularly fond of this pumpkin treat.'


What's the best way to dispose of pumpkins?

The best way to dispose of jack-o-lanterns and carved pumpkins would be to chop them up and put them in the compost, says landscape gardener Quinten O'Dea. 'While some pumpkins will decompose and add nutrients to your garden for future years they provide a food source to scavenging herbivores like deer.

Why not save some pumpkin seeds to plant them? The best time will be between April and June depending on where you live. As well as putting seeds to good use it will mean you can be resourceful and grow your own pumpkins ready for next year

Millie Hurst
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.