Halloween pumpkin carving

My sister-out-law and her family visited the US during the Halloween season and fell in love with it. Halloween is not big in Australia, but I love the holiday and I can’t let it pass me by without some celebration. We invited the family over for an afternoon of Halloween pumpkin carving followed by dinner.

Field pumpkins, the big orange type that Americans use for jack o’ lanterns are not common in Australia, but the local supermarkets carry them for Halloween in limited supply (my local Woolworths has run out). They come at a premium, costing about $3/kg, but you can carve any type of pumpkin, gourd, or squash.

I was the only person in the room who had ever carved a pumpkin. Luckily, it’s easy.

The first step is to hollow out the pumpkin. Use a sharp knife or small saw to cut a hole at the top if you’re going to illuminate the pumpkin with a candle. If you’re using an electric light, cut it at the bottom so it’s easier to hide the cord. A battery-operated tea-light is a good option too.

Puree the pumpkin for later use.

Next, scoop out the flesh, pulp, and seeds with a spoon or some kind of scraper.  For an delicious and healthy snack, toast the pumpkin seeds. Just toss them together with some olive oil, season them with salt and pepper if you like, spread them evenly on a baking sheet, and place it in the even until toasted and fragrant. In the past, I’ve also used the rest of the pumpkin innards to make pumpkin bread, but this weekend I made Martha Stewart’s Graveyard Cake.

Now comes the fun part: the design. You can draw it by hand or find a template you like online and print it. Cut away excess paper around the design and tape the template to the pumpkin. Trace the design by poking holes through the paper and into the pumpkin. Remove the template and use a miniature saw or knife to carve along the pattern you traced.

There are many different tools you can use to carve a pumpkin including keyhole saws, carving, and sculpting tools that you can pick up in hobby shops and even a power drill. I find that the plastic tools in pumpkin carving kits found in stores this time of year work just fine. We used a variety of tools from kitchen knives and spoons to an ice cream scoop, plastic carving tools, and sculpting tools. We were happy with the results.

Carved Halloween pumpkins.

After the pumpkins were carved, the table was transformed from work station back to dining table. Clean up is easy if you lay down a plastic table cloth you can later pick up in one full swoop. We had roasted rosemary pork with potatoes and veggies for dinner plus pumpkin ravioli for our vegetarian guests. And of course, that yummy spiced pumpkin cake for dessert.

A carved pumpkin will start to decay pretty quickly. There are various ideas about preservation and most of them are myths. I suggest that you carve it just a few days before Halloween for optimum performance. Don’t expect it to last more than a couple of weeks, less if it’s warm and humid out.

We have three pumpkins that we’ll put out to encourage children to trick-or-treat at our door. I bought some individually-wrapped mini chocolates. Halloween has a long way to go in Australia so I’ll be happy if we get one child. If not, well, we have chocolate. Win-win.

What are you doing for Halloween?



  • Its our 3rd wedding anniversary 😀 we going to try a Greek restaurant we’ve never been to yet and letting the older kids and Gma hang out with our 1 yr old and pass out candy. We will most likely carve our pumpkins Tuesday evening 😀 enjoy your Halloween, Cosette!! And I hope you get more than 1 trick or treater!

    • Thanks, Gypsy! And happy happy anniversary to you!

  • Eva

    Had a wonderful time carving the pumpkins.
    I hope we both get at least one knock on the door 🙂

    • I’m glad you had a great time. We loved having you all over 🙂

  • Ah… pumpkins. I always hated scooping out the guts. So gross!!!

    • Ah, yeah, not my favorite part, but I don’t mind so much. You can cook ’em up for yummy goodness.

  • Nancy

    You are right!……..Australia has a long way to go yet but we are making some tracks when it comes to Halloween. If you ever get the chance, check out Hampton Street Hampton Victoria (only a few suburbs from where I live). Halloween is alive and kicking down this thoroughfare strip of shops. Each store contributes to trick or treat and the street is filled with children long with adults all dressid up. I had no idea until I went last year with my sister-in-laws. It is totally insane and I cannot want to go there again this year.

    • Thanks for the tip! That sounds like a lot of fun and I will have to check it out.

  • Coming from America, I want to teach my house mates about carving pumpkins. I have been looking for the big orange ones but no luck 🙁 Any idea where you could get the carving tools? It’s not like back home where they just sell them in packages. Also, I am going to head to Hampton to check that out.

    • I found the carving tools at my local Woolworths as well as pumpkins. If worse comes to worse, you can try getting them online. Good luck!

  • buryoungz

    Coming from America, I want to spread the fun to my house mates. I’ve had no luck finding any pumpkins though. I never even seen them at my local Woolies. I may try the Vic Market or go down the road mentioned above ^

  • Denise

    I Also come from America and use to carve 20 pumpkins every year for Halloween for parties. After carving them put them inside woolies grocery bags then put into your fridge, one from under your pumpkin and one from top if needed just make sure to cover them. They kept for a week very well. Good luck 😊 I love Halloween and am glad our area here in QLD is finally bringing their kids to our door.