Tips, tricks, and recipes for 5 common types of winter squash you can find at your local grocery store. No reason to be intimidated by these beauties. Here is a how-to guide you’ll use again and again.
Cooking with winter squash may seem daunting if you’ve never done it or you have limited experience with it. I want you to be able to enjoy these delicious vegetables, so I’ve come up with a guide filled with tips, tricks, and recipes with winter squash. These include Butternut, Spaghetti, Acorn, Pumpkin, and Kabocha. Let’s break it down by type of squash.
The flavor of this squash is nutty and sweet. It can be roasted and eaten with a little salt and thyme, or pureéd and added to sauces or soups. It’s easily frozen in cubes for up to one month. I recommend not to try to eat it in cube form after freezing and thawing, however, since it will be higher in water content and slightly mushy. It is best used for sauces and soups after freezing.
To cook butternut squash, start by cutting down the middle between the neck and the bulbous bottom with a chef knife in one motion. It’s a tough little guy, so remember to keep your fingers far away while cutting at all times.
After cutting in half, slice the top where the vine is attached and the bottom where it sat on the ground to make an even surface. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough skin from both pieces. Next, slice the pieces in half lengthwise. You will reveal a section containing seeds in the bottom half when you do this. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop and remove them. Continue cutting on an even, dry, non-wiggly surface until you have the size cubes you need for your recipe.
Here are some great recipes with butternut squash.
- Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash sauce
- Baked Maple and Brown Sugar Butternut Squash
- Creamy One Pot Butternut Squash Soup
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Cinnamon Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries
Spaghetti squash is pale yellow in color and has a distinct shredded texture when cooked. This can often be a healthier substitute for pasta. It’s very filling so it works great for vegetarian meals. It has a high water content so it’s important to take that into consideration when cooking with it so your dish doesn’t end up being watery.
Since you end up shredding the contents inside, there is no need to peel a spaghetti squash. Oftentimes the exterior shell is too hard to cut through while it’s raw so here’s a pro tip: bake it in an oven on 375° for 15 minutes until the shell becomes soft enough to cut through.
To cook, start by turning the oven up to 425°. Cut it in half lengthwise after first softening in the oven, and remove the seeds with a spoon or ice cream scoop. Brush the tops and middle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the pieces upside-down so the flesh is touching the baking sheet and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until it’s easily shredded.
You can use the shredded squash in the place of pasta, in soups, or in fried fritters. Here are a few recipes for reference.
- Sausage and White Bean-Stuffed Spaghetti Squash (this is one of my favorites!)
- Low Carb Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Over Spaghetti Squash
- Spicy Spaghetti Squash Noodles
- Low Carb Spaghetti Squash Carbonara
Acorn squash is a bit smaller than most of the other winter squash varieties. This makes it a little easier to handle and cut. There are multiple ways to cook this little guy and deliver a punch to any meal. You can cut it into two pieces or slice into beautiful horizontal sections. It’s perfect as a sweet or savory side or you can stuff it for a filling meal.
To cook, place the squash on an evenly balanced cutting board and slice down the middle. Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to take out the seeds. You can leave it in two pieces at this point or slice it horizontally into 1/2-inch sections. Depending on if you want a sweet or savory dish, brush it with butter or olive oil, and from there the variations are endless. You can drizzle the pieces with honey, sprinkle with salt and pepper, coat with an herb blend, or create a filling to place inside the two halves for a beautiful meal.
Take a look at these awesome recipes for some inspiration.
- Easy Acorn Squash Soup Recipe
- Chickpea Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Stuffed Acorn Squash + Wild Rice Medley
- Easy Roasted Acorn Squash Recipe
Pumpkin is possibly the most popular squash and is used in so many types of recipes. It can be used for sweet or savory dishes. One of the most notable uses is for pie, and can also include chili, cookies, soup, bread, cake, and toasted seeds. This squash is unique because you can buy it in different forms: whole, purely canned, or as a pre-made pie filling.
In order to cook, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon or ice cream scoop. Bake in the oven flesh side down on a baking sheet at 400° for about 30 minutes until it’s soft enough to scoop out. You can then use it in a variety of dishes. Buying canned pumpkin is arguably easier, however, you don’t get the same fresh flavor. For some dishes, this is necessary, but it’s something to keep in mind when choosing your specific recipe. You can ask yourself, “Would this dish benefit from a fresh pumpkin, or will it blend in with other flavors and not matter as much?”
Pumpkin recipes you can enjoy all year long:
- The Best Weeknight Pumpkin Chili
- Caramel drizzled Pumpkin Cookies
- Pumpkin Bundt Cake
- Crunchy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Kabocha is a sweeter variety than most others. It has a texture like a Butternut and can be used in a similar fashion. You can peel it and cut it in cubes to be roasted, roast it in halves, slice it like an Acorn, or mash it. You can find kabocha in most grocery, specialty, and organic grocery stores.
See these recipes for some great Kabocha ideas.
- Kabocha Squash Soup in the Slow Cooker
- Kabocha Squash Tea Cake with Toasted Nuts
- Roasted Kabocha Squash
- Kabocha Squash Muffins
Cooking with winter squash is easy and so worth the time it takes to prepare. You can use this guide to give you insight on how to cook these specific types of squash and carry you on to try new recipes in new ways to find the perfect combination for you and your family. All it takes is a little practice to start making beautiful and delicious meals that you’ll be proud to call your own.