Winter squash is one of my absolute favorite vegetables. They are hearty and filling, the perfect cold weather food. In the fall and winter, we probably have winter squash 2-3 nights per week or more. There are many different ways to prepare it, some more elaborate and fancy than others, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I think bringing winter squash out of the special occasion category and into the regular night dinner category is totally doable. Let me show you my favorite easy ways to cook winter squash!
There are many types of winter squash, but a few are more common than others. The ones you are most likely to see in the grocery store or farmers market are butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti, and small sugar pumpkins. Some of the less common, but still totally delicious varieties are kabocha, hubbard, red kuri, and buttercup.
The main thing to consider with any of these cooking methods is that they do take a bit of time, because winter squash are large and dense vegetables. That shouldn’t stop you though, because most of the cooking time is hands off. Just be aware of that and get them going early.
Roasting Squash Pieces
This is generally what I will do with butternut squash, as they are the easiest to peel and cut up into cubes or slices. The best way to do this is to cut the butternut crosswise (not lengthwise), then peel off the skin with a paring knife. Cut the bulbous end in half and scrape out the guts and seeds, then cut up the squash in whatever shapes you like. Toss them with some oil, olive or coconut work well, salt and pepper, and any herbs that you like (rosemary or sage work well). Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan, and cook at 400°F for 30-40 minutes, flipping or stirring halfway through.
You can also roast pieces of delicata or acorn squash, without peeling the skin off first, as they are too bumpy to mess with. Some people even like to eat the skin of delicata squash as it’s quite thin, or you can just leave the skin on your plate. It certainly makes for a beautiful presentation!
Roasting Squash Whole and Stuffing
Most varieties of winter squash are good for stuffing, as they are hollow in the center. My favorite varieties to use are acorn or delicata, as they are small enough that one stuffed half can usually be a single serving. First you will want to cut the squash in half, trim the ends, and scoop out the seeds. Coat the flesh with a bit of oil and salt and pepper, then put cut side down on a sheet pan.
Roast at 400°F for 40-60 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. When you can easily pierce the squash with a knife and the cut side is starting to turn brown and caramelize, the squash is done. This is the same method you will use whenever you want to roast a whole squash, regardless of the variety.
Then stuff the squash with whatever your heart desires. I like to do cooked ground beef or pork mixed with sauteed veggies. You can also keep it vegetarian and stuff it with quinoa or rice and lentils. Really anything will work here, and it’s always a good idea to top it with cheese and put it under the broiler for a minute or two.
Make Squash “Spaghetti”
This is one of my favorite ways of eating winter squash. Making spaghetti out of squash is easiest with a spaghetti squash, hence the name! Use the same method for roasting a whole squash that I describe above. When it’s done and cooled slightly, use a fork to get out the “spaghetti” strands. They will come out easily. Sometimes I’ll saute them with a little butter and sage and serve it as a side dish, but you can also top it with your favorite spaghetti sauce and eat it like noodles!
Besides spaghetti squash, you can also make your own noodles from butternut squash (or even zucchini) using a julienne peeler or spiralizer. This takes a bit more effort than just using a spaghetti squash, but is fun for a special dinner!
Mashed or Pureed Squash
Mashed squash makes a lovely side dish, and is very similar to mashed sweet potatoes. You can use any variety of squash (besides spaghetti), just roast whole using the method I describe above. Then scoop out the flesh and mash with a potato masher. You can make them on the sweet side with maple syrup and cinnamon, or savory like this delicious sounding mashed butternut squash with goat cheese and rosemary.
Pureed squash is taking mashed squash to the next level by pureeing it in a blender or food processor. It is usually kept plain and used for desserts like winter squash pie, winter squash cheesecake, or pumpkin custard cups.
Winter Squash Soup
Making winter squash soup is a very similar process to making mashed squash, but with the addition of more liquid. Butternut, kabocha, hubbard, and acorn are all good varieties to use. I particularly like to make sugar pumpkin coconut soup whenever I get the opportunity! Here is my simple recipe.
Roast the whole squash using the method I describe above, then scoop out the flesh and put it into a pot. Add a can of coconut milk and about a cup or so of chicken stock (you can adjust the amount of stock depending on how thick or thin you want your soup). Then add some sauteed onions, garlic, ginger, and herbs and spices (I like to use curry and cumin) if you like, but it’s not completely necessary.
Once everything is heated though, puree using an immersion blender, or transfer everything to a regular blender (you may have to work in batches). I have to admit that the immersion blender has really changed my life!
Continue to heat on low until ready to serve. This makes such a delicious soup, and is surprisingly easy to make! It’s adaptable to different flavors, too, like if you’d rather use cream or milk instead of coconut milk.
These are my five easy ways to cook winter squash! I hope I’ve inspired you to cook squash on a more regular basis at home. It’s such a lovely, tasty, and healthy vegetable to have around.
What is your favorite way to prepare winter squash? I’d love it if you shared your recipes with me in the comments!