How to Cook Any Type of Winter Squash from pumpkin and butternut to kabocha, acorn, and more ~ all members of the gorgeous gourd family are edible, healthy, and delicious, and you shouldn’t miss one fabulous bite!
I’ve done the research so you can feel confident venturing outside your winter squash comfort zone this year…there are so many beautiful and underutilized varieties of squash, all of them edible, and all of them delicious, you just need to know how to handle them. So before you reach for yet another butternut squash, give these other fun varieties a fair shake!
aka: peanut squash, Bohemian squash, Sweet Dumpling, or sweet potato squash
Oblong squash with striped edible skin and a yellow background. Delicatas are considered a winter squash, but are actually part of the same family as summer squash. One of their distinguishing characteristics is that you can eat the skin, no peeling necessary! The flavor is sweet, similar to a sweet potato.
Delicata is a good source of potassium and dietary fiber, and contains magnesium, manganese, and vitamins C and B. It’s not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squash.
how to cook delicata squash:
This one is super easy to cook, just wash, and slice into rings. Remove the strings and seeds, toss with oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast in a hot oven until tender. It’s an easy side dish for any fall or winter meal, it will go with just about everything. Serve it as is, or cut thicker rings and stuff. The peel is edible and softens during cooking.
aka: decorator squash
Carnival squash is a relatively recent type of squash, it’s a hybrid of the sweet dumpling and acorn squash. It’s shaped like a mini pumpkin, and people love Carnival squash because it’s so pretty and has so many varied patterns, no two are alike! You’d almost be tempted to use it decoratively, but you’d be missing out on its sweet nutty flavor.
Carnival squash has a good amount of potassium, vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids.
how to cook carnival squash:
Use Carnival squash like you’d use Acorn squash. Because of its small size you may not want to bother with peeling. I like to halve it, scoop out the innards, and roast it cut side down on a baking sheet at 350F for 30 minutes. The same goes for microwaving, only it takes about 10 minutes, give or take.
GOLD NUGGET SQUASH
Gold Nugget squash are small orange pumpkin shaped squash. This cute single serving squash was bred to be sweet like a sweet potato.
Winter squash like Gold Nugget is low calorie and a good source of complex carbs (the good kind) and fiber. A great source of vitamin A, C, potassium, and manganese.
how to cook gold nugget squash:
these individual sized small squashes are great for single servings, or for stuffing with all kinds of things. Puncture a few holes in the flesh with a fork and you can either bake them whole, or cut them in half on a baking sheet for about 40 minutes at 350F, or just until the point of a knife slides in easily. Puree the flesh to make pie!
It can also be microwaved…just halve and remove the seeds etc, then microwave the halves for about 10 minutes, or until soft.
aka: baby pumpkins
These tiny pumpkins come in white or orange and are often used as centerpieces or decorative accents. But, like all winter squash, they make good eats!
All pumpkins are known for being rich in Vitamin A and C, along with plenty of healthy minerals, especially potassium.
how to cook snowbaby pumpkin:
I love to cook smallish (under 4 pounds) pumpkin right in the Instant Pot! Place it in the pot, add 2 cups of water, and pressure cook on high for 15 minutes. Most 3-4 pound pumpkins cook in 15 minutes, but some dense ones can take 20 minutes. The peel slides right off, then you scoop out the seeds, and puree the flesh.
aka: Japanese Pumpkin, Kent Pumpkin, Red Kabocha
Kabocha is Japanese for squash, and it’s my current favorite of all the winter squashes. (I’m fickle, though, and that can change in an instant.) Kabocha has a deep orange red flesh and a relatively dry consistency compared to other winter squash. Kabocha skin is edible, so you technically don’t need to peel it.
Kabocha squash not only has many of the same nutritional benefits as other types of winter squash, but it has the added benefit of having less calories and less carbs than many other types, including butternut squash.
how to cook kabocha squash:
I like to roast kabocha whole, just pierce with a sharp knife in a few places, put on a baking sheet, and roast at 375F until tender (the point of a sharp knife should slide in easily.)
You can also slice in half and de-seed before roasting: cut in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds, and roast, face down on a baking sheet in a 375F oven until tender. You can also peel and chop before roasting ~ toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper before arranging in a single layer on a baking sheet. To boil: peel seed, and chop, then boil until tender.
- Whipped Kabocha Squash with Vanilla Bean and Nutmeg
- Whole Roasted Kabocha Squash with Chipotle Butter
- Kabocha Tempura
aka: Vegetable Spaghetti, Calabash
The flavor isn’t the point with this squash (it’s bland), it’s all about the unique texture ~ when you scrape the cooked insides of spaghetti squash with a fork, you’ll get “strings” that look like strands of spaghetti. Spaghetti squash has gained popularity as a low carb alternative to pasta in many recipes. I was skeptical at first, but came to love it, the texture is perfect and the flavor is so mild that it works with all kinds of recipes.
Spaghetti squash is a great source of fiber, and, similar to kabocha squash, is also lower in calories and carbs compared to most other types of winter squash.
how to cook spaghetti squash:
Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast, cut side down, on a baking sheet at 350F for about 30-45 minutes, depending on size, or until soft. Turn right side up, and scrape out strands of flesh with a fork. You can also microwave it: cut in half, scoop, and place cut side down in a baking dish. Add 1 inch of water, and micro on high for 10-15 minutes, or until soft.
aka: Butternut Pumpkin, Gramma Pumpkin
Butternut squash is probably the best known winter squash after pumpkin, and for good reason ~ it’s flavor is amazing, it’s simple to cook, and it’s relatively easy to get at all that delicious flesh.
Along with many other vitamins and minerals, butternut squash is a good source of the mineral potassium.
how to cook butternut squash:
Butternut is the best choice if you want or need chunks of squash for a recipe. The long neck is pure flesh, no seeds, etc., so you can harvest quite a bit. Tip: I like to slice the neck off, then slice lengthwise planks, slice off the rind, and then cut into even cubes. You can roast or boil the chunks, depending on your recipe, or drop them right into soups and stews. Before roasting, toss the cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper before arranging in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 375F until tender and caramelized.
To roast the whole squash: cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out seeds, and roast, face down on a baking sheet in a 375F oven until tender. To microwave: cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cook the squash on high for about 10 minutes, depending on size, or until the flesh is soft.
- Perfect Butternut Squash Soup
- Kale and Butternut Salad with Maple Spiced Pecans
- Roasted Winter Veggie Bliss Bowl
aka: Cucurbita pepo
Next to butternut, acorn squash is the most recognizable of the winter squashes (although it’s actually part of the summer squash family,) your grocery store stocks them along with the potatoes and onions year round. You’ll need a sharp knife for this one, the flesh is dense. But that thick skin also means it keeps a loooooong time on your counter ~ sweet!
Acorn squash is low in calories, and nutrient dense. It’s especially high in Vitamin C and a good source of fiber. Acorn squash is considered a healthy carb.
how to cook acorn squash:
Because of their intricate shape, don’t even think about peeling it, the best way to cook an acorn squash is to halve it, scoop out the seeds, and roast. You can roast cut side up or down. If roasting cut side up, you can fill the cavity with maple syrup, butter, brown sugar, etc. They’re ideal for stuffing. You can also slice acorn squash into rings or half-rings for roasting. To microwave it: cut in half, place on a microwave safe plate, and cook it for 10 minutes on high. You can also leave it whole, first piercing it all over with the tip of a sharp knife to vent (this is important so steam doesn’t build up.)
and don’t forget about all those seeds!
Every variety of winter squash has one thing in common ~ lots of seeds! If you hate wasting any part of your squash, or are just curious about ways to use the seeds, I highly recommend checking out my post on How to Roast Squash Seeds. It’s got all the details on the best ways to clean and roast your squash seeds, plus some seasoning recommendations. Squash seeds make great snacks, or a crunchy topping for all kinds of dishes.