Don't get it confused with acorn squash — this sweet winter squash has so much to offer.

By Melanie Fincher and Allrecipes Editors
Updated November 11, 2020
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What's shaped like pumpkin, with a green exterior and sweet, orange flesh? Kabocha squash! If you're not familiar with this lesser-known winter squash, this is the year to take advantage of all it has to offer. Here's you'll learn all you need to know about buying, cooking, and storing kabocha squash.

What Is Kabocha Squash?

Kabocha squash is a green Japanese pumpkin that is available year-round. Sweeter than butternut squash, its orange flesh is a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato, and has the texture of roasted chestnuts. It's also quite similar to acorn squash, but much sweeter, and can be used in any recipe calling for the latter.

It is widely used in Japan and Korea, and is becoming more and more popular in the United States. It's smaller than many squashes, which makes it great for a single serving. Like many other winter squash, kabocha is packed with betacarotene, iron, vitamins A and C, and fiber. It also has less than half the carbs of other squash.

Kabocha
Photo by Bigstock

How to Pick Kabocha Squash

Usually dark green with faint stripes or spots, kabocha have a squat pumpkin shape and a dull finish. There are a few varieties whose bright orange rind matches their bright orange flesh. Like many other squashes, choose kabocha that are heavy for their size, with a dull and firm rind.

Though they range in weight from one to eight pounds, most fall in the two to three pound range. They are usually available in late summer to early fall and store well in cool, dry conditions for up to one month.

How to Clean and Cut Kabocha Squash

Like many winter squash, kabocha have a tough rind that can be difficult to cut through. Using a large chef knife, carefully cut the squash in half through the stem end. Scoop out the seeds, then cut your squash into large wedges or leave halved and roast.

Save the seeds to roast just like pumpkin seeds. Some chefs suggest microwaving the squash for a few minutes to soften the rind and make it easier for cutting.

How to Cook Kabocha Squash 3 Ways

Kabocha squash can be roasted or steamed and used just like, or in replace of, other winter squashes. Once cooked, the tough skin softens and is edible.

How to Roast Kabocha Squash in the Oven

Kabocha squash is perfect simply roasted, sprinkled with oil, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Here's how to do it:

Ingredients:

  • Kabocha squash, cut in half with seeds scooped out
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Brush the squash halves with oil, season with cinnamon and salt. Place in baking dish.
  3. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until fork tender.
  4. Allow the squash to cool slightly, and then scoop out the flesh to serve.

How to Cook Kabocha Squash in the Slow Cooker

For the most hands-off approach, use your slow cooker.

Ingredients:

  • Whole, uncut kabocha squash

Instructions:

  1. After scrubbing it clean, place the whole squash in the slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for five to six hours, or until fork tender.
  3. Remove from the slow cooker and allow the squash to cool slightly. Cut in half, remove the seeds, scrape out the flesh, and serve.

How to Cook Kabocha Squash in the Instant Pot

Use your Instant Pot to steam kabocha squash for fluffy, tender flesh in less time.

Ingredients:

  • Whole, uncut kabocha squash
  • 1 cup water

Instructions:

  1. After scrubbing it clean, pierce the squash, making about 10 to 15 cuts.
  2. Place the steamer basket inside the inner pot and add water. Place the squash on top of the basket.
  3. Close the lid and set the steam valve to the sealing position. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes.
  4. Once the time is up, quick release the remaining pressure. Remove the squash, cut in half, remove seeds, scrape out the flesh, and serve.

More Ways to Cook Kabocha Squash

It is widely used in tempura in Japan, but is also great pureed. This sweet winter squash is terrific in stews, soups, and baked goods (think: muffins, breads, and pancakes).

Kabocha goes great with rich flavors like curry, coconut milk, butter, cream, Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese.

How to Store Kabocha

Like other types of winter squash, kabocha has a thick rind that ensures it will keep for up to a month when stored in a cool, dry place. Once cut into, whether cooked or raw, kabocha squash should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

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