How to Pick, Prepare, and Eat 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.
How to Pick the Perfect Kabocha
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 Prepare 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.
Cooking with Kabocha Squash
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. 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). Of course, it's perfect simply roasted, sprinkled with oil, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Kabocha goes great with rich flavors like curry, coconut milk, butter, cream, Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese.
Both kabocha squash and pumpkin are pureed together in this aromatic Kabocha Pumpkin Soup, spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. This creamy and warming soup can be prepared ahead and frozen, so it's ready for a quick meal or side dish.
Bright flavors, like orange zest and fresh sage, really make the Creamiest Winter Squash with Raisins and Sage a showstopper. Sprinkled with pecans and raisins, this side dish is sure to impress at your next holiday feast.
Of course, no kabocha squash recipe list would be complete without a recipe for Tempura for Vegetables. Steam the kabocha before battering, so it is perfectly tender when serving.
Mika's Kabocha Cake (Pumpkin Cake) is naturally sweet from the mashed kabocha squash and a drizzle of honey. This is a great recipe when you have a bit of leftover mashed kabocha from another meal.
When you're feeling a bit adventurous, or really want to impress, take the time to make this Potato-Free Paleo Gnocchi. It gets a bright orange color and sweet flavor from the kabocha squash, coconut milk, and a pinch of saffron.
Check out our collection of Winter Squash Recipes, including acorn, butternut, delicata, pumpkin, and spaghetti squash recipes.