16 Common Types of Squash — And the Best Ways to Use Them
Here's everything you ever wanted to know about squash.
Squash season is right around the corner, and with it comes endless possibilities for soups, pies, side dishes, casseroles, and more. From yellow squash to butternut squash to kabocha squash, you've probably noticed more than a few types of squash at your local farmers market or grocery store. In fact, there are over 100 types of squash that are categorized into both summer and winter varieties.
Wait—Is Squash a Fruit or Vegetable?
Most squash varieties have a mild, nutty flavor and silky texture. As a result, they're usually treated like vegetables in cooking. However, squash is technically a fruit. This is because it contains seeds and comes from the flowering part of plants. Other "fruits" that are treated like vegetables are cucumbers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
Now that we've settled that, read on for a list of sixteen common winter and summer squash varieties, plus easy ways to cook with them.
Common Types of Winter Squash
When it comes to winter squash, there are a dozen common varieties readily available. Winter squash is harvested in the summer, but gets its name based on how long it will keep.
It typically has a tough exterior, which ensures that it will keep for months after its harvested (no refrigerator necessary!). When picking any variety of winter squash, the stem is the best indicator of ripeness. Ripe squash should have a tan, dry stem and a matte exterior (rather than a glossy finish). For more, check out Four Ways to Cook Winter Squash.
1. Spaghetti Squash
Maybe the trendiest of all squash varieties, spaghetti squash has a shredded flesh that resembles, you guessed it, spaghetti. That's why it is often used as a healthy, low-carb substitute for pasta. It's also perfect for stuffing due to its roomy interior.
Popular Spaghetti Squash Recipes:
Read More: How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
2. Butternut Squash
This squash is typically shaped like a bulb, with a tan outer hue. The classic sweet flavor and rich texture of this winter squash makes it a popular pick for cold weather dishes such as soups, risotto, or gnocchi. It's also incredibly versatile and can be simply baked or sautéed to bring out its unique flavor.
"Roasted butternut squash soup is cheap, easy, nutrition, and absolutely delicious," says Chef John. "If you're feeling like something a bit more substantial, try this topped with a handful of crispy bacon or diced ham." See how it's done!
Popular Butternut Squash Recipes:
3. Acorn Squash
The acorn squash is shaped like its namesake, and has a green exterior and yellow-orange flesh. It has a mild flavor and is great for roasting or stuffing. Simply scoop out the seeds and glaze the inside flesh with syrup or brown butter for the perfect baked acorn squash.
Popular Acorn Squash Recipes:
4. Delicata Squash
Delicata is an heirloom variety with a cream and green striped rind. This oblong-shaped squash is very tender and the taste resembles that of a sweet potato. The skin on a delicata squash is actually edible, since it is very thin. They're delicious baked or stuffed, and you can even roast the seeds for a salty fall snack!
Popular Roasted Delicata Squash:
5. Kabocha Squash
This Japanese squash has a squatty shape, green rind, and orange flesh. The dense flesh and sweet flavor makes it well-suited for mashing and using in baked goods. It is also commonly used in soups, and is primarily grown and eaten in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the United States.
Popular Kabocha Squash Recipes:
6. Sweet Dumpling Squash
Sweet dumpling squash is much smaller than other winter squash varieties. It's roughly the size of a large apple and resembles a small pumpkin with a multi-color rind.
Because of the size and shape of this squash, it is often carved out and used as a bowl for soups or stuffed with meats, grains, cheeses, and other vegetables. The taste is similar to a sweet potato, and the flesh is smooth and tender. Try substituting sweet dumpling squash for acorn squash in your recipes.
Read More: How Sweet It Is: Sweet Dumpling Squash
7. Sugar Pumpkin
This bright orange gourd is a fall favorite, but there's much more to it than simply decoration. The sugar pumpkin is used mostly for pumpkin pie, but it's also great in breads, muffins, cupcakes, and soups.
Popular Sugar Pumpkin Recipes:
8. Red Kuri Squash
This squash, also known as an orange Hokkaido pumpkin, has a teardrop shape and an orange skin that is edible once cooked. Its flesh has a smooth texture, yellow color, and chestnut flavor. The word "kuri" is actually Japanese for chestnut.
Like sweet dumpling squash, red kuri squash can also act as a substitute for acorn squash. Try stuffing it with rice, vegetables, beans, or meat.
Read More: How to Prepare and Cook Red Kuri Squash
9. Carnival Squash
This stunning, multi-color squash is a cross between acorn and sweet dumpling squash, and can be easily substituted for either one. The flesh is sweet is great for stuffing, baking, or using in soup.
Try this Carnival Squash Recipe:
10. Buttercup Squash
Not to be confused with butternut squash, buttercup squash is similar in appearance to kabocha, with an orange flesh that dries up after cooking. This squash requires peeling, since the skin is inedible. It's best roasted as a side dish, baked into a casserole, stuffed, or mashed for soups.
Popular Buttercup Squash Recipes:
11. Hubbard Squash
This massive squash can weigh anywhere between five to fifteen pounds, and has a slate-toned color and a lumpy exterior. But don't let looks fool you — this squash has a sweet flesh that can be used as a substitute for pumpkin. The texture is grainy, so its best mashed or pureed. Try hubbard squash as a substitute for acorn squash in these Fall-Infused Mashed Potatoes.
Popular Blue Hubbard Squash Recipes:
12. Banana Squash
Like their namesake, this squash has a light yellow exterior, and a long shape. Its flesh is orange and sweet and is perfect mashed or pureed for soups. It can also be used as a salad topping by thinly shaving pieces of the flesh.
Popular Banana Squash Recipes:
Common Types of Summer Squash
While yellow squash and zucchini squash can be found in the grocery store most of the year, summer brings new varieties of squash too. The major difference between summer and winter squash is their time on the vine.
Summer squash is harvested much earlier than winter squash, giving it a soft and tender exterior. Summer squash is best chopped and sautéed, and requires less time to cook than winter squash.
Remember that when it comes to summer squash-it should be chilled and eaten within a week or two of purchase (unlike that those hard winter squash types).
13. Yellow Squash
Yellow squash has a bright yellow exterior and a bulbous bottom that tapers towards the top. It is often used interchangeably with zucchini or paired with it (they're like peas in a pod).
There are two varieties of yellow squash, distinguished only by the shape of their neck: straight neck and crookneck. They tend to have thin, tender skins that make them easy to chop and saute or bake into a casserole.
Popular Yellow Squash Recipes:
14. Zucchini Squash
Zucchini is summer's favorite squash, and for good reason. This versatile veggie has a deep green color and straight shape. Zucchini tends to take on the flavor of the accompanying spices, making them perfect for just about anything: grilling, sautéing, steaming, baking, and more.
It also makes a great low-carb substitute for fries or noodles. And of course, zucchini is great for baking. Whether it's classic Zucchini Bread or even cookies, you can pretty much do it all with zucchini.
Popular Zucchini Recipes:
15. Pattypan Squash
This summertime squash takes the shape of a spaceship, and can come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, and green (or a mix). This unusual squash is not as readily available in grocery stores like yellow squash or zucchini, but it can often be found at local farmer's markets. This is another versatile squash. It's great steamed, sauteed, fried, Gotgrilled, baked, and stuffed.
Popular Pattypan Squash Recipes:
16. Chayote Squash
Although this squash resembles a pear, you probably don't want to bite directly into it. Chayote squash originated in Mexico, and is now grown all over the world.
This is a very low-calorie squash, with a taste similar to that of a cucumber. Like other summer squash, it's extremely versatile and can be grilled, sauteed, baked, or used in soup. You can even eat it raw as a salad topping for added crunch.
Popular Chayote Squash Recipes:
Related: Browse our entire collection of Squash Recipes.