12 Types of Winter Squash — And How to Cook Them

We're here to help you make the most of the tastiest squash types.

Bring on squash season! The arrival of these colorful fruits — yes, they're technically fruit — provide a great excuse to try some new winter squash recipes. Here are some sure-fire suggestions, along with tips on how to buy the best squash on the market.

Choosing and Storing Winter Squash

When selecting fall and winter squash, choose firm squash with no visible blemishes or soft spots. A ripe squash will have a tan, dry stem and matte exterior. Store winter squash in a dry, cool spot (but not the refrigerator) and use within a month or so.

Types of Winter Squash

What you may not know about winter squash is that they are actually harvested in the summertime. They get their name based on how long they keep. Winter squash have tough exteriors, helping them to last well into the winter months even without refrigeration.

1. Delicata Squash

Thin and pale yellow with telltale green striping, delicata squash have a tasty yellow flesh that is typically prepared by baking, frying, braising, or steaming. Also called "sweet potato squash," look for them from late summer through the fall.

Delicata Squash
Photo by Meredith.

Watch this short video for the full scoop on how to roast delicata squash, courtesy of Chef John:

2. Acorn Squash

As you might expect, the shape of this popular winter squash resembles an enormous acorn. It has orange flesh and a ribbed skin that's green fading to orange. It is often prepared simply: sliced in half, baked with a little butter or olive oil, and eaten straight from its bowl-like shell. You can also roast, braise, and steam acorn squash.

Acorn Squash
Photo by Meredith.

Watch Chef John demonstrate how to cut open and bake acorn squash.

3. Butternut Squash

Pale yellow (almost cream colored) on the outside with somewhat sweet, orange flesh, butternut are a large winter squash with smooth but thick skin. Popular ways to prepare butternut squash include baking, simmering, braising, and steaming.

Butternut squash

See how to prep and bake butternut squash.

4. Hubbard Squash

A popular squash for boiling and mashing or puréeing, hubbard squash is very big with a thick shell that's bumpy and ranges in color from bright orange to deep green. The yellow-orange flesh can be a bit grainy.

Hubbard Squash
Photo by Meredith.

5. Spaghetti Squash

It's called "spaghetti squash" because, when cooked, the golden flesh separates like strings of spaghetti. These pale-yellow squash have a hard, smooth shell and are at their peak in early fall through the winter, though you can find them year-round.

Spaghetti squash are commonly prepared in casseroles or baked whole (like a potato) and then the flesh separated into spaghetti-like strands and served with sauces.

Spaghetti Squash
Photo by Meredith.

6. Turban Squash

Often quite colorful, turban squash are short and squat with a distinctive turban-like protuberance at the top. Because of their unusual look, they are popular as decorative squash. But you can also bake, steam, or simmer turban squash. Buttercup squash (see below) are a popular culinary variety.

Turban Squash
Photo by Meredith.

7. Kabocha Squash

Not to be confused with acorn squash, kabocha squash is a sweet Japanese squash with dense flesh. It's well suited for mashing, baked goods, and soups.

Kabocha Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

8. Sweet Dumpling Squash

With a name like that, you know this squash is bound to be adorable. This tiny squash is about the size of an apple, with a shape that resembles that of a pumpkin. Its beautiful, multi-colored rind might tempt you to save it purely for decoration, but this little squash has sweet, tender flesh underneath. Its shape makes it ideal for stuffing with meats, grains, cheeses, and other vegetables.

Sweet Dumpling Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

9. Sugar Pumpkin

When you think fall, sugar pumpkins immediately come to mind. While you can use them for decoration, they're also fabulous in pies, breads, muffins, cupcakes, soups, and so much more.

Sugar Pumpkin Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

10. Red Kuri Squash

You may also find this teardrop-shaped pumpkin labeled as "orange Hokkaido pumpkin." Its rich orange skin can be eaten after cooking, and its smooth yellow interior has been described as having a chestnut flavor. Try stuffing it much like you would sweet dumpling or acorn squash.

Red Kuri Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

11. Carnival Squash

This stunning squash gets its name for its colorful rind — it's actually a cross between acorn and sweet dumpling squash. Use the sweet flesh the same way you would those squash types.

Carnival Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

12. Buttercup Squash

Similar in appearance to kabocha, buttercup squash has a squatty shape, a green rind, and orange flesh. Try roasting it, baking it, mashing it, or stuffing it.

Buttercup Squash
Photo by Getty Images.

How to Cook Winter Squash 4 Ways

If you've never handled one of those thick-skinned winter squashes before, the idea of actually cooking with it can be a little intimidating. (To save prep time, many recipes call for precooked or precut squash — but you'll usually pay more for the convenience.) We'll show you how to prep and cook whole winter squash.

1. How to Bake Winter Squash

  1. Cut smaller squash (like acorn squash) in half; scoop out the seeds.
  2. Place 2 teaspoons honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter into their centers.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F (175 degree C) oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

2. How to Roast Winter Squash

  1. Cut in half and remove pulp and seeds. Place the squash halves, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the flesh with softened butter or oil, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with brown sugar, maple syrup, or orange juice.
  2. Flip the squash over and roast them for 40 to 45 minutes in a preheated 400 degree F (205 degree C) oven.
  3. Roast the squash until the skin is blistered, browned, and the flesh is tender. Insert a fork or knife under the skin to test that the flesh is tender. When the squash has cooled the skin should peel off easily.

Roasting squash helps to maintain its delicate flavor. Once roasted and cooled, there are a many ways to use it in recipes. One option is to mash the squash and use it in any recipe calling for squash purée.

Roasted squash freezes extremely well and reheats easily. Don't be afraid to roast several squash at once and freeze the flesh for use during the holidays; it'll cut down on some of the cooking crunch come November and December.

3. How to Boil Winter Squash

  1. Cut the squash in half and remove pulp and seeds. Peel and cut the squash into chunks.
  2. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the squash is tender.
  3. Let the chunks cool, then scoop out the flesh and purée in a food processor or mash it.
  4. To use the purée in pies, pass it through a strainer or sieve to remove any fibers or chunks.

4. How to Microwave Winter Squash

  1. Cut the squash in half and remove pulp and seeds.
  2. Microwave on high for seven minutes per pound.


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