This tropical squash goes by many names, including West Indian pumpkin, Cuban squash, calabasa, and green pumpkin. 

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The fall and winter seasons bring a bounty of hearty squash varieties that can be enjoyed any number of ways, whether it's sweet or savory. If you're lucky enough to come across what appears to be a green pumpkin at the market, don't hesitate to get it while you can. This mildly sweet, tropical squash has a lot to offer. Here's everything you need to know about calabaza squash. 

What Is Calabaza Squash?

Although it's available year-round, calabaza squash is a winter squash, meaning it's harvested in the summer, but reaches its peak in the fall and winter months. It can range from cantaloupe size to watermelon size. Calabaza squash are similar in shape to a pumpkin (they also go by the name, "West Indian pumpkin"), and their skin can range in color from green to a light tan. 

Botanically speaking, Calabaza is classified as Cucurbita moschata, or a tropical species with long creeping vines that belongs to the same family as pumpkins and gourds. Calabaza squash is native to Central and South America, and the Caribbean. 

Calabaza squash has a yellow-orange flesh with a mildly sweet, nutty flavor, similar to that of butternut and acorn squash. 

Three calabaza squash on wood table
Credit: Meredith

Calabaza Squash Nutrition

Like its fellow winter squash varieties, calabaza is low in calories and carbs, yet rich in nutrients. Calabaza is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which are vital to a healthy immune system

How to Pick Calabaza Squash

You're not likely to find calabaza at your local supermarket, but depending on where you live you may find them at international markets or farmers' markets. When shopping for calabaza, choose a squash that is heavy for its size and still has its stems firmly attached. You may also find it sold pre-cut into large wedges. 

How to Cook Calabaza Squash

Calabaza can be used for both sweet and savory cooking applications, including baking, roasting, sautéing, grilling, or steaming. Try substituting calabaza in recipes that call for acorn squash or butternut squash, as they have a similar nutty flavor. For basic, roasted calabaza that can be tweaked to suit your taste, follow the calabaza recipe below. 

How to Cook Calabaza Squash in the Oven

Ingredients:

  • Calabaza squash 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil per pound of squash
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat an oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  2. Cut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds from each half. Cut the halves into ¾-inch to 1-inch slices. You can either leave the skin on and remove it later with a knife or fork, or remove it before baking using a paring knife. 
  3. Toss with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Add squash to the prepared baking sheet. Cook for 35 to 45 minutes, or until fork tender, rotating the baking sheet halfway through. 

How to Store Calabaza Squash

Thanks to its tough exterior, calabaza will last up to two months when stored unwashed in a cool, dry place. Once it's been cut into, whether raw or cooked, it should be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic and refrigerated. It will keep for several days when stored this way. 

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