How to Prep and Cook the Most Popular Fall and Winter Squash
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. Store in a dry, cool spot (but not the refrigerator) and use within a month or so.
4 Ways to Cook Winter Squash
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 pre-cooked squash -- but you'll usually pay more for the convenience.) We'll show you how to prep and cook whole winter squash.
1. Baking Method
Cut smaller squash (like acorn squash) in half; scoop out the seeds. Place 2 teaspoons honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter into their centers. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.
2. Roasting Method
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. Flip the squash over and roast them for 40 to 45 minutes in a preheated 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven. 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 squash's 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 it for use during the holidays; it'll cut down on some of the cooking crunch come November and December.
3. Boiling Method
Cut the squash in half and remove pulp and seeds. Peel and cut the squash into chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the squash is tender. Let the chunks cool, then scoop out the flesh and purée in a food processor or mash it.. To use the purée in pies, pass it through a strainer or sieve to remove any fibers or chunks.
4. Microwave Method
Cut the squash in half and remove pulp and seeds. Microwave on high for seven minutes per pound.
Most Popular Fall and Winter Squash
While there are a dozen or so kinds of winter squash available at market, here are 6 of the most popular varieties home cooks turn to when they make winter 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," they are rich in potassium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Look for them from late summer through the fall.
Watch this short video for the full scoop on how to roast delicata squash, courtesy of Chef John:
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.
Watch Chef John demonstrate how to cut open and bake acorn 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.
See how to prep and bake butternut squash.
A popular squash for boiling and mashing or puréeing, hubbard squash are 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 are rich in vitamin A and also have solid amounts of iron and riboflavin.
It's called "spaghetti squash" because, when cooked, the golden flesh separates out 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.
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 are a popular variety.
Enjoy our entire collection of winter squash recipes.