Best Easy But Delicious Preparation For Winter Squashes

Winter squash: It’s more than just a festival fall centerpiece for your tablescape. This gourd-eous veg doesn’t have to be a struggle to prep and cook. Pass up on pre-cut butternut squash in stores and learn these easy methods for all the commonly found squash you see in stores during the fall and winter months, with no special equipment required.

Before jumping into the varietals, it’s important to note that most winter squash can be either steamed or baked. Applying wet, steamed heat to the squash is best for things like purees (“mashed squash”), casseroles, soups, and spaghetti substitutes. Dry oven heat will caramelize the flesh of the squash, yielding crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside pieces that can be tossed into salads, grain bowls, or pasta, or served alongside dipping sauces like pesto. 

Though all winter squash can be cooked either way, some squash, like spaghetti and kabocha, are best in steamed applications, because they aren’t as structurally robust as others, like butternut. Before taking any winter squash home, be sure it is firm all around with no soft spots or mold on the stem. Some squash can have rough imperfect patches. Those are okay and shouldn’t impact the flavor and quality of the flesh underneath the skin.

Acorn Squash. This acorn-shaped squash has a forest green exterior and orangey-yellow flesh with a nutty taste. Because of the strange shape, it’s easiest to cut this squash into wedges, scrape out the seeds, and roast it in the skin. Rub 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on the skin and flesh of the wedges, followed by 1 teaspoon of salt. For a little sweetness, sprinkle 2 teaspoons of maple sugar on the fleshy parts. Scatter on a rimmed sheet tray lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet, like a Silpat. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until fork tender. Flip halfway to caramelize evenly on both sides.

Other Recipe Ideas: Stuffed Acorn Squash With Turkey Sausage & Cranberries

Butternut Squash. The king of winter squashes, butternut squash can shape-shift like no other. This squash has a beige exterior and vibrant orange interior. Because of its smooth shape, it’s easy to cut off the ends and peel the skin. Remove the seeds, then dice it into 1-inch pieces before steaming it or roasting it similar to the directions above. You can also spiralize it into “swoodles,” or butternut squash noodles, and saute until tender, about 10 minutes. 

Recipe ideas: Curried Butternut Squash Soup With Spiced Pepitas, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad With Brussels Sprouts & Maple Dressing, Veggie Tacos With Butternut Squash, Kale & Pepitas, Fall Panzanella With Pears & Cranberries, Butternut Mac & Cheese, One-Pan Chicken & Boodles 

Delicata Squash. Ribbed delicata squash has a golden hue with green stripes running parallel to its ridges. Unlike most winter squash, the skin is usually delicate enough to eat, as the name implies. Cut it in half lengthwise, removing the ends and the pulpy seeds, then slice into ½-inch half moons. Roast it similarly to the acorn squash, only reduce the cook time to 20 minutes, flipping the semi-circles halfway through the cook-time. 

Recipe Ideas: Quinoa Bowls With Eggs & Avocado

Kabocha. The exterior of Japanese kabocha squash appears wart-y and dark green, like something out of a fairy tale, and the interior is a striking bright orange. The flesh breaks down really quickly when it’s cooked, so it’s best in stews. Peel the exterior, scoop out the seeds, and chop it into 1-inch pieces. Roast it similarly to the acorn squash directions above, for about 20 minutes, or steam over the stovetop for 20 minutes. 

Recipe Ideas: Quinoa Salad With Kabocha & Feta

Spaghetti Squash. This unique squash resembles a bright yellow oblong orb. As the name implies, the flesh of the squash can be scraped with a fork to transform into spaghetti-like strands. The easiest way to prepare it is to pressure cook the entire squash in an Instant Pot. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the Instant Pot insert, followed by the metal trivet. Then add the squash, lock the lid of the Instant Pot, and pressure cook on high for 25 minutes, then release the pressure immediately. followed by a quick release. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then scrape out the flesh using a fork. The squash can be dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then top it with your favorite pasta sauce. 

More Ideas: How To Put Pumpkin In Everything This Fall

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