Learn how to cook acorn squash by roasting it in the oven. I’ll show you how to master the techniques for safely cutting and maximizing the flavor of this vegetable.
Acorn squash, or Cucurbita pepo var. turbinata is easy to spot in the grocery store. The dark green skin, sometimes with patches of bright orange, has pronounced ridges running down the sides that taper at the bottom. And you guessed it, resembles an acorn in shape.
Don’t be intimidated to grab one the next time you are at the store. This vegetable has a mild honeyed flavor, and a creamy texture that bodes well with savory or sweet seasonings, or better yet, both! For this recipe, I use a simple roasting technique to caramelize the cut sides then they get a light drizzle of maple syrup to enhance its natural sweetness.
Step 1: Cut the acorn squash
Acorn squash has a pretty thick skin and stem, so be careful when cutting. I like to use a sharp chef’s knife. I find it’s easiest to cut between the ridges, starting from the top near the stem, then carefully continuing to cut around it using gentle sawing motions.
Never actually try to cut through the stem! Instead, once you cut around through the flesh, use your hands to pull the squash apart so that the stem separates in half.
Step 2: Remove the seeds
Like most squash, there are edible seeds and stringy bits in the core that need to me removed. Use a spoon to scrape and scoop it out until clean. The seeds can be washed, dried, and roasted, just like roasting pumpkin seeds.
When I do, I toss them with some olive oil and salt, and toast them until crunchy. This only takes 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, since acorn squash seeds tend to be smaller than pumpkin seeds. It’s a perfect healthy fiber-rich snack!
Step 3: Preparing the acorn squash for roasting
Use a large foil-lined baking sheet. This provides a flat surface for the flesh to have more contact for better browning. Oil the foil, and brush the cut sides of the flesh to ensure that the squash doesn’t stick as it roasts.
Step 4: Roast
In a preheated oven set at 400ºF (204ºC), roast the acorn squash halves cut side down! The direct contact with the hot baking sheet encourages more Maillard browning, which results in an attractive color and toasted flavor.
I use this same technique when I roast spaghetti squash halves. It will take about 30 to 45 minutes for the flesh to become tender. A quick way to test is poking the tip of the knife through the skin, there should be little resistance.
Step 5: Season
After the squash is done cooking, sprinkle some salt and pepper. To take it to the next level, brush some pure maple syrup on the cut sides, and roast for a few minutes until caramelized and bubbly. Brown sugar or honey can also be used instead of syrup.
Sprinkle some cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, or ginger for delicious autumn flavors. Or keep it savory with fresh herbs like chopped parsley, thyme, or chives on top, with melted butter or freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Selecting and storing
When buying acorn squash pick one up and make sure the texture feels hard. It should also feel relatively heavy, which are signs that it’s ripe and there is still a moisture in its flesh. The skin will be dark green in color, with occasional orange blemishes.
Can you eat the skin?
Yes, the skin will become tender after roasting. Another way to enjoy the squash is to cut them into wedges after cutting in half, and roast smaller portions. You can eat them whole.
Can an acorn squash be peeled?
It’s a lot more difficult to peel a raw acorn squash, compared to something like butternut squash. Due to multiple ridges and dips on the surface. It’s best to cut the squash into long wedges, or in between the ridges, then use a small knife to carefully cut off the thick skin.
From there, cut into smaller pieces or cubes. It’s a lot more work, but worthwhile if you want to add it to soups or stews. The flesh and skin separate effortlessly after roasting if you’re okay with larger pieces.
Ways to use acorn squash
Is acorn squash healthy?
Not only is it tasty and cute, but it’s also got some impressive nutritional stats! According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup (205g) serving of cubed baked acorn squash delivers just 115 calories, 0.29 grams of fat, 29.89 grams total carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, and 2.30 gram of protein. You’ll also get a good amount of vitamin A, niacin, and C, and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.
Add salt after roasting
The reason why I don’t salt the flesh before roasting is because I want it to brown and not steam. Salt draws out the water from inside the cut cell walls of the vegetable and brings it to the surface. If there is too much moisture on the surface as it cooks, those desirable roasted notes won’t be as intense.
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How to Cook Acorn Squash
- 2 acorn squash, about 2 pounds each
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- kosher salt, for seasoning
- black pepper, for seasoning
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup, optional
- 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
- Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Wash and thoroughly dry the acorn squash.
- Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise as follows: Identify one side of the stem and begin to carefully cut through the skin and flesh between the ridges until it feels hollow in the center, not the actual stem. Continue to cut around, using small saw motions until you reach the other side of the stem, leave the stem uncut.
- Use your hands to pull the two halves apart.
- Use a large spoon to remove the seeds. If desired, wash, separate and dry the seeds for roasting later.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil.
- Grease the foil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, use a paper towel to evenly spread.
- Brush the flesh of the acorn squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Place the squash cut side down and evenly spaced on the baking sheet.
- Roast until a knife can easily pierce into the flesh, about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the size of the squash.
- Carefully turn the squash over with tongs and season with salt and pepper.
- If desired, brush the flesh with maple syrup then roast until caramelized, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Season with more salt and pepper, garnish with parsley.
- Roasted acorn squash seeds: Wash and dry the seeds. Toss in some olive oil and salt. Place on a sheet pan and roast at 350°F (177ºC) for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until crunchy.
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