How to Cook Acorn Squash

4.85 from 26 votes
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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.

How to Cook Acorn Squash

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

Cutting 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

Removing acorn squash seeds with a spoon

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 roasted 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

brushing oil on acorn squash halves

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

puncturing the skin of a roasted acorn squash using a knife

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

brushing maple syrup on acorn squash

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 is a sign that it’s ripe and there is still 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 it into wedges after cutting it in half and roasting smaller portions. You can also eat it whole.

Can an acorn squash be peeled?

It’s a lot more difficult to peel a raw acorn squash than a 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 of total carbohydrates, 9 grams of fiber, and 2.30 grams of protein. You’ll also get a good amount of vitamin A, niacin, and C, and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Recipe Science

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.

How to Cook Acorn Squash

Learn how to cook acorn squash by roasting it in the oven with this tutorial that demonstrates safe cutting and maximizing the flavor of this vegetable.
4.85 from 26 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 103kcal (5%)Carbohydrates 15g (5%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Sodium 4mgPotassium 385mg (11%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 3g (3%)Vitamin A 395IU (8%)Vitamin C 12mg (15%)Calcium 41mg (4%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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11 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy Caywood says

    Jessica I have my acorn squash all ready to make right now. I’m looking forward to trying your recipe, as always. xo Judy

  2. Jerry says

    I like to put the acorn squash in the microwave to soften it. Cutting it in half and removing seeds is then much easier and safer. It truly is a delicious veggie.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Its sort of like a sweet potato meets butternut squash in texture. The roasted halves can be scooped out like potatoes, or sliced for more of an intact side dish.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Do you stuff the raw squash with the meatloaf Troy? What time and temperature do you use? Sounds delicious!