How To Cook Butternut Squash

4.92 from 35 votes
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Learn how to cook butternut squash 5 ways! Roasting, steaming, boiling, microwaving, and pressure cooking all tenderize this delicious gourd. Choose the method that fits your style and enjoy various healthy recipes like sides, soups, and stews.

How to cook butternut squash in the oven, on the stovetop, in the microwave, and inside the Instant Pot.

Beneath the inedible skin of a butternut squash lies a sweet and nutty flesh. Once you peel the squash and it slice up, there are endless uses. I have a handful of simple, go-to cooking methods for you to choose from, depending on how you plan to enjoy it.

Steaming, boiling, microwaving, and pressure cooking are quick moist-heat ways to soften the flesh of this winter squash. These methods don’t add much flavor, but they are great for soups and purees. Personally, roasting tastes the best. The high heat can turn whole pieces or diced cubes into lightly browned and tasty bites.

Roasted butternut squash (whole) 

Whole roasted butternut squash halves on a foil-lined baking sheet.

You can roast whole butternut squash halves by cutting them down the center and leaving the skin intact. Remove the seeds, brush with olive oil, and cook cut-side down. Depending on the size, cook for 30 to 45 minutes for a 1 ½ to 2-pound squash. 

Slice and serve as a side dish or scoop the flesh out. This method tastes lovely with butter, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or a sweetener like honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup. You can stuff the centers with a protein filling for a complete meal.

Roasted butternut squash (cubes)

Roasted butternut squash cubes on an oiled baking sheet.

The solid flesh needs high heat to release the moisture from the cell walls that soften the vegetable, around 400°F (204°C). The increased temperature can also create additional flavors from Maillard browning.

You can toss the 1-inch cubes with olive oil, and season with salt and spices for extra flavor. Cook until you can easily pierce with a fork or knife, about 20 to 25 minutes. This method is great for meal prepping.

Steamed butternut squash (cubes)

Butternut squash cubes in a steamer basket of a large pot.

Cooking small butternut squash pieces is a quick way to soften the flesh without any additional oil if you’re looking for a low-fat method. In a covered pot, the superheated steam from boiling water (100°C or 212°F) can cook the vegetable in 10 minutes or less.

This method does not add any additional flavor, so make sure to season well; otherwise, it will have a pretty bland taste.

Boiled butternut squash (cubes)

Boiled butternut squash cubes in a pot of water.

Boil 1-inch pieces in salted hot water for about 9 to 11 minutes until fork tender. The salt dissolves quickly, but the seasoning infuses throughout the gourd and enhances its natural sweetness. Drain well to prevent it from becoming mushy and diluted in flavor.

Microwaved butternut squash (whole)

Microwaved whole butternut squash halves on a plate and wrapped in plastic.

Cut the squash in half and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. The plastic traps the steam to help soften the flesh in about 9 minutes. Cooking one half at a time, use the higher power setting to soften efficiently.

Microwaved butternut squash (cubes)

Microwaved butternut squash cubes in a clear pyrex measuring cup.

The electromagnetic waves take 5 minutes or less to tenderize the cubes. The steam from the small amount of water added to the container speeds up cooking. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap to trap the heat. I use a 1-quart glass pyrex measuring cup for cooking the squash safely, or a microwave-safe bowl works too.

Instant Pot butternut squash (whole)

Instant Pot whole butternut squash halves placed on a trivet.

You can fit a whole butternut squash in the pressure cooker. I use about a 2-pound size. Any larger and you will need to cut it into four pieces instead of 2 halves. Cook them on top of the trivet to help elevate them for more efficient steaming.

Add one cup of water and set it on the manual high-pressure setting for 8 minutes. Increase the time as needed depending on size and doneness, no more than 10 minutes for a 4-pound gourd.

Instant Pot butternut squash (cubes)

Instant Pot butternut squash cubes steaming in a pressure cooker.

One quick and hands-off method to tenderize the squash is to cook it in an electric pressure cooker. The built-up pressure elevates the chamber temperature, cooking diced cubes in just 3 minutes. The squash is ready in about 15 minutes, considering the time it takes to build pressure.

The seeds are edible!

Once you scoop out the seeds, don’t throw them away. You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds. Remove the fibrous pulp, then wash and dry them well. Toss in olive oil, salt, pepper, or other desired seasonings. Place them on a sheet pan and roast at 350°F (177ºC) for 10 to 12 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes until crunchy.

Butternut squash recipes to try

Frequently asked questions

Do you have to peel butternut squash before cooking?

The butternut squash skin is tough and fibrous. However, becomes thinner and softer when cooked. You do not have to peel the squash before cooking.

How do you know when butternut squash is ready?

When the tip of a knife or fork is inserted into the flesh with little resistance, it’s ready. The squash should not be crisp when bitten into, it should soft and tender.

What’s the healthiest way to cook it?

Butternut squash is a healthy, low-calorie food packed with fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. Steaming and microwaving retain the most nutrients due to the brief cooking time and limited exposure to water. Boiling causes the sensitive water-soluble B vitamins and vitamin C to reduce as some transfer into the cooking liquid or make contact with high heat. Fiber is exceptionally stable, as well as most minerals. Therefore they are not significantly impacted by any of the cooking methods.

How To Cook Butternut Squash (5 ways!)

Easily cook and tenderize butternut squash by roasting, steaming, boiling, microwaving, and pressure cooking.
4.92 from 35 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Roasted Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 ½ to 2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning

Roasted Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • 2 cups diced butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
  • 1 ½ teaspoon olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon black pepper

Steamed Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • 2 cups diced butternut squash, 1-inch cubes

Boiled Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • 2 cups diced butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, optional

Microwaved Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • 1 butternut squash, about 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds

Microwaved Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • 2 cups diced butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cups water

Instant Pot Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • 1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
  • 1 cup water

Instant Pot Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • 2 cups diced butternut squash, 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup water

Instructions 

Roasted Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • Heat Oven – Set the oven rack to the center position and preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
  • Cut Squash – Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to trim the stem and bottom of the squash. Starting at the larger side of the squash, carefully cut in half lengthwise, using small rocking motions.
  • Remove Seeds – Use a large spoon to remove the seeds. If desired, wash, separate and dry the seeds for roasting later.
  • Prepare Baking Sheet – Line a large baking sheet with foil. Grease the foil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, use a paper towel to spread evenly.
  • Roast Squash – Brush the flesh of the squash with 1 tablespoon 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 squash's size.
  • Season – Carefully turn the squash over with tongs and season with salt and pepper.

Roasted Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • Heat Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat oven to 400°F (204ºC).
  • Season Squash – In a medium bowl, combine butternut squash, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Roast Squash – Line a large baking sheet with foil. Grease the foil with olive oil. Evenly spread squash on the baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes, then use a spatula to rotate and flip them over. Roast until squash is lightly golden brown and fork-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Steamed Butternut Squash

  • Prepare Steamer – Fill a medium pot with enough water on the bottom to not touch the steamer basket. Add the steamer insert and then the squash on top. Cover and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Steam Squash – Once the steam builds in the pot, add the butternut squash. Cook until fork-tender, about 9 to 11 minutes.

Boiled Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • Boil Water – Add water to a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add salt and stir to dissolve.
  • Cool Squash – Add the diced butternut squash and cook until fork-tender, about 9 to 11 minutes. Drain the squash well.

Microwaved Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • Cut Squash – Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to trim the stem and bottom of the squash. Starting at the larger side of the squash, carefully cut in half lengthwise, using small rocking motions.
  • Remove Seeds – Use a large spoon to remove the seeds. If desired, wash, separate and dry the seeds for roasting later.
  • Microwave Squash – Place one butternut squash halve on a large microwave-safe plate. Tightly cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high power for 9 minutes. Very carefully tap the covered surface to check if the squash is fork-tender. Microwave an additional 1 to 2 minutes if needed.

Microwaved Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • Prepare Squash – Place butternut squash cubes in a 1-quart microwave-safe bowl or container. Add water and tightly cover with plastic wrap or a plate that covers the top of the dish.
  • Microwave Squash – Microwave on high power for 4 minutes. Very carefully lift the cover to check if the squash is fork-tender. Microwave an additional 1 to 2 minutes if needed.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash (Whole)

  • Cut Squash – Wash and thoroughly dry the butternut squash. Place the squash on a sturdy cutting board. Use a sharp chef’s knife to trim the stem and bottom of the squash. Starting at the larger side of the squash, carefully cut in half lengthwise, using small rocking motions.
  • Remove Seeds – Use a large spoon to remove the seeds. If desired, wash, separate and dry the seeds for roasting later.
  • Add Squash – Place the wire rack/trivet inside a 6-quart Instant Pot. Add the cubes of butternut squash on top of the rack. Pour the water into the side of the pot. Make sure that the release valve is in the "Sealing" position. Place the lid on, then turn and lock.
  • Pressure Cook – Press the "Manual" button on the Instant Pot on high pressure, and then set the timer to 8 minutes using the "+" or "-" controls. It will take about 10 to 12 minutes for the pot to heat and build pressure.
    For a larger 2 ½ to 4 pound squash, cut into 4 pieces. Cook 9 to 10 minutes, depending on size and how soft you would like the flesh.
  • Release Pressure – Carefully quick-release the pressure. Use an oven mitt to slowly and carefully twist the steam release handle on the lid to the "Venting" position. You can also cover the valve with a towel to prevent splatter. Remove the lid and use tongs ro take out the butternut squash halves.

Instant Pot Butternut Squash (Cubes)

  • Add Squash – Place the wire rack/trivet inside a 6-quart Instant Pot. Add the cubes of butternut squash on top of the rack. Pour the water into the side of the pot. Make sure that the release valve is in the "Sealing" position. Place the lid on, then turn and lock.
  • Pressure Cook – Press the "Manual" button on the Instant Pot on high pressure, and then set the timer to 3 minutes using the "+" or "-" controls. It will take about 10 minutes for the pot to heat and build pressure.
  • Release Pressure – Carefully quick-release the pressure. Twist the steam release handle on the lid to the "Venting" position. You can also cover the valve with a towel to prevent splatter. Remove the lid and use tongs to lift out the trivet. Quickly transfer to a bowl and serve with desired seasonings.

Notes

  • Serving Size: ½ cup butternut squash
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Freeze for up to 6 months, and defrost before using.
  • Reheating: Cover and reheat in the microwave on high setting in 30-second intervals until hot. 

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 32kcal (2%)Carbohydrates 8g (3%)Protein 1g (2%)Fat 1g (2%)Saturated Fat 1g (5%)Sodium 3mgPotassium 246mg (7%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 2g (2%)Vitamin A 7441IU (149%)Vitamin C 15mg (18%)Calcium 34mg (3%)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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12 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Judy says

    Hi Jessica,

    I want to try all those recipes. I like squash a lot. I saw you mention you can use an immersion blender on squash. I bought one a couple years ago and only used it once as I was afraid it would damage my pan. It seemed so hefty to hold on to as well. Do you have any tips on using one?

    Thank you. Judy

    • Libby says

      I LOVE my immersion blender – especially for blending hot soup ingredients. I just take the pan off the stove and immerse the blender, up and down, through the soup until it’s blended to my preferred consistency. The blade has a guard all around it, so I’ve never had any damage to my pans. (Mine is not that heavy – it was an inexpensive one and works beautifully!)

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Judy! Don’t be afraid, like Libby said there is a guard around the blade. I usually lift the blad about a 1/2 inch above the bottom of the pot so it doesn’t tough and just circle the blender around the pot, lifting up and down as needed. Works great!

  2. Bill says

    Thank you, Jessica, for the excellent guidance on cooking delicious butternut squash in a microwave. And for indicating that everything except the stem is edible. A tasty addition to this hungry guy’s diet of rice and tortillas.

  3. Julie H says

    I’d like to know how to easily remove the sticky cooked residue from the squash that adheres to my pressure cooker’s steamer basket. It was even worse when I microwaved the whole squash on a microwave-safe plate. I could never get the residue completely off. If there is an easy way, I would really like to know.