Learn how to cook butternut squash like a pro! Here are the essential techniques to peeling, cutting and removing the seeds from winter squash. Use these simple cooking methods to enhance the flavor of the ingredients and add versatility to your meals!
Butternut squash is one ingredient that I tend to gravitate towards whenever I’m looking for meal inspiration during the Fall and Winter season for many reasons. Don’t be intimidated by the tough outer shell. There is a beautiful orange flesh on the inside just waiting to be used in a delicious recipe.
As part of the species Cucurbita moschata, the mildly sweet flavor and creamy texture lend an incredible richness to any dish, with health benefits to match. Packed with fiber, beta-carotene which gives it the characteristic orange-yellow tone, vitamin C, and potassium. I always feel right about adding butternut squash into my meals. To unlock the culinary and nutritional benefits, I’ve got easy tips for preparing the squash and various cooking methods like roasting, steaming and sauteeing.
How to Prepare Butternut Squash
You’re not going to want to miss out on the recipes I’ve listed below so that you can experience the flavor of this ingredient right at home!
STEP 1: Gather Tools
There are three essential tools you need for cutting and peeling a butternut squash, a sturdy cutting board, a sharp chef’s knife and a peeler. Make sure to place a towel or nonslip padding underneath the board, so it does not slip as you cut.
I found that the Y shaped peeler is the most ergonomic and easy to use for removing the tough skin, but a traditional peeler can work as well. Make sure to wash and dry the gourd before cutting to reduce the chance of microbial contamination from the outer shell to the fresh flesh.
STEP 2: How to Cut and Peel Butternut Squash
First carefully use slight pressure and a sharp knife to cut off the bottom end and stem tip of the squash.
Use a peeler or paring knife to remove the lighter outer skin of the squash until the orange flesh is revealed. I peel from the thinner steam end down to the more substantial bottom portion for smoothest results.
Then, cut the squash in half near the center of the gourd where it starts to get wider, creating two pieces: a cylindrical top part and the rounded bottom of the squash. Cut the rounded bottom section in half to expose the seeds.
STEP 3: Remove the Seeds
Use a large spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the seeds from the butternut squash. You can clean, dry and roast the seeds for a healthy savory snack!
STEP 4: Cut into Shapes
Now you’re ready to slice or dice the butternut squash in the desired shape for cooking. Thin rounds are great for casseroles and gratins, while slices are suitable for roasting with other vegetables in high heat. Smaller 1/4-inch dice are great for soups and stews, while larger 1/2-to 1-inch dice can be sauteed, baked or roasted.
How to Cook Butternut Squash
What should you do with the prepped and ready to go squash? There are a few options to choose! Here are the most popular cooking methods:
The solid flesh needs a dose of high heat to release some of the moisture from the cell walls and softens the vegetable, around 400°F (204°C). The increased temperature can also create additional flavors from Maillard browning. The whole squash can be roasted by splitting down the center, leaving the skin on and creating two halves. Remove the seeds and cook for about 1 hour. This tastes lovely with some oil or butter, and a sprinkle of salt, or sweetener like honey or maple syrup added right before roasting. This squash can also be stuffed with a filling for a complete meal! Smaller cubed pieces can be roasted, tossed with some oil and spices and cooked for about 20 to 30 minutes until they can be easily pierced with a fork or knife.
The high heat in the saute pan can quickly add flavor to the surface of the squash. It’s best to saute smaller even sized pieces of squash, 1/4 to 1/2-inches so that it can cook through. I often combine sauteeing with simmering in a liquid for soups and stews to add layers of flavors to a dish.
Once the squash is tender by a cooking method of your choice, you can create a creamy sauce or soup base. A blender, food processor or immersion stick blender are tools to use for pureeing. The natural starches in the cooked gourd are released when pureed, absorbing and swelling from the additional liquid added to the vegetable. The results are thick and smooth sauces without the use of a roux. This is an excellent option for those looking for a gluten-free thickening agent!
Cooking small pieces of butternut squash is a quick way soften the vegetables without any additional oil if you’re looking for a low-fat method. The superheated steam generated from boiling water (100°C or 212°F) in a covered pot can cook the vegetable in 10 minutes or less. This method does not add any additional flavor to the squash, so make sure to season it well otherwise it will have a pretty bland taste.
Cut pieces of butternut squash can also boil in hot water until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Make sure to drain the squash well, as it will absorb moisture as it simmers.
Must try butternut squash recipes:
- Butternut Squash Soup with Chicken
- Rustic Italian Butternut Squash Soup
- Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Tacos
- Honey Orange Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Butternut Squash
- Chickpea Cauliflower Butternut Squash Curry
- Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
- Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
- Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
- Spiced Pork Chops with Pear Chutney
Let me know your favorite way to cook with butternut squash or other recipes you’ve tried in the comments below!