Roasted kabocha squash is a lightly sweet and savory side dish that’s easy to prepare. Each slice bakes until tender and creamy, then glazed with a soy-ginger sauce. Pair this recipe with fresh seafood, hearty protein, or noodles for a vegetable boost.
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Slice open a dark green kabocha squash, and you’ll find a gorgeous bright orange flesh. This Japanese pumpkin yields a slightly nutty, buttery, and creamy texture when cooked. The skin also softens enough to eat it. Japanese restaurants often deep-fry it to make crispy vegetable tempura. However, simply roasted is just as tasty.
This bumpy skinned winter squash may seem intimidating to cook, but it’s easy to prepare. Just cut thick slices and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, then roast until tender. You can either stop there or take the flavor up a notch with a generous brushing of umami-packed glaze. It’s a delicious healthy side dish to enjoy with your favorite Asian-inspired meals.
Cutting the squash
Kabocha has a pumpkin shape without the ribbing and a tiny stem. Use a sharp knife to cut down the center to create two halves and scoop out the seeds. If you like, you can roast the seeds for a healthy snack. Trim off the stem and bottom portion because they are tough and inedible. Carefully slice each half cut-side down into 1-inch thick pieces. Most of them should be rainbow shaped.
Seasoning and cooking
The flesh has a unique taste that only needs basic seasonings to enhance its flavor. Think sweet potato meets butternut squash. I first coat each piece with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread them in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet pan. The fat helps to prevent sticking, and lightly fry’s the surface in the hot oven.
It only takes about 15 minutes per side until a knife or fork can easily poke into it. I could easily eat it just like this, but adding a glaze makes each serving more delicious. And yes, the skin is very thin so you can eat it!
To balance the natural sweetness of the squash, I add a savory spiced glaze. The mixture is a combination of maple syrup, soy sauce, and ground ginger. Brush the surface with the sauce, then broil for a few minutes until the ingredients concentrate and lightly browns each piece. Flip and repeat, you won’t regret it!
I like to briefly toast sesame seeds and garnish them on top right before serving for little crispy bites.
What to serve this with:
Roast then broil
Roasting the kabocha slices at 400-degrees allows the thick flesh and tough skin to soften in just 30 minutes. The flesh will slightly brown towards the end of cooking once the surface temperature reaches 300°F (149°C) due to the direct contact with the hot sheet pan. However, to increase the caramelized notes without overcooking the pieces, I use the broiler. Maple syrup intensifies the caramelization due to the sugars, and the high heat from the upper coils makes the color change fast. Just keep a close eye on the process as the broiler can burn foods if not monitored.
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Roasted Kabocha Squash
- 2 pounds kabocha squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, or vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted (optional)
- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Heat oven to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Wash and dry the squash. Carefully use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the squash in half down the middle and then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
- Place the squash cut-side down, trim off the stem and the bottom root side. Use a rocking motion to cut it into 1-inch thick wedges.
- In a large bowl, toss together the squash slices, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the pieces in a single layer on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast for 15 minutes, then flip them over. Roast until the squash is fork-tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, soy sauce, and ground ginger. Brush on the roasted squash slices. Place in the center of the oven and broil on high until the surface lightly browns, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over, brush the other side with the sauce, broil for 2 to 3 minutes.
- In a small nonstick pan, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until lightly browned, about 1 minute.
- Top roasted kabocha squash with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm.
- Make it GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute the soy sauce for coconut aminos or gluten-free tamari.
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