Is a vegetable? Is it a gourd? No, butternut squash is technically a fruit and member of the cucurbitaceae family, which also includes melons.
This large, pear-shaped winter squash with sweet, deep orange flesh was once prized as “the apple of God” by American Indians. They believed the seeds inside boosted fertility. We now know butternut squash is indeed packed with health-boosting properties, including vitamin A — one cup of cooked squash has 457% of the recommended daily allowance. It’s also a good source of vitamin C, manganese, fiber, potassium and magnesium, which have nutritional benefits for our bones, immunity, energy and more.
How to Buy Butternut Squash
Winter squash such as butternut, acorn and spaghetti are typically best from early fall through winter, but they are available year-round. Look for butternut squash that feel heavy for their size. Their skins should also be hard, solid beige-colored and free of brown spots or nicks. Thanks to those thick skins, they’ll keep well in the pantry (or cool, dark place) for up to a month.
How to Prepare Butternut Squash
Unfortunately, the thick skin is what keeps some home cooks away from working with butternut squash. But no need to let that hard shell intimidate you. The Pioneer Woman (a passionate lover of butternut squash) breaks the knife skills down for you in her Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadilla recipe. You can also learn how to quickly peel, seed and dice butternut squash in this one-minute video tutorial.
P.S. When you get to the part about scooping out the seeds, don’t toss them. Butternut squash seeds can be toasted (just like pumpkin seeds) and they make for a nutritious crunchy snack or salad topping.
How to Cook Butternut Squash
Roasting is the most common method for cooking butternut squash, and for good reason: it’s easy. The high, dry heat of the oven does wonders for showcasing the naturally rich, caramelized flavor of the squash. Plus you only need a little time and a few simple ingredients to turn out an amazingly tender, golden butternut squash side dish. It fits right in to a weeknight dinner — or a holiday feast.
Simple Roasted Butternut Squash
Makes 4 servings
- 1 butternut squash (peeled, seeded and diced into 1-inch cubes)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (this will make clean up easier).
- In a large bowl, toss the cubed butternut squash with olive oil and garlic. Season squash with salt and pepper to taste.
- Arrange seasoned squash on the baking sheet, making sure there’s a little space between them.
- Roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Roasted Butternut Squash Variations
For a kicked-up version of roasted butternut squash, try this highly-rated Spice Roasted Butternut Squash with cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper from Food & Wine. Roasted butternut squash also pairs well with sweeter spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove — and maple syrup.
Whether you go sweet or savory, roasted butternut squash (the fruit that we use like a vegetable) can be a nutritious and delicious starting point for all kinds of recipes. Even desserts.
- Roast butternut squash with carrots, onions and spicy chickpeas to make Peas and Crayons’ velvety, vegetarian soup.
- Mix arugula with roasted butternut squash, cranberries and walnuts in this classic French bistro salad from Ina Garten.
- Top pizza dough with roasted butternut squash, pesto and fontina for Cooking Light’s most amazing homemade pizza.
- Blend roasted butternut squash with coconut cream and ginger to make Love & Lemon’s creamy vegan pudding. It’s said to rival pumpkin pie.