Butternut squash is a popular winter squash that belongs to the Cucurbita moschata species.1,2 Its slim neck and bulbous bottom give it a distinct elongated pear shape, and it has an average weight of around 2 to 3 pounds.3 Its thick and smooth cream-colored rind hides its bright orange flesh, which contains fewer seeds and tastes relatively sweeter and nuttier compared to other variants of squashes.4
Even though butternut squash is considered a winter squash, it’s actually a warm-weather crop.5 It’s grown in the summer and harvested during early fall to late winter.6,7 You can keep it for a month or more, provided that you store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. While other foods lose their nutritional value when stored for a long time, butternut squash tends to become even more nutritious during the first two months of storage, as its carotenoids continue to accumulate.
Aside from providing a remarkable amount of nutrients, the butternut squash is also a versatile ingredient that you can add to different dishes, which is why it definitely deserves a spot in your kitchen. From soups to desserts, you can use it to create a variety of mouthwatering meals, as long as you know the different ways to cook it.
Here’s How to Cook Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is easy to prepare and cook, plus it has a natural sweet flavor that complements different ingredients. Learning the different ways to cook this vegetable can be a useful culinary skill, especially if you need to whip up a tasty dish within minutes.
In order for you to create a delicious meal out of butternut squash, make sure that you choose one that’s dense and heavy for its size. You should also check its rind to see if it’s free of cracks, soft spots and other blemishes.8 Once you have the perfect butternut squash, turn it into a healthy and satisfying dish using any of the cooking methods below.
How to Puree Butternut Squash for Soups, Desserts and Baby Food
One of the simplest things that you can do with a butternut squash is to puree it. This makes for a perfect base ingredient for soups, desserts and side dishes. Plus, it’s a nutritious meal for babies and kids. Here’s a simple guide on how to puree butternut squash:9,10
- Cut the butternut squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and strings.
- Place the squash on a cookie sheet, cut sides down, and cook it in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until its flesh becomes soft.
- Allow the squash to cool, then scoop out the flesh and put it into a blender or food processor. Puree until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Mix with other veggies, fruits, meats or spices, if desired.
When pureeing a butternut squash, take care not to include the skin into the mixture, since it will make the consistency chunky instead of smooth and velvety.
How to Cook Butternut Squash in an Oven: Roasted to Perfection
Roasting butternut squash keeps its flesh moist and tender while caramelizing its exterior, giving your dish a nice contrast in texture. Follow this easy method from Better Homes and Gardens to roast your butternut squash perfectly in an oven:11
- Cut the butternut squash in half, then scoop out the seeds. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash, and then cut it into 1-inch-thick cubes.
- Toss the squash cubes in a bit of coconut oil to keep them from drying out while roasting, and then spread them in an even layer on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.
- Roast in the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until tender and brown on the edges, stirring once.
You may also opt to roast butternut squash without peeling and/or dicing it into cubes. The roasting process can soften its rind, making it easier to chew.12
How to Cook Butternut Squash on a Stove
Don’t have an oven? Don’t worry — butternut squash can be easily cooked on the stove, too. The preparation for stovetop dishes is similar — you just need to peel the squash, remove its seeds and dice it into cubes if desired.
If you want to fry it in a pan, set the heat to medium-high and use grass fed butter or coconut oil for frying. Let the squash cook for several minutes, and then sample a few pieces to see if they’re done to your liking.13 You can also steam butternut squash on a stovetop. You simply boil 1 inch of water in a large pot, put the squash in a steamer basket and then place the squash over the boiling water. Be sure to keep the pot covered and allow the squash to cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it’s tender to bite.14
Recreate These Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes
Now that you know some of basic cooking methods that you can do with a butternut squash, it’s time to show off your culinary prowess. Here are some hearty and delectable recipes that you should try:
Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Recipe
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, or to taste
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- Fresh thyme (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds.
- Combine the coconut oil, red pepper flakes, salt, curry powder and thyme. Rub the mixture on the squash.
- Place the sliced squash face up on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until soft. Scoop out the insides of the squash into a bowl and mix.
Note: If you have time, you can peel the squash and cut it into cubes to save time when cooking.
Six-Spice Butternut Squash Recipe
Cook time: 25 minutes
- 1 small butternut squash, under 2 pounds
- 2 tablespoons ghee, palm oil, coconut oil or lard, melted
- 2 teaspoons coconut aminos (or 1 teaspoon fish sauce + 1 teaspoon coconut sugar)
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cut off both ends of the squash by root and stem, and peel the skin off with a vegetable peeler.
- Cut the squash in half crosswise. Then, cut both halves lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
- Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the melted fat with the coconut aminos, coconut sugar and the rest of the spices except for the basil.
- Add the squash to the mixing bowl and toss well to coat.
- Roast for 25 minutes, turning the pieces after 15 minutes.
- Thinly slice the basil by stacking the two leaves, rolling tightly like a cigar, and slicing across to create ribbons. Carefully mix the basil ribbons into the hot squash.
Butternut Squash Breakfast Bowl
Cook time: 15 to 30 minutes Serving Size: 2 servings
- 1 small or medium butternut squash, under 2 pounds, roasted whole
- 1/2 fresh organic banana
- 2 teaspoons almond butter (preferably sprouted or blanched, but any type of nut butter works)
- 2 teaspoons raw honey
- Pumpkin spice or cinnamon powder to taste
- 2 tablespoons crushed or sliced nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
- Raw, grass fed butter (to warm squash when assembling into bowls)
- Toasted coconut flakes (optional)
Roasting a Whole Butternut Squash:
- Roast the butternut squash at night so it's ready in the morning. Simply place the whole squash in the oven and set the heat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place the squash in the oven while it preheats.
- Check the squash after one hour. Stick a fork into the top, bottom and center to see if it goes in easily — this is a sign that the squash is done. If needed, you may roast it for another 30 minutes or until it's tender on all sides. You want it to have the softness of a banana, not mush.
- Allow the squash to cool on the counter for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Being careful not to burn yourself, cut the squash lengthwise down the center to open it like a book (don’t worry about the stem).
- Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy center.
- As if you’re cutting an avocado, take the tip of your knife and cut squares into the flesh, but not through the skin. Simply scoop out the cubes of squash with a spoon.
- Portion this in containers for breakfast bowls. You get two main-meal servings or four side-dish servings per squash. Refrigerate for the morning after.
Assembling Your Breakfast Bowls:
- Lightly warm your cubed squash in butter-greased pan. You want it warm, not hot.
- Warm the almond butter so that it’s easy to drizzle. You can do this by running the almond butter jar under warm water.
- Thinly slice half of the banana, and then scatter the slices on your bowl.
- Drizzle on the almond butter and raw honey.
- Lightly sprinkle with pumpkin spice or cinnamon.
- Top your bowl with nuts and/or toasted coconut flakes.
Butternut Squash Boasts an Impressive Nutritional Profile
Winter squashes, like the butternut, are among the vegetables that I recommend you to include in your wholesome diet, as they’re loaded with a wide array of nutrients that can help you take control of your health.
The most notable benefit of butternut squash is its abundant carotenoid content, which is an antioxidant that turns into an active form of vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is essential for your eye health, immune system and cell growth, among others. Plus, it plays a role in the function of vitamin D, vitamin K2, zinc and magnesium.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a cup of cooked butternut squash provides 1,144 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A, exceeding the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of this vitamin for men and women, which are 900 mcg and 700 mcg, respectively.15
A cup of butternut squash also provides 17 percent of your RDA for potassium,16 which may help lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases by counteracting the negative effects of sodium on your blood pressure. Some of the other valuable vitamins and minerals that butternut squash can provide include:17
Butternut squash is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which may help promote a healthy digestive system and immune function, as well as prevent inflammation and gastrointestinal issues like constipation.
Eat Butternut Squash in Moderation
Before you chow down bowls of butternut squash to reap its outstanding health benefits, keep in mind that it’s not OK to eat this food excessively, since it contains high amounts of carbohydrates. In fact, around 90 percent of its calories come from carbs, half of which are starch-like.
While the starch from butternut squash may have a few unique health benefits, it’s still best to limit your net carb intake to 40 to 50 grams per day. With that said, make sure that you eat butternut squash in moderation, as its high carb content may cause you to unintentionally exceed your daily limit for carbohydrates, which may increase your risk for high blood sugar levels and chronic diseases.
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