The fall is here and with it an abundance of beautiful winter squashes. Mind you, the name is a little misleading as the squashes are actually harvested in fall; however thanks to their thick skin they survive winter (hence the name).
These robust gourds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures. They’re super delicious, easy to prepare, and very healthy! I decided to put together an ultimate guide to the most popular squashes and support it with a variety of recipes from some very talented bloggers.
The thick skin may pose a challenge for someone who has have never cooked with squashes, but don’t feel intimidated. This guide will help you learn how to peel it, cut it, cook it and serve it.
So let’s get started and take a closer look into this ultimate guide to most popular squashes. I chose to feature: Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Delicata Squash, and Sugar Pumpkin, as they can be found in every supermarket and there are a lot of amazing recipes to chose from.
Not to be totally forgotten though, I will also present you with Buttercup Squash and why it is often mistaken with Kabocha Squash. In addition, I also stumbled on beautiful Sweet Dumpling Squash in my local farmers market, that refused to be ignored by this post. I will also list other squashes and where to find guides for them.
Health Benefits of Winter Squashes
Before diving into recipes, let’s take a look at some amazing health benefits of ALL winter squashes:
- They’re superfoods with incredible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including beta carotene, which converts into vitamin A;
- They’re high in vitamin C, which always helps in the winter months to avoid colds and flu;
- They provide a tremendous amount of potassium, which is good for bone health;
- They provide vitamin B6 for a super immune system boost;
- They’re packed with fiber, which is heart-friendly and helps with digestion;
- They are also high in folate, which is very important during pregnancy; folate is a water-soluble B vitamin.
Most Popular Winter Squashes
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the most popular winter squashes:
How to buy Butternut Squash?
Butternut Squash looks like a pear or a bell and its skin is bright and smooth. When cut, it’s flesh is orange and it smells amazing. To buy, look for a squash that is heavy and doesn’t have cracks or soft spots.
How to peel Butternut Squash?
You can peel butternut squash with a vegetable peeler. To make it easier to handle, you can cut the neck from the bottom and peel each section separately.
You can also follow the steps provided by Simple Recipes in the post: How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash. In it they offer the creative suggestion of microwaving the whole butternut squash for 30 seconds before peeling.
You can also watch this video tutorial: How to Quickly Peel, Seed and Cut Butternut Squash.
How to cook Butternut Squash?
Here you have options. It can be roasted, steamed, or boiled. It is most frequently used to make soups. It can also be used as a sweet potato substitute in recipes. Below you can find a variety of recipes showing you how to do this.
How does Butternut Squash taste?
Butternut Squash has a sweet, nutty flavor. Its taste is similar to that of a sweet potato.
Recipes for Butternut Squash:
6. Truffled Butternut Squash and Mushroom Soup by Eating European
How to buy Acorn Squash?
Acorn Squash (a.k.a., ‘Pepper Squash’) resembles an acorn and hence its name. It comes in small sizes and usually weighs between 1 to 2 pounds. It normally has dark green and orange skin. Try to find a firm one that feels heavy for its size and has no blemishes. You can store it for several months in a cool, dry, dark spot.
How to peel Acorn Squash?
It is not worth it to peel an acorn squash because its shape, with little nooks and thin flush, present some serious challenges. Rather, its much better to just cut it in half or into the little moon shapes, and simply roast it. The skin is also edible. However, if you want to try peeling it, I found this video tutorial on How to Peel, Seed and Cut Pepper Squash (Acorn Squash) useful.
How to cook Acorn Squash?
The best way to cook acorn squash is to roast it. Then you can either stuff it or scoop out the flesh and use it for soups, casseroles or salads (even with the skin). Below you can find a variety of recipes showing you how to do this.
How does Acorn Squash taste?
Acorn squash has mild flavor which is a little sweet and nutty.
Recipes for Acorn Squash:
3. Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash by Eating European
How to buy Spaghetti Squash?
Spaghetti Squash is oval and has a pale yellow color. For these, it’s advisable to look for one that does not have any bumps.
How to peel Spaghetti Squash?
Don’t peel it. You can either roast it in an oven or cook it in a microwave. Once it’s done, then use a fork and scrape the flesh away. You’ll get spaghetti-like “noodles” that you can use instead of pasta and pair well with a number of different sauces.
How to cook Spaghetti Squash?
How does Spaghetti Squash taste?
Spaghetti Squash tastes very mild, almost bland, however it is a perfect substitute for pasta if you want to skip the carbs and wheat. Below you can find a variety of recipes showing you how to do this.
Recipes for Spaghetti Squash:
How to buy Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash is also known as Peanut Squash or Sweet Potato Squash. The size may range from 5 to 10 inches. It has a long shape and its color is yellow with green or orange stripes. When buying, look for one that is heavy for its size and free of blemishes.
How to peel Delicata Squash?
You don’t have to peel Delicata Squash. The skin is edible.
How to cook Delicata Squash?
You can simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it; or cut into slices and either roast or sauté it. Below you can find a variety of recipes showing you how to do this.
How does Delicata Squash taste?
Delicata squash has a mild, sweet flavor, resembling sweet potatoes.
Recipes for Delicate Squash:
6. Delicata Squash & Cardamom Sticky Buns
How to buy Sugar Pumpkin?
Pumpkins which are made for cooking and baking are actually smaller in size than those that you would buy for carving. Those big pumpkins are fairly dry and tasteless. Look for small varieties of pumpkins like Sugar Pumpkins, Cheese Pumpkins, or Sweet Pumpkins. They are round with firm skin.
How to peel Sugar Pumpkin?
You will need to peel it with a potato peeler. You can watch this video: How to quickly peel, seed and cut pumpkin. You can also follow the steps from The Kitchn in the post: How I make peeling (and cleaning) Pumpkin a little easier when they provide you with the option of microwaving it first.
How to cook Sugar Pumpkin?
You can roast it or puree it and use it like any other winter squashes. It is amazing for soups, stews and pies. Below you can find a variety of recipes showing you how to do this.
How does Sugar Pumpkin taste?
Cooking pumpkins have a sweet, earthy flavor.
Recipes for Sugar Pumpkin
Buttercup Squash vs. Kabucha Squash
Which one is it?
Buttercup Squash is often mistaken with Japanese Pumpkin (a.k.a., ‘Kabocha Squash’). They look pretty similar but they are actually fairly different.
Buttercup is a much drier and milder taste than Kabocha Squash. It is best to be cubed and added to stews or roasted.
Kabocha Squash, however, is sweeter than Buttercup and has beautiful orange flesh.
You may check some of these recipes:
Other Winter Squashes
This is obviously not a complete guide to winter squashes. I chose only those which are the most popular and easy to find. There actually is an abundance of different winter squashes, beyond those featured above. For example: Sweet Dumpling Squash (pictured immediately above), Hubbard, Banana Squash, Gold Nugget Squash, and Turban Squash. Below you can see some of the recipes for this medley of squashes that I was able to find for you:
I hope you enjoyed this ultimate guide to the most popular winter squashes. If you have any additional tricks with squashes leave us all a note in comments. Together we can conquer these gourds!
This post was originally published on October 25, 2016, and was since updated to provide additional information.