Butternut squash is a winter squash, along with spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and pumpkins. It tastes sweet and a bit nutty like a pumpkin. Though technically a fruit, in the kitchen this seasonal squash is treated as a vegetable in the sense that it is usually baked or roasted. What differentiates winter squash from summer varieties, such as zucchini or yellow crookneck, is the hard and inedible outer shell.
Its tough golden exterior helps keep the squash fresh for much longer than its summer counterparts, protecting the orange interior, which is firm, flavorful, and nutritious. A good source of fiber, the flesh is also full of vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium and potassium. This versatile quasi-veggie can be pureed into a soup or sauce, mashed like a potato, incorporated into baked goods, or added to a variety of dishes, from salads to stir-frys. Its pumpkin-y hue and flavor are a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Before we get into our cavalcade of the best butternut squash (or squatternut bosh as they say on Friends) recipes, we must first go over how to properly prepare one.
Prepping butternut squash can be kind of difficult, which is why they sell the already cubed versions in the store. You can roast this squash with the skin on, remove the seeds, and then scoop out the innards to be mashed or pureed. Otherwise, you'll need to peel with a vegetable peeler and seed it before cubing and roasting.
To cut butternut squash, slice off both ends. Stand it up on its wider side and slice in half lengthwise, then use a spoon to scoop out seeds and stringy bits. From here, you can dice into one-inch cubes or whatever size the recipe calls for.
If you're having difficulty peeling or cutting into the squash, nuke it in the microwave for a minute or two. For any of these recipes, you can sub pre-cut or frozen butternut squash, but we can't promise it will taste as good as fresh!
Our Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese recipe offers a gourd-geous seasonal take on the classic comfort food. After the squash is roasted, it is puréed with milk in a blender or food processor. Boil the conchiglie (shell-shaped pasta) and create the cream sauce. Combine the creamy sauce with your noodles and purée, then layer with shredded sharp cheddar. Top with freshly grated parmesan (and breadcrumbs if you're feeling them) and bake for half an hour.
Our creamy roasted Butternut Squash Soup is the perfect way to put pureed squash to use. Nutmeg, coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, and cayenne pepper give this sweet soup layers of flavor. If you don't own an immersion blender, you can always use a regular blender to make this soup silky smooth.
Of course, you don't have to do anything beyond roasting the squash. Ina Garten's Caramelized Butternut Squash is roasted with brown sugar, butter, salt, and pepper until it's perfectly sweet and tender. The brown sugar is what gives the squash its flavorful caramelized glaze.
If roasted squash is your jam, try this version with browned butter. Spend with Pennies' version is also similar to Ina's, but adds a ½ teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and you don't have to peel and cube it. Other seasonings that work well on baked/roasted butternut squash include seasoned salt, Cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning, chili seasoning and ground cumin, and cinnamon and brown sugar.
Butternut squash is so versatile in that you can make it spicy or sweet, like Tori Avey's Maple Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash. Start with a few pounds of squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed. Toss in EVOO, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne for a bit of a kick. Roast at 425 degrees for about half an hour, then get that golden brown caramelization from the syrup by finishing under the broiler for a minute or two.
Just like a pumpkin, you can save and roast the seeds from butternut squash. In fact, you can eat the seeds of any squash. Packed with protein and heart-healthy fats, squash seeds make a healthy and delicious snack. Simply scoop, rinse, and dry the seeds just like you would prep pepitas. Then drizzle with oil, season to your liking, and bake at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes, until seeds get nice and brown and crispy. Salt, cumin, and chili powder make a nice spice combo. For a sweet version, try cinnamon, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, or nutmeg.
So far we've been baking or roasting our butternut squash, but it can also be sautéed. In her Butternut Squash and Kale Stir Fry, Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond pan-fries her half of peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash in butter and olive oil then sprinkles it with salt, pepper, and chile powder until golden brown and tender. Then she wilts the kale before adding it to the squash for a meal that is healthy AF and tasty, too.
Food and Wine's squash-studded bread pudding recipe has been rated over 3,000 times and still has five stars, so you know it's good! Crust-less baguette pieces are diced and tossed with strips of thinly-sliced prosciutto and sauteed leeks to create this heavy-hitting dish that can be served as an entree with a side salad or as an accompaniment to roasted meat.
Butternut squash is so versatile that it can be used in a variety of cuisines, including those of the Asian persuasion as well as Indian curries. Thai Butternut Squash Red Curry combines the best of both worlds into a creamy, spicy, and sweet one-pot weeknight curry. Squash simmers slowly in a silky coconut curry sauce, made with store-bought red curry paste, a little yellow curry powder, and coconut milk. Shallots, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce layer on the flavor. Serve on top of fluffy basmati rice, topped with crushed cashews or peanuts, some cilantro, and a squeeze of lime for a crunchy, comforting meal that promises to be addictive.
How do you make creamy pasta sauce sans heavy cream? Butternut squash! In their Pasta With Butternut Sauce, Spicy Sausage, and Baby Spinach, Skinnytaste created a lighter alternative to cream sauce out of pureed butternut squash that is thinned out with reserved pasta water. Spicy chicken Italian sausage, baby spinach, parmesan cheese, and sage perfectly complement each other and the squash sauce for a pasta dish that both warms and fills you up.
Another hit from the goddess of the garden, Ina Garten's Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash promises to be an easy intro for risotto rookies. However, it does call for saffron threads (because, Ina), so if you can't scout out any of those, try this Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto from Cookie and Kate instead.