How to Prep and Cook Butternut Squash (2024)

Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables both to grow and to eat, and so I have a vested interest in educating people in how to use it. But I still encounter people who don’t. One example is a local restaurant that serves it as a side-dish, steamed and still chalky-crunchy. An acquaintance I talked to recently also told me “I always just steam it. It’s kind of boring.” And a family member tried to make a recipe I gave her for Butternut Muffins but did not cook the squash long enough before preparing the batter, resulting in muffins she described as “horrible”.

Butternut is a very versatile vegetable (VVV): it can be baked, boiled, steamed or stewed. But IMHO, it should never, ever be crunchy.

By far the fastest, easiest, and arguably tastiest way to cook Butternut is to bake it. You can do this in one of two basic ways:

  1. Unpeeled, cut in half and baked face down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper is by far the easiest. You don’t even need to remove the seeds before cooking. Cook at 400 degrees — hot — until the squash releases its juices and they are bubbly and brown around the edges. This is a sign that the sugars in the squash have caramelized and its flavor concentrated. Depending on the size of the squash and on your oven, this will take 30-45 minutes. Allow the squash to cool and then remove the skin and seedy pulp. Butternut cooked this way can be served as a side-dish, stirred into soups and pureed, or turned into batter for baked goods like muffins or coffee cakes. If you have leftovers, it can also be frozen for a second use.
  2. Peel the uncooked squash (carefully), remove the seedy pulp, and then cut into slices or cubes. Brush or toss the pieces with oil and salt — or experiment with a different marinade. Roast the squash directly on a baking sheet at 425 degrees, turning once or twice to brown and caramelize. It should be slightly crisp on the outside and completely soft inside. Cooked this way, it is a delicious side-dish but is also great used in place of croutons on a salad of sturdy greens like spinach, kale or cabbage.

If you are choose to boil or steam Butternut, you are foregoing the wonderful transformation that it undergoes when its watery flavor and starchy texture are transformed by the process of caramelization. (You can caramelize it in a frying pan, but it is difficult and time-consuming). So, you should only do so if you are going to use it in a recipe with lots of other flavors.

As I mentioned above, it’s actually easier to prepare Butternut for a soup by baking it — because you don’t have to peel it in advance. So I’m going to say that the only reason to use it without baking it first is if you want a soup or stew that is not pureed. For example, it is a great addition to spicy chili or mole when peeled and de-seeded and then diced. Slow-cooked this way, it absorbs the complex flavors while retaining its shape and some of its texture. When you bite into those now-soft cubes, they release the flavors back while mellowing the spiciness.

How to Prep and Cook Butternut Squash (2024)


What are the four ways to cook butternut squash? ›

Steaming, boiling, microwaving, and pressure cooking are quick moist-heat ways to soften the flesh of this winter squash. These methods don't add much flavor, but they are great for soups and purees. Personally, roasting tastes the best.

Should you wash butternut squash before cooking? ›

Food Safety and Storage

Scrub winter squash with a vegetable brush under cool running water before cooking or cutting. Do not use soap. Do not wash squash before storing. Keep squash away from raw meat and meat juices to prevent cross-contamination.

Is it better to steam or boil butternut squash? ›

The squash also retains most of its nutrients when it is steamed and has a wonderfully sweet butternuttiness to it. Steamed butternut can also be used in a variety of ways – added to salads, mashed, puréed or enjoyed as is with a simple seasoning of your choice.

What is the best way to can butternut squash? ›

To can pumpkin or squash:
  1. Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes.
  2. Boil the cubes in water for 2 minutes.
  3. Fill the jars with cubes and cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch of headspace.
  4. Pumpkin and squash are low-acid vegetables and must be pressure canned. ...
  5. For either method, process pints for 55 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.

What is the easy hack for peeling butternut squash? ›

Microwave Hack for Easier Butternut Squash Peeling

Simply slice off the top and bottom, poke the squash all over with a fork and microwave it on high for about 3 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, peel the squash. The softened flesh will make peeling (and slicing) way easier.

Does butternut squash need to be peeled before cooking? ›

Some squash skin is edible, while other types of squash have tough skin that can be removed before cooking. Remove the skin of butternut, hubbard, buttercup, and turban squash. If you enjoy the taste, leave the skin on acorn, spaghetti, kabocha, and zucchini squash.

How does Rachael Ray cook butternut squash? ›

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and drizzle with EVOO. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg and roast until just tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

How does Gordon Ramsay cook butternut squash? ›

How does Gordon Ramsay cook butternut squash? He first tosses the butternut squash in oil, maple syrup, salt, and pepper and then cooks it in the oven at 400°F for about 25 minutes.

Do you cook butternut squash cut side up or down? ›

Cooking butternut squash halves
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut off ¼" from the top and bottom of the butternut squash. ...
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the butternut squash halves cut side down. Bake for 50-60minute or until tender.
Oct 23, 2021

How to prep butternut squash? ›

To begin, cut off the top stem and bottom end of your squash and discard. Then cut the squash in half where the small, cylinder shape and round, bulb-shape meet. Use a sharp knife (or a sturdy vegetable peeler) to carefully remove the skin. Alternatively, the skin can stay on because it's edible when roasted!

How do you know if butternut squash is ready to be cooked? ›

The One Way To Tell Butternut Squash Is Ripe

Light to dark green spots on the skin tells you it's definitely not ready to be eaten. If the skin is very pale—more creamy white than tan—it's not ripe.

Why is my butternut squash turning brown when I cook it? ›

As the veggies hit the boiling water, volatile acids are released into the water and are carried away in the steam. When the pot is covered, the steam and the acids it contains are forced back into the water. Once there, the acids react with the chlorophyll in the vegetables, turning them an unsightly shade of brown.

Does butternut squash need to be cooked before eating? ›

You don't actually have to cook butternut squash to enjoy it. That's right, you can eat butternut squash raw (yep, we said it). Raw butternut squash is carrot-like and holds up well in crunchy salads and slaws.

Do you need to harden off butternut squash? ›

Curing helps to harden the skin of winter squash and can even aid in healing minor wounds. Proper curing will improve the shelf life of winter squash too. If the weather conditions are right, you may cure your squash in the field for 7–10 days after cutting off the vine. Look for dry, warm days at 70–80°F.

Is butternut squash healthy? ›

Butternut squash offers nutritional values like vitamin A, potassium, and fiber. Health benefits of this winter squash include managing high blood pressure, preventing asthma, and promoting healthy skin and hair. Contrary to the name, winter squash is grown in the summer and harvested in the fall.

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