Butternut Squash and How to Enjoy It at Every Meal

September 27, 2014

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today: Butternut is a popular squash for good reasons, and with 33 recipe ideas, it'll be popular in your kitchen all season long. 

Butternut Squash

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Despite what the name might suggest, winter squash doesn't grow in the winter. The name actually refers to the fact that most varieties can be stored and used throughout the winter. Though just like onions, garlic, and potatoes, winter squash -- like butternut squash, for example -- needs to be cured for long term storage.

All types of winter squash belong to the same genus (Cucurbita), which is packed with a number of species (just how many is up for debate), but most of the edible types of squash fit into just three. You'll find a lot of familiar types of winter squash in C. pepo (acorn, some pumpkins, delicata -- and summer squash too!) and C. maxima (Hubbard and kabocha), while butternut squash hangs out in C. moschata along with some more obscure varieties (Musquée de Provence and Long Island Cheese).

Butternut Squash

Yet some of those obscure varieties get put to very good use. Did you know your can of pumpkin purée is likely made from C. moschata cultivars, including butternut squash? Melissa Clark makes her pumpkin pies with butternut squash, and not just because she thinks they’re easy to work with -- she made several trips to the farmers market, lugged home a variety of winter squashes, and taste-tested the roasted purées from them all. Butternut squash won

More: Not convinced? Make your own authentic pumpkin purée.

Prolific writer and vegetable expert Elizabeth Schneider is also a big fan of butternut squash: “It packs in more dazzling golden-orange flesh (2) per penny than any other variety. With its small cavity (3) and easily pared thin skin (1), there is minimal waste.”

Butternut Squash

Look for butternut squash at your farmers market or local grocery store; given their ubiquitousness, you might be inclined to think that butternut squash has been around forever, but in fact, it's a fairly new type -- the original butternut squash was introduced commercially in 1944.

When selecting a butternut squash, or any type of winter squash, look for a heavy, rock-hard squash with the stems still attached. And if you want to make your life easier, choose butternut squash specimens with thick necks and less of a bulbous ball at the bottom (4) -- they're easier to peel and break down. If you still end up with one with a big round bottom though, it’s okay, breaking down a butternut is more manageable than it seems.

After you've scooped out seeds (5), don’t waste them, they're tiny, but tasty -- roast them! Or take Deborah Madison’s advice and put the whole pile of goop to good use: “You can use the seeds and fibers to make a quick soup stock for a winter squash soup or risotto. If you’ve roasted the squash first, you can still use them, along with the cooked skins.” 

More: Butternut squash seeds are also used to make a flavorful finishing oil.

Butternut Squash

Get ready for a bonanza of butternut -- here's how to eat this squash from sunup to sundown:

Start your day with a breakfast sandwich piled high with roasted squash, proscuitto and a fried egg, or use those same ingredients to fill a quiche. Combine butternut and sage in scones or spread squash butter on a piece of toast as you dash out the door. 

Butternut squash just may become your favorite salad ingredient: in panzanella, kale salad, or a bagna cauda salad. If you’re looking for something heartier, give your salad a boost with beans or seeds. Or warm up with a bowl of butternut squash soup made with sherry, cider, or even miso and coconut

Butternut Squash Soup Hard Squash Hummus

Appetizers and Side Dishes
Drinks count as appetizers, right? We say yes. So start off your evening sipping butternut squash liqueur while you nibble on hard squash hummus or squash butter crostini with blue cheese and bacon. Grab a few bites of butternut squash chips and dirt candy (which tastes better than it sounds) and get ready to pass around the side dishes. Butternut squash lends itself to so many preparations: puréed, braised, roasted in thin strips, caramelized in wedges, or mashed into a gratin.

Dinner and Desserts
For the main event, tuck your butternut squash into a tagine, galette, risotto, or hearty stew. Or pair it with pasta, either stuffed inside or tossed on the top. For dessert, bake butternut squash into cookies, bread pudding, or a loaf cake laced and iced with brown butter. Or try butternut squash in a torte or ice cream.

Tell us: What's your favorite way to use butternut squash? 

Photos by James Ransom

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Michelle Elise
    Michelle Elise
  • Joyceski
  • LysiaLoves
  • PamellaB
  • Nikki
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


Michelle E. October 3, 2015
In fall/ winter, I will roast acorn or other squash and keep halves in the fridge for quick warm snack or to accompany dinner. I just reheat in microwave and add butter (even maple syrup) and salt. Maybe cinnamon. It's so simple, so good. It refrigerates and reheats so well.
Joyceski October 8, 2014
I see above that you have to "cure" butternut squash to keep it for longer periods of time. How do you cure the squash?
Lindsay-Jean H. October 8, 2014
Just like onions and garlic, if you're buying it, you don't have to worry about it, your butternut squash has already been cured.

If you're growing your own, you want your butternut squash to hang out in your garden until the skin toughens up. You'll know it's ready when you can press a fingernail into the skin and it doesn't leave an indent. Cut the squash from the vine (so you don't accidentally twist off the whole stem), and then it should be moved to a warm sunny spot (like a windowsill) for a week or two (or more) to cure, after which time it'll do best living in a cool, dry spot.
Mallory M. March 20, 2020
I know this is an old comment but your wealth of knowledge in veggies, their tells, and their many uses never fails to ASTOUND me. 😊❤️
Lindsay-Jean H. March 20, 2020
Aw, thanks Mallory! ❤️
LysiaLoves October 6, 2014
One of the best dishes I've ever eaten was a butternut squash ravioli in browned butter, hazelnuts and sage. OMG.
LysiaLoves October 6, 2014
I make a gluten-free orange maple yam corn muffin with pecans that is pure autumn comfort! I'm sure it'd be delicious with squash in place of the yam... Will have to try :)
(BTW this isn't a real blog, just a place I post recipes for my friends & fam :))
PamellaB October 1, 2014
Autumn Harvest Soup with kale, butternut squash & farro at Kalyn's Kitchen.
I tweak the recipe some for our taste by increasing the seasonings, using vegetable broth, increasing the liquid some.

PamellaB October 1, 2014
I accidently pulled butternut squash from the freezer thinking I had peaches when making a "peach pie" smoothie.(peaches, yogurt, almond milk, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon & oat bran) Didn't notice until it was it was too late, so continued making my smoothie. It was so good!
LysiaLoves October 6, 2014
Um, that sounds like a delicious accident!!
Nikki October 1, 2014
I love butternut squash but find it difficult to peel it. Any suggestions???
Lindsay-Jean H. October 1, 2014
We use a vegetable peeler. It's easier than it might seem once you separate the squash into two big chunks -- the neck and the rounded bottom. You can read more about how we break down a butternut squash here:
J9 October 1, 2014
Cube-roast the butternut squash and while it's still hot throw it over fall greens like kale, escarole, frisee and add a good amount of roasted seeds or nuts for protein (sunflower is our fav). This is a vegetarian go-to meal in the fall for us.
Kathleen B. September 30, 2014
I cut the squash in half, take out the seeds and stuff the cavity with good quality seasoned Italian sausage. You will need to remove the casings from it first. Stuff it very tight. Drizzle a little olive oil over the long half. Put onto a baking pan and bake 45 minutes. Keep checking with a fork for donenss and baste the squash with the running oils from the sausage. so yummy
AntoniaJames September 30, 2014
Deadly but oh, so delicious. Great tip, KB! ;o)
karmaya September 28, 2014
may have posted this recipe before - use butternut squash or other pumpkin.. this is a smash hit at thanksgiving dinner: "pumpkin parmesan soup" : 8 cps pumpkin + 6 cps idaho potatos peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces, + 1 medium onion [coarse chop] all into 3 cps chicken broth + 1 cp water & sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/4 t dried), salt to taste. simmer covered til squash is tender. puree & return to pot; before serving, reheat, adding 1/3 cp parmesan, 3 T. marsala, 1/4 t. white pepper, 1/4 t. grated nutmeg. (recipe from jane brody's 'good food gourmet' via Bon Appetit magazine from a ridgewood NJ home. enjoy!
AntoniaJames September 29, 2014
Karmaya, that sounds so appealing! Thank you for posting it. I've copied and pasted, etc. for future reference. We usually eat light suppers; this will be just perfect. ;o)
AntoniaJames September 27, 2014
Pizza with roasted butternut squash, sage, bacon, shallots, and asiago + parmigiano - using Dan Leader "genius" 4-hour baguette dough, just to see how it works -- and it's outstanding! Later this week: mashed roasted butternut squash and parsnips
Emsily September 28, 2014
i love it when i look at a yummy recipe, or interesting article, and find you here!
AntoniaJames September 30, 2014
Awww, you are so sweet. Love you. ;o)