Big Little Recipes

Don't Roast That Butternut Squash. Make This Crunchy Salad Instead.

October 13, 2020

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else—flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re enjoying butternut squash in its natural state.

Our site has its fair share of butternut squash recipes, most of which take place in the oven or on the stove. See: these caramelized wedges with sage pesto, this garlicky galette, these crunchy chips, this cider-spiked soup, and hundreds more.

Yet my favorite way to enjoy butternut squash involves little more than peeling, plus a few minutes of knifework.

Just as summer squash like zucchini is as delightful shaved into ribbons as it is sizzled in a skillet, winter squash like butternut has range. Nobody puts it in a corner.

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Top Comment:
“The crunchy squash, sweet dates, salty feta, and vinegar pungency of the chilis gives a surprising balance. Peeling/slicing butternuts is always a bit of a challenge (although I haven't experienced any irritation), but as a chemist, I do think the vinegar/low pH would help to neutralize any enzymes in the recipe. ”
— Cindy A.

Yes, it’s wonderful blasted in the oven, then tossed with hot pasta. Yes, it’s dreamy blended into a nutty-cheesy soup. And, yes, it’s game-changing julienned into matchsticks and dressed as a salad.


With months of cold weather coming up, any snappy, crunchy vegetable is a ripe way to sidestep the annual, inevitable roasted vegetable fatigue. Think of butternut like a carrot, but better, with a creamy, buttery flavor and happy-go-lucky color that I would paint on my nails if I painted my nails.

After cutting up your squash, make sure to salt it, with feeling, so the fresh vegetable becomes highly seasoned and slightly wilted—still crisp, just weaker in the knees. From there, you could dress it up as your favorite salad situation—from Caesar to slaw-style with mayo, shiro miso, and rice vinegar.

But first, I hope you’ll try this minimalist combo, which has, in my home, swiftly become a fall favorite: Quick-pickled chiles (jalapeño or serrano or Fresno or whatever you like, in your favorite vinegar). Sticky, chewy Medjool dates. And crumbled salty feta.

The good news is: Because butternut squash is so sturdy, this keeps like a dream in the fridge for days. Which means you can make a batch for lunch or dinner today, then reward yourself for the rest of the week. Or, wheel it out for a get-together like Thanksgiving. Sure, you’ll have to assure a few relatives that, yeah, you can eat butternut squash raw. But one bite will do the trick.

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Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles on the fly, baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., and writing about the history of pie in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's award-winning column, Big Little Recipes (also the cookbook in November 2021!). And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Linda R. November 3, 2020
I made exactly according to the recipe. I also get butternut hands. They get all crackly, dry and this lasts for days. I wear gloves to peel and that does the trick. Definitely a challenging veggie to peel, but the visual on this salad makes it all worthwhile. THAT colour on a cloudy fall day! Thank you for introducing me to raw BNS. That heat is potent.
Valerie October 28, 2020
Fabulous recipe ! A big winner.
Making it this weekend for a 2nd time after purchasing a good quality peeler - Lol
Anita October 26, 2020
Thank you! I love the raw BNS idea and salad...who knew?
Cindy A. October 25, 2020
Wow - raw squash was too interesting not to try, and this salad is so delicious! The crunchy squash, sweet dates, salty feta, and vinegar pungency of the chilis gives a surprising balance. Peeling/slicing butternuts is always a bit of a challenge (although I haven't experienced any irritation), but as a chemist, I do think the vinegar/low pH would help to neutralize any enzymes in the recipe.
jan October 22, 2020
Has anybody tried julienne with the food processor?
sue October 16, 2020
I substituted with lemon juice, orange concentrate, chopped parsley and thinly sliced apples & a drizzle of olive oil. Refreshing!
Bikegirl227 October 14, 2020
I wear cut resistant gloves whenever I have a knife in hand especially when trying to cut through a concrete like wobbly butternut squash so I haven't experienced "squash hands". I asked Siri and an article from Southern Living in the October 2017 issue popped up. It said that a sap like substance occurs when the flesh of the butternut squash has been cut and hardens like glue whether it's on the squash or your hands. The solution is to wear gloves. I also buy and use food service plastic gloves but always cut resistant ones when trying to wield a winter squash.
[email protected] October 13, 2020
I totally have had that feeling too
TeresaSML October 13, 2020
I know what you mean about the “honey” in your hands after peeling the Butternut Squash! And I have the same issue with zucchini
Genevieve October 13, 2020
It seems like the less ripe the squash is, the more of this dermatitis causing enzyme it contains, but it's happened to me with butternuts that look completely ripe.
Genevieve October 13, 2020
In theory this sounds delicious! However, I've gotten really uncomfortable and peeling hands from handling raw butternut squash before (search "butternut squash dermatitis") and have fear feelings about what this could do to my mouth. Unless you think vinegar would denature the enzyme?
foodgiril2769 October 13, 2020
going to share