Better Than Pumpkin: Homemade Winter Squash Butter

November  8, 2013

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Sarah from The Yellow House walks us through a squash transformation you'll want to try immediately, and spread on everything. 


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At this time of year, the pro-pumpkin and anti-pumpkin camps have set up in the trenches. I like to think of myself as a moderate on the pumpkin issue. But if I had to choose, I'd have to say that I'm against the pumpkinization of everything, mostly because of the cloying personality pumpkin seems to take on in public. Pumpkin does not belong in my beer, thanks, and in baked goods, the "pumpkin pie spice" profile gets pretty tired (when it's not in, you know, pumpkin pie). 

More: If you want to make your pumpkin pie with real pumpkin, here's how.

Mostly, though, I respect winter squash so much that I regret pumpkin's popular representation as nothing more than a syrupy novelty coffee drink. So I set out to reverse-engineer pumpkin butter. At first glance, pumpkin butter seems like it contains everything someone like me dislikes about this time of year: It's usually made out of canned pumpkin, loaded up with sweetener and the typical flavors you would see in a plastic shaker of dusty pumpkin pie spice. But after reading that canned pumpkin typically contains not just pumpkin purée, but also butternut, Hubbard, and other winter squashes, I wondered: could I make a pumpkin butter -- or, more accurately, a "winter squash butter" -- that really celebrates all that I love about winter squash?

The answer is a resounding yes, and best of all, it's not even hard. I started with one butternut and one mini-Hubbard squash, roasted them, and then puréed them with a little brown sugar and some fresh spice blends. For the butternut, I pulverized whole cloves, freshly grated nutmeg, and ground cinnamon with grated ginger for a fresh take on that traditional "pumpkin pie spice." For the Hubbard, which darkened considerably more, I ground up cardamom, cloves, and a little bit of star anise for a more exotically spiced butter. 

Both of them cooked down to thick, velvety spreads that are good on everything from scones to oatmeal to saltine crackers. They make beautiful gifts funneled into small jars, and keep well in the fridge for at least two weeks. Hopefully that's long enough for you to spread the word about sweet, spicy winter squash preparations -- it can be really good, and it's not just for lattes anymore.

Winter Squash Butter

2 cups roasted squash
1/2 cup brown or demerara sugar
2 teaspoons spice blend of choice (see recipes for spice blends below)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons apple cider (you can substitute water)

If you haven't yet roasted your squash, preheat the oven to 450° Fahrenheit, cut your squash of choice in half, remove the seeds and stringy bits, drizzle with a bit of neutral oil, and roast until the flesh of the squash is very tender, 40 minutes to 1 hour.

Let your squash cool, then scoop the roasted squash flesh from the skin, and measuring out two full cups of flesh.

More: Don't throw away your seeds! Roast them instead.

In a food processor, combine all other ingredients and process until smooth. Using a spatula, scrape the mixture from the food processor into a medium saucepan. Bring the squash mixture to a simmer, and continue to simmer, scraping the bottom to prevent sticking and burning, for 10 to 15 minutes, until it thickens and becomes velvety.

Allow the squash butter to cool, and then funnel into small jars. The butter will keep, refrigerated, for up to two weeks. (Unfortunately, you cannot safely can the squash butter.)

Cardamom, Clove, and Star Anise Spice Blend

1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 small piece of a star anise pod
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

In a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder, pulverize the cloves, cardamom seeds, and star anise pod. Mix with ground cinnamon. 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Photos by Sarah (The Yellow House). 

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I'm a public health professional in the nation's capital, and an enthusiastic home cook and writer in my rural Virginia kitchen. I love simple, market- and garden-driven food and entertaining that's accessible and low-fuss. I like to think I write about the life lived between the lines of the recipe.


Jason P. November 10, 2013
You can freeze it and it will last much longer. Great to use in smoothies this way.
mcudney November 10, 2013
Have you tried freezing the squash butter? How does it hold up?
Jason P. November 10, 2013
You can freeze it and it will last much longer. Great to use in smoothies this way. I've frozen past batches with no problems.
Sarah (. November 11, 2013
Agree with jason.peno---freezing the squash butter will work fine, with possible mild variations in texture once you defrost it.
amyheight November 10, 2013
What a fabulous idea! Thank you for sharing. Do you think swapping in another variety of sugar (say, coconut sugar or honey) would work similarly, or is the brown sugar essential because of the molasses-y texture?

There really should be a national day of winter squash celebration. I would definitely spend the whole day dressed as a kabocha. #wintersquashforthewin
Sarah (. November 11, 2013
I really think any sweetener would work----just taste a bit to make sure it's the amount of sweetness you'd like. (But I do like the molasses-y brown sugar.)
[email protected] November 9, 2013
But how long çan one keep what's left of the squash that's unused?
Sarah (. November 11, 2013
Hi there,
The unused roasted squash will freeze nicely in a zipper freezer bag with as much air pressed out as possible, and defrosts quickly for use in soups, risottos, etc. It will also keep in the refrigerator for at least a week. Thanks---S
aargersi November 8, 2013
Yum - squash butter! Try it with beer - another good option!