Butternut Squash

How to Break Down a Butternut Squash

February 13, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: The butternut squash is Goliath. You are David. You win.

How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

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Big, honking, and hermetically sealed, a butternut squash is a formidable opponent, and breaking one down is a daunting task. Where do you start? How do you get the skin off? Why did you have to sell that machete at last year's yard sale? Maybe it could have come in handy tonight, when you're hungry and the only thing between you and dinner is a curcurbit that needs to, somehow, be hacked.

Breaking down a butternut is quite simple, though, if you can learn to compartmentalize: take off the ends, separate the neck from the round bottom, then peel; this will give you manageable pieces to deal with. You will also get a bonus snack out of the seeds, if you don't mind picking through a bit of goo. Either way, you'll go from whole to pieces in less than five minutes, leaving you no excuse to buy the less fresh and more expensive pre-chopped bits at the store.

Let us show you how.

How to Prep Butternut Squash  How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

First, slice off the nubbin at the top of your squash. Cut it in half, just where things start to get wider. Then cut off about an inch from the bottom. You now have two separate pieces, each its own size, with flat edges that will help you avoid tumbling squashes and lost fingers.

How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

Next, grab your vegetable peeler, and take off the skin. This is a bit easier than a paring knife, and it's more effective; you're not going to lose as much flesh, and it gives you more control.

How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

Once all the squash's skin is gone, and there are no lingering streaks of white down its sides, cut your halves in half.

How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52  How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

Next, scoop out all of the innards -- you want to get all of the seeds and the surrounding ick. We recommend you pick through the guts and remove all of the seeds -- then wash them off; toss them with some oil, salt, and spices; and roast them for a snack or salad topping. Here's how to do it, in 5 easy steps.

If you don't feel like roasting your seeds, take a page from Deborah Madison's book: she uses the seeds and fibers to make a quick stock -- use it in risotto or soup. (Don't you feel so vegetable-literate right now?)

More: Brush up on your winter squash knowledge, from butternut to delicata.

How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

Back to the beast: you now have manageable hunks to slice and chop as if they were, say, a sweet potato, or any other non-threatening root vegetable. Slice them lengthwise, then horizontally, then crosswise -- the same way you'd chop an onion.

How to Prep Butternut Squash  How to Prep Butternut Squash on Food52

Look! Now you have evenly sized pieces. Add them to a stew, turn them into a soft stovetop purée, or roast them and toss them into this Genius salad. Then pat yourself on the back for tackling winter's Goliath.

Butternut Squash Salad on Food52

Photos by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



Curt October 15, 2018
I blanch the thing for about 30 seconds at a simmering boil, spinning it on top of tge water (because it floats). Then it peels easier than an apple, if using a veggie peeler. This step is more important the older and more cement-like the skin gets.
Janet January 16, 2018
Cut off the ends and microwave the squash for about 3 minutes. Much easier to peel.
vicki February 26, 2014
Acorn squash is my nemesis. So hard to cut and really hard to peel. Any helpful hints for those?
Justin B. February 25, 2014
This is basically the process I use to process butternut squash, but I have found that using a cleaver helps a lot because it is tall enough that I can use both hands all the way through the cut, instead of only being able to use one when my french chef knife is buried.
copywolf February 14, 2014
Much, much, much easier to peel with U peeler in my experience. I had truly given up on them til I got one.
Jane February 13, 2014
I do all that except I don't peel the squash. I use it in a vegetable stew with mushrooms, tomato sauce, daikon, onions, garlic, green pepper, etc. Is it "bad" to eat the skin?
Judi S. February 13, 2014
The skin on my hands feels horrible after peeling butternut squash (and it doesn't wash off!). I recommend wearing gloves for this job.
Megan G. December 13, 2015
Contact dermatitis: http://www.thekitchn.com/red-itchy-peeling-hands-could-be-butternut-squash-dermatitis-179545
Jackson F. November 23, 2016
Judi! I've always said this about butternut squash & pumpkins. Somewhat relieved to hear I am not the only one. I hate that feeling!
Sarushka February 13, 2014
Wonderful read! Is that by chance a Kikuichi knife?
Marian B. February 13, 2014
It's a togiharu! And thanks so much!