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With its smooth texture and a taste reminiscent of a buttered sweet potato, butternut squash is the go-to gourd for fall recipes. You can turn this vibrantly-hued squash into everything from cozy comfort-food casseroles to satisfying spaghetti, gnocchi, and other pasta-inspired meals to a main dish worthy of any fall spread. Whether you’re new to butternut squash or want to brush up on your squash skills, here’s what you need to know about choosing, prepping, and cooking with this versatile fall veggie.
How to Pick the Best Butternut Squash
“The best butternut squash have skin that is taut and evenly colored, with no blemishes or soft spots,” says Sarah Woutat of Uproot Farm in Princeton, Minn. If you’re at a farmers’ market, ask the grower if the squash was cured — a post-harvest, 10-day process maintaining good air circulation and a temperature between 80°F and 85°F, which produces sweeter-tasting flesh and longer storage potential.
“If stored in a dry, cool, well-ventilated place, a cured butternut can last up to four months,” Woutat says. Wrapped tightly in plastic, cut squash can keep in the fridge for up to a week.
How to Prep Butternut Squash for Cooking
To prep it for cooking, slice off about 1 inch from each end of the squash, stand upright, and peel with a sharp vegetable peeler. Cut the squash in half to separate the neck from the bulb end, then halve the bulb end lengthwise, and scoop out seeds. Dice or slice as needed.
Woutat recommends roasting butternut until tender to intensify its sweet flavor. Add roasted cubes to tacos or frittatas; mash and use as a stuffing for ravioli or a spread for pizza; or blend into smoothies, dips, or batter for baked goods. Don’t toss the seeds, which can be roasted as a garnish for soups or enjoyed as an out-of-hand snack.
What to Cook with Butternut Squash
• Shave raw butternut squash and carrot into ribbons; toss with sliced apple, baby spinach, and walnuts; dress salad with a lemon vinaigrette.
• For a seasonal breakfast bowl, stir together cooked steel-cut oats with butternut squash purée, sliced pecans, dried cranberries, maple syrup, ground flaxseed, ground cloves, and vanilla extract.
• Simmer together cubed butternut, veggie broth, coconut milk, red curry paste, garlic, and ginger; purée with lime juice, and garnish with roasted peanuts for a Thai-inspired soup.
• For a riff on hummus, blend together cooked butternut with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, cayenne, salt, and black pepper.
• Blend pecans, along with a touch of oil and honey, in a food processor until creamy; blend in butternut puree, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a sweet twist on nut butter.
• For a seasonal smoothie, blend together cooked and cooled butternut with almond milk, frozen banana, plain yogurt, chia seeds, fresh ginger, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.
• Make a pizza topped with roasted cubed butternut, torn kale, chopped sage, sliced pear, and soft goat cheese.
• Stuff burritos with steamed or roasted butternut, brown rice, black beans, avocado slices, cilantro, and salsa.
• Simmer pomegranate juice, balsamic vinegar, and cinnamon, uncovered, over medium-high heat until reduced and syrupy; serve over slices of roasted butternut.