There are so many types of squash! This winter squash guide walks you through what you need to know about choosing, storing, and cooking common varieties.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is scoping out the lovely winter squash at the farmers market and grocery store. I love how they look sitting on my kitchen counter, and of course I love to eat them!
Table of Contents
- Winter Squash Nutrition
- How to Store Winter Squash
- How to Cook Squash Seeds
- Guide to Common Types of Winter Squash
Winter Squash Nutrition
Not only is winter squash beautiful and delicious, it’s so, so good for you. Like all orange-fleshed fruits and veggies, winter squash is a great source of vitamin A, providing around 60 percent of your daily requirements in a one-cup serving.
The starch in winter squash also has anti-inflammatory and insulin regulating properties. On top of its vitamin A content, winter squash is a good source of vitamin C, fiber, vitamin B6, manganese, copper and potassium.
There are dozens of winter squash varieties, and each one is unique. If you’re ready to branch out of your winter squash comfort zone, use these tips below to choose, store and cook!
How to Store Winter Squash
If you’re planning to store winter squash for a long period, cured is best. It’s a pretty sure bet that grocery store squash is cured, but you may want to ask at the farmers market.
To cure squash, you sit it out in the sun for seven to 10 days. Squash needs to be cured as soon as it’s harvested.
You store cured and uncured squash the same way, but cured will keep much longer.
Store your squash in a cool, dark place, making sure that there is space between them. If they’re touching each other, they can rot at the point of contact. Properly stored, cured squash will keep for months!
Check in on your squash often. Bruising is the first sign that winter squash is starting to turn. If you notice any bruising, slice the bruised parts away, and cook the rest up ASAP.
How to Cook Squash Seeds
Before you cook most types of winter squash, you have to scoop the seeds out. Don't throw them away, though. Pumpkins aren’t the only winter squash with edible seeds!
Winter squash seeds of all kinds are lovely baked in the oven using your favorite roasted pumpkin seed recipe. If you don’t have a favorite, my friend Gwen at Delightful Adventures walks you through it in detail.
Guide to Common Types of Winter Squash
Like I mentioned above, there are dozens of types of winter squash out there. Below is a guide to seven of winter squash varieties you're most likely to find at farmers markets and grocery stores.
When you're shopping for winter squash, there is one common thing to look out for. Cosmetic blemishes and irregular bumps on the skin are generally fine. What you should avoid are squash with bruises or soft spots -- those are signs that they're starting to rot.
How to choose it: With many veggies, green equals unripe, but when it comes to acorn squash, green is a-OK. A good acorn squash is a deep green with an orange spot on one side.
There is an acorn squash variety that is mostly yellow-orange, so don’t shy away from a predominantly orange acorn squash!
How to cook it: The easiest way to cook acorn squash is roasting it in the oven. Just halve it, scoop the seeds, rub the halves generously with olive oil and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your squash.
If you want to get fancier, try Amy's amazing Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe!
How to choose it: This is another dark green squash, but buttercup squash has pretty pale green or off-white vertical stripes. This squash can be a little bit bumpy or blemished, but don’t let that stop you unless the bumps are soft or squishy.
How to cook it: Buttercup squash cooks up like acorn squash or kabocha pumpkin, so any recipe calling for those will work. This simple roasted buttercup squash recipe is a great place to start.
How to choose it: A good butternut squash has a yellow skin and no soft spots or bruises. If you want a sweeter squash, look for a butternut that has more orange coloration on the skin. Just make sure there are no soft spots—that indicates rot! Some blemishes are okay, as long as they’re not soft.
How to choose it: Delicata squash are bright yellow in color with imperfect skin and dark green or orange, vertical stripes along its body. As long as the bumps and blemishes aren’t soft, you’re good to go.
How to cook it: You can cook delicata squash similarly to butternut squash. In fact, some people say that delicata is butternut squash’s more delicious cousin. If you need a recipe to get you started, I recommend Cadry's roasted delicata squash.
How to choose it: Like acorn squash, kabocha pumpkins are a lovely, dark green color, but some yellow or orange on the skin is fine. They should feel heavier than they look when you pick them up and be bruise-free, though some blemishes are okay as long as they aren’t soft.
How to cook it: Vegan Miam has an excellent guide to preparing and cooking kabocha pumpkin.
My favorite way to cook it, though, is with Andrea’s recipe for roasting. I have made it with and without the sugar, and it’s fabulous either way. The roasted wedges are lovely right from the oven or cold on a salad the next day.
You can substitute acorn squash or buttercup squash for kabocha pumpkin in any recipe.
How to choose it: Pie pumpkins are smaller than the carving pumpkins you use to make Jack-o-lanterns. They’re deep orange in color and should be free of soft spots. Blemishes are okay.
How to cook it: The most common way to prepare pie pumpkin is to make a puree that you can use in any recipe that calls for pumpkin puree. I really like Gwen's method for making pumpkin puree.
You can use your puree right away or freeze it in an ice cube tray and store the cubes in a freezer safe container. This method is great, because one ice cube is two tablespoons. That makes it easy to defrost just as much as you need!
How to choose it: This fun squash can range in color from a yellowish off-white to light orange in color. Some blemishes are okay, as long as they’re not soft.
How to cook it: You can serve spaghetti squash raw or cooked. Cut the squash in half lengthwise to reveal the spaghetti-like strands of goodness that give this winter squash variety its name.
To prepare raw spaghetti squash, gently scoop it out of the rind, and marinate it in your favorite vinaigrette for 30 minutes or so. Top with spaghetti sauce!