Learn all about the different ways that you can cook and enjoy butternut squash! Get my tips and favorite recipes.
I’m a big fan of butternut squash, but it’s awkward shape can make it a little difficult to prep and cut. I wanted to share not only how to make that process easier, but some of my favorite ways to cook squash and use it in recipes.
How To Cut Butternut Squash
As delicious as butternut squash is once it’s cooked, for a long time I would avoid it because it’s a pain to cut up. The shape can be awkward and hard to manage. Recently, some grocery stores have been selling it pre-cut in the produce or freezer sections. That really helps.
If you have a whole squash though, what do you do? Below you’ll see that you can roast it whole and microwave it whole, no cutting required. But, if you want beautifully caramelized squash cubes, it will need to be cut before cooking.
Helpful Tip: If you decide to peel and cut the raw squash, try microwaving first to make it easier. Use a fork to poke holes all over the skin, then microwave for 3 minutes to soften. After it cools, it will be easier to handle!
Start by using a sharp knife to cut the top with the stem off, as well as about 1/2 inch from the bottom. Use a sturdy vegetable peeler to remove all of the tough skin. Next, cut the squash in half long ways. Remove the seeds and pulp and discard.
From here, you can further cut into slices or cubes or leave it halved, depending on your recipe. Then it’s time to get cooking.
Note: Some people have an allergic reaction when peeling and cutting squash. This actually happens to me. For me, my skin looks like it has acquired a film or coating and it feels very tight. It goes away reasonably quickly, but it is definitely annoying and it used to alarm me before I knew what it was. If you have this reaction or think that you might, wearing gloves helps. Or you can buy the squash already peeled and cut, or cook it whole as below.
Cooking Butternut Squash Whole
Of course, if the plan is to puree the squash for something like soup, I skip the gloves and the whole peeling and cutting nonsense and cook my butternut squash whole. Butternut squash can be cooked whole in a variety of appliances.
To roast your whole butternut squash in the oven, it will take 60-80 minutes at 425°F. In the microwave, a whole squash will take about 10 minutes. Finally, if you want to cook your squash in the Instant Pot, pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Remember that it will also take time to come to pressure and to release it at the end.
When you think the squash is ready, test it by poking it with a paring knife or skewer. It should easily slide all the way in. Be sure to test it at both the narrow end and the wider end. This is because the two ends are different from each other and cook in different amounts of time. The narrower end is denser and is solid squash all the way through, whereas the thicker end is actually hollow with a big space and seeds in there.
Note that the time range for roasting the squash is because different squash are different sizes, but also their density can vary. That means that two squash of similar size might cook in different amounts of time. This can happen in the microwave and Instant Pot as well. So, if your squash isn’t soft after the times given, you may need to go a bit longer.
Once it’s ready, let it cool enough to handle easily. You can then cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and peel off the skin. Now the perfectly cooked flesh is ready to use in your recipe. Oh, and here’s something interesting. Once it’s cooked, I don’t get that same reaction to handling the peel. I can’t guarantee that it will be the same for you but it might be!
How To Roast Butternut Squash Cubes
For butternut squash with some caramelization, you are going to want to cut it before roasting. Roasted squash makes a fantastic side dish on it’s own or as part of a salad.
For roasted butternut squash that has been cut into 1-inch cubes, roast on a baking sheet at 425°F for 40-50 minutes. Turn them with a spatula about halfway through the cook time. They are ready when they are nicely browned and fork tender.
The squash can be simply seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper or try out different flavors by using herbs like rosemary or sage. You could even use something like curry powder or go sweeter with cinnamon.
You can also simply halve the squash for roasting but it will take a little bit longer in the oven. For halved butternut squash, expect it to take an hour at 425°F. Try out this tasty recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberry Glaze – perfect for holiday meals!
More Great Butternut Squash Recipes
Butternut squash can be used for all kinds of recipes. Make a soup or a sauce for pasta. Turn it into a gratin-style casserole dish or simply mash it smooth for an easy side dish.
Let me know in the comments below your favorite way to enjoy this tasty fall vegetable!