The Best Winter Squash Dishes – and All About Winter Squash
As the leaves begin to transform the landscape to amber and gold hues, a quiet, sumptuous revolution unfolds in the fields and farmers’ markets – the arrival of winter squash season. These are not just your ordinary garden varieties of squash. Each type of winter squash is a little marvel of nature, brimming with rich, complex flavors that will be the star of your favorite winter recipes.
Whether it’s the creamy sweetness of butternut, the nutty depths of acorn, or the delicate finesse of delicata, every type of winter squash is more than just an ingredient. Winter squash is a celebration of the season’s bounty, waiting to be transformed into warming, delicious winter squash dishes that gather families around the table.
The Spectrum of Winter Squash: Exploring Types and Tastes
Before talking about winter squash dishes, let’s explore the magic of winter squash. Winter squash comes in a remarkable variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. Below, we highlight some of the most popular types and their distinct characteristics.
- Acorn Squash: A small, ridged, and acorn-shaped squash known for its sweet, nutty flavor. Great for baking and stuffing.
- Butternut Squash: This squash is pear-shaped with smooth, tan skin. It has a sweet, nutty taste and is perfect for soups, purees, and roasting.
- Delicata Squash: Cylindrical and cream-colored with green stripes. Delicata has a sweet, corn-like flavor and a tender texture. Ideal for roasting and stuffing.
- Spaghetti Squash: Oval-shaped with a yellow to pale orange skin. The flesh separates into spaghetti like strands when cooked. It’s a popular low-carb substitute for pasta.
- Kabocha Squash: Also known as Japanese pumpkin. It has dark green skin and sweet, dense flesh. Great for pies, purees, and soups.
- Hubbard Squash: Large, with a bumpy exterior, varying in color from green to blue-gray. Its flesh is sweet and best used in baked goods or pureed.
- Honeynut Squash: This is a smaller, sweeter variant of butternut squash. Excellent for roasting or in desserts.
- Turban Squash: Known for its turban-like cap, it has a mild, nutty flavor and is often used as a decorative gourd.
- Carnival Squash: A hybrid of acorn and sweet dumpling squashes featuring a festive, multicolored rind. It’s sweet and nutty, similar to butternut squash.
- Sweet Dumpling Squash: Small and cream-colored with green stripes, offering a sweet, tender flesh. Perfect for stuffing and baking.
- Buttercup Squash: Dark green skin with a round, squat shape. It has a sweet, creamy flavor, making it excellent for baking and mashing.
- Red Kuri Squash: Also known as Hokkaido squash. It has a teardrop shape with orange-red skin. The flesh is sweet and nutty, ideal for soups and purees.
- Pumpkin: This is the most iconic winter squash, ranging in flavor from sweet to earthy. Used in everything from pies to savory dishes.
- Gold Nugget Squash: Small and round with bright orange skin. It offers a sweet flavor and uses are similar to acorn squash.
- Blue Hokkaido Squash: Known for its blue skin and sweet, nutty flesh. Great for roasting and in soups.
- Long Island Cheese Squash: Named for its resemblance to a wheel of cheese. This pumpkin has a dense, sweet flesh, ideal for pies and purees.
Delicious Winter Squash Dishes to Make Now!
There is no shortage of delicious winter squash dishes on the internet, but we’ve gathered some of our favorite winter squash recipes right here for you. Here are ones we think you’ll want to try!
Acorn Squash: The Nutty Comfort
Acorn squash is a winter favorite, with its distinctive ridged skin and acorn shape. Its flesh is sweet yet mildly nutty, with a tender yet slightly fibrous texture. It’s a versatile squash that can be baked, roasted, steamed, or sautéed.
This stuffed acorn squash recipe is full of caramelized onions, garlic, oyster mushrooms, sautéed kale, wild rice, sliced olives, white wine, and a luscious amount of California extra virgin olive oil. This goodness is topped with toasty chopped walnuts. It’s a plant-based meal or side that everyone will love.
Butternut Squash: Creamy Sweetness
Butternut squash is beloved for its smooth, creamy texture and sweet, buttery flavor. It has a pear-like shape and a pale, fleshy interior. It’s ideal for soups, purees, and as a roasted side dish.
This honey-roasted hasselback butternut squash recipe from Beyond Sweet & Savory is an elegant and delicious side dish. In one bite, you get caramelized squash, creamy gorgonzola, and nutty walnuts.
In this dish from The Delicious Life, nutrient-rich butternut squash gets caramelized by oven roasting, and is dressed with a tart and tangy complement of whipped feta and pomegranate salsa.
When fall rolls around, everyone turns to butternut squash as a favorite cozy dish. Kate of Kate’s Best Recipes says that when you are in a hurry, frozen butternut squash cooks so much easier and tastes just as good. If you have a bag of this squash in your freezer, here are 11 things you can make.
Delicata Squash: Sweet and Tender
Delicata squash, with its cylinder shape and edible skin, offers a sweet, corn-like flavor and tender texture. It’s perfect for roasting and stuffing.
This is a handsome side dish from the pages of Pistachios: Savory & Sweet Recipes Inspired by World Cuisines. This winter squash dish is the perfect accompaniment to chicken or pork, or it can be paired with couscous or quinoa for a vegetarian main course.
This salad from A Girl Defloured is a mixture of baby kale, spinach, and baby chard. It is topped with sweet rings of spiced roasted delicata squash, creamy burrata cheese, bright pomegranate arils, and a sprinkle of nutty, crunchy dukkah. Winter squash perfection.
The delicata squash in this dish from This Mess is Ours is slathered with a curry and cinnamon spice mixture and roasted to perfection. Then, it is stuffed with an exotic blend of long-grain brown rice, Himalayan red rice, wild rice, and brown basmati rice mixed with sautéed onions, garlic, walnut pieces, dried bing cherries, and lacinato kale. Delicious on their own, these gorgeous squash boats are really over the top when slathered with curried cashew cream.
Honeynut Squash is Small but Mighty
Honeynut squash is a cultivar of winter squash bred from butternut and buttercup squash. It packs a more concentrated, sweet, and nutty flavor. Its small size makes it perfect for single servings, roasting whole, or stuffing.
Honeynut squash is all the rage this season & for good reason – they taste great, are easy to cook, and are absolutely adorable!
This recipe for Roasted Honeynut Squash with Rosemary Walnut Crumble has an optional walnut crumble topping that is also delicious sprinkled on fall salads.
Sarah of The Delicious Life says that honeynut squash are the smaller, cuter, and slightly more nutrient-dense cousin of butternut squash. On its own it is sweet and flavorful – all it needs is a simple roast to make the perfect side dish for a simple weeknight or a Thanksgiving or holiday dinner.
These homemade ravioli from Beyond Sweet and Savory requires a bit of elbow grease, but are worth every bit of your time. Honeynut squash, ricotta, Parmesan, and nutmeg make this magical classic Italian-filled pasta.
Pumpkin: The Most Iconic Autumn Squash of Them All
Pumpkin, the most iconic of all winter squash, varies from sweet to earthy in flavor. Its versatility extends beyond pies to soups or dips and can even be served as a roasted vegetable.
Pumpkin puree is simply pumpkin cooked until soft and then blended until smooth. You can make pumpkin puree from scratch using nothing more than the squash itself. It’s easy, delicious, and perfect for making all of your favorite pumpkin-inspired recipes.
Our recipe for homemade Pumpkin and Roasted Sweet Potato Gnocchi is perfect for those chilly nights when you’re looking for something hearty and warm. It combines roasted sweet potatoes and pumpkin puree with egg and flour to create delicious pillowy gnocchi that will satisfy all your fall cravings.
Spaghetti Squash: The Pasta Alternative
Spaghetti squash, known for its unique stringy texture resembling pasta, offers a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
Before spiralized zucchini (a.k.a. zoodles) was all the rage as the low-carb and keto-friendly alternative for pasta, there was the lowly spaghetti squash. In fact, spaghetti squash was the only pasta substitute in town.
And you know what? Sometimes the original is the best! While no one would ever mistake these slightly squeaky and neutral-tasting vegetable strands as the real thing, Nom Nom Paleo says that cooked spaghetti squash is a great vehicle for hearty pasta sauces that will scratch that noodle itch!
Ever heard of the viral Feta Tomato Pasta craze? Dinner Cult takes that delicious recipe up a notch with a twist that’s easy and seriously mouthwatering. It is perfect for any occasion and is one of those winter squash dishes you will keep coming back to again and again.
This spaghetti squash recipe from Britney Breaks Bread is a savory, cheesy blend of juicy chicken, creamy alfredo, and roasted squash in place of traditional spaghetti. Perfect for chilly evenings, it’s the healthy comfort food you didn’t know you needed.
Now you have our favorite winter squash recipes. Want to see how winter squash is nurtured in California?
Growing Gold – California’s climate and soil are ideal for growing a wide variety of winter squash. Our farmers employ sustainable farming practices to nurture squash from seedlings to harvest, ensuring they reach your table with the best flavor and quality.
Here is a bit about the fascinating process of growing winter squash, like pumpkins.
Have you ever wondered how pumpkins are grown? We met with two California pumpkin farmers to get the inside scoop (no pun intended).
Meet the Farmers: Stewards of the Land
Get to know the passionate Californian farmers dedicated to bringing the best winter squash to your table. Their commitment to sustainable farming practices supports the environment and ensures the highest quality of produce.
As a fifth-generation California farmer, Sarah Shoffner knows that folks in agriculture stick together. Whether they raise chickens or grow flowers, they are united by the love of the land and a desire to produce something that feeds the nation. After moving to Clovis in 2018, the first thing Sarah did was to familiarize herself with the Central Valley’s vibrant agricultural community.
Van Gronigen + Sons was founded by Henry Van Gronigen, Sr. in 1922. Henry and his family immigrated from the Netherlands in the early 20th century. Originally operating a dairy in Ripon, Van Gronigen expanded to row crops in 1939. For over one hundred years this family farm has passed from one generation to next.
Today, the fourth generation of Van Gronigens run the show. They grow pumpkins, melons, almonds, walnuts, and feed crops in Manteca, CA.
Selecting and Storing Winter Squash
Like any other fruit or vegetable, choosing the right squash and storing it correctly is key to enjoying the best flavors and textures. Read on to learn how to select the perfect winter squash and how to keep them fresh.
How to Choose the Best Winter Squash
Winter squash are actually grown in summer. So why are these squash varieties called winter squash? The term winter squash means they are hearty enough to store after harvest and through the colder months of the year.
When shopping for winter squash, what skin texture, weight, and overall appearance is best? A good winter squash is free of bruises, soft spots, or mold. It also feels heavy for its size. Some squash will naturally have blemishes or bumps on the skin, which are nothing to worry about.
Winter Squash Storage Tips for Maximum Freshness
Select the perfect squash for making your favorite winter squash dishes and use immediately, or choose to store it. Whole winter squash should be stored in a cool place (45 to 50 degrees F). If stored properly, most varieties will keep up to 3 months. Cut winter squash should be stored in the refrigerator and used within a week.
Winter squash is not just a food item; it represents California’s agricultural heritage and the dedicated efforts of its farmers. Each variety brings its unique story and culinary potential to your kitchen, offering endless possibilities for creative and delicious dishes.