When it comes to seasonal flavors, the butternut squash’s versatility is unbeatable. From pies to purees, there’s nothing this squash can’t do. But what does butternut squash taste like? And how is it different from a pumpkin?
Let’s get to know this winter vegetable and learn the best ways to serve it during the holidays!
Butternut squash is a winter squash from the gourd family. Although commonly considered a vegetable, butternut squash is, botanically, a fruit. The squash is also related to calabaza, pumpkin, and zucchini. It also grows in Australia, where it’s called “butternut pumpkin” or “gramma.”
Its unique appearance makes butternut squash easy to spot. Unlike most squashes, the butternut has a long neck and bulbous bottom. Ripe butternut squash has tan or yellow skin. It has bright orange flesh and contains flat oval seeds.
Butternut squash is available all year round. But if you want a fresh pick, wait until the fall harvest.
When it comes to taste, this winter squash’s name gives it away. Cooked butternut squash has a distinct nutty flavor and buttery taste. Contrary to other squashes, butternut is also slightly sweet. People often compared the flavor to sweet potatoes or carrots.
Raw butternut squash has a thin yet tough peel and smooth and firm flesh. As it cooks, the butternut squash skin softens but still holds the mushy flesh together. Light and fluffy, the squash melts in your mouth like butter.
If you’re unfamiliar with butternut squash, chances are you know what a pumpkin is. Though these vegetables are interchangeable, they’re actually very different.
Here are some tips on how to tell these two apart.
An obvious difference is their appearance. It’s easy to single out a butternut squash because of its quirky shape. On the other hand, everyone knows what pumpkins look like. These vegetables are famous for their circular shape and bright orange color.
Butternut squash and pumpkin taste very similar. In fact, they are used to substitute each other in recipes. But pumpkin isn’t sweet and has an earthier flavor. Once mixed in with other ingredients, though, you’ll barely taste the difference.
Unlike butternut squash, pumpkin peel is thicker, tougher, and uneatable. When cooked, pumpkin flesh could turn stringier, which isn’t ideal if you plan on making homemade pumpkin puree.
In the kitchen, there’s no competition between butternut squash and pumpkin. But there are some things that pumpkins can do better. During the holidays, people carve the peels for jack-o-lanterns. And don’t forget everyone’s favorite fall drink – a pumpkin spice latte!
Lastly, butternut squash is available throughout the year. But pumpkin is only sold from September to November.
You may be thinking: how do you even cut a butternut squash? This question comes as no surprise, thanks to its odd shape. But believe it or not, preparing this winter squash is easy. Just check out this step-by-step guide.
Yes, you can cure butternut squash.
Curing is a process of drying winter squashes. This method results in sweeter vegetables and prepares the squashes for long-term storage. Except for acorn squashes, curing applies to most squash varieties.
Curing butternut squash is a straightforward process. Let the squash sit in a warm, airy room for two to three weeks. Any extra water inside the squash will evaporate, letting the natural sugars concentrate.
It’s important to keep the squash dry as water can lead to rotting.
There’s no wrong or right way to cook butternut squash. From roasts to microwaves, this squash serves casual and serious home cooks alike.
But how do you know which cooking process is the best? That depends on the flavor you’re trying to achieve. Let’s take a look at four different ways to cook butternut squash.
Roasting butternut squash is the easiest method. Season the diced squash, stick it in the oven, and let the heat do the work. With little preparation, you’ll hit all three flavor points at once! Evenly cooked squash with crisp, browned edges and a caramelized sweetness. Plus, roasting makes for a smoother and richer puree.
If you’re after that smoky flavor, then grilling is the way to go. Here’s a tip: leave the peel on so the flesh doesn’t burn quickly. And you’ll get nice charred marks on your squash. After grilling, the flesh should be soft enough to scoop. Grilled butternut squash is a crowd favorite during barbeques.
Sauteing means cooking the butternut squash with a bit of fat under high heat. It’s a great way to infuse with aromatics like onion and garlic. Add a trickle of soy sauce, chopped eggplants, and green beans, and you’ve got a recipe for stir-frying.
If you’re short on time, then the microwave is your friend. The only caveat is you’ll be trading flavor for efficiency. Microwaving the squash for ten minutes should be enough. In most cases, this is just an extra step before mashing or pureeing.
Butternut squash pairs with anything, whether kitchen spices or high-end truffles. For your next dish, try out these flavors, which are perfect with butternut squash.
Tons of herbs bring out the butternut squash’s flavor. Our usual favorites include thyme, rosemary, and sage. Thyme has a mild taste and sweet aroma, while rosemary is stronger with a minty scent. Sage’s flavor is more complex and has peppery and citrusy notes. These fall herbs match the butternut taste in roasts, pies, or purees.
Everything tastes better with bacon, and butternut squash is no exception. Try wrapping cubed squash with strips of bacon. The fat softens the squash and adds a savory flavor, making for tasty appetizers. Each bite guarantees a combo of salty and sweet paired with fatty and starchy textures.
Black pepper and salt go hand in hand when cooking this winter squash. Pepper’s smoky and spicy flavors contrast with sweet vegetables like butternut. For even coating in roast butternut squash, ground black pepper is your pick. But whole or cracked pepper is better for doubling the smoky flavor.
Although not as sweet as white sugar, brown sugar gives caramel tones from added molasses. It’s the perfect ingredient if you’re planning on caramelizing butternut squash. And if you want a savory boost, try cooking brown sugar and squash with sliced onions.
Cayenne pepper offers a spicier option than black pepper. When added to butternut squash, the spice plays off the vegetable’s sweetness. You’ll also get an appetizing reddish color on your cooked squash.
In Filipino cuisine, it’s common to stew squash in coconut milk. You can do the same for butternut squash. Coconut milk serves as a creamy base for the squash while refining its sweet and nutty flavors. Added aromatics and a drizzle of fish sauce result in a savory and tangy dish. What are your best pairs? A cup of steamed rice and fried tilapia.
Olive oil is a simple and effective key ingredient to moist and tasty squash. Not adding oil or any fat risks drying the squash. Adding olive oil softens the squash and also prevents sticking to the roasting pan. On its own, olive oil has a fruity taste. It pairs well with savory dishes like roasted butternut squash.
Ricotta cheese is an Italian whey cheese. Like mozzarella, ricotta has the same soft consistency with sweet and nutty flavors. The perfect recipe for pairing ricotta and butternut squash is vegetarian lasagna. Adding ricotta to mashed squash results in incredibly creamy and cheesy layers.
Parmesan is another Italian cheese great for additional flavor. But unlike ricotta, parmesan is a hard cheese. Parmesan is delicious as a garnish on baked butternut frittata or butternut pasta. The squash’s sweetness blends with the parmesan’s bold nutty, and tangy undertones.
If you can get your hands on truffles, why not add them to butternut squash? The result will be a harmony of simple and complex flavors. Imagine the squash’s sweet taste and the truffle’s earthy and meaty flavors. Just like parmesan, only add truffles at the end to emphasize its flavor.
Now that you know the best flavor pairings, what dishes can you whip up with butternut squash? Luckily, there are several ways to cook this winter veggie. Here are five butternut squash recipes to give you some ideas.
Roasted butternut squash is a no-fail recipe. You only need three ingredients: olive oil, salt, and pepper. But if you’re up for experimenting, why not add thyme, rosemary, and garlic powder? Roasting results in a caramelized squash dish that you can pair with a thick juicy steak.
Butternut soup from leftover roasted squash can make for hearty comfort food. With herbs, spices, vegetable broth, and a blender, you can have soup in minutes. Plus, the butternut squash soup taste is more delicious in a crusty sourdough bread bowl!
Ravioli is an Italian dish with stuffed pasta topped with sauce. While meat or cheese is common, vegetables are also an option. Making the filling is easy since you only need to mash roasted squash. With butternut squash ravioli, you’ll get a burst of sweet and nutty goodness with each bite.
Run out of pumpkin or want to switch things up? Butternut squash is a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie. And since butternut is less stringy, you’ll get a smoother and richer pie filling. Top with a glob of whipped cream and grated nutmeg, and guests won’t notice the difference!
Butternut fries are healthy snacks that are very easy to make. The trick to crispy squash fries is to have a longer baking time. Add a gourmet touch by adding crushed parsley and pairing it with a garlic ranch dip. Want to hear our non-healthy suggestion? Pair with a beefy burger!
Butternut squash can last a long time. When kept whole, these winter squashes are good for two to three months. Curing butternut squash may even add an extra month. Opened butternut squash deteriorates quickly. But if kept in the fridge, it should last up to five days.
Not exactly, but the taste is pretty close. Sweet potato mirrors the butternut’s sweet flavor with a more fibrous texture.
If you’re thinking long-term, keep the whole squash in a dry and cool pantry. For peeled squash, stick it in the fridge, or better yet, freeze it.
Butternut squash all the way! The pumpkin’s flavor is more grounded and rustic.
When it comes to flavor, this winter squash stands out from its gourd cousins. Butternut squash tastes sweet with nutty and buttery flavors. It also has a light and fluffy texture, the perfect combo for roasted or pureed squash.
So what does butternut squash taste like compared to pumpkin? It turns out there isn’t a big difference after all. Butternut squash is sweeter, while pumpkin is earthier. Each is an equally delicious squash, making them both instant fall favorites.