While summer is known for its abundance of fresh produce, winter often gets a bad rap for less exciting vegetable offerings (we get it: root vegetables don’t have quite the same pizzazz as berries, melons, and heirloom tomatoes). But one family of winter produce shines above the rest for its delicious versatility when the weather turns cold—hearty, vibrant winter squash.
If your experience with winter squashes has thus far been limited to butternut squash soup, you’ve been missing out. We’re here to raise your squash game to the next level with a deep dive into lesser known, especially delicious squash varieties that will keep you full and happy all winter long.
We couldn’t roundup the best winter squashes without including the crowd favorite: the butternut squash. The popularity of creamy butternut squash soups on restaurant and dinner party menus has made this squash a household name. Its sweet, nutty flavor lends itself well to roasts, purées, soups, and even toast toppers (squash toast is the new avocado toast—you heard it here first). And as an added bonus, butternut squash seeds make for a delicious snack when rinsed, oiled, and roasted with salt and pepper.
If you’re interesting in branching out beyond soup, this Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese transforms the beloved comfort food dish into a heartier, cold weather dinner with the addition of squash and kale.
Kabocha squash—also sometimes referred to as Japanese Pumpkin—is a staple of Japanese cuisine, and is known for its sweet, bright orange flesh. Many liken its flavor profile to that of a sweet potato, because its flesh is the sweetest and tenderest of the squashes. Kabocha squash is delicious when roasted simply in the oven, and can also be substituted in recipes that call for sweet potato or butternut.
Acorn squash is one of the least sweet squashes, which makes it a bit more versatile in savory, spicy, and sweet recipes alike. Despite its buttery, velvety flesh, acorn squash has a thick, tough, dark green and orange skin that can be hard to slice, so make sure you have a sharp, sturdy knife at hand when it comes time to prepare the squash.
When halved, the acorn squash forms a perfect bowl, making it an ideal base for stuffing with cheeses, crumbled meats, other vegetables, and legumes for a vegetable-forward dinner for two. If you’re looking for a way to serve this squash to a crowd, try our Harissa-Roasted Acorn Squash as a dinner party side.
The best part about delicata squash is that its thin, edible skin means you don’t have to peel the squash before you roast it, as you must with other, tough-skinned squash varieties like acorn and butternut. The benefits here are twofold—no peeling means saved time, but the delicata skin also adds a lovely crunch and texture contrast to the sweet, nutty squash flesh.
We love slicing delicata squash into half moon discs (don’t forget to remove the seeds!) and then roasting it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes, which highlights the squash’s sweetness without overpowering it’s delicate, nutty flavor. Once roasted, delicata slices make a perfect addition to salads or grain bowls like this Crispy Goat Cheese Salad.
Unlike the other types of squash, which are mostly prepared by peeling, dicing, and roasting cubes of squash flesh, spaghetti squash requires a slightly different tactic, because the flesh loosens into spaghetti-like strings when cooked (hence the name). We’ve got you covered on the best way to roast spaghetti squash, in case you need a refresher.
We love spaghetti squash for its sweet, nutty flavor and fun texture, which acts as a fairly neutral base for your favorite toppings and sauces. You can serve the squash stuffed, as featured in this Greek Stuffed Spaghetti Squash recipe, or as an alternative for noodles in a dish like this Beef Bolognese.
You can recognize a buttercup squash by the little cap that sits atop the squash’s squat stature. A good way to tell if the squash is past its prime is by feeling the cap—a soft, squishy cap means that the squash is past peak ripeness, while a firm, solid cap is a green light for cooking.
We like roasting buttercup squash with maple syrup to amplify the squash’s natural sweetness.
1 buttercup squash, peeled and deseeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ tablespoon maple syrup
1. Preheat oven to 375℉.
2. Dice the buttercup squash into large chunks, and spread in a single layer in a large pan.
3. Drizzle olive oil and maple syrup over squash, and toss until evenly coated. Add salt and black pepper, to taste.
4. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until a fork easily pierces squash and the edges have caramelized.
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