Winter Squash: How To Cook It Article -
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Winter Squash: How To Cook It

Winter squash (aside from being beautiful centerpieces) are some of healthiest and delicious vegetables to grace your dinner table.

If you've never handled one of those thick-skinned winter squashes before, the idea of actually cooking with it can be a little intimidating. Many recipes call for pre-cooked squash. Learn how to make the most of the creamy flesh of winter squash.

Baking Method

Cut smaller squash (like acorn squash) in half; scoop out the seeds. Place 2 teaspoons honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter into their centers. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a fork.

Roasting Method

Cut in half and seed squash. Place the squash halves, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Rub the flesh with softened butter or oil, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with brown sugar, maple syrup or orange juice. Flip the squash over and roast them for 40 to 45 minutes in a preheated 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven. Roast the squash until the skin is blistered, browned and the flesh tender. Insert a fork or knife under the skin to test that the flesh is tender. When the squash has cooled the skin should peel off easily.

Roasting squash helps to maintain squash's delicate flavor. Once roasted and cooled, there are a plethora of cooking options available. One option is to mash the squash and use it in any recipe calling for squash purée. Roasted squash freezes extremely well and reheats easily. Don't be afraid to roast several squash at once and freeze it for use during the holidays; it'll cut down on some of the cooking crunch come November and December!

Boiling Method

Cut the squash in half and discard the seeds. Peel and cut the squash into chunks. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the squash is tender. Let the chunks cool, then purée the flesh in a food processor or mash. To use the purée in pies, pass it through a strainer or sieve to remove any fibers or chunks.

Microwave Method

Cut the squash in half and discard seeds. Microwave on high for seven minutes per pound.

Sep. 1, 2009 8:24 am
I microwave butternut as above, but in about 1/2 inch of water, with cut side down.
sister 36 
Oct. 7, 2009 7:56 pm
Since cutting the squash in half is often difficult for me,I give it 2 or 3 stabs with a knife, and microwave for 2 or 3 minutes. Then you can halve it quite easily when it cools!
Oct. 7, 2009 8:24 pm
I bake the whole squash or pumpkin, with stems removed, in the oven at 250 degrees for several hours. When you can pierce the skin easily it is done. Allow to cool and cut in half, remove the seeds and it is ready to scoop out and use or freeze. I have been doing it this way for years and it works great!
Oct. 7, 2009 8:37 pm
Thanks for all the tidbits. As a beginner in this food "arena", I need all the help I can get.
Oct. 8, 2009 12:12 am
i did little envelops with puff pastri with it, and the flavour is really good. i peel off before oven and this was complicate enough to don't repeat it frequenly...but if i can bake it with and peel it off later is an amazing idea.thanks for all the ways to cook it.
Oct. 14, 2009 10:42 am
I grew piles of squash this year, a lot of them were patty pan. I like my squash peeled, and that is hard to do with a peeler or knife, but I had a brainstorm and I tried using a cheese slicer, the kind that looks like a spatula with a rectangular opening, it was incredible how easy it worked! And it was safe to use as well!
Marie Armstrong 
Oct. 17, 2009 10:15 am
I have been microwaving my squash for many years & it works well. Also quick. Just prick it in a few places, microwave on high for aprox 15 min., then turn over for another 15 min. You can tell when it's done by piercing with a fork.
Marie Armstrong 
Oct. 17, 2009 10:18 am
P.S The squash is cooked whole.
Nov. 2, 2009 12:31 pm
Prepare the squash as described above for boiling but steam it in a steamer. Once soft, puree in a blender and use the 'juice' from the squash as liquid in blender. This way the nutrients from the squash are not washed down the sink when discarding the water. Tasty.
Nov. 3, 2009 8:25 am
I microwave mine whole as well quick easy soft when it comes out and easy to remove from the skin. If I'm also roasting meat I will start for 15 min. in the microwave and put in the oven along with the main course to finish. Works great not so watered down.
Nov. 3, 2009 1:20 pm
I bake all of my squash from the garden at the same time, mash the flesh using the liquid from baking to make it a bit smoother. Then I spoon this into the cups of muffin tins and freeze. Once frozen, I remove them & place in freezer bags to be re-heated in the microwave in time for supper! The mini muffin tins make a good baby food size, regular size makes a good single serving and the giant size muffin tins make a good 2 serving size! We eat a lot more squash this way and it's super easy!!!
Nov. 3, 2009 1:30 pm
I bake several squash at a time and mash it with the baking liquid to make it smoother. I freeze this mash in muffin tins. Once frozen, I remove them and put them in freezer bags. Mini muffin size tins work well for baby food, regular size works for a single serving and the giant muffin size works great for 2 people! Just microwave it until hot! We're eating a whole lot more squash and it couldn't be easier!
Nov. 3, 2009 4:25 pm
I peel, seed and cut butternut squash into 3/4 inch cubes. Place in a microwave safe glass bowl and cover. Microwave on high 10 - 12 min., stir and microwave another 10 min. ( approximately ). Drain and add brown sugar and butter to taste and microwave 3 - 5 min. Mash and add pepper and salt to taste. Easy, easy, easy!
Nov. 6, 2009 11:02 am
The best way to bake acorn squash is to cut in half and put cut side down on a greased baking sheet or rack. It actually steams the squash and cooks faster thus preserving the more of the flesh and flavor.
Nov. 6, 2009 7:05 pm
I bake my winter squash cut side down also.
Nov. 8, 2009 2:36 pm
I use a potato peeler to peel off the outside of the squash. I find it's the easiest way to get it out of the shell!
Nov. 10, 2009 4:03 pm
I haven't been able to find a lot of winter squash (favorites are butternut and acorn) this fall where I live, so when I do find them in the grocery, I buy just about all they have. I microwave the whole squash for 8 min for acorn to 20 min for butternut. I am trying to freeze a much as I can cook because I am having surgery soon and will not be able to care for cooking for a long while. I have had a few problems getting some of the squashes frozen though, they seem to have a problem getting past my mouth!! :=) I have a big turban squash that I plan to cook tomorrow....everyone wish me well!
Nov. 10, 2009 4:05 pm
Addendum: obviously I scrape the flesh out of the squash and scoop out the seeds.
Nov. 27, 2009 3:46 am
Hey Barbie! I wish you God's speed on your recovery and the best of luck with your big turban squash. :)
Dec. 2, 2009 10:12 am
Be sure you pierce the skin of your spaghetti squash several times before microwaving whole. I had one explode in the microwave once and it blew the door open and made a big mess! It's great with just some butter and garlic salt, though--easy side dish.
Sep. 18, 2010 5:21 pm
I have severe arthritis throughout my body and it has sapped the strength in my hands. But I just love the taste of roasted butternuts and as you know, they can be tough to cut through. I use a sharp knife and a hammer to cut the squash in half then to slice it open. I just hammer on the knife until it goes through, mind you, very carefully. Then scoop, peel, cut in big cubes, roast and be happy. The hammer and knife method is the only one that works for me. Hope this helps others out there who love squash but lack the strength to conquer them.
Oct. 13, 2010 5:32 pm
NMiller, I once read that if you can't open it with a knife, Throw it on the ground a few times till it breaks open and pick up the pieces. Well good luck. I'm looking forward to learning to cook all the winter squashes. I hadn't really understood that there are Winter and Summer squash. It's sorta funny, I have cooked with all the summer squash, but none of the Winter squash. I just didn't understand the different types. Thanks for the article. If any of you have a recipe that requires a certain type of winter squash, please enter your recipes, I look forward to looking them up and trying something new. also has another article about Squash, look it up for more information. Did you that you can also save articles to your recipe box. Above the comments section read "Want to Save This Article to Your Recipe Box?" Great to look back on as we're learning. Thanks again for the article.
Oct. 17, 2010 9:23 pm
It is called winter squash because the thick skin makes it possible to store un-peeled and raw for a few months in cold dry storage like a root cellar.
Bill Chadwick 
Oct. 20, 2010 7:03 pm
I wash the outside skin very well. Then cook the Butternut whole in the Microwave about 20 minutes (time varies with Microwave wattage). When the outside skin is soft to the touch, it is done. Then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, then scoop out the pulp into a bowl, add brown sugar and butter to taste. I then use a hand mixer to break up the fibres until it is smooth, then bake for 20 minutes in a 350 F. oven. By cooking the Butternut this way in the Microwave you cook it in its own juice which enhances its own flavor (by not steaming it in water).
Oct. 21, 2010 5:34 am
I too bake my pumpkin in the oven meat side down on a cookie sheet until fork tender. I then remove pumpkin from the skin and puree in a food processor. I freeze in 2 cup containers so that I have pumpkin handy all year around.
Oct. 22, 2010 12:04 pm
How do you "peel" a squash, such as an acorn with such a thick skin? I have a recipe that calls for peeling the squash, then cutting the pulp into pieces and baking.
Oct. 22, 2010 2:25 pm
to cook acorn squash; first poke holes in it and microwave it for a few min. - it will be soo much easier to cut , slice or what ever.
Oct. 22, 2010 8:07 pm
I don't know why every one wants to add brown sugar to winter squash. It is so sweet just baked in the microwave after piercing with a knife as others have said. Discard the seeds and scoop the pulp into a bowl and mash with butter, salt, and pepper.
Nov. 20, 2010 9:57 pm
I made my acorn squash in the pressure cooker. I cut it in 1/2 and put the rack in the bottom of the cooker. Poured water up to the rack and laid the squash meat side down. Cooked at low pressure for 10 minutes. It's fast and the squash is so tender. Much healthier and moist than microwave.
Dec. 20, 2010 9:16 am
Mom always seemed to pick out the thickest skinned squash, that were really hard to cut through. One year Dad saw us struggling with it on the cutting board.He disappeared downstairs, got his machete knife and some news paper. He went outside, put down the newspaper in the grass, then set the squash on top. he made short work of that squash let me tell you!All we had to do was peel and cut it into smaller pieces. Dad was never a man to cook, but from then on the squash was his job at holiday meal prep time.
Aug. 6, 2011 8:48 pm
Just wanted to say this page was very helpful- esp. the comments and I read every one. Connie
Aug. 9, 2011 3:05 pm
I want to give a big THANK YOU! to nmiller for her helpful suggestion way back in oct. of 2010. I dont have much use of my right hand at this point, but I still love to cook. I read her suggestion on how to cut squash using a knife & a hammer. I tried it, worked great! Thanks again.
Andrea Marie 
Sep. 4, 2011 12:55 pm
A BIG THANKS to all who contributed re:squash!!! I love this website. It is simply the best for a beginner!
Oct. 4, 2011 8:36 am
I like to cut butternut into quarters, add butter and onion, and put in a foil packet, then grill off heat for about 40 min. YUM!
B Martin 
Oct. 20, 2011 6:32 am
My Mom used to make "squash butter" by using the same recipe you would use for apple butter. Can't tell the exact recipe but it was a real big treat in our family. She started with the squash cooked and mashed up and added the spices, etc you would use in apple butter.
Oct. 20, 2011 7:45 am
Does anybody have any hints or tips for cutting a spaghetti squash in half the long way so that it can be baked? I've tried it twice, and am beginning to think I need to keep a hacksaw in my kitchen solely for such tasks.
Oct. 20, 2011 8:09 am
Thanks! This article is very helpful. As a beginners cook, I always wondered how to cook them. I'm definetly going to try the Pumpkin and Feta Risotto.
B Martin 
Oct. 20, 2011 10:24 am
Penny_Mac, you can bake it whole as long as you pierce a few slits in it beforehand. Then it will slice lengthwise easily. Or you can also bake it whole in the microwave as long as you pierce a few slits in it beforehand also
Oct. 20, 2011 5:38 pm
Help! Every time I see a recipe that says 'peel and...' I panic. How do you peel a squash easily? It takes forever and I end up cutting off a significant part of the good stuff along with the rind.
Oct. 21, 2011 6:00 pm
Thanks, B Martin...I'll give that a try next time! (I imagine the same technique works with butternut and acorn squash as well, yes?)
Oct. 24, 2011 7:32 pm
Pam, I use a potato peeler. After cutting off most of the acorn squash I decided to try the peeler and worked a lot better.
Oct. 26, 2011 7:44 am
Don't discard the seeds! Wash them to get rid of the pulp, add a little salt and garlic powder and roast them. (I use a cooking stone sprayed with olive oil) I like them even better than pumpkin seeds!
Oct. 26, 2011 7:45 am
And don't forget to save a few seeds for planting the next year.. they are super-easy to grow.. just make sure you have LOTS of room! Harvest when they turn brownish-orange. If you harvest too early the skin is not thick enough and they won't keep as long.
Oct. 28, 2011 5:20 pm
thank you laura that was a big help , now i hope that i get alot of squash next year :)
Nov. 4, 2011 6:03 pm
I have over and over been intimidated by squash. The only successful product I've been able to make was spaghetti squash "noodles"... Thanks for all of the tips. I am going to try cutting the upper portion off and roasting, using the skin as the "bowl" for a soup, possibly? Still unsure but I'm excited about it!
Nov. 7, 2011 3:02 pm
All the soup recipes say peel the butternut. Too much work. I split them the long way and bake cut side down with a couple slashes. Then scoop & make soup. Easier & yummy ;)
Nov. 20, 2011 12:32 pm
As the youngest child, my job for Thanksgiving was to split open the large blue hubbard squash we bought every year, by throwing it down on the sidewalk to break in half. This is a safe and easy method to open these type of squash, which have a much tougher rind than butternut or turbin. My favorite!
Nov. 28, 2011 4:17 pm
wonderful comments and article and wonder*ful squash - what a miracle! thanks to everyone and enjoy
Dec. 13, 2011 7:18 pm
To split a winter squash in half I use an old meat cleaver and a small hammer. Tap, not beat, the cleaver with the hammer. This allows you to control the cut without injury to yourself.
Oct. 2, 2012 9:10 pm
You can also,after scrubbing the skin of an acorn or buttercup(I think that's the name)squash,cut it into wedges,rub with olive or veg. oil,sprinkle with S&P and drizzle with maple syrup,if you like and roast in oven 375-400 until tender.The skin is eaten too as it has mega vitamins and fiber.
Oct. 3, 2012 4:06 am
I kust put the entire squash in a 400º oven, no matter what type up to medium pumpkin size / Time depends on the size. When done and cooled, simply peel off the sin and scoop out the flesh. Easiet way for those who have a little arthritis or little time.
Oct. 3, 2012 4:34 am
Why not steam it? cut peel seed cube then steam it until tender, mash and add flavoring of you choice. Yummy!
Oct. 3, 2012 4:52 am
I have an extremely difficult time cutting squash, too. I've found that if you're going to be using the squash quickly after you buy it the nice people in produce are happy to take it and cut it for you if you just ask. They bring it back to you's a beautiful thing. We eat a lot more squash knowing there won't be that headache to deal with. The favorite is "Spaghetti Squash 1" right here on AR. Enjoy!!!
Oct. 3, 2012 6:29 am
Roasted winter squash rocks; I generally use a hot (475) oven, but I think that will affect timing more than outcome. Kabocha squashes, one of the best winter squashes, do not require peeling; in fact many find the skin the best part.
Oct. 3, 2012 7:51 am
Wonderful suggestions. I will try using the microwave
Oct. 3, 2012 9:31 am
We love acorn squash and after removing the seeds the squash is cut in wedges. We either use PAM or olive oil to coat wedges. Then on a baking sheet bake until done. We ALWAYS eat this squash with skins on because the skin is very soft and very tasty. Of course, wash squash thoroughly to remove any pesticides if not using organic. Why don't more people eat their squash, flesh and skins? Lots of fibre there! 
Oct. 3, 2012 11:07 am
I peel mine, cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, cube it up into inch and a half pieces then cook it in my pressure cooker for eight minutes after the the relief valve starts jiggling. For delicious squash, put pieces directly out of the pressure cooker into an electric mixer, add three quarters of a stick of butter, three quarters of a cup of honey and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Mix well and enjoy!
Oct. 3, 2012 2:57 pm
Our family never uses a microwave to cook foods as the cooking method changes the molecular structure of the foods and fluids while being "nuked." Microwaves change the molecular structure of foods (even water!), thus creating carcinogens within the foods. The science is good...we recommend that everyone research this issue.
Karen Moore 
Oct. 3, 2012 3:09 pm
I roll any type of winter squash into the microwave...uncut...laying in a glass dish with a little water in the bottom. I do not slit or puncture the squash. I allow about 20-30 minutes for a squash depending on the size. When it is cool enough to handle, I cut it open and remove the seeds and scrape out the squash.
Oct. 5, 2012 9:26 am
A crockpot works wonderfully for butternut squash, too. Just tried it this year. Cut it in large pieces with skin on (probably about 6-8 pieces for a medium sized squash) and cook (with seeds removed) on high for 4 hours. Then I scoop it out and put it in the food processor once is has cooled so I can freeze it. Otherwise, it is perfect to set on the table to eat as is.
Oct. 5, 2012 6:35 pm
The only way to cook squash is to pierce it and bake in microwave till it can be cut in two pieces, then take the seeds out and finish baking it. I once cut the countertop trying to cut it before baking. Not worth it.
Jan. 3, 2013 10:44 am
Our favorite winter meal - all cooked at once in the oven: Meatloaf, Acorn squash - halved, cut side up with butter, S&P, and a little water, and baked potatoes. No fuss, no muss! Be sure to eat the potato skins!
Mar. 9, 2013 5:08 am
Unfortunately, while microwaving is the quickest way to cook any vegetable, doing so also destroys virtually all the nutritional values.
Oct. 29, 2013 8:06 pm
My neighbor has a hydraulic wood splitter. I'll try that if my rotary hammer can't open the squash.;-)
Dec. 14, 2013 6:52 pm
Yup that wood splitter/axe or hatchet will work every time. I use a good large cutting board to protect my counter top a large cleaver and a chunk of kindling. And I prefer to bake them cut side down.
Jan. 26, 2014 9:35 am
I'm trying to learn the easiest way to peel squash. I'm thinking, maybe parboil it to soften the skin but not to cook the squash? My hands ache when I peel a squash with a knife or a peeler. There must be an easier way!
Dec. 2, 2014 11:46 am
Be careful if microwaving - the squash can explode if you cook whole without enough vent holes.
Feb. 26, 2015 7:56 am
Someone posted a receipt for stuffed butternut squash with Quinoa, broth, feta cheese, olives, brussels sprouts, not sure if that is all, bought squash and can't find receipt , if anyone has please send to me.
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