A winter-squash glossary

Seasonal favorites — and how to cook ‘em

October 27, 2008

With the exception of spaghetti squash, which has a unique stringy consistency to its flesh (hence its name), most winter squash have soft flesh that can be used interchangeably in recipes. Some, such as sugar-pie pumpkins, kuri, and butternut, will have sweeter flesh and thus take better to pies, muffins, and other sweet preparations. But all winter squash — unless they’re old and bitter — have a nice balance of sweet and vegetal.

Chopped squash, of course, cooks faster than whole squash, but winter squash can be difficult to hack into. If even your cleaver is having trouble, just stick the entire squash in the oven and bake it for an hour or so until it’s softened to a consistency you like. The whole-baking method takes longer but makes removing the squash flesh much easier. (And if you’re going to use that squash flesh as purée in a pie, for example, be sure to dry the flesh out further by following the instructions for Pumpkin Purée.)

Store winter squash in a cool, dark place, such as your basement or a low cupboard, for several weeks. If it’s been a few months, you may want to bake a trial squash to test for bitterness.

One last note: The squash recipes we’ve collected here from around Culinate are Western in origin, but check out Smitten Kitchen’s post on squash quesadillas and CookThink’s butternut squash tempura.

  1. pumpkin
    Sugar-pie pumpkin
    Sugar pie. These, of course, are the winter squash we’re most familiar with, thanks to dessert; it looks like a jack o’ lantern pumpkin, it has big, tasty seeds, and its flesh is the main ingredient in pumpkin pie.
    Recipe: Pumpkin Gingersnap Pie
  2. delicata squash
    Delicata squash
    Delicata. Living up to their name, these squash have thinner skins than most winter squash, and because they’re smaller overall, they cook faster. Can’t wait? Slice a delicata squash up for faster cooking; you can even eat the roasted skins.
    Recipe: Leek and Delicata Squash Soup with Caramelized Apple Croutons
  3. butternut squash
    Butternut squash
    Butternut. After pumpkins, these squash may be the most beloved. They’re richly flavored and cook up well for roasted dishes as well as soups.
    Recipe: Butternut Squash Lasagne
  4. kuri squash
    Kuri squash
    Kuri. You may not have seen these brightly hued squash before, but they’re essentially pumpkins with thinner skins. Use them in dessert recipes, just like sugar-pie pumpkins.
    Recipe: Pumpkin Bread
  5. acorn squash
    Acorn squash
    Acorn. Sometimes you’ll see acorn-shaped squash for sale with bright yellow streaks; these are usually labeled “carnival” or “festival” squash and are similar in taste to acorn squash. Because of their ribs, acorn squash can be tricky to cut. But the taste is worth it; use them wherever you’d use butternut squash.
    Recipe: Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash
  6. spaghetti squash
    Spaghetti squash
    Spaghetti. If you’ve ever cooked and then stripped the flesh from a spaghetti squash, you’ll remember how strange it is: a seemingly solid hunk of yellow flesh fragmenting cleanly at the touch of a fork into long, spaghetti-like strands. And yes, once you’ve raked the soft, mildly chewy strands from a roasted spaghetti squash, they’re delicious served with any thick, tomatoey pasta sauce.
    Recipe: Spaghetti Sauce with Chicken Sausage and Swiss Chard
  7. kabocha squash
    Kabocha squash
    Kabocha. Bigger and badder than most winter squash, kabocha can seem daunting on the kitchen counter. Once cooked, however, the deep orange flesh is similar in taste to acorn or butternut squash.
    Recipe: Squash Ravioli
  8. hubbard squash
    Hubbard squash
    Hubbard. These are big kahunas, easily outweighing most other edible squash at the market. And they’re weird-looking, with their ghostly blue, wart-covered skins. But your patience will be rewarded if you wrestle one home, because the Hubbard is excellent when its flesh is roasted and then baked in a pie or sunk in soup.
    Recipe: Winter Squash Soup
There are 10 comments on this item
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1. by Leisureguy on Oct 27, 2008 at 2:36 PM PDT

I’ve found that, once cooked, the butternut squash’s skin is soft and edible. I no longer peel those.

2. by Kalyn on Oct 28, 2008 at 5:32 AM PDT

Great post on this. I love butternut but want to try some new types.

3. by Fasenfest on Oct 28, 2008 at 6:09 AM PDT

What is also so valuable about winter squash is their price in season and their capacity for long storage. Some varieties will show up in the market place and others will not. I went to a farm stand and got one variety called New England Cheese presumably because it looked like a big wheel of cheese. But what I liked about it was the ability to slice off a chunk and then let is seal off in the outdoor elements until I was ready to slice off another chunk.

Many of these winter squashes are storage quality. Which means get them at a good price and set them in a cool spot out of the sun on your porch or under your porch in a metal trash can or in your shed. Some, like the delicata and the spaghetti squash are not as long keepers but the butternut, pumpkin, kuri, kaboucha, hubbard and others will keep well into spring in a cool spot out of doors.

I grow them for this reason with one pie pumpkin plant rendering 18 little babies. My family been eating pumpkin in stews and pies for sometime all ready with many more meals to come. And I always grow butternut. Both require room to grow but like my garlic and onion, are power players for winter meals. Still, if you don’t want to grow them do think of them as great staples for the winter table if purchased at a reasonable price. I haven’t checked on today’s prices yet but I would hate to pay more then .50 a pound given they are so large. If you buy them in a market you are paying them to store it for you. Even farmer’s markets get a good price so try a drive out to some farm stand to see if you can get it a a price that makes sense.

4. by giovannaz on Oct 28, 2008 at 12:34 PM PDT

And Richard Olney has a wonderful recipe for Provencal Squash Gratin (using pumpkin or any other firm ‘red’-fleshed squash) in Simple French Food. Nothing more than squash, garlic, parsley, olive oil, a little flour, salt, and pepper. Oh--that and 2 hours of slow, caramelizing baking--leaving something truly delicious. An autumn standby at our house.

5. by anonymous on Oct 29, 2008 at 2:56 AM PDT

I have a question concerning one of the varieties. I am a veg farmer in NY and I grow buttercup squash. I also grow an orange variety called kabocha. Johnnys seeds identifies these two by their different names although I have found they taste the same and are basically the same sweetness. Only difference is the kabocha has orange flesh. Your picture shows a buttercup. someone clarify this for me, thanks?

6. by Caroline Cummins on Oct 31, 2008 at 12:32 PM PDT

Anonymous: Kabocha and buttercup squash are indeed very similar, and are often labeled interchangeably at markets, although genuine kabocha squash are rounder and buttercup squash are squarer. “Kabocha,” after all, is just a Japanese word for “squash,” so feel free to use the prettier-sounding “buttercup” if you prefer.

7. by rich lazz on Nov 14, 2009 at 7:38 AM PST

CITY BOY (AT 57) NEEDS HELP!trying to ID a squash that is pale yellow, 10-16 ozs., has 10 small legs or tenicles, and was bought at a farm in Reno along with others ----LAZZ-rlazz@hotmail.com

8. by Michael Bauce on Oct 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM PDT

Kabocha is the sweetest with a rich dense inside. The Queen of squash, IMHO.
Buttercup is my second fave, a bit more watery than kabocha.

9. by dawn on Oct 12, 2011 at 5:47 PM PDT

Thanks for the great photos, your site is the only one I found that showed a photo, gave the name of, and recipes for the squash.

10. by anonymous on Oct 26, 2011 at 6:33 PM PDT

I often find kabocha disappointingly dry... Must have been the season. I have renewed interest! I adore Kuri squash for it’s pudding like texture. Yum!

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