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