How to Cook Butternut Squash
Perhaps during a fall trip to the market you’ve been charmed by the heaping piles of colorful winter squash, stout and curvy, and wanted to bring them home. Perhaps you have. And perhaps once you’ve unpacked the squash and put them on the counter, you’ve thought, “Now what?”
While peeled and cubed winter squash, most often butternut, is readily available, it is usually much pricier per pound than the whole version. But between you and that delicious bright orange vegetable is an butterscotch-colored armor of a shell, and it’s easy to see why people are intimidated by knowing how to get from A to Z in terms of preparing it for cooking.
Some winter squashes have very ridge-y exteriors (like the acorn variety), and those are best baked or roasted in their skins, and then they can be either served as is, in the shell, or the cooked squash can be scooped out and mashed or pureed in various recipes.
But butternut squash is actually quite easy to turn from its cylindrical-meets-dumbbell shape into large or small cubes, or slices, for use in all sorts of wonderful dishes. And knowing how to dismantle this versatile, cold-weather beauty will not only save you some cash, but also ensure that you are cooking with a much fresher product.
How to Peel and Cut Butternut Squash
1. Grab a sturdy peeler and start peeling off the skin. The skin is thick, and underneath the top layer you may see a muted tan/orange color with streaks of green. Keep peeling. You want to keep going until you get down to the bright orange flesh, which usually means a couple of passes with the peeler. You can also use a paring knife.
2. With a large, heavy knife, on top of a secure cutting board, slice off the top of the squash, then slice the squash in half cross-wise, right at the top of the bottom bulging part.
3. Take the top cylindrical part and cut the whole thing in half from top to bottom.
4. Cut the bulbous bottom in half from top to bottom. You will see a cavity filled with seeds in each half.
5. Trim off the bottom stem edge of both bottom halves, and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and any strings (if you’ve ever cleaned out a pumpkin, this will be a familiar task).
6. Cut the long, upper halves into 1-inch thick planks (or to the thickness you desire), then cut those planks into 1-inch thick strips.
7. Cut the strips crosswise so that you create 1-inch square cubes.
8. Cut the bottom halves into 1-inch thick strips, and then cut those cross-wise into 1-inch pieces (the bottom half will not yield such symmetrical cubes, but that’s fully okay).
9. Now you are ready to cook your squash! Cut-up squash can be cooked in the oven, or it can also be sautéed and finished with some liquid to help it cook through, or simply added to simmering broth and then pureed into soup.
The following extremely simple soup recipe employs the oven for roasting, so you get a lovely caramelized exterior, therefore bringing out even more of the natural sweetness of the squash.
More Butternut Squash Recipes!
- Roasted Butternut Squash
- Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel Soup
- Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chicken Enchilada Cups
- Moroccan Lamb and Butternut Squash Stew
- Indian Butternut Squash-Carrot Soup