Butternut Squash with Browned Butter and Thyme

If you have only one oven in your kitchen, any Thanksgiving side dishes you prepare generally need to be made on the stovetop, as the turkey is taking central stage in the oven. Here is a simple butternut squash side that you can easily do on the stove. The trick to this dish is browning the butter before adding the squash, so that the squash absorbs some of the complex and wonderful browned butter flavors, before it too is browned.

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Butternut Squash with Browned Butter and Thyme Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3 to 4.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, flesh diced into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon of dried)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

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1 Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter. Once melted it will foam up a bit, then subside. Honey-colored browned milk solids will begin to form. The butter should have a wonderful nutty aroma. Remove from heat. Add the thyme, whisking continuously. If using fresh thyme, the mixture will foam up a bit.

(Note that it doesn't take much time to go from browned butter to burnt butter. You will want to remove the pan from the heat element and place it on a cool surface to help stop the cooking of the butter. If the butter burns, I recommend dumping it and starting over, something I've had to do on occasion when not paying close attention.)

2 Add the cubed butternut squash pieces to the pan and return the pan to the burner, heating to medium high. Use a wooden or metal spoon to stir the squash pieces so they are all well coated with the butter thyme mixture. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread the squash pieces out in an even layer and let cook, without stirring, so that they brown a bit on one side (several minutes). Stir and spread the pieces out again and let cook without stirring so more sides get browned.

3 Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on how big you cut the pieces.

Add more salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with a bit more chopped fresh thyme before serving.

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Links:
How to peel and cut a butternut squash

21 Comments

  1. Nick

    Any tips on dicing up butternut squash? I’ve found it is pretty hard to cut up which is why I thought it was normally cooked whole.

    Your dicing looks pretty beautiful though.

    And the browned butter is just. MMM.

    Here’s a guide to how to peel and cut a butternut squash. ~Elise

  2. KissTheChef

    Oh, man. Let me tell you that this is awesome. I also do this with sweet potatoes and add a little crispy bacon at the end. It is awesome over a spinach filled ravioli with a little goat cheese crumbled in, too. This is one of the most versatile recipes you’ll use. It can stuff pasta, chicken breast, and is great as a stand alone side dish. Try a little rosemary, too.

  3. Gwen

    This is a “can’t miss” recipe. I use a small amount of Herbs de Provence instead of thyme, but the concept is the same.

    Even kids love this dish. You can make a lovely soup out of any leftovers with very little effort and a touch of chicken or turkey stock.

  4. Annie

    Mmmm…maybe this would be good with sweet potatoes, too?

  5. Jen S

    Fabulous tips on browning butter. I too have needed to restart due to burnt butter.
    Just last week I roasted local organic butternut squash with sage in a brown butter balsamic sauce. Trick- add the vinegar off heat since it will bubble up.

  6. Amanda

    Is there a good way to reheat this dish? I’d like to take it to a friend’s for Thanksgiving dinner.

    Microwave? Haven’t tried reheating it, but it’s squash, and squash reheats well. ~Elise

  7. Kiran

    I was just thinking of doing the same for my son and adding rosemary and garlic. This gives it a very good sweet nutty flavour, yum I have to make it now :-) I do the same with sweet potatoes and he enjoys that a great deal (he is only 3 & it is a good way to get the vegetables in him). Liked your post on how to chop them also, some great tips.

  8. Melissa

    How utterly fortuitous. I cut up a butternut squash on Sunday and didn’t end up using it in the recipe (too long a story to explain). Anyway, I needed something quick to do with the diced and lo and behold, this post. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Oh, also, I have done the brown butter thing before and burned it on round one. It definitely takes a close eye.

  9. Chad

    Thank you for not using sage! I do not like sage very much, I don’t know why. It seems like everything around Thanksgiving is sage-riddled, so I was so happy to see this recipe. Thanks!

  10. Shawn

    Great recipe.

    I thought two aspects were especially important:

    (1) Having a *sharp* vegetable peeler really makes your work a lot easier. And by “a lot easier” I mean “almost makes it effortless.” I used a dull, old fashioned peeler (the kind with the serrated edges) and it took forever.

    (2) Watch the tenderness of the squash. My final product came out mushy because I didn’t test it until too late. I prefer firm yet tender squash. With my mistake, I should have just pureed it, added some chicken stock or cream and made a soup.

  11. Ariana

    Yum. Just made this for dinner, and it was fantastic. Butternut squash is my favorite squash, but I have never made it on the stove top before. This was so handy since I was making steaks in the cast iron, so my oven was at 500, and that would turn my precious squash into blackened crisps.
    Delicious, and as always, pretty easy! Thank you.

  12. Lindsay

    Re: reheating, I made this in the morning and took it to a friend’s for a potluck tonight. I reheated it there in the oven, and it was definitely a hit! I almost wish I’d browned the butter a little more, to get extra flavor, but it was my first time trying and I was deathly afraid of burning it. Next time.

  13. sara

    Can I use margarine instead of butter?

    “Browned butter” requires butter, as what you are browning are the milk solids within the butter. Margarine is just solidified vegetable oil without any milk solids. Of course if you try it anyway, please let us know how it turns out. ~Elise

  14. Dunja

    This was a good dish and really easy. I like the squash when its roasted and a little crispy on the outsides and still somewhat firm inside. I will try and use less butter next time, just for diet reasons. Thanks, great recipe!

  15. Dawn

    I made this for Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and it was a hit! It was one of the prettiest things on the table, and a nice flavor compliment to all the other turkey day dishes.
    It’s so good I’m planning to make it one of my rotating “go-to” fall dishes.
    Thanks, Elise!

  16. Debbie in Kansas City

    I’ve never made butternut squash before. This was very good. I bought a package of squash at the store that was already cut up (!), so that was great! Used fresh thyme. I made this after Thanksgiving. My guests really liked it!

  17. Miri

    Squash is great and all, but the time and energy needed to peel these things is so not worth it. That’s what I get for eschewing my standard cut-in-half-and-roast method.

  18. yeni

    This recipe rocks! (as do other recipes from your site that we’ve tried) Actually, today you’ve been our personal “chef”. For lunch, I made the tuna salad sandwich, then for dinner, I cooked sole piccata with butternut squash. All from your site – with great success. No left over. Thanks Elise!

  19. Dawn

    I made this and two other recipes of yours for Thanksgiving. Everything came out awesome and were complete hits!

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while but had never made anything before. I collect recipes. When I chose recipes to try for the holiday it just so happened that three were from you.

    Thanks so much! Keep doing what you do, you’re great!

  20. Kelly Bailey

    I wanted to use our home-grown butternut for Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws this year, but the stovetop wasn’t going to be available. So I followed this recipe up through step #2, browning the squash. I refrigerated the browned squash in a stonewear baking dish. Thanksgiving Day, it went in my mother-in-law’s oven and came out delicious! It takes about an hour at 350.

    I’m not sure it was worth this extra effort, but to peel it I first boiled the whole squash for about 2-3 minutes and then transferred it to ice water. The peel was cooked soft, easy to remove with a veggie peeler. The meat was still hard, so little was wasted with the peeling.

  21. Darla

    I have totally fallen in love with butternut squash!!! But I to dislike how long it takes to peel. This is what i do. Cut it in half carefully. DO NOT PEEL. (scoop out all seeds to save for baking and snacking on later.) Turn 2 halved pieces cut side down on greased cookie sheet. Bake @ 350 for 20-30 min. Let cool. Then easily slice the outer skin off before finishing up whatever recipe you like.

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