How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

The most essential thing I learned from taking a knife skills class with Chef Shuna Lydon, other than the obvious tip of keeping your knives sharp, was the importance of stabilizing whatever it is you are attempting to cut. This is nowhere else as critical as when cutting a butternut squash, a notoriously difficult task because of the thickness and density of that squash.

The most important thing to consider when following these steps, or anyone else’s steps for cutting winter squash is to keep whatever pieces you are working on as stable as possible. The first cut from the bottom of the squash is to help keep the squash steady on the board as you gently work your knife down from the top to bottom.

How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

Keep squash pieces as stable as possible while cutting. A rubber mallet can help, if you have one, to gently push the knife through difficult thick spots. Using a very sharp vegetable peeler, one with a carbon steel blade, will help with the peeling.

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Ingredients

  • One butternut squash, 1 1/2 to 3 pounds
  • A sharp, heavy, chef's knife

Method

slice off bottom slice off top

1 Using a heavy, sharpened chef's knife, cut off about 1/4-inch from the bottom of the squash in an even slice. Then cut off 1/4-inch from the stem end.

peel butternut squash cut in half

2 Holding the squash in one hand, use a sharp vegetable peeler in the other hand to peel off the outer layer of the squash. You can also secure the squash standing upright and peel it in downward strokes with the peeler. Stand the peeled squash upright on a cutting board. It shouldn't wobble, you want the squash to be stable. (If it is wobbly, make another cut at the bottom to even it out.) Make one long cut, down the middle from the top to bottom, with a heavy chef's knife. Some squashes can be pretty hard; to help with the cutting you can use a rubber mallet to gently tap on the ends of the knife to help push the knife down through the squash.

scoop out seeds butternut squash halves, scooped and clean

3 Use a metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and the stringy pulp from the squash cavity. (If you want, you can prepare the seeds like toasted pumpkin seeds.)

cut in half again, this time midsection make vertical cuts

4 Lay the squash halves, cut side down on the cutting board for stability. Working section at a time, cut the squash into slices, lengthwise, the desired width of your squash pieces. Some recipes call for 1/2-inch slices or cubes, some for 1-inch or greater.

cut off ends cut and prepped butternut squash

5 If you are cubing the squash, lay the slices down (you can stack a few at a time) and make another set of lengthwise cuts. Then make crosswise cuts to make cubes.

One 1 1/2 pound butternut squash will yield approximately 4 cups of 1/2-inch cubed squash.

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Not all vegetable peelers are alike. Most have pretty dull edges. The sharpest peelers out there are made with carbon steel blades. Here's a Swiss model which you can pick up inexpensively at Amazon.com.

Showing 4 of 50 Comments

  • Avlor

    Yay! Thank you for posting this. I was wondering how I was going to deal with this new to me sqaush.

  • gexx

    Wow, I guess that proves to me that my problem is simple. I need a better knife. One that can keep an edge. And here I thought I just couldn’t handle a butternut squash!

    E

  • bethh

    I just learned a different way to deal with this, which worked well, but adds time to the process.

    Put the squash, whole, into a pot. Fill the pot partially with water (does NOT have to cover the whole squash, but should probably be a couple of inches deep). Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes or so, remove from heat & let cool.

    This cooks the very top layer of the squash and a peeler made super quick work of the job after that.

  • Shanan

    There is so much truth about needing a sharp knife…
    Years ago I was introduced to what I find one of the best butternut squash soups (Tom Douglas’ – with sage and cream, yummmmmm). I’d never had butternut squash before, but what didn’t sound divine? Making this soup became a household tradition every Fall to the point where neighbors and friends of neighbors would bring me extra squash from their gardens. I loved the soup enough to keep making it, but boy did I hate cutting & preparing it. I just figured that was the name of the game and the sweat put in was part of what made it so wonderful in the end. Little did I know…
    One year I got a new set of knives (something I now realize I’d gone way too long without!). When the Fall came and the butternut squash was calling, I pulled out the new knives, got ready for the annual struggle, and voila! Much to my surprise it slid right thru the squash! No longer do I dread the prep of the butternut squash! Here Here to sharp knives! Long live sharp knives forever!

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