How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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

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  • 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.

By the way, it helps to microwave a butternut squash (whole) for 30 seconds or so first, before peeling. This will help soften the peel just enough to make it a bit easier to peel.

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 30 Comments

  • Kate

    Try roasting it in an oven – 400 for 50 min – spread a little olive oil and s&p. after it cools, scoop out the squash – easy peasy!

  • atmo zakes

    Regarding the instructions for how to cut a butternut squash. I find them too complicated and hard. I grow about 90 squashes each year and here is how I prepare cubes of them. Wash and lie the squash on it side . With a sharp big knife cut the top and bottom off and slice the rest into 1″ slices.
    ( or half inch if needed..). Peel the slices after they are cut and pile them 4-5 high to cut them into cubes. When you get to the slices that have the seeds simply run the knife around the inside to remove those and thn cut into cubes. No special peeler or mallet needed and less physical force too.

  • Natalie

    I also poke the squash a few times with a knife (like I would a potato) and put it in the microwave for a few minutes, flip it over and put it in for another few minutes. This makes it a lot softer and easier to cut :)

  • Angela

    I just discovered a great tip! Put several squash in the oven at one time – on a cookie sheet lined with foil – for about 3 hours at 300 degrees. You don’t need to prick them at all, just throw them in whole. Let them cool and then easily cut open length wise and scoop out the pits. The rest can be scooped out easily, and even put in freezer bags for the freezer. It is my new way to do squash!

  • Bee

    Elise, thanks to your pin on this I bought a butternut squash like for the first time. Made garlic parmesan squash and honey roasted squash. Oh my, so delicious, what have I missed out all these years!!!

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