How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

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.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

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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Comments

  • Laura Kumin

    Love the butternut squash recipe on this site. One small correction, I weighed my squash and it was 2 1/2 pounds and made about 4 cups of small chunks. (This post suggests that a 1 1/2 pound squash will make 4 cups.)

  • Cody Stanford

    I have never cooked with squash before but I am today, and I had no idea how to cut up my butternut squash. Thank you for this! :)

  • 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!!!

  • Marla

    After reading all the comments, I steamed for 10 minutes, then separated the bulb from the stem. Cutting the ends, I pierced and held each section vertically with a prong, then simply sliced off the outer skin, without needling to touch it with my hands. This is the first time I cooked it, and found all these comments very helpful. Thanks!

  • John

    I cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds wish a tablespoon. I place them cut side down in a microwave safe baking dish, cook on high until soft 7 – 10 min. Let them rest covered with parchment or saran until cool enough to handle, then scrape out the cooked soften squash. I usually serve this squash puree’d or mashed w/o any seasoned, like the natural flavor of “veggies” with seasoned entree’s or meats.

  • Jamie

    I’m shocked. Has no one ever tried a cheese grater?

    I find it works excellently! Nice clean and perfect squash. My peeler isn’t good enough to peel all squash.

  • Joan Burt

    If you rub pumpkin or squash with oil and roast you can eat the skin. It’s lovely

  • Lisa

    I find that the wet, gooey fibers holding the seeds in the cavity can be tenacious. I have taken to using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibers, and this quickly results in a clean cavity.

  • Candice

    I LOVE butternut squash but what do you do about the funky film it leaves on your hands?! I have tried rubber gloves, but feared for the safety of my fingers. In the past the only thing I found that removed the weird sticky coating from my hands was a pumice stone and generous elbow grease.

    Hmm. I’ve not encountered that film, or if it’s there I haven’t noticed it. ~Elise

  • Sarah

    My Mother taught me a new way to deal with the tough skin of squash several Thanksgivings back.

    She taught me with a sweet dumpling squash but I’m certain it would work on any squash you’d just have to play with the amount of time for softening the skins.

    All she did was put it in the microwave for a few minutes which would make it so much easier to cut through. I am about to try this with a butternut squash and can report back how long it took for me to get it soft enough to cut. I prefer to do the rest of the cooking of the squash in the oven and use the old fashioned method of using the empty seedbed to hold butter and brown sugar until it’s caramelized YUM!

  • bentley

    I’ve only cooked with butternut squash once — dinner party, lots and lots of peeling — and what I found really worked for cutting through the skin was a large, serrated bread knife. It scored the skin verily easily and the blade didn’t slip.

  • Brenda

    I raise pumpkins and I don’t see why this method can’t be used on pumpkins. Dealing with large pumpkins is hard and dangerous. I like cooking down one large one at a time and freezing the mashed pulp afterwaards in measured portions. This should work great.No more close calls with the knife.

  • seatea

    I use the microwave exclusively for all squash, unless I have the oven on for something else, in which case I bake the squash, seeds and all.

    I made a butternut last night. It was fairly large. I washed the squash, poked several holes all over with a paring knife, placed it on a plate and microwaved it in my standard microwave for about 15 min.

    I removed it and let it sit for a brief time until I could handle it (oven mitts could be used) ,then sliced it in two, lengthwise and removed the seeds. My squash was not yet completely cooked, although a smaller one may have been by now. Using a large spoon, I removed the flesh from the skin, cut the flesh into large chunks and placed in a covered casserole dish. Back into the microwave for 5 – 10 minutes, until the flesh was evenly cooked and mashable.

    I like this method (or baking) because the squash does not get extra water added from boiling, and it keeps all its flavour. It is also MUCH easier than peeling and chopping. Yummy!! This year the sqash are so sweet they don’t need any sugar or even butter!!

  • Cris

    If you love butternut squash, then definitely try Blue Hubbard! The size can be very intimidating, in fact, around here most people use them for porch decorations!

    My late aunt would send one down to me from NH with anyone heading south. She shared her secret for preparing the squash: she smashed it open on the cellar concrete floor! (Sometimes this can be very therapeutic.) Using a cleaver, she’d break it into manageable sizes. Remove seeds, wash each piece and smear inside with butter sprinkle with cinnamon (I prefer fresh nutmeg) Then wrap in foil and freeze. Just pop a piece still wrapped into a 350º oven until you can pierce it with a knife. Just scoop out flesh and serve! They are so sweet and delicious.

    I didn’t get to cook the one I bought last year, my siberian husky ‘adopted’ it and wouldn’t let anyone near it. LOL

  • Elise

    Hi Jenna and Jeane,

    It appears that some people have a contact reaction to butternut squash. A Google search turned up this Metafilter thread. The official name of the allergy is “Cucurbita Moschata Dermatitis”. The thing to do is to wear gloves when cutting and handling the raw squash flesh.

  • Bec

    I was inspired and cut up my squash this morning. It’s way more than we’re going to eat right now – how long will peeled, cut squash keep in the refrigerator?

    Great question. I had some extra that I cut up and kept in a ziplock bag in the fridge for over a week without a problem. ~Elise

  • Jeanne

    Great tutorial Elise – I have yet another easy cheat method – get your husband to do it :)

    As a previous commenter says, there is some substance in the butternut flesh that dries out the skin on my hands and makes me look like a snake shedding its skin, so my excuse is that dry hands are less of an issue for a boy =)

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    You can also bake it first, then cut open, scoop seeds and scoop out the flesh. I much prefer the baking method as there is a substance in the fresh butternut that seems to “eat” my hands – anyhow make them all rough and itchy.

  • cholst

    EASY METHOD…Cutting and cooking squash can be time consuming so I use my microwave. Wash, cut the squash length wise in half, and scoop out the seeds. Place the two haves cut side up on a plate,cover loosely with wax paper and microwave 8-10 minutes on high power.(larger squash may take more time) When soft to the touch,simply scoop the squash out of the skin/shell. It’s easy to freeze in bags or continue cooking in a pot,mash with potato masher and add seasoning. ENJOY!

  • Tom Clancy

    Like bittermelon above, I cut the squash into the 4 pieces shown in step 4 before peeling. The bulb is the only part that’s hard to peel. For that, I run the peeler horizontally on both ends and then peel vertically.

  • Lisa

    A great trick I learned recently is to prick the squash and put it in the microwave for a minute or so. Softens it just enough that the peeling process much easier.

  • bittermelon

    Another trick for stability and easier peeling is to cut the squash crosswise where the neck meets the bulbous end. The squash is not so unwieldy then to peel or cut. I also tend to look for the squash with the longest necks and smallest bulbs so it’s easier to dice since you don’t have as much of the rounded area to cut.

  • Elizabeth

    I LOVE Butternut squash and cook it often. One thing that I do differently is that I peel mine AFTER halving and scooping out the seeds. I find it easier to hold on to the squash while scooping seed if it still has it’s skin.
    I save seeds and plant in the garden in late summer.

  • claire

    I find it useful to use the disposal hole of the sink to anchor the squash. The fat end of the squash seems to stay put, the peelings go right into the sink and, at least for me (short), the lower height is more manageable. vegetable peeler. After I get as much done as possible this way, I move the squash to the cutting board and finish up.

  • Jenna

    I peel my squash this way, but can anyone tell me if there is an enzyme in the squash that makes the hand you are holding it with feel very tight and tingly after you are done peeling it? This has happened to me several times and now I wear rubber gloves when I have to peel the squash. It only happens with the butternut squash, and takes several washing to get rid of that feeling.

  • Tori

    I learned a great trick from a Japanese cookbook: boil water, let the squash sit in the boiled water for 10 minutes (covered), peel. Sometimes I actually let the squash sit in long enough that it is almost cooked.

    Using this method makes tt is so easy to peel you can even use a dull knife. Now I eat squash of all kinds much more as a result of this handy dandy way of dealing with the rind.

  • maggie

    So helpful—cutting up a squash can be exhausting! I usually microwave for a few minutes (piercing the skin a little first) to soften it up a little.

  • 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.