Butternut squash is as notable for autumn baking and cooking as the pumpkin, and it works in all types of recipes. Once cooked, the flesh becomes soft and blends easily without the graininess you may find in other winter squash varieties.
It can be cubed and roasted to eat as a side dish or added to a leafy green salad. When pureed, it can be used to make soups, to fill or top pasta, or baked into breads, cakes, and muffins. It can also be used as a filling for veggie tacos and enchiladas!
Butternut’s slightly nutty, sweet flavor really comes out when the squash is roasted in the oven. When compared to other winter squashes such as pumpkins, butternut’s smooth skin makes it easier to peel and its smaller pockets of seeds are easier to clean out.
Here are three ways you can cook butternut squash!
How to Roast Butternut Squash: Halves
If you plan to puree your butternut squash, roasting the halves will give you the most flavor. When roasted, the flesh of the squash gets a caramelized flavor that will carry over to your final recipe, whether you are making a soup or filling ravioli.
1. Prepare the baking sheet and preheat the oven: Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Cut the squash in half: Place the squash on its side on a sturdy cutting board. I prefer to lay a kitchen towel under it to keep it from slipping. Trim the stem end. Then use a large, sharp knife to cut the squash from end to stem.
3. Remove the seeds: Scoop the seeds out of each side of the squash with a spoon and discard them.
4. Coat the squash with oil: Brush both the cut and skin sides of each squash half with olive oil. At this point, you can also decide on seasoning. If I plan to use the squash in another recipe, I skip seasoning it before roasting it. But if you choose, you can sprinkle the flesh side with fine sea salt, ground black pepper, or both.
5. Roast the butternut squash: Place the squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes. The roasting time is determined by the size of your squash. To check tenderness, prick the side with a fork. If the flesh is tender inside the skin, it’s ready. Begin checking it at 30 minutes, then continue to check it every 3 to 5 minutes, until tender.
6. Cool and scoop: Remove the pan from the oven. Use a spatula to flip the squash over so that it sits cut side up to cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and use it for your recipe.
How to Roast Butternut Squash: Cubes
If you plan to eat the squash as a side dish of tender, seasoned cubes, or you want to top a fall-inspired salad, you’ll get the most flavor from your squash by peeling and cutting the butternut squash cubes before roasting. Similar to the roasted halves, the edges of each cube will darken and caramelize and add a ton of flavor to your squash recipe.
1. Line the pan and preheat the oven: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Peel and cut the butternut squash. Peel the squash, then cut in half just as you would to roast the halves. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Then cut the flesh into cubes.
3. Prepare for roasting: Spread the squash cubes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Leave a little space between each so that they roast evenly.
4. Add olive oil: Drizzle the cubes with about two tablespoons of olive oil and move them around to coat each piece. You may need a little more or less depending on the size of your squash. You want the pieces to glisten once they are coated with the oil, but not be drenched in it.
5. Season the squash: Sprinkle the cubes with a 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt. You can also add an 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper or other favorite ground seasonings that you prefer, if desired. You can add more seasoning to taste once it is roasted.
6. Roast the squash: Roast the squash for 20 minutes, then carefully stir and flip the cubes and spread them back into a single layer. Continue to roast for 10 to 20 more minutes, until tender when pierced with a fork. The total roasting time will depend on the exact size of your squash and the size of your cubes. Season as desired and serve.
How to Cook Butternut Squash in a Pressure Cooker
If you plan to mash or puree your butternut squash after cooking, the other way to do is to cook it in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. While this method doesn’t add the extra deep caramelized flavor that you get with roasting, it’s an ideal option when you’d rather not have the oven on and you want to cook the squash more quickly.
Using an Instant Pot, the squash will take about 17 minutes to cook, with 10 minutes for the pot to come to pressure and 7 minutes cook-time. That’s about half the time it takes to roast the squash in the oven. Depending on your schedule, this may be the best option to save time during meal prep!
How to Freeze Cooked Butternut Squash
Yes, butternut squash can be frozen, and you’ll have the best results if you freeze it as a puree. The thawed puree can be used to make muffins, stirred into oatmeal, or blended into soups and sauces.
To freeze, first roast the squash or cook it in a pressure cooker, allow it to cool, then mash the flesh and then freeze in zip-top bags for up to three months. Thaw the bags of squash in the refrigerator overnight or defrost them in the microwave.
If the squash seems to be holding a lot of water, I like to let it sit in a mesh strainer with a bowl under it for about an hour so that the excess water drains away and doesn’t transfer to my recipe.
Favorite Butternut Squash Recipes
Now that you've cooked your butternut squash, put it to great use in one of these favorite recipes!
- Butternut Squash Bread with Pecan Streusel
- Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla
- Pasta with Butternut Squash Parmesan Sauce
- Curried Butternut Squash Soup
- Butternut Squash with Brown Butter and Thyme
- Butternut Squash Enchiladas
- Butternut Squash Risotto
- Roasted Butternut Squash Kale Saute
- Breakfast Casserole with Butternut Squash and Kale