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How to peel, cut, and roast butternut squash

Insider
Insider
 2021-11-17

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Roasted butternut squash can be a simple side or the first step to a more complex dish like soup.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • Roast butternut squash in 1-inch cubes to help it cook faster and more evenly.
  • Cut it into two sections — a round section and a tube-shaped section — to make peeling easier.
  • Season and serve roasted butternut squash as-is or transform it into a soup or baby food.
  • Visit Insider's Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories .

Oven-roasting is a favorite way to prepare butternut squash, and this easy cooking method is a great time saver as well as a natural flavor maximizer.

By using smart preparation strategies and a few simple finishing techniques, you can take this popular pumpkin-like vegetable from market shelf to roasted table-ready deliciousness in minimal time, says Marianne Rosica-Brand, director of food and beverage education for New York Kitchen .

Quick tip: Look for squash without bruising or soft spots, and that has a strong stem, recommends Rosica-Brand. "You want a squash that feels heavier than it looks — the rule of thumb is that if it feels light, it probably isn't ripe enough," she says. Unripe squash has a bitterness you want to avoid.

How to peel butternut squash

Rosica-Brand says she likes to approach peeling butternut squash by dividing and conquering. First, cut off the stem and the bottom of the squash. Then, cut squash in half horizontally where the shape starts to change, "so that you have a round or bulb-shaped half and a tube-shaped half." This step allows for streamlined peeling and sectioning, as well as for easy removal of seeds.

Then, she says to place the squash halves firmly on the counter and peel or cut down each half with a vegetable peeler or serrated knife to remove the outer peel. Move from top to bottom, directing the tool away from your body.

Quick tip : If you find your hands become rough, red, or blistered when handling raw butternut squash, you're experiencing a common allergic reaction called contact dermatitis. It's not serious and should go away in a day or two, but if you're prone to it, wear gloves when handling raw squash.

How to cut butternut squash

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Cut the squash into even cubes so they roast at the same speed.

After peeling the squash, follow Rosica-Brand's smart sectional strategy for creating clean 1-inch cubes using a sharp 8-inch chef's knife or a vegetable cleaver.

Beginning with the bulb-shaped half, cut the section in half through the top and clean out the seeds using a soup spoon. Next, lay each half cut side down on a cutting board, and cut it into slabs. Then cut the slabs into sticks, and finally into 1-inch cubes.

To evenly section the tube-shaped half, cut the squash into circular slabs, followed by sticks, and, finally, cubes.

According to Rosica-Brand, a butternut squash that weighs about 5 pounds will yield 10 to 11 cups of cubed squash.

How to roast butternut squash

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When done, the squash should be fork-tender.

Once the squash is evenly cubed, it's easy to roast it in the oven. This should take just 30 minutes or less, following Rosica-Brand's instructions.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, line two half-sheet pans with foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Lightly coat the cubed butternut squash with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and any spices you prefer.

To allow for even cooking, spread the coated cubes out on the sheet pans in a single layer. Roast the squash for 15 minutes, turn the cubes with a spatula, then return the sheet pan to the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes.

When the roasted cubes become toasty brown and fork-tender, and the kitchen is filled with an intoxicating sweet squash aroma, you'll know that your squash is ready, says Rosica-Brand.

Quick tip: Before roasting cubed squash, Rosica-Brand recommends mixing it with spices. "Combine 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp nutmeg, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, thyme, or oregano. Stir to combine."

What to do next

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Roast squash rather than boiling it before transforming it into soup to deepen its flavor,

To enhance roasted butternut squash, Rosica-Brand suggests "getting creative with the flavors you love" and experimenting with your favorite taste profiles.

  • Add a glaze to it . Cover the butternut squash in honey or maple syrup. This will add a delightfully sweet, complex flavor to roasted squash.
  • Get nutty. Top roasted squash with nuts that you've toasted in a dry saute pan. "Pecans and walnuts are my favorites," says Rosica-Brand.
  • Use it for soup. "Many recipes recommend using only butternut squash that has been roasted in soup," says Rosica-Brand. For recipes that call for boiled squash, she recommends following the basic soup recipe as directed but omitting the raw squash that's typically cooked along with other root vegetables at the beginning of the recipe. Instead, add the roasted squash in the last five minutes of the recipe, and blend with other ingredients, she says.
  • Store it and eat later. To store cooked squash, allow the squash to cool on sheet pans, then place it in containers in the refrigerator. Leave the lids off (in the refrigerator) to allow the squash to cool quickly. After 30 minutes to an hour, place lids on the containers. Squash will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days.

Insider's takeaway

Roasted butternut squash is a favorite fall treat, but cutting and preparing the pumpkin-like vegetable can seem an arduous task. Use an easy "divide and conquer" technique to separate the raw vegetable into two work zones in order to easily seed, slice and dice it into uniform 1-inch cubes.

Then, lightly oil and season the diced squash cubes, spread them evenly on a foil-lined pan, and roast in a 400-degree Fahrenheit oven. In 30 minutes or less, the cut cubes will be toasty brown. To enhance roasted butternut squash, add honey, nuts, fall spices, or fresh herbs.

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