Take out the yellow summer squash and zucchini, and come the more hearty pumpkins, butternuts, and fall squash. Now that fall has arrived over much of the country, it’s time to ditch the hot vegetables and embrace this sweet harvest. But beyond pumpkins, butternuts, and acorns, many of us have no idea what all the crazy-shaped and colorful squash names are, or how to use them. Given the variety available in many markets, we wanted to give you a breakdown of what to look for when shopping.
The easiest way to identify acorn squash? Well it looks like an acorn (duh). These orange-fleshed green squash are thick-skinned and can be served peeled or sliced (with the skin intact). Acorn squash is quite adaptable and can be used in a variety of dishes.
These cylindrical gourds can be gigantic, reaching sizes up to 3 feet long and 35 pounds. Once you get through the thick crust, the banana squash contains an orange flesh similar to Kabocha or Butternut. Use banana squash in recipes that call for roasting or mashing it like soup.
Squat and green, buttercup squash have a thick, inedible rind with dark yellow flesh. Butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor and is best used in recipes that involve steaming or baking.
One of the most popular (and easily identifiable) winter squash, butternut squash are bronzed, bowling-shaped squash that you can find in almost any grocery store. They can be used in just about anything; soups, stews, roasts, mash, etc.
Tiny and heavily cracked, carnival squash are known for their spotted green and orange skin that will eventually turn yellowish orange when fully ripe. While carnival squash can be processed like any other orange-fleshed squash, they’re best when roasted to help boost their flavor.
Long and lean, Delicata squashes are yellow with green or orange stripes running the horizontal length. They have a thinner skin than a butternut and are great for use as a cooking vessel (see recipes below) as they hold their shape well when cooked.
These lumpy-skinned, hard-shelled pumpkins are quite ugly, but inside is dense, richly fragrant flesh. Since Hubbard squash is so difficult to peel, it is best to cut it in half and then roast it. Once cooked, the flesh can be hollowed out and used in soups or mashed potatoes.
Kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is a stocky green squash with green skin marked with uneven stripes. Kabocha can be cooked with the skin on (and you can eat it too) and is quite malleable in any recipe.
Good old Charlie Brown pumpkin, aka the one you’re carving. The orange flesh of the pumpkin can be baked in a number of ways, but it’s best in pies, cakes, breads, and other baked goods.
Large and oval, spaghetti squash is more like melons than some of the other squashes on the list; when cooked, the flesh of the spaghetti squash becomes stringy and has a consistency that resembles pasta; replace spaghetti squash with pasta for a gluten-free meal.
Also identified as decorative pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are basically mini (regular) pumpkins with an average size of around 6 to 8 inches. They can be baked, then the flesh can be mashed for soups or, like their big brother, used in pies.
And now on some recipes using all this knowledge of squash …
1. Roasted spaghetti squash
How about making a plate of spaghetti with no noodles? Using nature’s squashy spaghetti can provide you with a low-carb, gluten-free way to make pasta. This version is inspired by the classic cacio e pepe. It’s simple, which allows the squash to taste rather than mask it. Get our Roasted spaghetti squash recipe.
2. Roasted acorn squash with wild rice stuffing
Filled with wild rice, pecans and cranberries, our recipe is a hearty vegetarian dish that is a meal in itself. Get our Roasted acorn squash recipe with wild rice stuffing.
3. Slow Cooker Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup
Spicy, roasted chickpeas make a hearty garnish for this healthy, bright and flavorful soup that you can simmer in the slow cooker for four hours. Get our Slow cooker butternut squash and red pepper soup recipe.
4. Roasted Butternut Squash, Millet and Lentil Burritos
If you didn’t think squash could be used in a burrito, think again and try this recipe for One Green Planet. Get the recipe here.
5. Butternut squash, kale and faro soup
As the weather cools, try this hearty soup that combines cubes of butternut squash, kale and faro. Get our Butternut squash, kale and faro soup recipe.
6. Roasted Delicata Squash Salad
Forget the butternut squash and try this hearty fall salad, which combines spinach, pumpkin seeds and ricotta salata with roasted delicata squash. Get our Roasted Delicata Squash Salad Recipe.
7. Perfect Pumpkin Pie
As the title suggests, here’s our recipe for the perfect pumpkin pie – just try to find a better recipe (it’s not your grandma’s secret recipe). Get our Perfect Pumpkin Pie Recipe.
8. Thai red curry with Kabocha squash
Japanese pumpkin steals the show in this spicy red curry that makes a great one-pot vegetarian meal. Get our Kabocha Squash Thai Red Curry Recipe.
9. Spaghetti squash cake
Roasted squash replaces potatoes in this latke-like dish that is served with seared salmon. Get our Spaghetti Squash Cake Recipe.
10. Spicy squash tacos
We’ve given you a burrito recipe before, but how about these spicy squash tacos that have diced butternut squash, pickled jalapeños, and queso fresco. Get our Spicy Squash Tacos Recipe.
11. Pumpkin gnocchi with crème fraîche – sage sauce
Pumpkin puree is the basis of the gnocchi dough, which is combined with a crème fraîche sauce made from crème fraîche and sage. Get our Pumpkin Gnocchi Recipe with Cream and Sage Sauce.
12. Squash and saffron risotto
Try this gourmet risotto flavored with saffron and sautéed butternut squash. Get our recipe Risotto with squash and saffron.