‘Tis the season for pies, soups, breads and fall produce. Whether you roast, puree, bake or sauté it, squash is one of the few fall/winter options for cooking with fresh produce, thanks to its tough outer skin that shields it from cold temperatures. While pumpkin steals the show this time of year, there are many other options from which to choose. From butternut squash to sweet dumpling squash, there are endless varieties of this amazing vegetable, and even more delicious ways to prepare it. To help you add squash to your cooking repertoire, here is a guide that will allow you to incorporate several types of squash into your diet all winter long.
One of the most popular and common types of winter squash, butternut squash is ideal for roasting. This foot-long, bell-shaped squash has a thin, butterscotch color with a sweet, nutty flesh. It is great for creamy soups, ravioli filling and sauce for gnocchi and risotto, and it pairs well with flavors like cinnamon, balsamic vinegar and smoky bacon.
This type of squash is oval and yellow. When you cook it, spaghetti squash has a stringy flesh that looks like, well, spaghetti, and you can use it as a substitute for pasta. They typically weigh between 4 and 8 pounds, and those that are larger will have the best flavor and thicker “noodles.”
If you are trying to reduce your carb intake, spaghetti squash is a perfect addition to your diet. It absorbs cheese and sauce and can easily be enhanced with butter and herbs.
Sweet dumpling squash
This type of squash tastes like a sweet potato and is the perfect size to be used as a soup bowl or to stuff with rice and veggies. You can also use sweet dumpling squash the same way you would use a sweet potato — bake, roast or mash it for soups. Because it is one of the sweetest varieties of squash, it is perfect for a puree.
One of the largest and thickest-skinned squash varieties, you can use hubbard in the dead of winter with no problems. Because it weighs between 8 and 20 pounds, hubbard squash does require longer cooking times, but it is a fantastic substitute for pumpkin in pie. They vary in color from orange to grayish blue, and beneath the tough skin is a savory and sweet yellow flesh. Hubbard is high in sugar, and that means it is best mashed or pureed as a pie filling.
Named after the fruit because of its color and shape, banana squash has a sweet, orange, meaty flesh perfect for soups or thinly shaved in salads. You can even use it as a substitute for butternut squash in a stew.
Ideal for roasting and stuffing, acorn squash is mild in flavor and features a dark green exterior with a firm, yellow flesh. You can use it as a natural bowl for fillings like apples and chestnuts. Just remember, peeling acorn squash is difficult, so cut it in half or slice it for roasting.
Because it is a combination of acorn and sweet dumpling squash, you can use carnival squash as a substitute for either one. The flesh is sweet and great for soups, or you can spice it up and bake it for a side dish.
Also known as West Indian Pumpkin, calabaza squash has a sweet, juicy, golden-orange flesh with a similar taste and texture to butternut squash. Perfect for baking, calabaza does have a tough rind, so you will need to use a cleaver to cut up a whole squash.
New to the American market and sometimes called a Japanese pumpkin, kabocha is an Asian winter squash that has a sweet flavor with strong nutty and earthy elements. It has a moist and fluffy texture, with a taste often compared to chestnuts. Puree kabocha to add a buttery richness to a thick and creamy soup. You can also bake or steam it with delicious results.
Another squash that is similar to sweet potatoes because of its creamy flavor and texture, delicata can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed or stuffed. You can even eat the skin, so peeling isn’t necessary. Delicata is long and thin, and has an incredible umami flavor that makes for an excellent side dish.
There are definitely more members of the squash family, but these 10 are versatile and can be used in many different recipes. So the next time you hit the grocery store, try incorporating at least one of these types of squash into your meal planning — you will be happy you did.