Squash is an affordable way to add cozy texture and flavor to a variety of dishes. This tutorial will provide my top tips on how to prepare and cook butternut squash.

a half of a butternut squash roasted in a white roasting pan

What is butternut squash?

Butternut squash is an orange-tinted winter squash with a characteristic oblong shape and a sweet flavor. It’s delicious roasted or pureed and the most popular squash to use in soup recipes.

Butternut squash is a classic fall and winter ingredient. Though it is oftentimes considered a vegetable, it’s actually a fruit that is high in many nutrients like Vitamin A, magnesium, Vitamin C, and potassium. Butternut squash is very versatile and works very well in both sweet and savory dishes. 

How to choose a butternut squash

There are a few key techniques you’ll want to keep in mind to choose the perfect butternut squash. You can use these tips when choosing any other type of squash too.

  • Pick a squash that feels heavy for its size
  • Steer clear of any soft spots! It’s normal for squash to have to scratches or imperfections, but if there is a spot that feels soft or mushy, it’s likely bruised or starting to rot inside.
  • Try and choose a squash with exterior skin that is more matte than shiny.
  • The squash should sound hollow inside when you make a fist and knock on it. This a sign of a good squash!

Once purchased, A squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for a month or two.

What you’ll need to prepare butternut squash

A sharp knife is essential when preparing your squash for cooking! If using a dull knife you’ll have trouble cutting open the squash and getting an even cut through.

Lining a baking sheet with parchment paper is also useful as it helps the squash fully caramelize without sticking to the tray. 

A bowl of butternut squash soup topped with cilantro

How to slice butternut squash

  • Wash the squash, dry, and set aside. Using a sharp knife on a stable surface, lay the squash on its side and slice off the top ½ inch of the squash where the stem was. Repeat this with the bottom ½ inch (the base).
  • If you’d like, use a sharp vegetable peeler to carefully remove the skin. I’ve found this is not always necessary depending on the recipe, and as long as the squash is fully cooked. 
  • Slice the squash in half down the center on the long side (“hot dog style”), so you have two equal halves. Using a spoon or fork, scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds. You can roast the two halves, or optionally slice each half down the center vertically and continue slicing into cubes until the desired shape is reached. When roasting, ½ inch sizing works well!
  • If you’re using the squash immediately, it is good to go. You can also store sliced squash in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for up to three months. 

How to cook butternut squash

Butternut squash can be cooked in a variety of ways, but the most efficient and useful is roasting. It can be roasted in whatever shape you like, but cut in half or cut into cubes are the most common. You can optionally coat the squash in some olive oil before roasting. Once cooked, it can be stored in the fridge for about three days. 

The best temperature to roast butternut squash is at 400-425 degrees F. You want the oven to be hot when roasting the squash.

If roasting a large squash cut in half, the squash will take anywhere from 25-45 minutes to roast (depending on the size of the squash.) If roasting squash cut into cubes, it should take about 25-30 minutes to roast.

Other preparation tips

  • If you’re looking to make peeling the squash easier, try microwaving it. Be sure to cut some slits into the skin (so it doesn’t explode!) and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes. Let rest for 1-2 minutes until cool enough to handle, and gently remove the skin with a peeler or knife. 
  • If you’re really in a rush, pre-cut butternut squash (though not as fresh) will save some time. Cutting your own squash and freezing it for later use is best, as it helps eliminate food waste!
  • Another fun way you can prepare butternut squash is by spiralizing it! This is great for making squash noodles.

Butternut squash FAQ:

  • How long can you store butternut squash? Uncooked and uncut, it can stay fresh in a cool, dry place for months. Once sliced, it can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for up to five days.
  • Can you eat it raw? Technically yes, but roasting will make it much easier and more delicious!
  • What does butternut squash taste like? Some people have likened the taste to that of sweet potato, or like butterscotch! It’s fairly nutty with a slightly sweet edge.
  • Do you peel butternut squash before cooking? If preparing the squash in cubes, then you’ll want to peel the squash before cooking using a vegetable peeler. If roasting the squash in two halves to make into soup, you don’t need to peel the squash. You can simply scoop out the flesh once it’s cooked.
  • Can you eat the skin of butternut squash? Technically yes, but unlike delicata squash where you generally leave the skin on and eat, butternut squash skin is tough and not really enjoyable to eat.
  • Can you cook butternut squash in the microwave? Yes! Just make several slits in the squash with a knife and cook on high for about 10-12 minutes until it feels tender inside.

Butternut squash recipes to try