The Ultimate Guide To Every Kind Of Squash & The Easiest Ways To Eat Them

Yes, it may officially be pumpkin season, but there's a whole world of gourds out there worth exploring and eating. From acorn to butternut all the way to spaghetti, supermarkets are currently filling up with every kind of squash.

But, not all squash are created equal. Some are great for easy weeknight dinners, others require a bit more love. To get the 411 on these gorgeous vegetables, we spoke with chefs who are just as excited for fall as we are. Thanks to their tips, we won't just be letting these beauties end up as centerpieces at Halloween or Friendsgiving.

The main piece of common advice? Save and roast those seeds, folks. And share them with us when you do. Ahead, here are six squashes you'll actually want to cook.

Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: A fairly ubiquitous squash that's also naturally sweet and flavorful; it's great roasted alone as well as in soups.

While it can be hard to peel, Dan Berg, Executive Chef at Yves, likes using butternut squash for its rich, sweet flavor. His basic recommendation for preparation is separate the long, skinny top from the round bottom, then half and score the skin and remove the seeds. Berg suggests roasting it for around 375°F tossed in olive oil and aromatics like sage or rosemary until it's cooked through.

Roasting it with the skin on allows you to easily peel it after roasting, rather than peeling it while raw, which is much more labor-intensive. Another great thing about butternut squash: like pumpkins, you can save the seeds to roast. But, be careful — undercooked butternut squash can be fibrous. If the texture bothers you, try puréeing it in a soup.
Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: Delicata might not be the first squash you reach for at the grocery store, but its small size makes it easy to cook with — and no peeling is required since the skin is edible. It's great as a side dish or topped with cheese or yogurt as a main.

Unlike some squash, which you can roast simply halved on its skin, delicata is best sliced into long, thin pieces then cooked and eaten with the skin on. Cooking it whole or halved reduces the amount of surface area that can crisp up and caramelize.

To prepare, Simply halve and deseed the squash, then slice into thin semicircles and arrange on a tray with some olive oil. Executive Chef Ashfer Biju at the Pierre in NYC says he likes to then season it with brown sugar, thyme, salt and pepper, then roast it at 400°F for 20-25 minutes, turning several times to really allow the slices to crisp up. Cooked that way, it's great served as a side to meat, but Ashfer also recommends combining it with soft cheeses, yogurt, or even using melted mozzarella as a topping.
Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: While pumpkins are all over the place in the fall, we might be eating them less than we think. Some varieties are actually known to be fairly bland. But, the right pumpkins are great in blended into soups and, of course, in pie.

Smaller pumpkins, called sugar pumpkins, have more sweet flavor and can be cooked with the skin on. You'll want to roast them first, even if your end goal is a pie. Simply halve and scoop out the seeds, then roast in a 350°F oven for around 30 minutes. Once its cooked, the insides can be scooped out and used for everything from pies to risotto.

Larger pumpkins will require peeling and dicing, both hard jobs, says Chef Biju. Both small and large pumpkins can require a lot of seasoning — so don't be afraid to be generous with spices. Rather than eating it alone, as a side, it's best in soups, curries, or anything with lots of other flavors.
Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: A dense, strongly-flavored vegetable, kabocha is a Japanese variety of squash. Because it's flavorful, it can stand up to strong flavors.

Chef Biju says the hardest part about cooking with kabocha squash is the prep work. The large, knobby gourd can be difficult to cut through. However, it can also be roasted with the skin on, saving you from wrestling too much with a peeler. After cutting the kabocha in half, slice into quarters or wedges, season as desired (brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey are some of his suggestions) and roast skin-down at around 375°F for 30 minutes. You can also roast it with just some olive oil and salt and pepper for a simpler preparation. Test for doneness by poking with a fork, if it doesn't slide through easily, keep cooking.

Kabocha is one of Biju's favorite squashes for toasts or using as pasta fillings, as well as for adding heat to with chilies or red pepper flakes. Aside from prep, however, some kabocha can be mealy. Just make sure its ripe — like a watermelon, it should feel heavy for its size. Seeing splotches of grey and gold, not just green, is also a sign it's at peak freshness.
Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: A richly-flavored squash, the tough outer skin can make it difficult to work with. But once you slice it up, it can be everything from a main course to a side paired with mushrooms or soft cheese.

"You need a sharp knife and a steady hand " to prepare acorn squash, says Chef Bjiu. He recommends slicing it into wedges and roasting it with the skin on the baking sheet. After baking at 350°F for about 30 minutes, you'll be able to eat everything, including the now-soft outer skin. You can season with thyme, salt and pepper, and brown sugar, or even with things we think of as traditional "pumpkin" spices like cinnamon and cloves.

Biju also likes pairing acorn squash with fall mushrooms like hen of the woods and oyster, for a delicious side or main. It's also good served on dark bread or with soft cheese. The only thing to be careful of is overcooking it – acorn squash is best a bit underdone.
Illustration by Louisa Cannell

The Basics: Less sweet than other gourds, spaghetti squash provides texture in a number of dishes and, as the name implies, is a great substitute for pasta.

Spaghetti squash requires little prep. All you need to do is slice it in half and roast, skin-down, on a baking sheet. (No scoring the skin like with butternut squash.) Chef Berg recommends cooking it with aromatics and olive oil, or simply baking plain at 350°F until the squash is fork-tender. Once it's cooked through, let it cool and use a fork to first remove the seeds, then shred the noodle-like interior of the squash. Keep it a bit al dente and use it like you would pasta, topping it with a marinara or meat sauce.

Berg does caution that, given the size of many spaghetti squashes, you'll need to slice carefully — both to make sure it's a clean cut down the middle and to not hurt yourself in the process.
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