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Cooking Winter Squash

Let’s talk about cooking winter squash and learning about some of the lesser known varieties.

Whether you refer to them as fall squash or winter squash, many of these beautiful, seasonal pumpkin-like vegetables this season from your local farmers’ markets can be a mystery to many of us. Not only do we not know many of their names, we also don’t even know how to begin to prepare them!

It seems to me that there are more available than ever as local farmers are beginning to grow less familiar heirloom varieties! Many of us are already familiar with butternut squash soup and acorn squash but what about all those others?

I love butternut squash soup but that gets a little old all winter long and I need some new ways to fix these orange beasts. I like acorn squash alright, but it’s color is less vivid and the texture a little grainy compared to some of the other less familiar squashes’ smooth, creamy textures.

What are some of our obstacles to eating them? Sometimes it might be what do we do with them? How do we deal with that think hard skin? What are all of them and how do they taste?

A few nutritional bonuses fall squash provides include Vitamin A, C, E, B6, Thiamine, Folic Acid, Pantothenic Acid, Niacin, Magnesium, Manganese and Potassium. They also have a role in helping lower blood pressure and boosting the immune system. In addition they also are also rich in fiber! When reviewing all these health benefits, it makes me wonder why we aren’t eating more of these nutrition powerhouses!

So in this little Fall Squash Primer- 

  • First we will start off with a few you have heard about and then we will move on to less known ones.
  • I have some new ways to prepare old favorites.
  • Feel free to experimenting mixing and matching by using a different squash from your usual to make your recipe. Each one of these has value and great taste to try!
  • I hope that these new healthy meal ideas will inspire you to find additional ways to fix squash all season long!

Tip for peeling tougher skins: Roast for a few minutes to soften the squash without cooking too long if you want to chunk it for sauteeing or roasting. Let cool and it will peel much easier. If I am not going to chunk it and I want it soft for something like soups or a stuffing, I will cook all the way through and allow to cool. Then I carefully take a spoon and scrap out the filling.

Different Ways for Cooking Winter Squash

1.Spaghetti Squash

If you have already had it, you know that when you cook this mild flavored squash that the flesh becomes little spaghetti-like strings of squash that many people use it as a lower carbohydrate, gluten free pasta!

Spaghetti Squash is one versatile vegetable
A special surprise awaits you inside this tasty squash!

The way that I roast it, is to split long ways and seed it. Then I lay it on a cookie sheet with the inside of the squash touching the pan. Roast at 425 degrees until the squash gets soft to touch.

Roasted Squash
Squash cut in half. Inside down on cooking sheet. Roasted in the oven.

Take out cool and then take a fork and pull at the spaghetti-like threads. Put on a plate. This squash works well with any type of pasta sauce.

Spaghetti Squash
Little strings of spaghetti.

I wanted to share with you how to  stuff it and me and my family really love the results!

Mediterranean Spaghetti Squash

Mediterranean Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

I love the fact that this squash can be roasted and makes a great substitute for wheat pasta! What a great gluten free and low carb option!

Makes 2-4 servings

1 spaghetti squash

1/2 container ricotta cheese

2 cups arugula, spinach or kale

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1 clove minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1-2 tablespoon walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Follow the directions above how to prepare and roast your spaghetti squash. Take the squash out of the oven and turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. When pulling the spaghetti threads, be careful to not tear the squash skin and pull as much of the squash as you can while keeping the skin intact. Put the “spaghetti” in a large bowl and add ricotta cheese, cooked spinach, Parmesan cheese minus 1-2 tablespoons, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Toss all the ingredients together and carefully add back into squash cavity. Top with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and walnuts. Bake for about 20 more minutes until the stuffing is hot and the cheese is melted.

2. Butternut Squash

This is the our go-to fall squash. I think that the smooth texture and it’s thin skin make it easier to work with than some of the others and all of us are familiar with butternut squash soup. But don’t you want something new to try? How about some tacos!

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash, Pablano & Potato Tacos

Butternut Squash and Poblano Peppers Tacos

If you are looking for a new way for cooking butternut squash, here is a new twist on tacos that just taste like fall! I used my poblano peppers and butternut squash from our garden! This recipe for a butternut squash recipe baked is different than some that you may have made. The squash is peeled and cut into bite size pieces before roasting.

Makes 6 servings at 2 tacos each.

1 medium butternut squash, sliced down the middle and seeded, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch dice

4 medium poblano peppers, sliced down the middle, stemmed and seeded, then cut into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch pieces

3 medium potatoes cut into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch dice

1/2 of a medium onion, chopped (use chopped green scallions if sensitive to oligios)

1 tablespoon chili powder (try low fodmap taco seasoning from FODY without garlic or onion). This is an affiliate link, if you order from them, I receive a percent of the sale.

1 teaspoon of cumin, freshly ground

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salsa, pumpkin seeds, lactose-free yogurt and a slice of avocado to garnish

Corn taco shells, soft or hard

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, lightly toss butternut squash and potatoes in about a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on a cookie sheet and begin roasting in the oven. When they begin to get soft in about 10-15 minutes, add the peppers and onion.

Add chili powder and cumin. Cook all the veggies until they begin to brown and caramelize for about 5-10 minutes longer. Salt and pepper to taste. Divide filling between taco shells and garnish with salsa, pumpkin seeds, yogurt and sliced avocado.

3. Gold Nugget Squash

Bright orange on the inside and sweet, smooth flesh makes this a great fall squash to add to your mix! I combined  the Gold Nugget with the Sweet Dumpling to make a delicious pot pie!

Gold Nugget

4. Sweet Dumpling Squash

Some consider this squash the sweetest of all the fall squash. It is a little lighter yellow orange than the Gold Nugget and the texture is less creamy and a little more mealy.

Sweet Dumpling Squash
This sweet dumpling squash makes a beautiful fall decoration before you eat it!
Squash Pot Pie

Winter Squash Pot Pie with Cornmeal Crust

This recipe makes me feel warm and cozy! The combination of both Gold Nugget and Sweet Dumpling squash along with a creamy Smotked Gouda cream sauce and a cornmeal crust just spells comfort! This recipe uses a gluten free cornbread and a gluten free baking mix but if you tolerate gluten and want to use regular products, that would work well also.

Sweet Dumpling and Gold Nugget peeled and cut into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch (these are two squash that I do cook a few minutes at 425 degrees to soften and cool so I can peel)

1 can white cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon thyme

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Smoked Gouda Cheese Sauce

2 tablespoon Earth Balance tub margarine

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour or King Arthur Gluten Free Flour

1/2 cup smoked Gouda cheese, shredded

2 cups 2% milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cornbread Crust

Bob’s Red Mill Cornbread Mix or King Arthur Gluten Free Cornbread Mix

Use one of these baking mixes and make according to directions.You will carefully spread the batter over the squash, kale and bean filling.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large iron skillet, saute’ squash in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes and add onion and continue to cook until both begin to caramelize. Add chopped kale and thyme. Add a lid and begin steaming until it is soft. Add Earth Balance to filling and toss in gluten free baking mix. Slowly add milk and stir until thickened. Take off heat and add shredded cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. If there is enough room for cornbread batter in skillet. spread it carefully. If not, lightly grease a oven proof casserole pot and add filling, then spread cornbread batter carefully over the filling.

This is what the filling looks like before putting adding the cornbread batter.

Filling for Squash Pot Pie

5. Delicata Squash

Named for the delicate rind/skin. This cylinder shaped squash is often considered a fall squash but is botanically more like a summer squash.

Delicata Squash
This squash will melt in your mouth and its name says it all!
Delicata Squash and Apples Over Millet

Delicata Squash and Apple Saute Over Millet

This dish just melts in your mouth! I love the combination of delicata squash, apple, greens, pecans and blue cheese over the soft millet. The skin of the delicata squash softens when cooked so I don’t peel it. Millet is a gluten free grain that is less often used than quinoa but it has a creamier texture and is less bitter so it is one that we need to remember to add to our meals! This recipe is sort of stuffed delicata squash deconstructed.

4 servings

1 medium delicata squash, seeded, sliced in half and sliced horizontally

2 apples, chopped

1/4 cup chopped onions

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

4 cups spinach, arugula or chopped kale

1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup millet

1 cup vegetable broth

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes one cruet full

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Add ingredients to cruet and shake it up!

To cook millet: 

Take 1/2 cup millet and heat over a medium sauce pan. Brown lightly for about 4-5 minutes. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and heat until boiling and turn down heat to low. Cook for about 10 minutes. Don’t take a peek while it is cooking. Take off heat and allow to sit another 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut open squash and seed. Then slice horizontally in about 1/2 inch thick pieces across the width of the squash. The slices will look like they are ruffled along the edge. Place on a cookie sheet that has been brushed with olive oil and lightly brush the top of the squash. Bake for about 10 minutes being carefully to not let burn. Turning once. Take out to cool. While the squash is roasting, divide greens between 4 bowls, add cooled millet, apples, onions, cooled squash and top with pecans and blue cheese. Lightly dress with balsamic dressing.

If you are feeling inspired by these new squash recipes, I want to share a few more with you also from some of my previous blog posts!

how to fix winter squash (

In addition to my recipes, here are some other vegetarian winter squash recipes and 10 Vegetarian Brunch Recipes for the Holidays – Vine Ripe Nutrition .

Making a Plan for Cooking Winter Squash

I hope that after reading all about cooking winter squash and learning more about different varieties that you are inspired to try some new varieties in your upcoming meal plans. These little friends will be available throughout the winter season, so you now have lots of new ideas to keep eating them! Would love to hear how you love them in your meals!

As a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, I love helping clients learn about new food and new ways to prepare old favorites. You can find out more about me here! I hope that you stay tuned as I will be sharing lots of ways to stay healthy this holiday season!

know your squash
What’s Your favorite new fall squash?
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