Cooking squash in the Instant Pot saves time, keeps the kitchen cool during the hot summer months, and is a quick and easy way to meal prep! Plus, it’s one of the best ways to cook squash to prepare for freezing.
It’s right about the beginning of summer, where I start to run out of my homemade squash in the freezer that I have stored away from the previous fall. That means making our favorite grain-free keto vegetable pancakes or low carb spaghetti squash lasagna for dinner isn’t so simple anymore.
I don’t know about you, but summertime is when I gravitate towards simple, low-prep meals.
Besides, squash has so many uses and nutritional benefits that I hate to go the whole summer without having them available. Even though I can still buy squash in the store — and sometimes fairly economically — no one wants to turn on the oven to be roasting something for an hour during the heat of summer.
And, of course, there are times even in the fall where I realize I’ve forgotten to plan ahead far enough, and dinner will be late because that doggone squash will take a full hour to cook in the oven.
Instant Pot to the rescue!
As long as you only need one squash, you can easily use your Instant Pot to cook it. If you have an 8-quart Instant Pot, you may be able to fit two.
Where to Buy an Instant Pot
This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that! My full Instant Pot review including pros and cons.
If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot buying guide for features, size, and model.
Can I Cook a Whole Squash Without Cutting It?
The simple answer to this is, YES, of course, you can!
The more complicated answer is that it depends on the size of your squash and how you want to use it. To ensure the entire squash is cooked, you may end up with a more mushy texture than you desire – but a little less prep just might make that worth it to you!
Cooking a whole squash in the Instant Pot, especially those hard to chop butternut or sunshine squash, is actually a great technique to make the entire process a lot easier!
What About Cooking Squash in the Microwave?
So, yes, it is possible to cook squash in the microwave.
Doing it that way would also keep your kitchen cool and it is relatively quick, but here’s the thing –
The Instant Pot is going to cook the squash in about the same amount of time – with lots less babysitting!
Plus, I truly believe the result is way better in the Instant Pot. The microwave has a tendency to make everything just a little too mushy while also being rubbery – and that texture combo is just NOT my favorite thing.
In our house, we try to use the microwave as little as possible. We’ve found over and over again that the ‘non-microwave’ methods of preparing foods are almost always just as easy and actually make the food taste a whole lot better.
The BEST Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash can be cooked in many different ways, but I find this Instant Pot method to be both really easy AND the one that has the best texture.
- Cut your squash in half crosswise (NOT lengthwise – this is important to get longer ‘spaghetti’ strands).
- Scoop out the seeds and discard (or save for roasting later!)
- Place the two halves in your steamer basket or trivet and pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Manually cook for 7 minutes on high pressure, use a quick release, and let the squash cool for about 10 minutes.
- Drain any excess water off the squash and then you’re ready to shred the squash and eat!
This method yields ‘noodles’ with a great al dente texture, but if you prefer yours a little on the softer side, you may need to keep your squash under pressure for another 1 to 3 minutes.
Cooking a Whole Spaghetti Squash in the Instant Pot
If you’re willing to sacrifice a little texture for the sake of ease, follow this method instead.
- Wash your spaghetti squash and then pierce the skin multiple times with a paring knife (this allows some of the steam to escape while cooking).
- Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot.
- Manually cook for 15 minutes on high pressure.
- Use a quick release and then allow the squash to cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting and shredding. Don’t forget to cut crosswise instead of lengthwise for those longer strands! Take the seeds out before eating, of course.
Butternut Squash in the Instant Pot – Great for Purees!
Cooking butternut squash in the Instant Pot is an almost identical process as cooking spaghetti squash.
This is such an easy way to cook butternut squash to be made into a puree – great to use in soups, baked goods, or homemade baby food!
- Cut the butternut squash into four pieces. Cut once lengthwise and once crosswise for pieces that are approximately the same size. You don’t need to peel the squash, but you do want to remove the seeds.
- Put the pieces on the metal trivet or in a steaming basket.
- Manually cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. You can use a natural or quick release for this method.
- Let the butternut squash cool, then scoop the flesh away from the skin to use as desired.
- I always puree mine with a stick blender, so simple!
Cooking a Whole Butternut Squash in the Instant Pot
Butternut squash are known for their difficulty to chop and peel. In fact, one of our contributing writers often enlists the help of a rubber mallet when trying to cut one.
For that reason, if you can find a butternut squash that will fit in your Instant Pot, this may actually be the best way to cook this hard to chop veggie! (Okay, okay, it’s technically a fruit, but it’s used as a veggie.)
By increasing the time under pressure, you can thoroughly cook the squash to be used as a puree. Just use the “manual” button to set the Instant Pot to high pressure for 30 minutes.
Or if you would rather cube the squash to roast it later or use it in other recipes in its still solid form, you can cook it just long enough to make the chopping and peeling WAY easier to do.
I love this genius hack – manual setting, high pressure, 8 minutes, and voila – butternut squash that doesn’t require garage tools to chop.
RELATED: Use butternut squash in this nutritious squash milk for kids!
Using the Instant Pot to Cook Acorn Squash, Delicata Squash, and Pumpkin
You can cook all varieties of winter squash in the Instant Pot – including acorn squash, pumpkin, and even delicata squash.
Time under pressure varies depending on the size of your squash, whether you want to cut it before cooking it, your intended use for the squash, and your desired texture. All methods use 1 cup of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot, the steaming trivet, and high pressure using the “manual” setting.
Many winter squash are similar in texture and flavor profile. When I’m cooking them in the Instant Pot, I am typically just going to scoop out the insides and puree it for any of my “mushy orange vegetable” recipes.
That just means that my pancakes, muffins, or other baked goods that are usually titled “pumpkin” are interchangeable with any mushy orange vegetable.
So when I make any of these squash in the Instant Pot, I don’t worry at all about it overcooking a bit. In fact, I would shoot high – probably 15 minutes under high pressure to start if I chop it up, 30 minutes if I leave them whole – so that I don’t have to do it again.
Related: Winter Squash Recipe Roundup
If you have a lot of squash on hand in the fall, it’s wonderful to batch freeze bags of pureed squash into two-to-four-cup portions. Then you can quickly thaw and put it into a recipe without even measuring.
I freeze spaghetti squash too, but I will cut the cooking time back in the Instant Pot by a minute or 2 to preserve the texture of the noodles once they are thawed and reheated.
Although you can’t put very many in an Instant Pot at once, you could definitely still batch it. Cook one in the Instant Pot and let it cool while the second one is cooking. Then when the second is finished, you should be able to begin scooping out the first and pureeing it. So on and so forth.
This would be an excellent technique to use while you’re cooking dinner or embarking on another baking project. That way you’re in the kitchen already and can just put a minute of time in here or there for your squash.
By the end, you’ll have 12 to 20 cups of squash that you can freeze for another time!
And you’ve only dirtied your Instant Pot once– score! We’re all about saving time as well as money here at Kitchen Stewardship!
Make your Instant Pot work for you!
I won’t tell if your Instant Pot is still in its box, pinky swear. 😉
I left mine abandoned in the basement for almost a YEAR because I have a new-thing-instructions phobia, but now I have TWO Instant Pots and they’re both in constant use!
Turns out it’s so easy, a kid can do it — I’ll send you a quick video of my children unboxing and setting it up when you grab your FREE download mini eBook:
Get the Instant Pot Guidebook for FREE!
What’s in the Guidebook?
You’ll love the simplicity of your Instant Pot, and the free downloadable guidebook will help you:
- Adapt your own favorite recipes from the slow cooker
- Cook FROZEN ground beef
- Hard boil eggs perfectly
- Cook squash, steam veggies, and make applesauce in your IP
- Make dry beans in an hour and perfect rice without boiling over
- Steam veggies al dente and make Paleo cauli rice in minutes
- Cook a whole chicken and make FAST bone broth
Whether yours is still in the box or you’ve used it a little but want to know more about those techniques, or if you’re still pining for an IP on your wish list, I can’t wait to give you these simple baby steps to success!
The Instant Pot can hack so many of your regular kitchen chores.
Be sure to check out my post on how to use an Instant Pot, which has ten basic techniques that will make your life so much easier in the end.
Putting Your Cooked and Pureed Squash to Use
Now you’ve got the techniques so get in the kitchen and get prepping! Here are some recipes that will help you incorporate cooked and pureed squash in your meal plan.
- Spaghetti squash lasagna
- Maple roasted acorn squash soup
- Grain-free pumpkin (or squash!) pancakes
- Simple soaked gluten-free squash cookies
- Crispy roasted pumpkin seeds
- Roasted garlic butternut soup
- Pumpkin baked oatmeal or Instant Pot steel cut oats
- One bowl pumpkin muffins (allergy-friendly here!)