When winter squash are suddenly everywhere in the fall, acting like they’re all gourmet or something – what’s a home chef to DO with them? Especially if…you don’t like mushy orange vegetables but you know they’re good for you! And what are the different kinds of squash anyway? Got an Instant Pot? Want to get more veggies at breakfast? Keep reading!
You can find whole squash in most grocery stores year round – and often more than one variety! You can purchase pre-cut cubed squash in the refrigerated and frozen sections. And of course, you can always find squash in the canned section of your grocery store (that’s right, canned pumpkin – I’m looking at you).
A Little Bit About Squash Varieties – so Many Different Ones!
There are two genres of squash: summer squash (such as zucchini or yellow squash) and winter squash (such as acorn or butternut). While summer squash needs to be eaten soon after harvest, winter squash can last months if stored in a cool environment.
Today I’m going to focus on winter squash – which are identified by their hard exterior, long shelf life, and hollow center with large seeds.
Did you know you can turn these seeds into a healthy snack? Some grocery stores sell pumpkin seeds at a high premium – but when you buy a squash, you get them for free! Check out how to make pumpkin (or butternut) seeds into a tasty treat.
Winter squash are an excellent vegetable to add to your diet. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C – and can even provide a nice boost of Vitamin B to your diet. Additionally, squash can be purchased inexpensively – especially in the fall when squash is in season. I love it when I can get nutrient-dense food at budget prices!
Don’t forget — I’ll have a squash recipe round up at the end!
There is also great variety among squashes. When it comes to many vegetables (like carrots or celery) there aren’t many options easily available. But just this past week I was walking through my grocery store and saw six different squash types for sale – including two I had never heard of before!
So let’s take a look at some of the more well-known winter squashes.
Baking with Real Pumpkins
Perhaps the most famous member of the squash family is the pumpkin.
While you can find giant pumpkins every fall, those aren’t the best to use for cooking and baking. Don’t get me wrong – you can absolutely eat them (and I most certainly have!). But just like there’s a significant taste difference between a Red Delicious and Pink Lady apple, the difference between an ornamental pumpkin and a sweet pumpkin are noteworthy.
Look for sweet pumpkins or pie pumpkins. Or head over to the baking aisle in your grocery store and snag a can of pumpkin. Be sure to check out this round up of 20 ways to use that random half cup of pumpkin.
How to Use Spaghetti Squash
This squash is most certainly unique. Rather than a creamy flesh, the spaghetti squash has a stringy nature. Once the squash is cooked, simply take a fork and shred the inside into strings.
This makes it GREAT for a lasagna or pasta substitute (hence the name – spaghetti squash), though it can be a little watery. I you find you don’t love the taste of spaghetti squash plain with butter, try it with sausage and spaghetti sauce. Add cheese if you need it – eventually you’ll find a way to use this amazing grain-free pasta substitute!
Time to Try Acorn Squash
This green-exterior, heart-shaped squash has a beautiful yellowish inside. It’s a very delicate flavor and is absolutely delicious. It gets its name from its acorn-esque shape.
Acorn squash tend to be smaller, which makes them perfect for stuffing.
Butternut Squash May be Your New Favorite
If there was a holy grail in the squash world, this is it.
The long straight neck is perfect for easy cubing and the bright orange flesh is equal parts sweet and nutty. This is my favorite squash (and I think it makes for a better pumpkin pie than actual pumpkin does! But don’t tell anyone…)
It’s very easy to find butternut squash pre-cut in the refrigerator section of your grocery store. While it’s not as economical as buying an uncut squash, it’s a wonderful grab-and-go time saver. My favorite use for butternut squash right now is this Panera copycat recipe for Paleo Butternut Squash soup.
How To Cook Squash
Now we get down to the fun part. As I mentioned before, winter squash are very hard. Hard enough, that it’s tricky to cut them open. Personally, I use my largest chef knife and rubber mallet to help me whack the squash open – otherwise, your knife might get stuck.
Some people like to peel their squash, roast it, and then use it in baked goods. Personally, that was too much time intensive work. We used to roast the squash and scoop out the flesh.
Here’s How to Roast a Squash:
- Wash the outside.
- Cut it in half (unpeeled)
- Scoop out the seeds (save them to make crispy “pumpkin” seeds!)
- Place halves face down in a 9×13 pan and add 1cm or so of water.
- Bake in a 400F oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
- When you can pierce the skin easily with a fork, it’s done.
However, that has allllllllllll changed since I got my Instant Pot. Now, I can cook a whole squash in 8 minutes!
How To Cook Squash In the Instant Pot in 8 Minutes
A quick note about the recipe. It is CRUCIAL that you use a trivet with this method. Selecting the “steam” function causes the pressure cooker to heat to a high temperature quickly. If you have your squash touching the bottom of the pot, it could burn.
- 1 squash (butternut, spaghetti, acorn, etc)
- 1 cup water
- Using a rubber malletand sharp knife, cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard (or turn into a crispy snack!).
- Quarter your squash if it is large (so it can fit in the Instant Pot).
- Place a metal trivet in the liner of your pot and add 1 cup of water. (You must use the trivet for this method!!!)
- Arrange your squash quarters on the trivet.
- Put on the lid and make sure the nozzle is set to seal.
- Select the STEAM button (not Manual!) for 8 minutes.
- Once it has finished cooking do a natural release or quick pressure release. The flesh will fall away from the peel without any effort.
- Enjoy plain, with a splash of butter and salt, or use in your favorite recipe.
Make your Instant Pot work for you!
The Instant Pot has gotten a lot of hype over the last couple years – for good reason. It really can do just about anything.
Although it can seem a bit daunting to use at first, it really becomes quite simple once you give it a try.
Use the techniques, tips and simple recipes from the Instant Pot Guidebook to get started, and before you know it, your Instant Pot will become indispensable!
Winter Squash Recipe Round Up (includes plenty of Paleo!)
Don’t forget, you can use pumpkin and butternut squash pretty interchangeably in most recipes!
- Grain Free Pumpkin or Squash Pancakes
- Spaghetti Squash Lasagna
- Greek Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Maple Roasted Acorn Squash Soup
- Instant Pot Panera Copycat Squash Soup (Paleo/AIP/Dairy Free) from Woodhaven Place
- Beef Stuffed Butternut Squash from Paleo Leap
- Butternut Squash Fries from Paleo Leap
- Healthy Pumpkin Muffins and Gluten-Free Healthy Pumpkin Muffins
- Crispy Soaked Pumpkin Seeds
- 20 Ways to Use Half Cup of Pumpkin
- Healthy Pumpkin Pie
- Healthy Pumpkin Cookies and Gluten Free Squash Cookies
- Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars
- Squash Milk
- Butternut Rice with Nut-Free Basil Pesto (Paleo/AIP/Whole30) from Grazed And Enthused
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms and Sage from Feasting At Home
My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once!
She’s offering a free sourdough cornbread Instant Pot recipe!
This cornbread is delicious, nutritious, super easy to make, and it only needs 12 minutes of cook time.