5 Ways to Cook Winter Squash

It’s peak winter squash season, and while to some that may just mean ordering up a pumpkin spice latte, there are far more delicious and healthy ways to get your fix. The many varieties of winter squash include butternut, kabocha, delicata, hubbard, spaghetti, acorn and more.

Don’t know where to start or how exactly to cook these beauty-benefitting and nutrient-rich members of the gourd family? Winter squash is loaded with skin rebuilding nutrients—just one cup of diced butternut squash provides a whopping 22869 IU’s of Vitamin A, which research shows can help repair damaged skin cells and actually helps our skin glow!

Try one of these flavorful and easy winter squash recipes—your tastebuds and beauty will love it!

READ MORE: 4 Fool-Proof Potluck Recipes

1Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is low in fat, high in fiber and packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Just one cup boasts almost half of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C. If you’ve got the time to peel and chop, double the ingredients list on this lush soup, and freeze what you don’t eat right away.

Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup
By Jim Perko, YouBeauty Culinary Expert

Serves 6 (serving size: 1 1/3 cup)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces onion, diced
4.5 ounces (1 cup) carrots, peeled and diced (about four medium carrots)
23 ounces (4.5 cups) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
5 cups vegetable stock
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

In a large pot, sauté onion in olive oil on low heat until transparent. Add carrots and sauté 10 minutes. Add ginger and sauté two minutes. Add butternut squash, vegetable stock and bring to a boil, turn heat to medium low, and simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with a stick blender until smooth. Serve.

2Spaghetti Squash

“Spaghetti squash can be used in place of any traditional noodles, making it a great option for people who have gluten or grain sensitivity,” says Scot Jones, executive chef at Crossroads Restaurant in Los Angeles. “The flavor is mild and translates well to any type of cuisine from Mediterranean to Asian. The key is to not overcook it so it becomes complete mush, but retains a bit of texture like an al dente pasta would.”

3Spaghetti Squash Noche Moscato with Shaved Walnuts

By Scot Jones, Executive Chef at Crossroads Restaurant, Los Angeles

Serves 4-6

1 large spaghetti squash (1-2 pounds) cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
16 ounces marinara sauce
1/2 cup whole, toasted walnuts, thinly sliced (use a mandoline or truffle shaver)
6 tablespoons Earth Balance dairy-free butter, divided in half
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallots
1/2 cup a good cooking dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

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For the spaghetti squash
Roast spaghetti squash in an oven preheated to 350 F with the flesh side placed down on a roasting pan with 1 cup of water poured into the pan. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until squash is tender and easily pierced by a fork. Remove squash from oven and cool to room temperature. When cool, scoop out the flesh of the squash from side to side and gently pull the fibers apart and place in a bowl. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add half of  the Earth Balance, garlic, shallots and nutmeg, and sauté until butter starts to brown, but be careful not to burn the garlic or shallots. Add the sherry and let the alcohol burn off for about a minute and a half. Then add your favorite marinara. Season with salt and pepper. This is your sauce. In another sauté pan, add the remaining Earth Balance and melt over medium-high heat. Add the spaghetti squash flesh and sauté for 3-4 minutes until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve:
With a large spoon, spread out the tomato sauce (Noche Moscato) in the center of a large plate or bowl in a nice pool. Using a pair of tongs, nicely mound the spaghetti squash on top of the sauce, like a pile of noodles. Top squash with a dollop of sauce, sprinkle with fresh parsley and shaved walnuts.

4Kabocha Squash

This festive and hearty Moroccan dish features kabocha squash, but almost any winter squash would work. When shopping for squash, pick one that’s heavy for its size, which means it’s fresh and its water content is high. A lightweight squash may be dried out and old.

5Warming Winter Squash Tagine

Recipe courtesy of Food52.com
Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 medium winter squash (such as kabocha), chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 handful dried apricots, minced
1 1/2 cup couscous
1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, chopped

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Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan with a well-fitted lid (or a tagine, if you have one) over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until soft but not browned, about five minutes. Add spices and stir until they are fragrant. Add squash and stir all of the vegetables together to coat them in the spices. Add chickpeas, apricots and enough water to come almost to the top of the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes, as long as it takes for the squash to be squashable with a wooden spoon but not so long that everything is falling apart. Add salt to taste. While the tagine is simmering away, preheat your oven to 400 F. Spread couscous out in a shallow baking dish. Cover with boiling water and let sit for five minutes, until the couscous soaks up all of the liquid. With a fork, stir in some salt to taste, plus chopped almonds and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put the dish in the oven to warm through and get a little brown and crunchy on top. Once the couscous and tagine are ready, dish up and top with chopped parsley.

6Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is available year round, but it really shines in fall and winter dishes. The gourd makes a filling addition to both sweet and savory dishes and can even be cooked with the skin on. Acorn squash’s fiber-rich flesh also features vitamins E and B6, potassium and magnesium.

7Fall Harvest Salad

By Tricia Williams, founder of Food Matters NYC
Serves 4

1 medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Sea salt to taste
2 cups packed, shredded curly kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup soft-cooked, diced red onion
3/4 cups pomegranate seeds
3 tablespoons chia seeds

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Maple Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 F. Peel squash, cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Cut into cubes. Toss with oil and sea salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until fork-tender, not mushy, about 30-40 minutes. Shred kale by slicing it in very thin strips. Make dressing by whisking all ingredients together. Pour over kale, toss to coat. When squash has finished roasting, remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Add to kale and mix. Toss with quinoa, red onion, pomegranate seeds and chia seeds.

8Delicata Squash

If you’re hosting a holiday get-together, why not use winter squash—such as delicata, which has tender skin and cooks quickly—as the base for a dip with pita chips, crackers and crudité. It’s an unexpected twist on the usual hummus and cheese spread that delivers antioxidants and vitamins.

9Hard Squash Hummus

Recipe courtesy of Food52.com

Makes 5 to 6 cups

2 pounds hard squash, such as delicata or butternut
1 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons)
2 heads garlic, separated into cloves and peeled (about 1⁄2 cup cloves)
2 or 3 serrano peppers, sliced in half, stems and seeds removed
1/4 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Plain yogurt for garnish (optional)
Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Crusty bread, pita or crackers

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Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Rub flesh with 2 tablespoons olive oil and two generous pinches salt. Place squash cut side down in roasting pan and bake until very soft, about one hour. While squash is baking, place garlic, serranos and remaining olive oil in a small pot over low heat. Poach garlic and peppers in oil until completely soft (30-40 minutes). Garlic should be very lightly browned. Scoop out flesh from roasted squash and place in food processor. Add garlic-poaching olive oil, garlic, serranos, tahini and lemon juice. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Hummus texture will vary depending on squash variety and size; add up to 1⁄2 cup water until desired consistency is reached. Refrigerate for at least three hours and up to one week. Garnish each cup of hummus with 1⁄4 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds and sprinkling of cilantro leaves. Serve with crusty bread, pita or crackers.