How to cook butternut squash

Our guide to perfect squash
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  • Traditionally a chunky winter vegetable, butternut squash is incredibly versitile and crammed full of goodness. 

    Butternut squash is are also a great source of immune-boosting vitamin A, which helps maintain good eye health and keeps skin in great shape. It’s also rich in vitamin C, E and B vitamins, along with minerals like zinc, calcium and magnesium.

    If we’re going to get technical, a squash is actually a fruit, but it’s treated more like a vegetable when it comes to cooking. It’s an extremely versatile ingredient and available in supermarkets all year round. 

    How to cut and prepare butternut squash

    Butternut Squash

    Image source: GettyImages

    Butternut squash can be a little tricky to work with, it’s very hard to cut through, therefore if not prepared carefully and correctly, can sometimes lead to an accident. 

    Firstly, ensure you have a sharp knife. This is the most important rule in any kitchen, and more accidents are caused due to blunt knives than sharp ones, so make sure yours are always in tip-top shape. If you don’t fancy splashing out on a new set of knives, a knife sharpener is a cheaper option.

    Ever found yourself wrestling with a butternut squash in the past, pushing all your weight on top until the knife eventually cuts through? We’ve all been there. A much easier – and safer – way to resolve this is to make a couple of slits into the squash and then pop it into the microwave – around 2 minutes for a medium-sized squash. This will soften the inside and make it much easier to cut through.

    If you don’t have a microwave you can achieve the same result by placing it in the oven, however this will take longer, around 20 minutes or so.  Once soft, you may prefer to peel your butternut squash before cooking  – though it’s not necessary for all recipes. If choose to do this, take a sharp vegetable peeler and, working away from you, peel from the top to the bottom.

    When you’re ready to cut, chop the squash in half, just above where it starts to balloon out at the base. Cut the base in half to reveal all of the seeds. Remove the seeds using a spoon or an ice cream scoop. Cut the two halves into 1.5 inch cubes and place in a roasting pan. Cut the top part of the squash into rounds, and then chop into cubes also. Another way to prepare is to cut the base into wedges and the rounds in half – if you want something a little chunkier. You can also cut the whole squash lengthways, scoop out the seeds and roast.

    Do you need to peel butternut squash before cooking?

    Image source: GettyImages

    This will depend on which butternut squash recipes you intend to cook. The skin of a butternut squash is edible, very tasty and rich in fibre – so it’s perfectly fine to leave it on. Of course, it’s down to personal preference – and will really depend on which dish you’re making. When roasting for example, we prefer to leave it on, as it will give it extra bit and a great texture.  

    If you wanted to make butternut squash soup howver, then we would definitely recommend peeling – as the skin doesn’t break down like the flesh and will leave little lumps.

    TOP TIP: If you’re like us and you hate wasting ingredients, you can toss any peelings with some olive oil and seasoning of your choice and roast for homemade healthy veg crisps – this is a great topping for soups and salads. Our food director Elisa Roche loves making the most out of every part of her squash. ”If you want to be extra sustainable and thrifty, you could roast the seeds with spices. I like to do this and eat them as a healthy on-the-go snack”.

    How to roast butternut squash

    Once prepped and cut, as outlined above, drizzle the butternut squash with olive oil and scatter over salt, pepper and any herbs and spices you desire. We love tossing all this together with some dried chilli flakes and crushed coriander seeds.

    Roast in a preheated oven at 200C/Gas 6. Toss cubes and wedges midway through.

    • Small cubes – 25-30 minutes
    • Large cubes or wedges – 45 minutes
    • Half squash – 1 hour 20 minutes.

    Senior food writer, Rose Fooks adds, “I like to toss chunks of butternut squash in oil and fry them prior to roasting it. Not only does it impart a lovely golden brown colour onto the squash, but it also intensified the flavour.”

    Can you cook butternut squash in the microwave?

    Image source: GettyImages

    Absolutely! There’s a couple of ways to do this, you can cube the squash, or go whole! Just like cooking a jacket potato in the microwave, you can do the same here, make some slits in the sides to allow the steam to escape and then pop it in the microwave and cook for around 15 minutes, check on it around 10 minutes.

    Another way is to peel, cube and place in a microwavable bowl. Add a splash of water and cover the bowl with cling film. Cook for 6-8 minutes until tender.

    This method of cooking squash is great when making purees or soups as it really cuts down on time.

    Our pick of the best butternut squash recipes

    1) Creamy butternut squash pasta bake

    Tom Kerridge's creamy butternut squash pasta bake

    This healthy twist on pasta bake from Tom Kerridge is perfect for the whole family to tuck into midweek.
    Get the recipe

    2) Carrot and butternut squash soup

    Carrot and butternut squash soup

    Thick and creamy and full of flavour, great for when those autumnal nights draw close.
    Get the recipe

    3) Butternut squash gratin

    15 autumn Sunday lunch ideas

    This delicious gratin recipe can be enjoyed as the main event, or to accompany as a wicked side dish.
    Get the recipe

    4) Slimming World’s butternut squash tortilla

    Switch this up when it comes to lunchtime. This tasty squash recipe from Slimming World is a real winner!
    Get the recipe

    5) Mary Berry’s butternut squash with spinach and bacon


    This recipe is great to serve for a dinner party, or would make a wonderful veggie main at christmas, just omit the bacon and use a vegetarian alternative to Parmesan.
    Get the recipe

    6) Why not swap out with these jacket potato filling ideas?

    Jacket potato fillings

    Jackets are only reserved for potatoes, why not try these yummy fillings with a baked butternut squash.
    Get the recipe

    Try it for yourself. Get creative with flavours and let us know how you get on over on our Facebook page.