By Tami Weiser
Butternut squash has become a real go-to over the past decade, a queen of the orange-fleshed gourds. It’s easy to find butternut pre-cut in grocery stores, big-box stores, and smaller groceries alike, which can help reduce the time and pressure of cutting, dicing, and even peeling butternut squash at home. There are a few methods that make it a little easier and given how much cheaper whole squash is than precut, as well as how long they can be stored whole, we suggest that you try all these methods and see which one works best for you.
The Nutritional Benefits of Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is undoubtedly delicious, delicately sweet with a faint vegetal edge that makes it a perfect candidate for sweet and savory recipes or simply to roast and eat, cooked only with a toss of oil, little salt, and pepper. At only 82 calories for 7 ounces of cooked butternut squash (about 1 cup of small diced peeled), it features a lot of healthy bang for the amount. Squash has an astonishing 457% of the daily RDI of vitamin A, over 50% of the vitamin C and some vitamin E, B1 B3, B6 and B9. It’s even got some minerals — over 15% of magnesium, manganese, and potassium — even more than the well-known potassium-rich banana.
A Note on Pre-cut Squash
We love the convenience of pre-peeled and pre-cubed squash. It makes meal prep a whiz. Be sure there’s no squishy, slimy, or discolored pieces in the plastic container. Frozen squash pre-cut and cleaned is also handy, but you can’t get any significant crisp from roasting or frying. It’s a good option for soup, purees, or mashes.
It’s far less expensive to prep squash yourself and it also ensures the freshness of the veggie. Perhaps best of all, whole squashes stay happily on your counter waiting for you to use it, and you’ll have no worries about a quick expiration date which can easily turn your cubed, orange veggies into needless waste.
Buying Butternut Squash
When choosing a squash size doesn’t matter, but the shape is something to consider. A thicker neck and narrower bottom makes for less awkward peeling and also ensures fewer seeds and therefore, more flesh to enjoy. The skin should be thick, clear, creamy peach-colored, or darker, without significant mottling, and un-punctured. Green is not a friendly color for this type of winter squash, given that it indicates that the squash isn’t ripe or mature, and now that it’s been picked and stored, it probably never will be.
Check the stem, if it’s attached, to gauge how long the squash has been off the vine. Make sure it’s not squishy by the stem’s edges, even if you give it a gentle press.
Lastly, pick up the squash bottom down in the palm of your hand. It should feel very heavy. The easiest way to figure this out is to simply pick a few squashes that look about the same size — 3 to 5 is plenty — repeat feeling the weight (or actually weighing) a few. They will be different and you’ll quickly learn what heavy vegetables feel like in your hand.
1. The Basic Oven Method: Great for Cubes, Rounds, & Slices
- How to Cut and Peel a Butternut Squash: From what end to begin cutting to when to peel the squash, this tutorial on how to prep your butter squash for any shape is the guide we turn to for plenty of helpful images and clear descriptions.
- How to use your squash: Roasted butternut squash cubes are great for meal prep, a quick dinner side, or even breakfast with yogurt. Here’s a handy recipe for simply baked squash cubes from fifteenspatulas.com.
2. Microwave and Then Cut: Great for Purees, Soups, & Baked Goods
When your squash is destined for soup or purees, the microwave then cut method is one to try. Be sure to make the slits in the squash so the steam can escape. We love this method when you don’t want to spend prep time on peeling and chopping veggies.
Recipe to try: Butternut Squash Puree in the Microwave by WLS Daily Plate
3. Cook Whole in the Slow Cooker: When You Need a Hand’s Off Approach
The slow cooker has long been a kitchen sidekick, but on those days when you need one less prep task to do — not having to peel and chop the butternut squash for dinner is a big deal. That’s why we love this slow cooker method — especially if you squash is destined four soup, filling for a veggie-packed lasagna, or a puree to swirl into muffins. The key here is to pierce the bottom of the squash so the steam can easily escape.