Get the scoop on some favorite winter squash varieties and get a free cookbook featuring 25 super nutritious and delicious winter squash recipes!
As gorgeous as they are, winter squash varieties can be mighty intimidating when cooking them. The mounds of colorful, tough-skinned squash and gourds arranged “just right” outside the grocery store, or inside in the produce section, aren’t quite as approachable as their thin-skinned summer cousins-zucchini and summer squash. Am I right?
There’s no doubt that members of the Cucurbitaceae family, notably pumpkins, gourds, and winter squashes, are beautiful works of Mother Nature. You can find them at your grocery store and local farmers’ markets beginning late summer and into the colder months here in North America.
But, you should definitely add these beauties to your fall and winter meal plans because underneath their colorful, sometimes bumpy thick skin exterior is nutrient-dense flesh that’s versatile in the kitchen and pairs well with many cuisines and flavors. With just the right amount of starch to yield a creamy texture, winter squash does well in lower fat soups. Of course, straight-up baking or roasting your squash is always an option. And, some winter squash varieties have thin edible skin that doesn’t need peeling.
6 Winter Squash Varieties from A to Z
Acorn squash varies in color from dark green to tie-dyed green with orange shades. The flesh is less sweet than kabocha and is more yellow than orange. Just one cup provides more than 25% DV (daily value) of vitamin C.
To prepare: Soften the squash if needed by heating it in the oven, although if it is small enough, you may be able to skip this step. Trim the top from each squash, invert on the cutting board, and slice from bottom to top to create two halves. Remove seeds. You can bake the halves with a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of maple syrup for 30 minutes at 350°F – an excellent side dish. You can also slice into half-moons to prepare for roasting.
Try it in my yummy Vegan Stuffed Acorn Squash with Tart Cherry and Pumpkin Seed Quinoa Pilaf (pictured above). So delish!
With its pale skin and vibrant orange interior, butternut squash is one of the most popular winter squash varieties. I use it in everything from soup to salads to curry, and in one of my personal favorites-my protein-packed Nutter Butter Butterscotch Pudding Smoothie (trust me, you have to try it!) Its nutty, sweet flavor goes great with other veggies and warming spices, like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie.
This thin-skinned member of the squash family has orange or green stripes on its cylindrical cream-colored body, and it’s on the top of my list for ease of preparation! Delicata squash has a nutty mild flavor, firm flesh, and thin edible skin.
Preparing this variety could not be simpler: rinse, cut in half, remove seeds, slice into half-moons, toss with some olive oil and salt and bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes until browned. Delicious enough to eat on their own as a fiber-rich snack!
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, red kabocha and green kabocha squash have bright orange flesh and a shape similar to pumpkin. With a nutty, earthy flavor, kabocha squash is super sweet when cooked and is rich in beta carotene. In addition, 1 cup has more than 200% DV of vitamin A.
Before preparing for cooking, place whole kabocha squash in a 350°F oven for about 20 minutes to soften the skin – it will make cutting, peeling, and chopping a more effortless and much safer experience. Tip! Try using kabocha in place of the butternut squash in your favorite soup.
Sugar pumpkins look a lot like carving pumpkins, so be sure to select those marked especially for cooking. They have a sweet pumpkin flavor-much sweeter than those cultivated for jack-o-lantern displays. The best way to cook the flesh is to roast the entire pumpkin – this allows the flesh to remain moist and helps the sugars to develop.
To prepare: Remove stem from pumpkin, rinse, and make several slits through the skin with a sharp knife—Bake at 350°F for about an hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cooled. Cut the top portion off (near the stem), remove seeds, and scoop out the sweet flesh. Try it added to hummus and stirred into yogurt for a nourishing snack. Of course, you can always use it for baking!
Fun appetizer to try! Pumpkin Pesto Bruschetta w/ Creamy Goat Cheese (pictured above)
While I’m very much in the “I love pasta” camp (read–> 30 Gluten-Free Pasta Recipes That Are Actually Good for you), spaghetti squash is an awesome low-calorie, low-carb swap for spaghetti noodles. Cooking spaghetti squash magically transforms its flesh into tasty spaghetti-like strands with a yellow exterior and hard skin.
Try it with a bit of butter on top for a simple side dish. Or, pair it with meatballs for a low cal/low carb twist on your favorite spaghetti and meatballs. Not quite sure how to prepare spaghetti squash? Check out this video, and you’ll be a pro in no time at all!
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (Video)
Additional Winter Squash Varieties
I hope you’re excited to give these winter squashes a try, along with different varieties of winter squash that grow in the cold winter months. These include banana squash, blue hubbard squash, buttercup squash, carnival squash, red Kuri, and sweet dumpling squash.
Winter Squashes Nutrition
While each type of winter squash has a slightly different nutrition profile, many are rich in antioxidant vitamins A and C, vitamin B6, and potassium-all in a relatively low-calorie package! Even better, including different varieties of winter squashes in your diet is a delicious way to eat more plants (and fiber!) for better gut and overall health!
What varieties of squash are low FODMAP?
If you’re doing the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet, the following types of winter and summer squashes are low FODMAP at the serving sizes listed/suggested:
- Butternut squash: 1/3 cup, diced
- Kabocha: 2/3 cup, diced (no FODMAPs detected-eat freely)
- Pattypan squash: 2 squash (no FODMAPs detected-eat freely)
- Spaghetti squash: 1/2 cup cooked (high in oligos at 2 1/2+ cups)
- Green Zucchini: 1/3 cup, chopped
Note: Many types of squash varieties have not been tested for FODMAPs. Be sure to experiment with different types during your personalization phase of the low FODMAP diet!
P.S. Don’t forget about the seeds!
Are squash seeds edible? You betcha’! If you love pumpkin seeds as I do, you should add roasted squash seeds to your snacking repertoire. Not only are they edible, but roasted squash seeds are also nutrient-dense.
A 1-ounce serving (~85 seeds if you’re counting) provides 126 calories, 5.5 grams of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, 5.2 grams of protein, and 15 grams of carbohydrates-rich in fiber! (1 oz of pumpkin seeds provides 5 grams of fiber). Check out how to make your own roasted squash seeds!
- Rinse any remaining flesh from seeds and lay on paper towels to dry.
- For savory, toss with a bit of olive oil, seasoning of choice, and salt and pepper to taste.
- For sweet, toss with a bit of melted coconut oil, a touch of maple syrup, cinnamon, or other spice, and a pinch of salt.
- Sweet and savory – why not! All combinations are on the table, including adding a little kick with some cayenne pepper.
- Roast seeds on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly brown
Get your free Winter Squash Recipes Cookbook!
Now that you’ve upped your winter squash I.Q. by several points put all your newfound knowledge to work in the kitchen and download your FREE (instant download) cookbook: 25 Nourishing Winter Squash Recipes Cookbook!
Let’s Chat! What’s your favorite winter squash variety? Any favorite cooking tips to share? Have you downloaded your Winter Squashes Recipes Cookbook yet? If so, which recipe will you make first???