Your Guide to Winter Squashes

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No matter the season, winter squashes are a colorful, nutritious way to add a festive twist to an array of dishes. Whether you’re choosing traditional pumpkin, or opting for a more unusual choice like Turban squash, you’ll be incorporating an assortment of vitamins and nutrients into your meals by cooking with any of the squashes below.

Winter squashes are packed with antioxidants, including carotenoids–the colorful pigments that your body turns into vitamin A, which helps protect against some forms of cancer and heart disease. Just one cup of squash contains your daily value of vitamin C, and an impressive 340 mg of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of plant-based ALA. They’re also a great source of cholesterol-lowering fiber.

You’ll see more winter squashes in supermarkets and at farmer’s markets between late summer and early winter, but they’re generally available year-round. Check out this helpful guide to winter squashes for buying and cooking tips.

Let us know which squashes are your favorites, and if you like our guide, feel free to share it on your web site or blog.

Acorn Squash

acorn

Acorn squashes are small, dark green, and orange with a ribbed rind and a moist yellow or orange interior.

Flavor: Sweet, nutty, and peppery.

Best for: Roasting, and used as a bowl for fillings.

Recipe: Thanks to their unique shape, acorn squashes are ideal for stuffing. Try this Mediterranean-inspired dish with chard and white beans.

Buttercup Squash

buttercup

Buttercup squashes are related to the turban squash and bear a similar shape. They usually have dark green skin.

Flavor: Sweet and creamy.

Best for: Baking, mashing, pureeing.

Recipe: Try this sweet squash in place of mashed potatoes. Simply wash and cut the squash before scooping out the seeds. Bake for approximately one hour at 375 degrees, or until soft. Scoop out the flesh and mash it by hand or with a food processor until smooth, adding salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste for desired flavor and texture.

Butternut Squash

Butternut 4

Butternut squashes are pear-shaped and cream-colored with deep orange flesh.

Flavor: Sweet and nutty.

Best for: Roasting and soups. The thin skin makes it easier to peel than most other winter squashes.

Recipe: This colorful vegetarian chili calls for leafy greens and white beans, and makes for a protein-rich, satisfying meal.

Carnival Squash

carnival

Carnival squash are easy to spot with their cream-colored or pale green skin and orange or green spots and stripes.

Flavor: Similar to sweet potatoes and butternut squash.

Best for: Baking or steaming.

Recipe: Try using the seeds of a carnival squash in place of pumpkin seeds in this kale pistachio pesto recipe.

Delicata Squash

delicata

Delicatas look like large cucumbers with pale yellow skin and dark green pinstripes. An extra incentive to cook with delicatas: You can eat the thin skin, so there’s no peeling required!

Flavor: They’re also called “sweet potato squash” because of their creamy flavor and texture.

Best for: Baking or stuffing.

Recipe: Try this simple, delicious delicata and kale salad.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha 3

Kabochas are a Japanese squash with deep green skin and orange flesh.

Flavor: Very sweet with a dry texture.

Best for: Soups, curries, and baking.

Recipe: Try using fresh kabocha instead of pumpkin in this hearty black bean soup. Just wash the kabocha, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds. Bake it for about 45 minutes at 450 degrees, or until tender, and then puree the flesh either by hand or in a food processor before proceeding with the soup recipe.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

Pumpkins have bright orange skin and light orange flesh.

Flavor: Mellow and sweet.

Best for: Baked goods and soups.

Recipes: Try using fresh puree in our healthy pumpkin smoothie recipe.

Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti

Spaghetti squashes are oval and yellow with stringy flesh that separates like strands of spaghetti when cooked.

Flavor: Mild and sweet.

Best for: Roasting. The strands can then be scraped out and used in place of pasta.

Recipe: Carefully cut the washed squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle both halves with extra-virgin olive oil, and season with dash of sea salt and some fresh cracked pepper. Bake the squash at 375 degrees for 30 to 60 minutes (depending on the size), or until tender. Once the squash has cooled, scrape out the spaghetti-like strands of flesh with a fork. Toss “noodles” with a healthy marinara sauce and top with fresh basil.

Turban Squash

turban

These relatives of the buttercup squash are turban-shaped and range in color from bright orange to green to white with yellow flesh.

Flavor: Similar to hazelnut.

Best for: Soups and baking.

Recipe: Try using turban squash in place of pumpkin in these unique cranberry chia seed muffins.

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