Saturday, October 18, 2008

How to Peel and Cut Up a Butternut Squash

How to Peel and Cut Up a Butternut Squash
If you haven't cooked with butternut squash that much, this post can teach you How to Peel and Cut Up a Butternut Squash.

I think roasted butternut squash is one of the best things about autumn. That's why, if you live in the U.S., you'll see those bags of already peeled and cut butternut squash start to appear in stores at this time every year. In the past, I've confessed to buying pre-cut squash myself, even though I knew it couldn't possibly be as good as freshly cut squash. But the days when I'd pay premium prices for substandard squash changed when I discovered the Really Big Squash variety and started growing my own butternut squash. Now I had to master the slightly tricky process of cutting them up, and with practice I've gotten pretty good at it. If you've been a bit daunted by trying to cut up a hefty squash, here are some tips that can help you save money and get that garden-fresh squash flavor.


If you're buying your squash in the store, you'll probably get one that's shaped a bit different ly than this, since most butternut has a thin neck with a bulb-shaped end where the seeds are. The thicker neck is one reason I love the Really Big Squash. But whatever variety of butternut you have, start by cutting off the stem and blossom end of the squash.

Next cut the squash in half so you can scrape the seeds out. You'll need a bit of muscle on the knife to cut through the squash. If it's a particularly big squash you might want to cut it into quarters.

Feel around in your silverware drawer and get the most pointed and sharp spoon you can find to scrape out the seeds. Grapefruit spoons are great for this if you have them. Try to scrape off all the stringy material that's around the seeds.

The inside of the squash should look really clean like this when you're finished scraping the seeds out.

Now comes the part that's nearly impossible to do with a knife. Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel away the skin in long strips. (The peeler in the photo is one made by Cutco that I got as a gift from my brother Dave and his wife Amy, and it was perfect for this.) I'm not too compulsive about removing every bit of those green stripes that are just under the skin, but if they bother you, just peel until they're completely gone.

Once all the squash pieces are peeled, cut into strips the width you want them for what you're making with the squash. For roasted squash, I try to make pieces that are slightly over an inch square.

Then turn the strips the other way and cut again to make pieces. Now that was really not so hard, was it? Here are some recipes ideas for ways to use those butternut squash cubes.

Butternut Squash Recipes from Kalyn's Kitchen:
Roasted Butternut Squash with Moroccan Spices
Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar
Roasted Butternut Squash with Lime and Rosemary
Foil-wrapped Grilled Butternut Squash with Sage
Beef and Butternut Squash Stew with Rosemary and Balsamic Vinegar

Some Butternut Squash Ideas from Other Blogs:
(Recipes from other blogs may not always be South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Butternut Squash and Parmesan Dip from The Kitchn
Butternut Squash Chili with Kale from Dani Spies
Roasted Butternut Squash and Onion Gratin from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
Pork and Butternut Squash Stew from Christine Cooks

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45 comments:

  1. I love the appearance of freshly cut squash. The color is beautiful! I can see this going into the pot to make some wholesome soup!

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  2. THANK YOU for posting this. I made Butternut Squash Risotto recently and had the worst time peeling the squash. I will have to give it another shot because I absolutely love the flavor.

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  3. I prep mine exactly the same way, and it's still a complete pain to do. Takes a lot of muscle and time. But the payoff is worth it! I like to roast squash and put it in lasagna, or roast it with fig balsamic and serve it as a sweet side dish.

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  4. I prep butternut squash the same way. I must confess, I thought I was the only one who had trouble peeling squash. Loved your recipe for roasted butternut squash with Moroccan Spices.

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  5. Thank you , Kalyn, I really needed a post like this. I had no idea how to use or prepare butternut squash, but was definitely planning on using it this Thanksgiving for the first time. I really appreciate your help! :)

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  6. This post is a great idea because so many people feel daunted by the tasking of chopping them. Showing that it is not that difficult is a great thing.

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  7. Roberta in Toledo, OhioOctober 19, 2008 at 3:03 AM

    I adore winter squashes, too. I have found that the easiest way to roast a squash is to wash it, poke a few holes in it with the tip of a knife, spray it with olive oil, put it on a jelly roll pan and throw it in the oven at 325. Depending on the size, it takes an hour and a half. Pull it out of the oven, slice it in half, scoop out and discard the stringy seeds and "goo"--and then scoop out and use the flesh.

    When I'm in a hurry, though, your method is the best.

    Recently made a delightful squash soup with chicken stock, squash, leeks and apple. Pureed it, then garnished with gorgonzola crumbles and toasted almonds. YUM!

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  8. Look at that colour! It just screams goodness.. love it!

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  9. This is so different to how I've been doing it! I just chop off the thin top part and discard the bottom part, because I've never quite figured out how to get the seeds out properly.

    I think you've just sent me a lifeline! Now I won't have to waste half of my squash. And I do love squash. :)

    So, thank you! Much appreciated.

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  10. Hubby and I love butternut squash. I bought one yesterday at the grocery store. I've never prepared it the way you show here but I may have to give it a try. Here's how I do it -- remove top & bottom as you did and slice in half; remove seeds; place cut-side down in a pyrex dish, add just a bit of water and cover with foil; bake until tender. Serve cut-side up, add butter & a drizzle of honey.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  11. I usually do mine this way as well. But I usually bake in halves and then peel.

    Is that a Cutco peeler I spotted. Fantastic. I'm a HUGE Cutco fan (have the knives and pans).

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  12. Thanks everyone for the nice comments about this post. It's a task I used to dread until I practice it (quite a few times!) To those who have mentioned roasting the squash whole, that's definitely an option, but when I make roasted butternut squash, the crispy edges are my favorite part, so I really like to roast it already cut in cubes.

    Helen, I love the Moroccan spice mix on butternut squash too. Glad you like it.

    Yes, it's a Cutco peeler, a gift from my brother Dave and his wife Amy. That peeler is especially good for this job.

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  13. Thanks so much for this, I've been so into BNS for the past few weeks, been roasting and pureeing and it's fantastic.

    I have a tip to add to the discussion, use a mellon baller to get the seeds out. It's sharper than a spoon. I'm off to the farmers market today and will be getting a BNS so I can try some different recipes.

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  14. Melissa, love the melon baller idea for people who don't have a sharp spoon.

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  15. I picked up on the Morrocan spice last year, Kalyn, and really love it! I've extended it's use to a "root roast" with squash, yams, potatoes,carrots, beets, onion,mushrooms and garlic....a little bit of everything in a roasting pan w/ olive oil & Morrocan spice- a splash of white wine or broth to keep it from sticking- it's absolutely yummy and I get rave reviews from people who wouldn't normally eat these veggies!

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  16. Dede, love the sound of your root roast. Thanks for the great idea.

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  17. It's way easier to peel if you microwave it first. I learned that trick from a previous commenter, and it works really well!

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  18. Beautifully done, Kalyn. I know that many, many cooks will appreciate your instructions. And thanks so much for the link. On revisiting it, I'm resolved to do an update soon. In the blog world, 2005 is soooo long ago and we've come such a long way since then. :)

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  19. If you cut off the neck first (for butternut squash varieties that have them) then you can easily place it vertically on end and peel, then deal with the bulbous area as you've suggested.

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  20. Isn't it just amazing that people resort to doing things such as buying pre-cut squash, when just a little more effort means you can pick a perfect squash to cut up and freezing to have on hand? Great post, and hopefully it'll help enlighten those who buy the packaged versions to try making their own :)

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  21. I recently read that if you pierce the squash all over with a fork, then microwave it for 60 seconds, peeling/cutting it is a lot easier.

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  22. You couldn't have posted this at a better time - I'm making a butternut squash soup tonight!

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  23. I love butternut squash and prep it the same way! Roasted squash is awesome, awesome, awesome! I love it in soups, lasgana, and risotto!

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  24. This is so handy to know... I still will be tempted to buy that already cut up in the bag.

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  25. I'm glad people are finding this useful. Love hearing other ideas about how to make this task even easier. I haven't tried the trick of microwaving for a couple of minutes before you peel, but will definitely try it.

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  26. Butternut squash is excellent. Thanks for this recipe. Take care and please share some more recipes in the future

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  27. Thanks for this! I was planning to make butternut squash risotto this week, and I was really dreading the peeling bit.

    I haven't had much luck with peelers before, but I'll give it another go.

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  28. Jen I do think some peelers are a lot sharper than others. If you have trouble, I'd try microwaving for a couple of minutes. Several commenters have recommended that.

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  29. ahh! wish i saw this before cutting up squash the exact opposite way last night.

    i love the tutorial and chestnut banner!

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  30. Thanks so much for writing this how-to post! I always love squash in fall and winter but have never seen an explanation of how to deal with it or when it's ripe. You took the mystery away. I agree, pre-cut vegetables are for the lazy and also terrible value! I cut up the squash and used half of it to make a side your balsamic and rosemary roasted butternut squash for dinner for two. So delish! What to do with other half tomorrow? Endless options because I can cut it properly! Your site is great and informative as always!

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  31. Renee, there's always more squash to practice on!

    Julie, so glad you like that recipe. I'd have a hard time choosing my favorite way to cook butternut squash, but that one would be way up there on the list...

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  32. Does anyone know if you can cut up squash the night before you want to make it?

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  33. Julie, absolutely. You can even do it days ahead. At Costco they sell cut squash cubes in plastic bags. I'd put the squash cubes in a ziploc bag or container with a tight lid.

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  34. Very informative! Thanks for the pictures. I'm making butternut squash and lentil soup in the crockpot and I can get this ready the night before.

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  35. I want to join in thanking you for posting this. I just tried it and it was so easy. Now I will try one of your recipes for roasting it.

    Love your blog, I read it all the time and its my resource for healthy recipes. I hope you post more WW recipes as you follow the diet.

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  36. I'm glad this was helpful. I love to think it's getting more people eating butternut squash.

    Brenda, I don't follow weight watchers; all the recipes on this blog are for the South Beach Diet.

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  37. my favourite way to prep it is to make sure i get one that's not super round at the bottom, so the neck is almost as wide as the bottom, cut off the stem, cut in half length wise, stand each half up on the flat end, then use a knife to cut off strips of skin. I've used a peeler, but for a wide squash, this method seems a bit easier

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  38. I believe i worded the last one incorrectly. I meant to say I first halve it widthwise then after skinning the bottom, halve it lengthwise, clean it out, then cube.

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  39. Lala, whatever works for you! I have a super-sharp peeler that works well for me but will try your method too.

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  40. Thumbs up on your recommendation to use a grapefruit spoon. I've used these spoons for seeding veggies much more frequently than eating grapefruit. I've been doing that for years to seed veggies and thought others would think me crazy! Keep up the good work!

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  41. Almost all butternut squash I've purchased have been too hard to safely prepare as you described. I have to roast it first before cutting into it.

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  42. Batsnapper, that's interesting. I've done this many times. I've never roasted squash with the seeds still inside.

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  43. I find lots of butternut squash tips online, but I always seem to have butterCUP squash, which is a very different beast - this post seems helpful and I'm going to try it tomorrow - I know you can roast (or use slow cooker too) to soften and cook but some recipe ideas call for cubed raw squash - so here it is:

    http://www.chefheidifink.com/blog/seasonal/how-to-peel-and-chop-a-winter-squash/

    I think this post also mentions saving your squash guts for stock and will really have a nice flavour, which I love as I do make squash and I hate throwing out food parts that could be used.

    I'd also like to suggest a melon baller for scraping out squash guts. It just occured to me that I have one and it might work well - I will try that tomorrow too! Thanks for the tips Kalyn and commentors!

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