It’s *officially* fall and with the change in seasons comes the need for warm pumpkin bread, baked sweet potato topped with butter and cinnamon, and classic apple pie. But one in-season fall ingredient that deserves the star treatment is the humble butternut squash.
A brief summary of butternut squash’s wellness resume, if you will. It’s high in fiber with a whopping seven grams per one-cup serving. A serving also offers up nearly 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of magnesium (key for muscle recovery and sleep), 22 percent of your daily potassium intake (important for counterbalancing sodium intake and digesting carbs), and 41 percent of your daily vitamin C intake (great for immunity and collagen production). Basically, we should all be eating more of it.
However, because butternut squash hasn’t quite gotten the same press time as sweet potato or spaghetti squash, most of us don’t really know what to do with the damn thing. How do you cut the tough skin open? And what can you cook with it?
It’s a challenge Well+Good posed to three healthy cooks who love getting creative in the kitchen. Each was asked to share their own takes on cooking butternut squash—and each option looks absolutely mouth-watering. Hopefully these tasty butternut squash recipes and tips will make navigating the fall produce item that much easier (and tastier).
Meet your experts:
- Jessica Hoffman, a plant-based recipe developer and writer and the founder of Choosing Chia
- Madelana Escudero, a culinary student and food Instagrammer at It’s Called Balance
- Sarah Bond, a vegetarian blogger at Live Eat Learn
Take 1: Vegan butternut squash mac-and-cheese
Hoffman knew right away she wanted to use the butternut squash to make a decadent pasta dish. “Butternut squash is such a great fall flavor and it has a really nice creamy texture when pureed, so it makes the perfect base for a creamy pasta sauce,” she says. “It’s so great in this recipe because it gives the mac and cheese a really special flavor. It’s slightly sweet but also very savory at the same time.”
To make the sauce, she pureed pre-cooked butternut squash (you can just roast it in the oven ahead of time) along with cashew nuts, which she says have a neutral flavor compared to other nuts, making it the best to use as a base. She recommends soaking your cashews overnight to help make them extra smooth when blended. “Also unlike other nuts, cashews wont create a ‘nut pulp’ when blended, so you don’t have to bother straining the mixture,” Hoffman says.
One wildcard ingredient you’ll find in her recipe: dijon mustard. “Traditional mac and cheese generally has some dry mustard in it, so for this recipe I wanted to do a take on that but with something that would really compliment the other flavors in the dish,” Hoffman says. “Dijon mustard has that perfect bit of tang to really heighten the flavor.” Together, all the ingredients combine to make a completely vegan dish that hit just the spot.
Take 2: Cozy butternut squash soup
Escudero is currently in culinary school at the International Culinary Center, and she tasked herself from making a classic, yet hard-to-master dish: butternut squash soup. When it comes to cutting and cooking butternut squash, she has some helpful, chef-approved tips: “Cutting a squash can be tough because they are so thick. When cutting the squash into cubes, first cut the squash in half to separate the neck from the bottom so you’re working with smaller and easier-to-cut pieces,” she says. “Also, the seeds only exist in the bottom half of the squash! So you can slice the neck of the squash quickly without having to remove any seeds.”
When it came to deciding what spices to incorporate into the soup, Escudero says she went with what truly embodied autumn: nutmeg. “It’s warm, nutty, and really enhances the natural flavors of the squash,” she says. She also added a touch of maple syrup for sweetness and flavor depth. But if there’s one ingredient she says definitely not to skip, it’s the pepitas. “I love adding a bit of crunch to soups and the pepitas add a salty, crunchy layer,” she says. Get the recipe below:
1 medium butternut squash
1 shallot, sliced in half
3 cloves of garlic
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/2 Tbsp nutmeg
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to season
1 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
Red pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsp pepitas
2 slices of sourdough bread
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cut off the ends of the butternut squash, then cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds with a large spoon.
3. Drizzle olive oil on the squash (cut side up). Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
4. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet, and bake for 55-60 minutes, until flesh is soft and roasted to a golden brown color.
5. Halfway through baking, add peeled garlic cloves and shallot to the same baking sheet as the squash. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for remaining 25-30 mins.
6. Remove vegetables from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash.
7. Add squash, garlic, shallot, nutmeg, chicken broth, maple syrup (optional), red pepper flakes (optional) to a tall container or blender. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), combine all ingredients until a smooth consistency is reached. If you prefer thinner soup, add more chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Top with chopped parsley, basil, and pepitas. Serve with the bread slices.
Take 3: Roasted butternut squash and chickpea wraps
Live Eat Learn blogger Sarah Bond loves incorporating veggies into lunch-friendly wraps, and she was up for the challenge of doing so with butternut squash. “The roasted butternut squash pairs so well with roasted chickpeas,” Bond says. “While the butternut becomes tender and soft in the oven, the chickpeas become crispy little flavor bites, so they contrast each other well. You end up with a nice combo of flavors and textures!”
When making this dish, Bond says it works best to cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and then chop it up into little cubes. Then, bake the squash for 30 minutes, until it’s nice and tender. “I make this recipe all the time in the fall and winter months,” Bond says. “It’s so easy to throw together—and it makes your house smell amazing!”
For more ideas on what to make this fall, join Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group. And here’s how to give your love for cauliflower a fall twist.