Rich, creamy, and golden-fleshed squash is abundant during winter squash season. While butternut squash is the prom queen of the squash world, there are numerous other varieties to enjoy. Don’t suffer from squash intimidation—enjoy these different varieties of squash for something other than just decorative material on your front step.
The Basics of Winter Squash
Before modern storage, monoculture, GMO fields, and hot houses, people had to rely heavily on seasons for their bounty and food supply. Fruits and vegetables were classified by how they would store. Winter squash got their name because of their thick skin and ability to store well through the colder months.
Every part of winter squashes are edible, including the skin, leaves, and blooms. High in fiber, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, B6, and beta carotene, the smooth and creamy golden squash varieties are rich in nutrients, perfectly Paleo, and a delicious must-have for your autumn and winter cooking. Plus, their high fiber/low fat content means you feel full longer, especially when you add Paleo-friendly additions like, grass-fed butter, creamy coconut oil, seeds, and nuts!
10 Squashes That Aren’t Butternut (and How to Cook Them)
These 10 less familiar golden squash varieties are perfect for satisfying your fall and winter comfort food cravings. Branch out from butternut squash alone to for delightful seasonal options.
1. Delicata Squash
With sweet, light orange flesh, the delicata squash is one of the smaller varieties and is perfect for conquering any initial intimidation you may have at branching out. My mother used to slice lengthwise, roast cut-side down until tender, scoop out the seeds, and fill with butter, maple syrup, and sea salt. She would hand my brother and I a couple of spoons and we would go to town!
You can also slice crosswise, and coat in coconut oil and sea salt, roasting at 350ºF until tender and caramelized, usually for about 30 minutes. This makes for an excellent addition to salads. Always scoop out the seeds to make more palatable, but the skin can stay! It’s pretty and decorative for the holidays, not to mention cuts down on peeling and prep work. Try tossing sturdy greens like kale with roasted delicata rings, pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and a balsamic and honey vinaigrette.
2. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash has an orange-colored flesh with a sweet and nutty taste. For optimum sweetness, wait until two weeks after harvest to prepare. This is great halved and filled with Paleo stuffings or stuffed twice as you would a baked potato.
Make a delicious roasted acorn squash as a perfect fall or winter dinner side.
3. Fairytale Squash
Fairytale squash is a French winter squash, also known as Musque de Provence. Dark green when immature, it turns into a deep mahogany as it cures, and is great for pies. When cutting into a hefty squash like this one, use the tried and true method of a large chef’s knife to “get started,” but then removing the knife and dropping the gourd on hard ground with a bit of force to finish the job of cracking it open. Once you have two halves with flesh exposed, continue carving as needed into more manageable pieces.
Make a delicious crustless pie filling with this squash, as follows:
Break down the squash into like-sized chunks and steam until soft, about 10-20 minutes.
In a food processor, puree with pie spice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt until very smooth. Cool and set aside.
Beat in 3 egg yolks. Whip the egg whites, and then fold into puree.
Pour into ramekins and bake in a water bath for 5-10 minutes, until slightly puffed.
This is a rich and custardy dessert, perfect when topped with coconut whipped cream.
4. Spaghetti Squash
Delicate and slightly buttery, this squash is notorious for its pasta-like texture. This squash is a perfectly Paleo replacement for noodles and can handle any favorite sauce, whether it’s tomato, pesto, or beyond.
Make this Lamb and Spaghetti Squash dish for the perfect weeknight meal, or follow the basics and make plain spaghetti squash noodles.
5. Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash has a thick, yellow-orange flesh with a slightly dry texture that is ultra smooth.
You can make a delicious coconut curry soup with kabocha squash.
Roast squash at 350ºF until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Scoop the flesh from the skin and add to a food processor. Add full-fat coconut milk to achieve the desired consistency, along with curry paste, a few tablespoons of coconut aminos, a tablespoon of honey, and a pinch of sea salt. You can also use vegetable stock, chicken stock, or bone broth to adjust the liquid balance.
Serve warm or chilled.
6. Ambercup Squash
Rich with reddish-orange flesh, the ambercup squash is considered the ‘red’ kabocha. It is a touch sweeter and a bit easier to manage because it is smaller.
Ambercup is perfect when paired with maple and bacon.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Slice the squash into 1-inch chunks and spread on a tray with chopped bacon. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of maple syrup, and sprinkle evenly with a spice blend of 2 teaspoons garlic powder, ½ teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon white pepper, and ½ to 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender. Toss with a few handfuls of fresh arugula and hazelnuts and drizzle with a blend of apple cider vinegar and olive oil. It’s perfect for a side or an entree!
7. Black Futsu Squash
With a faded, almost frosted dark grey-green skin, this Japanese squash looks rather spooky, but also beautifully whimsical! It has a bright orange flesh with a sweet potato-pumpkin-chestnutty flavor.
Roast black futsu squash with paprika, honey, and sesame for a stellar side dish.
Slice black futsu squash into thin wedges. Sprinkle with smoked paprika, sea salt, sesame oil, and raw honey. Roast at 350ºF for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender.
Toss with black sesame seeds and some tahini drizzle and serve.
8. Sweet Dumpling Squash
Sweet dumpling squash is round and dainty, a perfect individually-sized squash. They’re perfect for stuffing.
Pro tip: slice off the bottom before roasting so that the surface is flat and the squash stays upright while cooking.
Stuff sweet dumpling squash much like acorn squash, for a perfect cranberry and walnut side dish.
9. Carnival Squash
Carnival squash has a colorful exterior that looks a bit tie-dyed. It’s perfect for centerpieces and porch decor, but it’s also tasty. It’s like a hybrid between sweet dumpling squash and acorn squash, with a sweet and buttery taste.
Turn carnival squash into the perfect boats for salads, but cutting bowl-like wedges and roasting at 350ºF for 30 to 40 minutes. Rub it with coconut oil or avocado oil before roasting for extra flavor. After it’s done, stuff with kale and other favorite veggies, and drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette.
10. Blue Hubbard Squash
Blue hubbard squash has a pale blue rind and a warm yellow flesh. It has a earthy, nutty taste and has a higher starch content.
Use this squash in any traditional way, or make a delicious spicy shrimp bisque.
Roast squash at 350ºF for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove skin and seeds.
Puree with a few cups of cashew milk and a pinch of ginger, lemongrass, garlic, and chili powder. This bisque should be no thicker than heavy cream, so add more liquid as needed.
Once ultra smooth, bring to a simmer and add sea salt to taste. Pair with cooked shrimp.
Squash is a delicious autumnal and winter food that is perfect for Paleo eaters. Use this guide to jumpstart your squash exploration, because there’s so much more to life than just the butternut.