Winter squash comes in so many obscure varieties that it can be overwhelming to look past tried-and-true types like butternut and acorn squash. As it turns out though, there’s a world of flavors and textures out there, and getting to know some offbeat varieties of this cold weather staple just might bring some much-needed variety to your table. To help, we’ve put together a handy guide to some of our favorite winter squash varieties. Head below to find out how to identify and cook all kinds of tasty winter squash.
Butternut squash is one of the most common squash varieties and also one of the most versatile. You can recognize it by its buttery pale orange skin and vivid orange pulp. We all know it as the base of autumn soups, but with its fine, velvety texture, it’s also fantastic roasted, grilled, pureed, or steamed.
The delicata is a long squash with dark green stripes on a pale background either yellow or cream-colored. The thin skin is edible, and the squash is best stuffed and baked, or steamed.
Green Hubbard Squash
Green hubbards are large, thick-skinned squash. They are deep green with pointed ends, and a golden yellow interior. They have a dry texture and lots of flavor, and are an ideal storage squash. Hubbards stand up well in soups, and, since they can take on a lot of flavor and still hold up, they’re great roasted with a sauce or with moist vegetables.
Buttercup squash have dark green skin and a squarish shape, similar to a turban squash. They have a dryish texture and yellow to pale orange flesh. Owing to the flavorful flesh and dry texture of the buttercup, it’s the perfect ingredient for hearty fall soups.
The vivid orange flesh and mild, pumpkin-like flavor of the kabocha squash make it my go-to fall ingredient. You’ll find kabocha in my squash purees, fall salads, and even in my pumpkin pie! Kabocha skin ranges from orange to dark green, and has a bright orange, smooth flesh. Versatile kabocha is so easy to work with use it anywhere you might use a traditional butternut squash.
Acorn squash is a common sight at farmer’s markets and grocery stores throughout the fall and winter. It’s dark green, orange, or yellow, and is ridged, and shaped like an acorn. While it appears on tables in colder weather, it is actually more closely related to summer squashes like zucchini. Acorn squash can be cooked in a number of ways, but it is best baked.
Spaghetti squash looks somewhat like a pale elongated pumpkin. The flesh is typically yellow, but can also be orange. Look for the yellowest of all the squash, as those will be the sweetest. When cooked, the flesh separates into strands that can serve as a substitute for pasta. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, but baking or roasting are easiest.
The typical jack-o-lantern isn’t really an eating pumpkin, since they’ve been bred for size and robust texture. But small sugar pumpkins are absolutely great for baking, and do exceptionally well in traditional pumpkin pies. Though I sometimes opt for butternut or kabocha in my pies, sugar pumpkins make a velvety, mild pumpkin pie.
Turban squash have a distinctive shape almost like two squash dividing. Turbans come in a variety of colors ranging from pale white to bright orange to a deep forrest green. These bold squash make eye-catching seasonal centerpieces, but are also a delicious roasting squash.
Banana squash is named for it’s elongated shape, but not for its color as it can come in a wide variety of hues, including orange, pink, and blue. Like pumpkin, to which it is closely related, this sweet squash has a smooth texture and is at its best roasted or baked.