Butternut squash is a delicious winter squash that does well in both savory and sweet dishes. It can stay fresh for a long time in the pantry, meaning you can keep fresh vegetables on hand without worrying too much about it going bad. But then, sometimes butternut squash can seem impenetrable, like it’s wearing a coat of armor. Avoid kitchen accidents or simply letting the squash go bad with this step-by-step guide to cutting up butternut squash.
First, gather your tools. To cut butternut squash you’ll need the following:
- A sturdy cutting board: Butternut squash can be willful, requiring a bit of elbow grease. If your cutting board is warped, unstable, or flimsy, you might cause the board and knife to slip. Instead, opt for a heavy-duty wood or plastic cutting board. Even better, anchor it with a damp paper towel or square of non-stick drawer liner, which helps prevent slippage.
- A sharp, sturdy chef’s knife or cleaver: Cutting through butternut squash’s tough skin and fibrous interior requires a sharp blade and a sturdy construction. A cleaver often used for meat can do wonders for transforming tough veg like butternut squash into cubes without too much hassle.
- A peeler: Despite strong insistence by devoted cooks, there is no one best peeler. The most important thing is that the blade is sharp and you feel comfortable using it. A Y-shaped peeler offers good traction, while a swivel-head peeler is a classic, beloved by many.
How to prep and chop butternut squash:
- Remove the ends of the butternut squash using a sharp, sturdy knife. It can help to wedge the tip of the knife into the skin to gain traction before firmly pressing down to slice through the skin and flesh.
- Use a peeler to remove the skin in vertical strips.
- If you want to cut the squash into cubes, rounds, or slices: Cut the squash into two pieces, cutting between the long, solid neck and the hollow bulb-shaped base. Cut the neck accordingly. Then, cut the base in half. Scoop out and discard the seeds. (If you want to roast the squash halves, then slice lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard, then proceed according to your recipe.)
How to store butternut squash: Store raw, uncut butternut squash in a cool, dark place for 1 to 2 months. Refrigerate prepped butternut squash in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
7 ideas for cooking with butternut squash
- Blend butternut squash into a silky pasta sauce: Butternut squash is perfect for turning it into a pasta sauce. A riff on fettuccine alfredo is ideal for the starchy vegetable, which cuts down on the amount of cream necessary in the Italian-American dish. The Kitchn’s recipe for butternut squash fettuccine alfredo is a good place to start.
- Turn butternut squash into noodles: A spiralizer is the vegetable lover’s best friend. It turns butternut squash into pasta-like noodles that are dreamy in HexClad’s recipe for butternut squash carbonara with bacon, onion, and fresh herbs. If you don’t have a spiralizer, many grocery stores will sell already-spiralized butternut squash.
- Stuff butternut squash with healthy fall friends: Butternut squash’s generous size makes it ideal for stuffing with other fall foods. Delish’s recipe for stuffed butternut squash is topped off with a kale, quinoa, chickpea, and dried cranberry mixture. If you’re looking for a vegetarian centerpiece for Thanksgiving, this may be it.
- Swap butternut squash into eggplant parmesan: Planks of butternut squash lend an autumnal vibe to a classic parmesan. Try Bon Appétit’s recipe for butternut squash parmesan.
- Tuck butternut squash into cheesy calzones: Roasted butternut squash is delightful when paired with cheese, Swiss chard, and Calabrian chiles, as in Real Simple’s recipe for mini squash calzones. Riff on the idea by folding roasted cubes of butternut squash into marinara for pizza versions or go for a southwestern twist by combining the butternut squash black beans, pepper Jack, roasted red onions.
- Stir butternut squash into risotto: Butternut squash’s nutty sweetness is a perfect match for a cheesy risotto. Try Serious Eats’ butternut squash risotto, which combines the fall superstar with apple, sage, maple syrup, and plenty of parmesan cheese.