Fall has arrived and winter squash is available. Butternut squash is one of my favorite winter squash varieties. I like it for a variety of reasons—versatility, nutrition, long keeping quality, and convenient size.
Versatility. It is delicious cooked, steamed, baked, roasted, sautéed and pureed and as such can be used in countless ways. The smooth texture of the butternut squash is a great addition to many sweet and savory dishes and can be used as a substitute for pumpkin in nearly any recipe. During the fall and winter months, I keep butternut squash on hand continuously for pancakes, soups and stews, breads (yeast and quick), desserts, dips and spreads, shakes, and even pizza. It can be eaten raw, but cooking the squash softens the flesh, making it easier to consume and digest. Because squash takes on many different flavors, it is tastier when cooked but it is also a nice addition when grated raw and added to salads.
Nutrition. Butternut squash is very nutritious. The flesh is an excellent source of Vitamins A and C as well as a good source of thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. The seeds are packed with protein and heart-healthy fats making them a nutrient dense, filling snack. Even though it is a high-carbohydrate food, it has a low glycemic index, making it a smart addition to most healthy meal plans. It is also a great choice for people on low-fat diets as it contains almost no fat. Lastly, it’s a good source of dietary fiber; a 1-cup serving provides a fourth of our daily needs.
Keeping qualities. If stored properly, butternut squash is a long-keeping squash lasting up to 6 months. For best results, squash should be stored in a cool, dry spot (50-55 degrees F) with relative humidity of 60-70 percent. Uncooked butternut squash should not be refrigerated. If picked from the garden, it needs to be cured with warm temperatures and good air circulation for 10-14 days before storing.
Peeled or cooked butternut squash should be refrigerated; it is good for 5-7 days. Cooked or raw butternut can be frozen. To freeze raw squash, simply cube or slice the squash and place in air-tight freezer bags for up to a year. Cooked squash can be frozen in any appropriate freezer container.
Convenient size. Mature butternut squash range from 1 to 5 lbs. The average butternut squash will be around 2 to 3 lbs. Since the skin is thin and the seed cavity small, there isn’t much loss. A 3-pound squash yields about 4½ cups uncooked 1-inch cubes. 1 cup cubed raw butternut squash weighs about ⅔ pound. A cup of raw butternut squash cubes yielded ½ cup of soft cooked cubes. Therefore, if a recipe calls for a can of pumpkin which is just shy of 2 cups, it takes about 4 cups raw cubed squash.
As a member of the Cucurbita moschata family, butternut has two cousins–cushaw and cheese pumpkin–that work equally as well, but their bigger size becomes a consideration.
For more about butternut squash, check out How to Select, Peel, and Use Butternut Squash.