Butternut squash is a winter (hard) squash. It has firm orange flesh and a satiny-smooth pale orange-beige exterior and is somewhat pear-shaped. If a squash can be considered handsome, this one is.
When cooked, butternut squash is a bit sweet and nutty and reminiscent of pumpkin. In fact you can treat butternut squash the same way you treat pumpkin by making it into a pie and toasting its seeds.
Like other orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, butternut squash is packed with beta carotene. That might not be so amazing in and of itself, but our bodies can use this in two ways. If a body needs Vitamin A, it can turn some of the beta caratene into Vitamin A. The rest remains in the system as a powerful antioxidant that can combat free-radicals. Pretty cool, I'd say.
Aside from the beta caratene, butternut squash is packed full of Vitamin C. One cup of cooked butternut squash contains almost half of what you need each day. Additionally, that same cup of squash is low in fat, relatively low in calories (82cal) and high in fiber, making it a good food to help you feel full and not weigh you down.
"Enough about the nutritional value," I can hear you say. "How do I cook it?"
And you're right. I don't know about you, but regardless of how good it is for me, if it doesn't taste good, I'm not going to waste my time trying to eat it.
Lucky for us all, butternut squash is not only really tasty but easy to cook and pretty versatile. You can cut peel it, cut it into chunks and boil it like you would potatoes. You can even use it potatoes: mash it or toss the chunks with butter, salt and pepper and maybe some spices.
How About Roasting Butternut Squash?
To intensify the nutty sweetness of the squash even more, try roasting it. The simplest way to do this is to cut in half the long way and scoop out the seeds. Remember, save those for roasting if you'd like. Once you've gotten the seeds out, brush the cut sides with some melted butter and then sprinkle on some salt. To play up the sweetness, add a touch of brown sugar and some cinnamon. Then, place the squash halves, cut side down, on a pan-sprayed baking sheet and roast at 375F until you can poke a knife through the squash with no resistance. Cut this into chunks and serve.
Butternut Squash Soup or Puree
Another wonderful way to use butternut squash is to make soup out of it. There's a great butternut squash soup already here on the site. You could also dice it and add it to a risotto or to another grain for a nutty and nutritious side dish. Substitute it for pumpkin in other savory or sweet dishes.
If you choose to go savory with your squash, some spices and blends to consider for seasonings include sage, rosemary, poultry seasoning, curry powder, coriander and chili powder. If you decide to go the sweet route, consider pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger or even cardamom.