When grouped together, they look like a hodgepodge collection of produce, but these five winter squash are actually more similar than they are different: Each one has a sweet, orange flesh that hiding behind that tough exterior. Plus, they're all at their peak right now. Read on for our easy guide to prepping and cooking with our five favorite winter squashes.
1. Acorn Squash
The smallest of the winter squash squad, acorn squash also involves the least amount of prep: It can be as simple as slicing one in half, scooping out the seeds, brushing with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, and baking. (You can also up the ante by baking acorn squash halves with heavy cream and fresh thyme.)
2. Spaghetti Squash
We could dedicate a whole story to this unique squash – Oh wait, we did! What sets it apart from other squash is that, when baked, its sweet orange skin transforms into spaghetti-like strands that can be scraped out with a fork. The resemblance it has to its pasta namesake is truly uncanny! It can be used as a stand-in for spaghetti, baked in a gratin, or sautéed with herbs for a simple side that’s great with pork chops or steak.
3. Delicata Squash
As far as winter squash go, delicata has a downright sleek appearance. Its thin, oblong shape and edible skin make it a cinch to prep. Cut crosswise, it makes beautiful rings that make picturesque toppers for a winter salad, or on a harvest galette. Delicata squash rings can also be battered and shallow-fried, for a more indulgent snack.
4. Kabocha Squash
These can be intimidatingly large, or manageably small – the average kabocha weighs about 2 to 3 pounds. Their starchy, sweet flesh is awesome roasted pureed in a soup, and they can also be used in place of cubes of butternut squash in any dish (no peeling required!). Never tried kabocha before? This chicken and rice dish is a great place to start.
5. Butternut Squash
This crowd-favorite winter squash can be tricky to break down because of its lopsided shape, but here in the test kitchen we’ve settled on our favorite way to cut up butternut squash (check out the video). It adds a great sweet-savory balance to dishes; try it with braised chicken, in a gratin with apples and leeks, or use it to make a rich pasta sauce.
Photos by Bryan Gardner