From Acorn to Spaghetti, Here Are the 8 Most Common Types of Winter Squash
You’re probably familiar with some of the most common types of squash—acorn, spaghetti, butternut, and pumpkin (yep, it’s a squash!)—but there are many other winter squash varieties worth adding to your grocery list.
Interestingly, winter squash is not actually grown in the winter. Harvested in the fall, winter squashes tend to have a thick skin, which allows them to be stored for several months, so they can be enjoyed throughout the winter.
Not only is winter squash a sweet, rich addition to your menu, it’s also loaded with nutrients, fiber, and healthy omega-3 fat. Ranging in size, shape, color, and flavor, winter squash can be prepared in endless different ways. You can sautée or roast squash for an easy side dish, purée it into soup, bake it into a pie, or add it to pizza. You can even eat the skin of some of the squash varieties.
Explore the unique characteristics and flavors of the eight most common types of squash, then try one of these comforting, delicious squash recipes.
Related: How to Prepare Squash
Shaped like its namesake, this small, dark green, orange, or buff-colored squash has a ribbed rind and a moist yellow or orange interior that is loaded with fiber. When halved for roasting, acorn squash can be used as a natural bowl for fillings, such as apples, currants, and chestnuts.
Great for: Roasting. Peeling is difficult, so cut it in half or slice (the skin on this type of squash is edible).
One of the most common types of winter squash is this foot-long, bell-shaped variety with thin, butterscotch-colored skin and sweet, nutty flesh. Its smooth, thin skin makes it easier to peel than many other squash varieties. For the most abundant flesh, look for butternut squash with a long, thick neck. Dense and creamy, it pairs well with a variety of flavors, including smoky bacon, cinnamon, and balsamic vinegar. It also has the highest doses of vitamins A and C.
Great for: Roasting and soups.
Related: 10 Easy Butternut Squash Recipes
Long popular in the Caribbean, calabaza squash (also called West Indian pumpkin) has a sweet, juicy, golden orange flesh that's similar in taste and texture to butternut squash. Getting to it can be difficult, however, thanks to its super-tough tan, green, or red orange rind. Use a cleaver, or look for cut-up pieces at Latin markets. Look for pieces with tightly grained flesh and no wet spots. Whole calabaza squash will keep up to six weeks in a cool, dry place; cut pieces should be refrigerated and will last for a week.
Great for: Baking.
Also called sweet potato squash because of its creamy flavor and texture, delicata squash resembles a giant, fat cucumber (it typically weighs 1 to 2 pounds) and has pale yellow skin and dark green pinstripes. Popular in the early 1900s, this heirloom variety is enjoying renewed favor thanks to its fine, creamy flesh, which tastes similar to sweet potatoes and butternut squash. And, yes, you can eat the skin (no peeling necessary) on this type of squash.
Great for: Roasting and stuffing.
One of the largest winter varieties, Hubbard squash typically weighs 8 to 20 pounds and ranges in color from orange to grayish blue. Hidden beneath the hard, nubbly skin is a delicious yellow flesh that’s both savory and sweet. The flesh is high in sugar but sometimes mealy, which means it’s best pureed (as a pie filling) or mashed. A whole squash will keep for up to six months in a cool, dry place. It’s also sold cut up.
Great for: Pie filling, purees, and mashes.
This pumpkin-shaped Japanese squash (typically 2 to 3 pounds) is fairly new to the U.S. market but has caught on quickly due to its subtle, honeyed sweetness and smooth, almost fiberless texture. The jade green exterior has light green stripes, and the meat is a pale orange. Drier and denser than most squashes, the kabocha can be baked or steamed, like acorn squash, or pureed to give soups a buttery richness.
Great for: Soups.
Yes, pumpkin is a type of squash. With its bright orange skin and light orange flesh, a round 2- to 8- pound pumpkin squash is best for cooking. Pureed, pumpkin is a tasty, healthful addition to soups, sweet breads, pancakes, and risottos and makes a good filling for ravioli. Pumpkins have a mellow sweetness and dense flesh that’s perfect for autumn baking. (The bigger, Halloweeny guys tend to be watery and less flavorful.) Varieties to look for include Small Sugar, New England Pie, Baby Pam, and Pik-A-Pie.
Great for: Pies, quick breads, pancakes, risottos. Roast or steam, puree, then add to recipe.
This oval yellow squash contains a surprise: a stringy flesh that, when cooked, separates into mild-tasting, spaghetti-like strands. Exceedingly mild, spaghetti squash is often dressed with tomato sauce like pasta, or it can be simply enhanced with butter and herbs. Spaghetti squashes typically weigh 4 to 8 pounds; squashes on the larger side will have the best flavor and thicker “noodles.”
Great for: Roasting. Scrape out the strands and dress with butter or pasta sauce.
Related: How to Cook Spaghetti Squash