Winter Squash 101

Lovely, colorful winter squash have been in season since the early fall, and we've featured all kinds of fantastic varieties from butternut squash to pumpkin, but there are a whole slew of other options available.  If you aren't sure of what you're looking for, you could get overwhelmed by the possibilities out there!  Here's a quick, helpful guide to navigating your way around your supermarket's squash section and coming out a winner every time.

Choosing a Squash

In general, you want to choose squash with clean, blemish-free skin that has almost no give when its pressed, and still have the vine attached. If you're following a recipe that uses a particular variety of squash, it's fairly safe to assume that you can substitute it with any other type of squash you like, as long as you're aware of the slight flavor differences between them.

Varieties of Squash:

  • Acorn Squash This type is generally considered to be the least flavorful of the squashes, though it is the kind most frequently used hollowed out into displays or used as bowls. It's recommended to eat this squash paired with other flavors, as it is not particularly sweet on its own.
  • Carnival Squash This variety of squash looks similar to an acorn squash, except it is usually denser and much sweeter.

  • Delicata Squash A unique looking, long, yellow and green oblong squash, usually with vibrant green ribs running along its long side. Carnival squash is actually a hybrid between acron squash and delicata, so it's a bit sweeter than your average squash, with a unique shape.
  • Butternut Squash A cylindrical shaped squash with a natural, light sweetness, which makes it popular as a side dish on its own. It's slightly fibrous with a good flesh to seed ratio, which adds to its versatility and popularity.

  • Kombocha Squash Also known as chestnut squash and green hokkaido squash, this squash is popular in Asian cooking. It usually has a dark green rind, though it comes in yellow as well, and grows in a bowl-like shape. It has very sweet flesh, and is often considered the most flavorful of the squash varieties.
  • Hubbard Squash Blue hubbard squash are slightly less fibrous than other varieties, and the smaller varieties are usually sweeter and denser than the larger varieties. It is known for its lovely pale blue skin.

  • Spaghetti Squash This unique, oblong squash is different from other varieties, because its flesh is watery and split into long, spaghetti-like strands. It has a mild, light flavor and it's frequently used as a spaghetti replacement in pasta dishes - particularly useful if you're reducing your carbohydrate intake.

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Photo Credits:  Natural Noshing, Delicious Obsessions, Hello Giggles, Sanura Weathers, Hot and Healthy Mom