3 Ways to Cook Butternut Squash

From the WebMD Archives

Butternut squash is low in calories (just 41 in a half-cup serving) and a good source of filling fiber. It's also chock full of yellow- and orange-hued antioxidants known as carotenoids.

These nutrient powerhouses may help protect against heart disease and cancer, says American Institute for Cancer Research dietitian Alice Bender.

Carotenoids include beta-carotene, which the body changes to vitamin A, a nutrient that supports the immune system. Other carotenoids in butternut squash are lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration.

One cup of butternut squash has more than four times the recommended daily value of vitamin A.

Butternut squash is the most widely grown winter squash. Its sweet flavor appeals to kids and works well in pastas, soups, and stews.

Bender suspects that some cooks are intimidated by the strange shape and hard skin. "It looks daunting, but it's very easy to prepare," she says. "You just need a good knife."

Cut the squash in half, and scrape out the seeds. Then bake it, cut side down, until soft. Scoop out the flesh, or remove the rind with a vegetable peeler, and cut the squash flesh into cubes.

Try butternut squash in these three recipes:

Butternut Squash, Apple, and Currant Bake

This side dish pairs well with pork or roast chicken, but it might as well be dessert, given the delectable way the squash and apples caramelize while roasting. It features five-spice powder, a Chinese cooking staple found in large grocery stores and ethnic markets.

Makes 6 servings


2 large butternut squashes (totaling 3 or 4 pounds)

2 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice

5 apples, Granny Smith or McIntosh

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup raisins or currants

1/3 cup pecans (optional)

1/4 tsp sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Peel, seed, and cut squash into cubes; place in a large bowl.
  3. Toss squash with canola oil and spice. Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet or sheet pan, and bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Core apples, remove peels if desired, and cut into cubes. Place apple pieces in a large bowl.
  5. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and maple syrup; pour over apples.
  6. Combine apples with squash, and toss gently. Return squash with apples to baking sheet, and bake 5-10 minutes until cooked through and tender.
  7. Remove apples and squash from oven, and place in a serving dish. Add raisins, pecans, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Per serving (does not include pecans): 221 calories, 2 g protein, 46 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 104 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 20%


Butternut Squash Risotto

This filling risotto is the perfect side dish for a weekend meal. For the creamiest results, use hot chicken stock and patience. Stir the stock in gradually so the rice can absorb it.

Makes 8 servings


1 large butternut squash (totaling 1½ to 2 pounds)

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

4-5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 ounce minced ham, bacon, or pancetta

1 large onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 tsp saffron threads

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Peel and seed squash, and cut it into cubes. Place squash in a large bowl, and toss with olive oil.
  3. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  4. Roast until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven and set aside.
  5. Bring chicken stock to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  6. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart heavy-bottom pot over medium heat, melt butter and sauté ham, onion, and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Add rice, and stir to coat each grain.
  7. To the rice mixture, add wine, saffron, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup to 1 cup of hot stock. Stir until liquid is absorbed. Continue to add stock a half-cup to a cup at a time, and stir until most of it is absorbed. The risotto is ready when the rice is tender, about 30-40 minutes.
  8. When rice is cooked, add squash, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper; mix thoroughly, and serve.

Per serving: 244 calories, 8 g protein, 28 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 21 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 233 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%

Walnut Herb-Glazed Butternut Squash

Starring some of the best flavors of fall, this glazed butternut squash makes a savory Thanksgiving or holiday feast side dish.

Makes 6 servings


2 large butternut squashes (totaling 3-4 pounds)

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil


1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 shallots, chopped

1/2 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

1/2 cup fresh, whole sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

1/4 tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Skin, seed, and cube squash, and place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Toss squash with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and shallots.
  4. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet or sheet pan.
  5. Roast squash until golden brown and tender, about 30 minutes, stirring once to ensure even cooking.
  6. Remove squash from oven. Toss gently in a serving dish with walnuts, sage leaves, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Per serving: 175 calories, 3 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 104 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 54%

Pantry Picks for Butternut Squash Recipes

Give these ingredients, featured in our three squash recipes, a regular spot on your grocery list.

Simple Syrup: Real maple syrup (made from maple tree sap) offers intense flavor as well as antioxidant compounds.

Take Stock: Chicken stocks and broths give rice and potatoes an instant flavor boost, but be sure to opt for low-sodium.

Better Butter: A little bit of butter is better for your heart than margarines that have artificial trans fats. Use unsalted or sweet butter to avoid unnecessary sodium (you won't miss it).

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WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on May 08, 2014



Alice Bender, nutrition communications manager, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington, DC.

American Institute of Cancer Research: "Foods that Fight Cancer."

University of Illinois Extension: "Harvesting and Storing Pumpkins, Winter Squash, and Gourds."

Science Daily: "54 Beneficial Compounds Discovered in Pure Maple Syrup."

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