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How to Prepare and Roast Butternut and Other Winter Squash

Squash butternut sliced1
Butternut squash
Butternut squash

Butternut squash is easy to prepare and roast. You simply peel and seed the squash, cut it into 1-inch chunks, toss the chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper, spread the chunks evenly on a baking sheet, and roast at 375°F for 40 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Once cooked toss the squash chunks with fine slivers of garlic clove that have been sautéed in olive oil for one minute and add some parsley.

That simple recipe works equally well for other winter squashes–acorn, kabocha, banana, pumpkin, and Hubbard are great choices.

For cooking and serving, I choose a butternut (or other winter squash) that is firm with a hard shell that feels heavy for its size and has no soft, mildewed, or decayed parts. I want ¾ to 1 pound of squash per serving.

The big winter squashes need to be cut into pieces—I have actually used a hatchet to chop a Hubbard into pieces before chunking.

Preparing hard-shelled winter squashes for cooking can be daunting; you and a sharp knife up against a very hard shell—avoiding slips is a must.

How to Prepare the Butternut Squash for Cooking:

  • Butternut first cut
    Step one

    Use a heavy knife and slice off the stem. Place the squash on a firm, sturdy surface. Use heavy pressure to cut through the squash. (Big squash: use a meat cleaver and a rubber mallet or a hatchet.)

  • Prick the squash with the tip of a paring knife or a fork several times. Warm the squash in a microwave oven on high power for about 2 minutes—until the skin is more tender.
  • Slice the two ends off the squash then cut the squash in half near the center—about where the neck meets the bulb.
  • Place each half of the squash on its widest cut side and use a thin knife to remove the peel in strips running from top to bottom.
  • Butternut slice in half
    Step two

    Turn the squash half over and remove the seeds and strings with a melon baller.

  • Now you are ready to slice the squash halves into chunks.
     How to Bake a Whole Winter Squash:
  • If you want to cook the squash without cutting first, prick the squash with the tip of a paring knife or a fork several times; this will allow steam to escape.
  • A medium-sized squash such as an acorn or butternut squash can be halved lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds.
  • A large squash such as pumpkin, calabaza, banana, or Hubbard should be cut into large pieces—4 to 6 inch pieces.
  • Butternut squash chunking
    Step three

    Place the squash skin side up, cut side down in a large, shallow roasting pan containing 1 inch of water.

  • Bake at 400°F until the squash is soft and is easily pierced with a fork or knife, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • Serve with butter, salt, and pepper—or cool and puree to use with other recipes.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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