Winter squash is one of my favorite fall foods. It feels sinful and rich, but it’s actually really healthy! It’s had a low glycemic index, so it’s safe for your blood sugar, and has a mere 76 calories per cooked cup. (That doesn’t count the loads of butter and brown sugar you might put on top, though.) It’s also chock full of both alpha- and beta-carotene as well as vitamin C. Here are some delicious varieties of winter squash, each accompanied by a recipe I’d like to try using that particular variety:
My personal favorite because of it’s slightly sweet and nutty flavor and manageable size. These babies are easy to cut in half and roast to make a mildy sweet little bowl that you can fill with any number of delicious things. Pulled pork is one of my favorite fillings, but as I was typing this sentence I was thinking of how glorious homemade chili would taste ladled into a golden roasted half of an acorn squash and topped with melted cheese. Or maybe tortilla soup… or mac n cheese. OMG. *dies*
Butternut squash is popular for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s sweet nutty flavor (similar to Acorn Squash but sweeter and more butterscotchy in my opinion) and it’s incredibly popular in soup because it’s less stringy than other winter squash varieties. It’s great mashed as it has a silky texture when smooth and, as many things do, tastes great with butter. Try it with browned butter for a mouthgasm inducing experience.
One of the few winter squashes that can be eaten whole like summer squash, the Delicata Squash has a flavor reminiscent of corn and sweet potatoes. Baked or steamed, Delicata feels like a lighter, healthier version of winter squash (which is totally healthy already, for serious). It is an heirloom variety, but lost much of its appeal during the Great Depression as it doesn’t travel well. In the 1990s a hardier variety was bred and it has made a comeback. Their delicate (haha) size makes them perfect for individual portions.
Kabocha is a Japanese variety of squash with a rich flavor, leaning sweet, but it’s the texture that differentiates it from the rest, as it’s often dry and flaky when cooked. Tastes somewhere between a sweet potato and a pumpkin. Kabocha can be hard to cut when raw, so microwaving it for a few minutes beforehand might be necessary. It holds its shape well when cooked so it’s great for stir fries or chunky soups and stews.
Named for its tendency to fall apart in long strands not unlike spaghetti, Spaghetti Squash can be used as a bed for delicious, rich sauces as a direct replacement for pasta. Select the largest squash for the best flavor, but even then it’s one of the mildest winter squashes. Tastes great with Italian flavors like tomatoes, garlic and cheese. Mmmm.
These are just the five most easily acquired types of winter squash: there are dozens more varieties available for you to taste. Why not try one of each? 😀