Your Ultimate Guide to Winter Squash—Plus the Best Recipes to Use Them In

“Winter squash” is a bit of a misnomer. In truth, these veggies really come into season at the end of summer and early fall. As the temps start to drop, I find myself looking for the best winter squash recipes and ways to use all of the beautiful picks piling up at grocery stores, markets, and farm stands. Lucky for all of us, too, their buttery flavors are the perfect addition to soups, salads, and pastas, and they even stand up as the hero in many of the meatless main dishes I’ll be eating all throughout the season.

Perhaps you’re already familiar with a few of the vegetables that fall into this family. Butternut and spaghetti squash have become fan favorites in recent years, but I’d also recommend trying your hand at a recipe that includes delicata or red kuri squash this fall. Keep scrolling for tips on how to identify the seven most popular varieties of winter squash, plus some must-try recipes below.

Featured image by Suruchi Avasthi.

Image by Suruchi Avasthi

How To Tell if a Squash Is Ripe

To tell if a squash is ripe, you’ll need to check out the exterior. The skin should be a matte color (if it’s glossy, it’s not ripe yet) and should have a hard exterior.

Throughout the season, I’m apt to pick up kabocha squash, delicata squash, a sugar pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, and red kuri squash for experimenting with my favorite winter squash recipes. Of course, when I’m in full-on fall mode, I can’t help but grab some mini gourds and pumpkins, too! These are mainly used for decoration but can be found in some recipes as well.

Image by Suruchi Avasthi

How to Identify the Seven Most Popular Winter Squash

  • Kabocha: squat, green squash with faint white lines running up and down the surface
  • Delicata: yellow cylindrical squash with green and orange stripes along the ridges
  • Sugar Pumpkin: small, almost perfectly spherical pumpkin in bright orange
  • Acorn: dark green squash with thick ridges all the way around
  • Butternut: bell-shaped squash with a light peachy yellow exterior
  • Spaghetti: round cylindrical squash with a bright yellow exterior
  • Red Kuri: warm orange squash with a lopsided shape

18 Winter Squash Recipes to Satisfy Your Seasonal Cravings

This is your sign to pick up a squash you haven’t tried next time you’re at the grocery store or farmer’s market. For me, the hardest part of trying new foods is finding ways to incorporate them into recipes. Below I’ve listed out 18 delicious recipes using my favorite varieties of winter squash.

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Tart

Why We Love It: This butternut squash is a major stunner that looks way more complicated than it really is. With a flaky crust and creamy ricotta, layers of seasonal root veggies come together to make the ultimate cold-weather appetizer.

Hero Ingredient: A pinch of red pepper flakes adds the perfect heat.

Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta with Bacon & Crispy Sage

Why We Love It: Both savory and sweet, this pasta is everything warm and cozy in a bowl. It can sometimes prove a challenge to create a creamy and decadent dish that’s dairy-free, but this pasta does just that (and some more!).

Hero Ingredient: Raw cashews are the secret weapon.

Roasted Delicata Squash With Feta, Almonds, and Herbs

Why We Love It: If you’re unfamiliar with it, delicata squash is slightly sweet, caramelizes perfectly, and is the ideal canvas for all of fall’s flavors. This specific recipe serves it with a simple dressing and lots of toppings to make the squash a complete meal. The crunch from the almonds and the creaminess from the feta is just the icing on top of the already delicious cake.

Hero Ingredient: Cumin brings a rich, hearty, and warming bite to this quintessential fall side.

Butternut Squash Pizza With Arugula & Almond Ricotta

Why We Love It: As seasons come and go, one thing stays the same: my love for pizza. This butternut squash pizza shot its way up to the top of my favorite winter squash recipes because it’s seasonal, dairy-free (although you wouldn’t know it), and downright delicious. The sweet squash and almond ricotta combined with the savory bacon will have you going back for third and fourth slices. 

Hero Ingredient: If you haven’t yet dabbled in the art of making your own (plant-based) ricotta, now’s the time to try! It’s wayyy easier than it seems and is the perfect cheesy, slightly sweet base for this fall pizza.

Whole Roasted Butternut Squash

Why We Love It: When it comes to winter squash recipes, roasting these roots is always my go-to method of prep. For this go-to roasted butternut squash recipe, all you need is two hours in the oven to create a delicious, filling, and hassle-free appetizer.

Hero Ingredient: A little bit of hot sauce and fresh herbs take this squash up a notch.

Rosemary Roasted Acorn Squash with Brown Butter and Hazelnuts

Why We Love It: I was lucky enough to try this recipe when Tieghan Gerard came to visit Camille last year, and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. I’d never tried acorn squash before, but it quickly became one of my favorite winter squash sides. The brown butter and hazelnuts, with the hint of spice from the chili flakes, create the flavor combo you didn’t know you needed. 

Hero Ingredient: Just a tablespoon of brown sugar is all the added sweetness this recipe needs.

“Creamy” Vegan Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger & Coconut Milk

Why We Love It: This soup is my favorite way to dive into squash season. It’s one of the coziest soups I’ve ever had while still tasting clean and healthy. Thanks to the coconut milk, it’s ultra creamy without any cream at all. I highly recommend doubling this recipe and saving it for lunch or keeping it in the freezer for a rainy day. 

Hero Ingredient: Peeled and chopped ginger adds just the right amount of warming spice to this perfect-for-fall soup.

Turmeric Roasted Kabocha Squash Salad

Why We Love It: To celebrate everything we love most about fall in a lighter, plant-packed form, this turmeric squash salad throws together plenty of nutrients and a wide variety of flavors. Pumpkin seeds and cranberries add a bit of texture and tanginess to complement your sweet autumn star.

Hero Ingredient: Honey is a natural sweetener essential for this salad.

Delicata Squash Salad with Pistachios and Marinated Lentils

Why We Love It: One of my favorite meal-prep winter squash recipes is this delicata squash salad. Add your favorite greens and complement them with crunchy pistachios and creamy feta cheese for the most mouthwatering fall bowl.

Hero Ingredient: Cinnamon gives these squash slices a warm spiced flavor.

Roasted Butternut Squash Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Figs, and Pesto

Why We Love It: Just the name of this recipe makes my mouth water. Butternut squash, goat cheese, and pesto are three of my favorite foods and thrown together—they can’t be beat. This is an excellent affordable, healthy, vegetarian meal to add to your fall meal rotation. 

Hero Ingredient: Pesto adds a bright, fresh flavor to this comforting side dish.

Pita Tostadas with Butternut Squash, Black Beans, & Avocado

Why We Love It: As much as I love squash recipes, sometimes they can all start to taste the same. These tostadas, however, are the perfect way to shake things up while still eating with the season. Camille took the genius approach of swapping tortillas for pita bread in this recipe, which makes the perfect chewy, golden-brown crust for this Tex-mex spin on squash.

Hero Ingredient: Adding a few creamy slices of avocado to anything is the answer for… everything.

Warm Roasted Delicata Squash and Kale Salad

Why We Love It: This colorful and seasonal salad is the perfect addition to all of your fall dinner parties. It comes from Sheela Prakash’s cookbook Mediterranean Every Day and is just as healthy as it is comforting. I like making a big batch of this on Sunday to have on hand all week since it’s full of veggies that won’t get soggy from the dressing. 

Hero Ingredient: I love the vinaigrette’s peppery, pungent bite of Dijon.

Wild Grain & Winter Squash Salad

Why We Love It: Salads that don’t feel like salads are trending on TikTok and this wild grain and winter squash salad should be going viral. With no leafy greens to be seen, it’s a great recipe for when you want something a little more comforting but still healthy. The delicata and dumpling squash rest on a bed of rice and are topped with almonds, feta, and plenty of herbs to satisfy every single taste bud. 

Hero Ingredient: Wild purple rice isn’t simply a good source of protein. It’s also a delightfully chewy, nutty, and slightly sweet grain that’s perfect for any fall salad or bowl.

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Why We Love It: My roommate and I have started a new tradition this fall: Soup Mondays. I know you’re thinking that Soup Sundays makes more sense, but we coincidentally had soup two Mondays in a row, and it stuck. On tap for this week is this comforting curry butternut squash soup. The curry adds even more flavor than traditional butternut squash soup, which is already a favorite of mine. It’s also freezer-friendly and one of the best winter squash recipes for meal prep.

Hero Ingredient: The chopped Granny Smith apple adds a complex sweetness that deepens this soup’s cozy fall flavors.

Crispy Roasted Butternut Squash and Quinoa with Currant Vinaigrette

Why We Love It: This simple yet delicious fall meal will be your new weeknight hero. The butternut squash is golden and crispy on the outside and creamy and warm on the inside—just how I like it. The currant vinaigrette perfectly brightens the dish, complements the fall flavors, and brings it all together. Plus, you’ll want to bookmark this genius tip for cooking quinoa. 

Hero Ingredient: I love the chickpeas’ creamy, hearty bite. It plays perfectly with crispy butternut squash and nutty quinoa.

Butternut Squash, Spinach, & Goat Cheese Pasta

Why We Love It: I’m a sucker for a good fall pasta, and this is one of the easiest and best recipes I’ve tried. The short list of ingredients comes together in just one bowl and is perfect for a cozy weeknight or a wine night with friends. Take it from me: the optional sage leaves should most definitely not be optional.

Hero Ingredient: A garnish of toasted pine nuts is the perfect texture play. They deliver just the right amount of crunch.

Curried Roasted Winter Squash Soup From Brooklyn Delhi’s Chitra Agrawal

Why We Love It: This delicious winter soup is Chitra Agrawal’s go-to weeknight meal, and I can’t blame her. I love that you can make it with any winter squash—butternut, acorn, kabocha, or delicata—so you’ll never grow tired of it. Plus, if you roast the squash ahead of time, this recipe comes together in one pot.

Hero Ingredient: Leaning on your favorite simmer sauce not only makes this recipe a breeze but it also ensures you’re packing in tons of flavor despite a minimal ingredients list.

Slow Roasted Cod with Broccolini, Winter Squash, And Mint

Why We Love It: I love a recipe that feels ultra elegant, yet comes together in a matter of minutes. (Bonus: it’s baked in one pan.) This roasted cod with broccolini, squash, and mint does exactly that, giving you a restaurant-grade meal with minimal effort. You can make this recipe with any firm white fish or winter squash, and the formula will turn out just as delicious every time. 

Hero Ingredient: Is it me, or is cod a super underrated fish? It’s a low-fat source of protein, sure, but it also has a light, flaky texture and neutral flavor that holds up well against any seasonings you add.

This post was originally published on October 26, 2017, and has since been updated.