Roasted butternut squash is one of my favorite easy fall and winter side dishes! It tastes incredible; sweet and tender, with some savoriness from salt, olive oil, and good old caramelization. Want to learn how to cook butternut squash? Follow along with my easy tutorial and step-by-step photos!
Pumpkin gets a lot of love during fall and winter, but I’m especially partial to butternut squash (I also love acorn squash, but I’ll leave that topic for another time).
There are so many ways to use butternut squash, and it’s a star ingredient in many of my favorite recipes, including creamy butternut squash pasta, butternut squash soup, and my favorite savory tart: a butternut squash galette with goat cheese and sage! Not to mention my baked butternut squash macaroni and cheese, which is crazy good.
However, at the end of the day, one of my favorite things to do is roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s a lovely, simple side dish.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of peeling, seeding and dicing butternut squash, you can certainly purchase it pre-cut from the grocery store. You’ll need to dice it into 1-inch cubes, but other than that it will be a fine (though pricier) option.
How to Cut Butternut Squash
Between the rounded shape and thick outer skin, butternut squash can be a little unnerving if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are two tricks that will make this so much easier:
- You want to place a flat end on the cutting board so the squash isn’t rolling around.
- You need a sharp chef’s knife and, ideally, a sharp vegetable peeler.
Contrary to popular belief, dull tools leads to more injuries than sharp ones. A sharp knife and peeler will get the job done easily, whereas dull tools will skid on the surfaces.
Step 1: Slice off the top and bottom of the butternut squash
Start by creating a flat surface to place against the cutting board. The bottom is a good choice since it’s wider than the stem end. You want to remove the stem end as well, because it’s inedible and difficult to slice through.
Step 2: Slice the squash in half lengthwise
Place the squash so it’s standing upright, then slice through the center from top to bottom, creating two halves.
You can peel the squash before slicing it in half, but I find it better to cut in half and scoop away the seeds first (it’s easier to grip the squash while the skin is on).
Step 3: Scoop out the seeds
Use a large spool to scoop out and discard the seeds. You can also save them for roasting.
Step 4: Remove the skin
Next, you want to peel and discard the thick skin. I prefer doing this with a vegetable peeler, but it needs to be a sharp one or you’ll be hating life. The other option is to use your knife, which works fine, but is slightly less precise.
Step 5: Cut each half crosswise
Slice the halves in half again, this time crosswise. It will be easier to dice once you’ve separated the flat and rounded sides. The smaller pieces are more manageable, and the different shapes require slightly different cutting methods.
Step 6: Slice the flat halves into strips, then cut into cubes
Now you’ve got a nice, workable surface for dicing. Slice into long strips. Then cut the strips into cubes. Depending on the size and thickness of the squash, you might need to halve the pieces again to get the right size.
Step 7: Slice the rounded halves into strips, then cut into cubes
You follow almost the exact same process with the rounded side, but I find it easier to cut the individual strips into cubes, as you can see in the above right-side photo.
There you have it: diced butternut squash. It’s cheaper and much more fresh than pre-packaged squash. The more you practice this, the faster you’ll get.
If you don’t need to use it all immediately, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How to Roast Butternut Squash
You can add optional seasonings like ground cinnamon, nutmeg or fresh thyme. Roast until the squash is soft and slightly caramelized on the outside, flipping once for even cooking.
Because of the high moisture content, butternut squash won’t caramelize as much as something like roasted broccoli.
Can butternut squash be frozen?
You can freeze raw butternut squash pieces in the same way you would freeze berries. To prevent sticking, place them on a sheet pan, spaced out so the pieces don’t touch each other, and freeze until firm. Once frozen, you can transfer the squash to a freezer bag.
You can technically freeze roasted butternut squash as well, but it will get mushy. However, you can turn it into a puree after thawing.
Are butternut squash seeds edible?
Yes, all winter squash seeds are edible, including butternut squash, pumpkin, and acorn squash. They’re great as a garnish on soups and salads.
Dry them thoroughly, then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and any spices you like. Roast for about 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees F, stirring halfway through.
More Ingredient Tutorials
Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 medium butternut squash (approximately 3 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Optional: ground cinnamon and/or fresh thyme leaves (see notes)
- Place an oven rack on the center shelf, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.
- Using a sharp knife, carefully slice off the stem and bottom of the squash, creating flat sides (see photos). Place the bottom of the squash so it's flat against the cutting board, and cut the squash down the center lengthwise.
- Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds. Next, use a vegetable peeler (or your knifto peel away and discard the thick skin from each half.
- Cut each half of the butternut squash crosswise. Cut into approximately 1-inch cubes, placing them in a large bowl as you go.
- Add enough olive oil to coat the squash and toss to combine evenly. The squash should be glistening, but not swimming in oil.
- Spread in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the squash so it caramelizes evenly on both sides. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is soft and caramelized, but not burned.
- Let cool for a couple minutes, then serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- For ground cinnamon, sprinkle on a light coating when adding the salt and pepper. You could also try some nutmeg or a pumpkin pie spice blend
- For fresh thyme, toss the leaves into the bowl with the olive oil and squash.
- I would eye the quantities out; aim for 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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