Late in August, large bins of green-hued acorn squashes and pale yellow spaghetti squashes appear as soon as you walk into the grocery store. Most shoppers look forward to eating butternut squash soup and stuffed acorn squashes each autumn, but there are way more winter squashes out there that you probably haven’t explored yet.
In reality, even the best-stocked grocery stores or farmers’ markets can’t carry each type of winter squash that exists (Wikipedia lists 31 varieties). TBH, many of those are best left for decorating—not eating. If you’re ready to experiment in the kitchen with tasty winter squashes, here are the six types you’ll want on your plate.
1. Delicata squash is small, oval-shaped, and has a thin skin. Unlike many winter squashes, you can eat the peel. (That’s good news for everyone who hates peeling squashes.) Delicata is the Italian word for “gentle,” which likely refers to its delicate and edible skin.
Due to its low-maintenance peel, a popular way to cook delicata squash is to slice it into thin rings and then saute or roast it. Season with salt and pepper, or boost the flavor with minced rosemary.
2. Sweet dumpling squash is similar to acorn squash: Small, starchy, and perfect for stuffing. These squashes have a fairly smooth texture. Due to their tiny size, they’re perfect for single-serving appetizers.
Cut the squash in half, stuff with your favorite grains and veggies, and roast. For example, check out this sausage, cornbread, and quinoa stuffing to serve inside your sweet dumpling squash.
3. Kabocha squash, also called a Japanese pumpkin, is known for being a sweeter squash that can hold its shape. (Kabocha literally translates to “pumpkin” from Japanese.) Traditionally, it’s served in Japan by cutting into equal-sized cubes and simmered until soft in a broth. The simmering is key, and that’s because this squash is known for being on the dry side.
Since this squash holds its shape well, another way to enjoy this squash is in chunky soups or ramen.
4. Sugar pie pumpkin is a common variety of pumpkins you can probably find at your grocery store. These are cute, small, circular pumpkins that have much more flavor than the pumpkins you use for your Jack-o’-lanterns.
It might seem like this pumpkin is ideal for pumpkin pies, but some squash experts swear by other silkier varieties for your Thanksgiving desserts (see #6). As for the sugar pie pumpkin, use the puree to make pumpkin bread or muffins.
5. Red kuri squash is shaped like a teardrop, has a vibrant red exterior, and has a nutty flavor. In fact, kuri is the Japanese word for “chestnut.” It’s in the same squash family as the kabocha squash, but it’s not quite as dry.
Thanks to its silky texture, the kuri squash makes an excellent pureed soup. Add coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger, lime, and red curry paste for a Thai-style soup with tons of flavor.
6. Blue jarrahdale pumpkin is one you’ve probably seen at the store but never knew the name. These pumpkins are often massive and blue-gray in color. Although it’s often true that smaller produce has better flavor, these hefty pumpkins are known for a sweet taste and string-free texture.
That silky sweetness is why many squash aficionados recommend this lesser-known pumpkin for your pie ventures. If you’d like to move away from canned pumpkin puree at your next Thanksgiving, try using a blue jarrahdale pumpkin instead. Simply roast, puree, and add it to your favorite pumpkin pie recipe in place of the canned pumpkin. (If you have any gluten-free guests attending this year, check out this gluten-free pie crust.)
Whichever squash you try this year, you can enjoy both the flavor *and* the fact that these squashes are rich in fiber, potassium, and vitamin A, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more seasonal eats, here are fall foods besides pumpkin you should be eating.