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2 Easy Ways to Cook a Whole Pumpkin, Butternut, Kabocha or Other Winter Squash from Scratch

Updated on August 23, 2015
ecogranny profile image

A long-time whole grain baker, Kathryn discovered the thrill and ease of cooking with whole, fresh foods decades ago. Still chopping!

Pumpkin, kabocha and butternut squashes
Pumpkin, kabocha and butternut squashes | Source

The easiest ways possible to enjoy winter squashes and pumpkins

Pumpkin pie from scratch. Butternut squash soup you make yourself. Sweet kabocha squash hot from the oven. If you love these superbly healthy, colorful, whole foods but feel intimidated at the time and strength it takes to slice and chunk them raw, let me tell you: You don't have to!

These hard winter vegetables are amazingly easy to cook whole, then skin and chop, dice, or mash to your heart's content.

I love the winter squashes, but no matter how sharp my knife, I haven't the strength to cut through the thick skin and hard flesh without risking cutting off my arm. So I don't cut into a raw winter squash. Ever.

Below are two methods for cooking squash without pre-cutting. The first is oven-roasted. The second is a steam method.

Butternut squash and sugar pie pumpkin to roast and an apple to munch
Butternut squash and sugar pie pumpkin to roast and an apple to munch | Source

Method 1: Roast your whole pumpkin or squash

The easiest way to cook a whole winter squash or pumpkin is to roast it. This works beautifully with large squashes, like butternut, kabocha and larger sugar pie pumpkins. It also works well when you're cooking up a batch of the smaller acorn squash.

I like to roast a couple varieties on the weekend and use the cooked flesh in recipes throughout the week.

Cooking times vary, depending on size of the vegetable and how much moisture it contains. I've had rather large pumpkins roast tender in thirty minutes, and smaller ones take forty-five minutes to an hour. I've had similar results with both butternut and kabocha squashes.

If you have room in your fridge, you can roast your squashes one day, refrigerate them, then peel, dice and mash--whatever you need--another day.

They store nicely in the refrigerator for three to four days. Once peeled, the chunks and puree freeze well too.

How to Roast a Whole Squash or Pumpkin

Sugar pie pumpkin, oiled and pricked with meat fork, ready to roast
Sugar pie pumpkin, oiled and pricked with meat fork, ready to roast | Source

Tools you need to roast your squash

Take a close look at the photograph above. Right there, you see the three tools you need, apart from an oven, of course, to roast a squash or pumpkin.

  • Jelly-roll pan
  • Roll of baker's parchment
  • Long-handled, two-tined fork
  • Sharp knife

In fact, the first two are the most used items in my baking/roasting kit.

Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet

This heavy duty aluminum pan is the one I use for any baking I do where a rim is important for safety or to prevent spillage.

 

Start with a good baking pan

This large Nordic jelly roll pan is the one I use several times a week for baking and roasting. It's heavy enough not to give when I take large items such as pumpkins and squash to and from the oven.

It serves me equally well when I make homemade granola, oven fries or one of our favorite suppers, a medley of roasted vegetables.

Baker's parchment saves cleanup time

Baking parchment comes in handy so many ways, and the fact I can toss the If You Care brand in the compost bucket without a worry is a big plus.

One way or another, I use it every single day. It saves elbow grease and cleanup time when it comes to baking or roasting vegetables.

If You Care 100% Unbleached Silicone Parchment Paper, 70-Foot Roll (Pack of 4)
If You Care 100% Unbleached Silicone Parchment Paper, 70-Foot Roll (Pack of 4)

For cleaning ease, line your pan with eco-friendly, FSC-certified, unbleached, compostable baker's parchment

 

Ready? Let's get started.

Ingredients

  • 1 or more Pumpkin or winter squash, Whole
  • 1/2 t Organic extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil

Cook Time

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 1 hour 15 min
Ready in: 1 hour 30 min
Yields: 4-8 servings per pound, depending
Roasted butternut squash and sugar pie pumpkin
Roasted butternut squash and sugar pie pumpkin | Source
Scooping the seeds and pulp from the roasted butternut squash
Scooping the seeds and pulp from the roasted butternut squash | Source

Instructions

  1. Line a large baking pan with baking parchment. Do not preheat oven.
  2. Wash the squash and pat dry with a clean towel
  3. Using a meat-carving fork, carefully pierce the sides of the squash in five or six places about 1/8-1/4 inch deep.
  4. Rub the squash all over with olive oil.
  5. Place squash on the lined baking pan and set on rack in oven so the squash, or squashes, if roasting more than one, are approximately centered and tops do not touch oven ceiling. If using an electric oven, do not let tops touch heating elements.
  6. Set oven temp for 375°F and bake to desired tenderness. If planning to mash or puree for soups or pie, bake until completely tender: Fork slides easily all the way into the center of the flesh. If planning to serve chunked or cubed as a side-dish, in a casserole, stir-fry or in soup, bake until firm-tender: Fork slides in, with some give. Skin is puckered, but flesh is relatively firm.
  7. Carefully remove baking pan from oven to wire rack and cool until squash is easy to work with bare hands. If not planning to serve immediately, let cool completely. If serving immediately, let cool enough to work without burning yourself.
  8. Cut squash in half and remove pulp and seeds.
  9. Using a knife or fork, peel away and compost the skin. It should come away easily.
  10. Chunk the flesh and use as required in recipes for soups, stir-fries, pasta dishes, or mash or puree for use in breads, pies and soups. The flesh freezes well in an airtight container.

Test your knowledge of winter squash


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Method 2: Steam small squashes on your stove top

Steaming a small kabocha squash, weighing about 2-1/2 pounds
Steaming a small kabocha squash, weighing about 2-1/2 pounds | Source

How to steam a whole squash or pumpkin

Method two, steaming the squash, is a good way to go if you're in a hurry. I've used it to cook sugar pie pumpkins when I wanted a pumpkin pie from scratch the same day. It saves time, and the steam method is almost as easy and nutritious as roasting.

The size of the squash or pumpkin you can steam is entirely dependent on the size of your stove top cooking pan and rack. Cooking time also varies according to size.

Tenderness is another factor that affects cooking time. If you plan to puree or mash the cooked squash, steam until tender. If you plan to cube for stir-fry, pasta dishes, soup or breads, avoid over-cooking. Steam until just tender enough to cut through, but not mushy.


Graniteware blancher/steamer
Graniteware blancher/steamer | Source

Tools you need to steam your squash

You need only two tools to steam and prepare small squashes and pumpkins.

  • A large kettle with steamer and lid
  • A sharp knife

Any large, lidded kettle will do, as long as you have a steamer to fit.

I use my tall Granitware blancher/steamer. It holds a small sugar-pie pumpkin, two or three acorn squashes, even a small butternut or kabocha squash just fine.

Cook time

Prep time: 10-15 minutes to remove skin and seeds after steaming

Cook time: 30-90 minutes, depending on size of squash

Ready in: 1-2 hours depending on size of squash

Yields: 4-8 servings per pound, depending on how you use it afterward

Ingredients

Any small pumpkin or hard-skinned squash that will fit in your kettle

Instructions

  1. Wash the squash and pat dry.
  2. In a large stock pot with steamer pour just enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer unit, but not to cover.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, gently add the whole squash or pumpkin, cover and steam until reaches desired tenderness when pierced with a fork, about 30-90 minutes, depending on size of squash. Cook to barely tender if you plan to use it cubed or chunked in side dishes and casseroles. Cook more tender if you plan to puree or mash.
  4. If water runs low during cooking time, add a small amount of boiling water from a kettle.
  5. Carefully remove steamer from pan and set on a draining rack. Cool to a temperature that is easy to work with bare hands.
  6. Cut squash in half and remove pulp and seeds.
  7. Using a knife or fork, peel away and compost the skin. It should come away easily.
  8. Chunk, cube or puree the flesh as required for recipes. Can be frozen for use later.




Granite Ware 6140-4 Blancher, 7.5-Quart
Granite Ware 6140-4 Blancher, 7.5-Quart

An old-fashioned, multi-purpose pot with steamer, made of carbon steel with the traditional dark blue Granite Ware finish.

 

Any large stock pot with steamer will do

I use a 7 quart Granite Ware blancher just like this one.

Every pot and pan in my kitchen has to do double or triple duty. This blancher comes in mighty handy whenever I have to steam anything big, like whole squash or a batch of corn on the cob.

Another way it's worth it's footprint on my pan shelves: Making big batches of jam. I don't have to worry about boil-over if I turn my head for 3 seconds at just the wrong moment.

Rate these recipes

5 stars from 2 ratings of Roasting and Steaming Whole Pumpkins and Squashes

Try a combination of the two methods

Butternut squash, turned right side up, after steaming and roasting
Butternut squash, turned right side up, after steaming and roasting | Source

Enjoy stuffed squash? Lightly steam it before slicing and stuffing

We love stuffed squash. A popular winter holiday dish is cranberry stuffed acorn squash. Before baking, I steam the squash lightly for a few minutes to soften the rind and flesh just enough to cut the squash in half easily with a large, sharp knife. Then proceed as my recipe dictates.

Next time I stuff a batch, I'll take photographs so you can see how gorgeous they are. So many ways to love squash. So little time.

Another reason to steam

Sometimes my oven is in use and, on a time crunch, I want to get a step ahead. Sometimes I have a taller butternut squash than I can stand upright in my oven. During the holidays, I'm looking for any ways to save time on the big day.

Whatever the reason, I sometimes employ a combination of the two methods: Steaming for a few minutes, to soften the toughest outer layers, then baking or roasting to finish the job.

Curious how I used the butternut squash in the photograph above? After skinning it carefully, I cut 3/4 inch slices, laid them in a 9x13 pan, poured a cup of half and half over all, sprinkled a tablespoon and a half of fresh thyme leaves and a little salt on top and baked at 325 Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. It was amazing.

Next time I make it, I'll try to remember to post a photograph here.


Whichever way you cook it ...

You'll need to skin your pumpkin or squash, remove the pulp and seeds and either slice, chunk or puree it for your recipes. All of that is amazingly easy after roasting or steaming. Take a look.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Discarded pumpkin seeds and skinChunks of pumpkin, ready to pureeA stick-blender makes quick work of your squash or pumpkinPumpkin puree in a Fido jar, rear, and a Le Parfait jar, front
Discarded pumpkin seeds and skin
Discarded pumpkin seeds and skin | Source
Chunks of pumpkin, ready to puree
Chunks of pumpkin, ready to puree | Source
A stick-blender makes quick work of your squash or pumpkin
A stick-blender makes quick work of your squash or pumpkin | Source
Pumpkin puree in a Fido jar, rear, and a Le Parfait jar, front
Pumpkin puree in a Fido jar, rear, and a Le Parfait jar, front | Source

Remove the skin and seeds

When the squash is cool enough to handle, cut it in half, remove the seeds and peel away the skin. It should come off quite easily, as you can see in this photograph.

To puree your squash

Once you've discarded the skin and seeds, toss your squash flesh in a deep-sided bowl and process with a powerful stick blender to mash or puree.

Use, refrigerate or freeze your cooked squash

Whether you chunk it, slice it or puree your squash, you can use it right away, refrigerate it, or freeze it.

Use your puree immediately in breads, pies, soups or sauces. Alternatively, you can store it up to four or five days in the refrigerator in sealed containers, or freeze for up to three months, longer if you have a deep freeze.

If you've under-cooked the squash slightly, then chunked it, add some of the chunks to your next roasted vegetable mix. Not only do they add color, they add sweetness and flavor. Smaller chunks similarly brighten a soup or stir-fry.


Puree for pies and soups

This particular batch made two pumpkin pies and a fabulous pumpkin soup. What are you planning to make with your next batch of squash puree?

Pumpkin puree, ready for the fridge
Pumpkin puree, ready for the fridge | Source

Thank you

Thank you for taking a look at this page. I hope you found what you were looking for. If you didn't, let me know in the comments below. I'll see what I can do. If you did, well, that's always nice to know too!

© 2014 Kathryn Grace

Do you have a favorite squash recipe? What do you do with the seeds? Roast them? Boil, then roast? Compost them? I'd love to hear what works best for you.

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    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 16 months ago from San Francisco

      Thank you, Aesta. Yes, even when I got a brand new set of knives, squashes and pumpkins were difficult to cut. This takes all the muscle out of it.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 18 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Ecogranny, am glad you made a hub on this. I fight all the time with even just cutting the squash in half. I have never tried roasting it whole but now, I will. This is much better.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 20 months ago from San Francisco

      You're welcome. Love that stuff! Saves huge on cleanup time.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 21 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Thanks for the tip on the parchment paper. I never knew about it. That is a great idea.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I always thought you had to waste a lot of the pumpkin. Fascinating and useful idea.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @poetryman6969, thank you for taking a look.

      @Besarien, what a good idea, and thanks for the giggle too. One more way to play with our food. : )

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      Some of the most unique cooking techniques I have run across!

    • Besarien profile image

      Besarien 2 years ago

      I have never cooked a whole pumpkin before. This way makes so much sense providing it isn't too big. Great hub for the season!

      I wash then put a pumpkin in an unscented garbage bag, push all the air out around it tie it up, and drop it off the second story over the driveway. Much better than trying to cut into it. You can throw it hard at pavement too (works out a lot of stress,) just make sure your toes aren't in the way :)

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      You're welcome, Margaret. I'm so sorry you didn't find this page the day before!

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Kathryn, I wish I had found your article sooner! Just tonight I was struggling to get my big, sharp chef's knife all the way through the "equator" of an acorn squash. I love the idea of being able to cook a winter squash or pumpkin whole! Thanks for sharing these two methods.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @rebeccamealey, you're welcome. I have two sugar pies and a butternut I'm planning to roast this weekend. Can't wait!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very helpful! I've never thought about roasting or steaming a pumpkin. The butternut squash looks delicious! Thanks!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for the suggestion about the onigiri, @smine27. Much appreciated.

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 2 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Oh, I'm so into all things pumpkin, squash, etc at the moment. They are so abundant right now. Also, I just read your comment on my Japanese rice balls page. A suggestion would be to cook a half-half mixture of sticky white rice and brown rice to make the onigiri. I actually do that myself and it works quite well, while lowering the GI in the process. I hope this helps.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @midget38, thank you!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 2 years ago from Singapore

      Both healthy and delicious. Excellent, and I"m coming back for more from you!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes, @LindaSmith1, that's what I understand as well. I haven't cared for the texture when I've cooked them, and the flavor is quite bland.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 2 years ago from USA

      My step-mother says that pumpkins that are actually raised specifically for Jack-O-Lanterns are not good for pies, etc.

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @Corrinna-Johnson, do you find Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins tasty? I haven't had great luck with them. Tell me more!

    • Corrinna-Johnson profile image

      Corrinna Johnson 2 years ago from BC, Canada

      Very helpful tips! I steam my pumpkins on the stove, though roasted sounds like it would be even easier! I find the best time to buy pumpkins (I don't have a garden) is the day after Halloween. They are super cheap!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @Paula Atwell, wouldn't you know, just as I was about to hit "Post Comment," my browser crashed, so my reply is a little out of order.

      I have never learned to enjoy spaghetti squash, and never attempted to cook it. Not once. I did a quick search, though, and Karen Raye on the blog, "Kitchen Treaty," has a nice tutorial titled, "How to Cook Spaghetti Squash Two Different Ways – in the Microwave or in the Oven," at http://www.kitchentreaty.com/how-to-cook-spaghetti...

      I'm with her. For something like squash, I would prefer the oven, when time permits, because it gives the flavors time to develop.

      Do let me know if that link is of use to you, and thanks for asking!

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you @Brite-Ideas, for the kind words as well as the pin.

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      very handy page - pinning this for my own reference! Nicely done as well, the page looks great

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 2 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      I like butternut squash and have cooked it many times. But do you have any advice for spaghetti squash?

    • ecogranny profile image
      Author

      Kathryn Grace 2 years ago from San Francisco

      @LindaSmith1, thanks for being the first to see and comment on this brand new page! I am honored. Love all you mentioned too. Yum.

    • LindaSmith1 profile image

      LindaSmith1 2 years ago from USA

      Simple baked Acorn squash. Zucchini bread with chocolate chips. Fried squash.

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