Learn How to Cook Acorn Squash in the oven with this easy-to-follow guide and recipe. Delicious, tender, and made with just two simple ingredients, the whole family will love this healthy and nutrient-dense, winter side dish recipe.
What is Acorn Squash?
Acorn squash (Cucurbita pepo), while typically considered a winter squash, is part of the same species as summer squash (zucchini and crookneck squash, for example). Indigenous to North and Central America, it produces yellow trumpet-looking flowers that are edible.
Acorn squash is the most nutrient-dense of all summer squash. They are,
- A great source of vitamin C which helps boost immunity
- High in fiber (2.1 grams per 1 cup).
- High in potassium (486 mg per 1 cup).
Highly versatile, this formidable-looking squash tastes delicious in a variety of different recipes and can be roasted, toasted, sauteed, pureed, mashed, stuffed, or used in baked goods like muffins and bread.
How to Cook Acorn Squash
There are many ways to cook all types of squash, but the most common (and flavorful) way to cook acorn squash is in the oven.
You guys, roasted acorn squash is the best. It yields the best flavor.
The reason for this delightful flavor boost is that the dry heat from the oven caramelizes the natural sugars in the acorn squash (or any veggie) bringing out their naturally sweet, nutty, complex flavor.
To roast an acorn squash (or two) gather the following tools and ingredients:
- 1-2 medium acorn squash
- Sharp knife
- Baking sheet or roasting pan
- Parchment Paper
- Cutting Board
- Olive oil
- Optional seasoning: Maple syrup or brown sugar, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, salt, and black pepper
The list is crazy. I know.
How to Pick a Good Acorn Squash
1. An equal balance of green and orange coloring is a good indication that the squash is neither too ripe nor not ripe enough.
- Mostly orange – likely over-ripe and will have too many orange stringy bits.
- Mostly green – probably not ripe enough and will lack the delicious squash flavor we’re seeking
2. Pick a squash that is heavy for its size. Not the biggest and therefore heaviest squash, but the heaviest squash for its size.
3. Dull is better than shiny. In the case of squash, duller skin wins over shiny skin. That said, the skin should be smooth without any wrinkling or soft spots.
Can You Eat the Skin?
You can absolutely eat the skin of cooked and roasted acorn squash. After roasting, not just the buttery inside flesh, but also the outer skin will be tender, delicious, and nutritious. Of course, if you prefer to eat around the skin, that’s ok too.
Is Roasted Acorn Squash Healthy?
Since we’re on the subject of learning all about this beautiful squash, you may be wondering- is acorn squash healthy?
The short answer is yes, definitely. But just in case you’re interested, here’s a little more information:
- It is more nutrient-dense than all other types of summer squash
- Contains significant levels of vitamin C, vitamin A, Potassium, pantothenic acid, thiamin, and other B-vitamins
- High levels of minerals like magnesium, manganese, iron, copper, phosphorous, and calcium.
Per one cup (205 grams) of cooked acorn squash (source),
- Calories: 115
- Fat: < 1 gram
- Carbs: 30 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fiber: 9 grams
- Vitamin A: 18% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 37% of the DV
- Thiamine (vitamin B1): 23% of the DV
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6): 20% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 10% of the DV
- Iron: 11% of the DV
- Magnesium: 22% of the DV
- Potassium: 26% of the DV
- Manganese: 25% of the DV
So, no matter how you choose to enjoy acorn squash recipes, now you can do so knowing that you’re giving your body a whole lot of good stuff at the same time.
How to Cut an Acorn Squash
If you’ve ever held an acorn squash, then you already know a thing or two about its tough exterior. If you haven’t, allow me to warn you.
Now, trying to figure out how to cut one open may seem intimidating, but give it a try and you’ll quickly see that it’s much easier than it looks.
So, how exactly do you cut an acorn squash?
You need a stable, reliable, sharp knife. Sorry guys, a cheap, flimsy, dull knife just will not cut it (literally). A good knife goes a LONG way in the kitchen, so if you’re someone who cooks a lot, consider it an investment.
You may approach cutting it one of two ways-
- Slice 1/4-inch of the stem end and base end of the squash. You will not lose much, if any, of the squash interior by using this method. However, it will create a stable base for you to stand up the squash allowing you to chop it in half vertically. I prefer this method if I am not planning on baking and stuffing.
- In this second method, you’ll be cutting the squash right in half from top to bottom (as shown in these images). To do this without cutting off your finger, find a valley in between one of the ridges – ideally, the ridge should be just to the side of the stem as you DO NOT want to try to cut through the stem.
In either case, once you make that initial entry point, use that as your guide. Drive the knife through your squash and continue by cutting around the entire squash. If the knife gets stuck, return to the starting point and rotate in the opposite direction.
How to Roast Acorn Squash
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking sheet or sheet pan with parchment paper. Wash your acorn squash under cold running water and dry thoroughly.
Use a sharp, sturdy knife, and cut your squash in half from stem to tip. If it is a struggle, don’t try to cut the stem in half. Cut around it.
Use a metal spoon to scoop and scrape out the seeds and stringy bits from the inside of each squash until smooth.
Place squash halves cut-side-up on your prepared baking sheet or sheet pan.
Drizzle the top of the acorn squash halves with olive oil or avocado oil and use a pastry brush to evenly coat the entire surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or brown sugar, if desired.
Roast uncovered (flesh side up) for approximately 45-60 minutes or until tops are nice and golden brown and the squash flesh is soft and cooked through.
- Note: It is better to slightly overcook your squash than undercook it, so if you are unsure if it’s cooked, add more time.
When done, remove from the oven and allow time to cool before serving.
I like to top mine with a little melted butter, salt, and a sprinkle of brown sugar.
How to Serve
You’ve baked your lovely squash, now what? Here’s the thing, you can do just about anything with it. Delicious served sweet, savory, hot, cold, stuffed, pureed…the options are ENDLESS.
Learn How to Cook These Other Squash Varieties,
Did you learn how to cook acorn squash? Please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to read your thoughts and feedback!
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How to Cook Acorn Squash
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Using a sharp, sturdy chef's knife, cut the acorn squash in half from stem to tip. If it is a struggle, don't try to cut the stem in half. Cut around it.
- Using a metal spoon, scoop and scrape out the seeds and stringy bits from the inside of the squash until it is smooth.
- Place the squash halves cut-side-up in a roasting pan (I used a jelly roll pan).
- Drizzle top side of your squash with olive oil. Use a pastry brush to evenly coat the entire surface. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake for approximately 45-60 minutes or until tops are nice and golden brown and the squash flesh is soft and cooked through. It is better to slightly overcook your squash than undercook it, so if you are unsure if it's cooked, add more time. When done, remove from the oven and allow time to cool before serving.
- Can you eat the skin? Yes.
- To sweeten your squash sprinkle with brown sugar or drizzle with maple syrup.
- As written, this recipe is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and vegetarian.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)