Kabocha Squash, also known as Japanese Squash or Japanese Pumpkin, is a lesser-known squash perfect for roasting, steaming, stuffing, and pureeing. Keep reading to learn all about how to pick, prepare, and serve this delicious and versatile winter squash.
What is Kabocha Squash?
Kabocha squash is a type of Japanese winter squash variety from the species Cucurbita maxima. Also known as the Japanese squash or Japenese pumpkin, at first glance, it’s easy to mistake this squash for a funny-looking green pumpkin.
In the same family as Hubbard squash, turban squash, and buttercup squash, the Japanese squash has a hard and tough exterior, dull, knobby-looking, dark-green skin, and shape nearly identical to a round, squat pumpkin. On the inside, you’ll find a bright yellow-orange flesh with small seeds.
Kabocha squash is known for its especially sweet flavor. Even sweeter than butternut squash. It has a light, fluffy, velvety texture, and tastes quite similar to sweet potatoes, perhaps with a little pumpkin thrown in there. This makes them great for mashing and pureeing.
Where to Buy Kabocha Squash
As with most other winter squash, kabocha squash is best in late summer and early fall, during its true growing season.
Depending on where you live, however, you may have luck finding this squash much earlier in the summer season, or even year-round, from major grocery stores like Safeway, Whole Foods (where I found these in June), and Trader Joe’s. Give your local Asian market a call and see if they have any in stock or head to your local farmer’s market.
When picking out a Japanese squash pay close attention to the color and weight. It should feel heavy for its size. This actually applies to all squash, not just this one. Next, look at the color. It should be a deep, dark(ish) green color. You’ll see white lines running down from the stem to the base and some golden, yellowish spots all over the rind.
Kabocha Squash Nutrition Facts
Per 1 cup (85 grams) of uncooked kabocha squash:
- Calories – 39
- Fat – 0 grams
- Carbs – 9 grams
- Sugar – 3 grams
- Fiber – 1 gram
- Protein– 1 gram
- Vitamin A – 93%
- Vitamin C – 19%
Japanese squash is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene. This naturally occurring pigment is responsible for the orange color in certain plants, with the richest sources of beta-carotene being found in yellow, orange, and green leafy fruits and veggies (carrots, spinach, tomatoes, kale, winter squash, etc). (source)
Coloring aside, beta-carotene is a pretty big deal when it comes to health and nutrition as it converts into vitamin A. While ingesting too much Vitamin A may be toxic to the body, your body will only convert as much beta-carotene into vitamin A as needed.
How to Cut Kabocha Squash
There are several different ways to approach cutting Japanese squash. If you’re like my husband, you’ll grab the sharpest knife you can find and slice right through the center, stem to base.
If, however, you’re like me, you’ll do it this way:
- Wash and thoroughly dry your squash – even if you don’t plan on eating the skin.
- Transfer your kabocha squash to the microwave. Microwave for 2-4 minutes (time will vary depending on the size of your squash and how soft you’d like it). Careful not to microwave for too long – we’re not cooking it, just making it soft enough to cut.
- Transfer your squash to a large cutting board. Carefully slice from the stem to the base using a sharp knife.
- Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits from the center of the kabocha squash.
- Slice the halves in 4-6 wedges or small cubes.
One commonly asked question is, can I eat the skin of kabocha squash? Yes, in fact, many Japanese recipes including kabocha tempura and nimono are often made with the skin still left on.
How to Cook with Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash is a delicious substitute for some of the other more well-known winter squash like pumpkin, acorn squash, and butternut squash. The skin is edible so roast it, simmer it, puree it, bake it, or even shred it with a box grater and enjoy it raw. Eat this yummy squash in quinoa or lentil salads, risotto, chocolatey desserts, stuffed or twice-baked, souped, and stewed.
Try These Other Squash Recipes,
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Simple Kabocha Squash Recipe
- 1 medium whole kabocha squash (Japenese squash) (approx. 3 pounds)
- 2 tsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
- salt and pepper (to season)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
- Wash and cut the squash in half from stem to base. Scoop out the seeds. Leave the squash in two halves or slice into smaller wedges.
- Brush the entire surface of the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to season. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet or baking pan.
- Bake for approximately 25 minutes (for wedges) or 45-60 minutes for halves, or until tender and easily pierced with a fork.
- Serve, as is, or scoop and mash into a puree.
- Drizzle with maple syrup or sprinkle with brown sugar. Top with bacon bits or butter, if desired.
- Leftover cooked squash will last for approximately 3-4 days when stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
- You may also freeze leftover cooked squash in an airtight container for up to 3-4 months.
- Save and roast the seeds just as you would pumpkin seeds.
- As written, this recipe is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-fat.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)