Buttercup squash is an often overlooked member of the fall squash family. Learn the best ways to cook it including this simple method for roasting in the oven until sweet and caramelized.
Buttercup squash is one of the many fall squash varieties but a little less well known than some of its relatives like butternut, spaghetti, acorn or even delicata and kabocha.
I wrote an entire guide to winter squash a bit ago and while I covered the basic winter squash in that article, buttercup wasn’t really on my radar back then.
So, we’re going to dive deep into it today!
We’ll touch on everything from where to buy it to the best ways to cook buttercup squash and then a simple oven roasted buttercup squash recipe that uses maple syrup to really amp up the fall flavors.
WHERE TO FIND BUTTERCUP SQUASH
You may be lucky enough to grab one of these guys at your local grocery store but chances are more likely you’ll find buttercup squash at your local farmers market or farm stand during the fall or winter seasons.
It’s a bit more unusual than other winter squash but worth seeking out!
WHAT DOES BUTTERCUP SQUASH LOOK LIKE?
This is the tricky part because buttercup squash can actually look a little different from one to the other!
Sometimes, it will look exactly like the picture above – a mostly dark green, somewhat short and flat shaped squash with a few streaks of light green on the sides and a top that just has a normal looking stem coming out the center.
It can be a little bit confusing when they look like this to decipher a buttercup from a kabocha squash.
Other times, however, the top where the stem is will have a domed little circle (usually a light green color) sort of popping out. It reminds me of an outtie belly button.
You can see a picture of that type of buttercup squash in this Thai buttercup squash soup recipe.
WHAT DOES BUTTERCUP TASTE LIKE?
One of the reasons it’s worth seeking out a buttercup squash is because of it’s delicate sweet flavor. To me, it’s most like kabocha squash in sweetness and flavor.
It sweetens up beautifully when cooked and the flesh is nice and smooth textured. Not stringy at all like spaghetti squash or even acorn can sometimes be.
Buttercup squash was actually used as one of two squash (the other being butternut) to breed honeynut squash. The two squash taste very similar despite looking quite different. It’s also quite similar to the new honeypatch squash breed which is a smaller, concentrated version of the classic butternut squash.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF BUTTERCUP SQUASH
Like all winter squash, buttercup is a great source of fiber and a deliciously satisfying lower carbohydrate side dish option.
With its rich yellow/orange color, it’s packed with vitamin A and beta carotene.
It’s also a solid source of vitamin C.
HOW TO COOK BUTTERCUP SQUASH
One of the best features of buttercup squash is that the rind is edible! Just like in this kabocha squash chili, you can cook the squash with the rind still intact and it will soften up along with the flesh to enjoy as an edible part of the meal!
Delicata is another one that doesn’t require peeling either and I love enjoying it roasted and stuffed for exactly that reason – you can eat the whole thing! I love squash that don’t require peeling (carnival squash is another), it makes dinner prep that much easier.
With that in mind, there are a quite a few ways to cook buttercup squash.
Boiling and steaming are two easy stove-top methods and are great in that they both help keep the squash tender and moist.
To boil buttercup, I like to chop the squash in cubes and add it to boiling, salted water. Cook until fork tender.
While dependent on the size of your cubes, this shouldn’t take much longer than 10 minutes. Make sure to drain well.
Boiling is a great cooking option for when you intend to puree the squash. If creating a puree is indeed your intention, I would then peel the squash before chopping. While the rind is edible, the puree will be smoother and more consistent if peeled.
Similar to boiling, chopping into cubes and placing it in a steamer basket is a simple, no-frills way to cook the squash and again, a great option when the final intention is to puree or mash.
I like to use the baking method when I plan on stuffing squash.
Baking squash is best done at a temperature around 350°F. Half (or quarter if the squash is on the larger side) the squash and place cut side up in a baking dish with a little bit of water on the bottom.
You can cover the top with foil to keep from drying out as it bakes or, brush with a little olive oil. Bake until tender and then you’ll have a delicious vessel to stuff as desired.
Last but not least, my favorite method for cooking buttercup squash – roasting!
Roasting is a great way to impart extra flavor on the cooked squash by using ingredients to baste on top of the flesh along with high heat that allows the squash to naturally caramelize and develop its sweet undertones.
MAPLE ROASTED BUTTERCUP SQUASH
This is one of those recipes that’s so simple it’s almost embarrassing to share as a “recipe”.
But, there doesn’t seem to be too many recipes out there for cooking buttercup squash so I figured I would share it! Besides, who doesn’t love and appreciate an easy side dish?!
The ingredient list couldn’t be simpler:
- sliced buttercup squash
- extra virgin olive oil
- maple syrup
To roast the squash, preheat the oven to 425°F. I always use my convection roast setting on my oven so if you have that, I encourage you to use it as well.
If you don’t have a convection oven, you can still roast at 425°F. Or, if you know your oven runs a little low, try increasing the temperature 10-25 degrees.
Place the squash slices (that should be cut about 1/3 – 1/2″ thick) on a heavy duty baking sheet in a single layer.
*Pro tip — USA pans are the best I’ve found and used. They don’t warp, clean up easily and disperse heat evenly for baking and roasting.
This is the best baking pan I've tried. It's heavy duty, disperses heat evenly, a breeze to clean and holds up for years. This will not warp in the oven!
Drizzle half the olive oil and maple syrup on top of the squash. You can also use a brush to brush it on each piece of squash to really ensure even coverage.
Season with salt and pepper and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet, gently flip each piece over and brush or drizzle the remaining olive oil and maple syrup on top. Roast for another 20 minutes.
The roasted buttercup squash will be golden brown and crispy on the edges and the flesh will be tender and starting to caramelize from the natural sugars in the squash and the maple syrup on top.
If you happen to have an acorn squash on hand instead of buttercup, this maple baked white acorn squash recipe is very similar and incredibly delicious too!
The result is one of the simplest fall side dishes yet it’s packed with so much delicious flavor. The squash sort of melts in your mouth with each bite.
It’s sweet but not overpoweringly so. It’s also light in texture and not heavy at all like butternut or sweet potatoes can tend towards.
I used to think delicata squash was my favorite (and I do still love this creamy delicata squash soup) but I think when it comes to roasting, buttercup has moved into first place.
MORE WAYS TO ENJOY ROASTED BUTTERCUP
For even more fall flavor, try sprinkling the squash with one or a combination of any of the following spices before roasting:
- pumpkin pie spice
- Chinese 5 spice (a favorite of mine to use on roasted squash!)
Other spices that would go well with the maple syrup but aren’t necessarily “fall” flavors include:
- smoked paprika
Also, don’t throw out the seeds when you cook your buttercup squash!
Use this basic method to get crispy, crunchy delicious roasted squash seeds and you’ll enjoy one of the best fall snacks out there! You can also follow this garlic herb recipe for roasted delicata seeds with the seeds of buttercup squash.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH ROASTED BUTTERCUP SQUASH
It’d also be a delicious substitute for the sweet potatoes in this sheet pan maple mustard chicken.
Alternatively, use the baking method to cook the buttercup squash and stuff it with the filling from these cherry lentil turkey sausage stuffed sweet potatoes!
OTHER BUTTERCUP SQUASH RECIPES
Check out my buttercup squash web story too for more info!
Roasted Buttercup Squash
- 1 large buttercup squash
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Slice off small portions of top and bottom of the squash so that it sits flat on a cutting board. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds (save them to roast). Cut each half into slices about 1/3" thick and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
- Drizzle the prepared squash with half the olive oil, half the maple syrup, salt and pepper.
- Roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven, gently flip each piece of squash and drizzle the other side with the remaining olive oil, maple syrup, salt and pepper.
- Return to the oven and roast for an additional 20 minutes until squash is crispy and golden brown on the edges while the flesh is tender and starting to caramelize.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.