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What Is Winter Squash?

Angela Dalecki
Angela Dalecki

Winter squash is a catchall phrase used to refer to several types of gourds that are harvested after they have fully matured. Ripe winter squash has a hard skin that protects it and usually allows it to be stored for up to six months with no ill effects. Popular varieties include pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, hubbard squash, and turban squash.

Pumpkins are some of the most easily recognizable types of winter squash. They typically have an orange or yellow hue and a thick skin. Most pumpkin varieties are tough and flavorless, except for sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins. These are smaller and sweeter than other varieties and can be used in pumpkin pie and other recipes.

Hubbard squash, a type of winter squash.
Hubbard squash, a type of winter squash.

Acorn squash is typically small, usually weighing between one and three pounds. Its shape resembles an acorn. These squashes are usually dark green in color, but some varieties are golden. The flavor of the acorn squash is sweet and nutty. Acorn squashes are normally sold in grocery stores.

Butternut squash is another grocery-store staple. Easily recognizable by its light beige skin and its bulbous pear shape, butternut squash typically has a deep orange-colored flesh with a sweet and nutty flavor, similar to sweet potatoes. Butternut squash often works well as a soup ingredient.

Hubbard squash is a very large squash with tapered ends and blue-gray, dark green, or orange skin. The skin of a hubbard squash is very hard, which protects the squash. Its flesh is moist and less sweet than other varieties of winter squash.

Squash and pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack.
Squash and pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack.

Turban squash is shaped like a turban, with orange, green or white skin. It may have speckles or stripes on its skin. The flesh of a turban squash is usually a deep orange-yellow with a flavor similar to hazelnuts. Due to its unusual shape and festive color, turban squash is often hollowed out and used as a table decoration.

Winter squash may be baked, boiled, steamed, pureed or even microwaved. The hard outer skin of most of these squashes can be difficult to peel, so it's sometimes easiest to cook the squash with the skin on and then scoop out the flesh. Most varieties keep for months when stored in a cool, dry place, but they also typically freeze well for longer storage. Squash and pumpkin seeds can be toasted, seasoned and eaten as a snack. In many cases, winter squash can replace pumpkin in a pie, often with no noticeable flavor difference.

Discussion Comments


Fall is my favorite season. One of the many reasons for this is the winter squash that I eat all fall and winter long!

I love carving a pumpkin and saving the seeds for baking into a salty and sweet, nutritious snack!

Spaghetti squash is an enjoyable alternative to pasta! Once you cover it in sauce there really isn't too big of a difference. And I am left feeling satisfied, but not overly full, unlike with pasta.

I love all types of other winter squash too. My favorite way to eat it is right off the grill, lightly seasoned!

Bon appetit everyone!


There is nothing like a bowl of warm butternut squash soup on a cool fall day. I like squash fixed several different ways, but having it in soup is a real treat.

My favorite recipe uses chicken broth and cream cheese. The melted cream cheese really makes the soup smooth and creamy.

Served with a salad and some warm bread and this meal is always a big hit at my house. Even my son who is my pickiest eater will eat a bowl of this soup.


I always save a spot in my garden for planting some winter squash. Since the vines spread out so much, they can take up quite a bit of room, but it is worth it.

Planting pumpkins is always the first thing I save room for. My kids love to go out to the garden and choose their own pumpkin.

I also like to make room for at least one other kind of squash, and my favorite is butternut squash. My family seems to prefer this over the acorn squash.

Whenever I bake squash, I will cut it in half, turn upside down and bake in the oven for about an hour. This makes the skin soft and it is easy to scoop out the middle. All I do is add a little bit of butter and brown sugar and it tastes wonderful.


@EdRick - I'll have to try that this winter! I keep meaning to try spaghetti squash but I haven't gotten around to it.

Winter squash is a vegetable that works really well for baby food, too, especially acorn and butternut squash. It makes a good "first food" for your baby. (Rice cereal is a myth. I only use it to thicken a thin puree. Baby does not need it!)

All you have to do it roast the squash, scoop out the nasty bits, and puree the good parts in a blender or food processor. You can add water if necessary. It's terribly nutritious and most babies like it. After seven or eight months, they especially like if you season it with maybe some cinnamon and nutmeg.

The packaged baby food you see at the store marked "squash" is also winter squash, and if you're a busy mom, you gotta do what you gotta do. Since my babies were born, I've tried to eat more winter squash because I thought if it was so very healthy for my little ones, why didn't I eat it myself?


I didn't see my favorite winter squash recipe mentioned in the article. At my house, we love our spaghetti squash.

Yeah, it's a little bit of a pain. It's certainly easier to take dried spaghetti and throw it in a pot than to cook the spaghetti squash - which can take a long time - then scoop out all the seeds and nasty stuff and separate out all the strands. But it's so much more nutritious! And it's lower carb. I don't do the whole low-carb thing, but most of us would be better off if we substituted protein and especially vegetables for some of our carbs, and that's what you do with spaghetti squash.

I particularly like mine with a nice spicy, meaty red sauce, but there are also lots of lighter ways to prepare it.

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    • Hubbard squash, a type of winter squash.
      By: PaulOF
      Hubbard squash, a type of winter squash.
    • Squash and pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack.
      By: Viktor
      Squash and pumpkin seeds are a healthy snack.
    • Butternut squash works well as a soup ingredient.
      By: rickegrant
      Butternut squash works well as a soup ingredient.
    • Some recipes for baked acorn or butternut squash call for a glaze made from orange juice and honey.
      By: lapas77
      Some recipes for baked acorn or butternut squash call for a glaze made from orange juice and honey.