Acorn squash, with its yellow-orange flesh, takes well to baking in the oven, which reduces moisture and gives the squash a chance to brown and crisp. Bake acorn squash whole, halved, sliced or cubed, and season before or after roasting. Dress with some fats, such as olive oil and butter, for a rich taste, and emphasize the squash’s natural sweetness with the right balance of spices.
About Acorn Squash
Select small, round squash that are an even dark green color or, if they are golden acorn squash, an even shade of yellow-orange. Select squash that are firm all around, with no mushy or soft spots. Acorn squash are between 1 and 3 pounds in size, and the larger they are, the longer they will take to cook.
Before baking, wash the squash to remove all debris and dirt from the exterior. The squash can be peeled with a vegetable peeler prior to cooking. The skin is more easily removed after the squash has been cooked.
About the Seeds
The center of the acorn squash is hollow, filled with stringy fibers and seeds. Scoop out the seeds and fibers if you are not baking the squash whole. Separate the fibers from the seeds. Roast the seeds for a crunchy, nutritious snack.
To roast the seeds:
Wash and pat dry the acorn squash seeds.
Heat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Toss the seeds with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, for every 1 cup of seeds.
Spread the seeds out evenly on a baking tray.
Bake in the oven on a center rack for 15 to 20 minutes, until the seeds are brown, dry and crisp.
Cool and store in an airtight container for 1 to 2 weeks.
Acorn squash can be baked whole, halved, sliced or cubed. Season cut squash before cooking, while whole squash are seasoned afterward. For all baked acorn squash, heat the oven to 350 F prior to cooking.
To bake acorn squash whole:
Prick the squash several times with the tines of a fork, puncturing the skin.
Place the squash directly on the oven rack, or on a baking tray or pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
The squash is ready when it is soft to the touch, caving easily when poked with a wooden spoon.
Let the squash rest 5 to 10 minutes prior to cutting open.
Whole squash must be poked prior to roasting, to allow steam to escape during cooking. Watch out for hot steam when first cutting open a whole baked squash.
Halved, Sliced or Cubed
Acorn squash is more commonly cut before baking. This reduces roasting time, and allows for seasoning prior to cooking.
To bake cut acorn squash:
Cut the acorn squash lengthwise, from stem to tip, and remove the seeds.
Leave as is for halved squash, or cut into 1-inch-thick slices, lengthwise or widthwise, or into 1-inch cubes.
Toss or brush the squash with a generous amount of fat. Be sure to coat all surfaces to encourage even cooking and browning.
Season the squash with fresh or dried herbs or spices.
Place halved squash on a baking tray, or spread the cubed or sliced squash in an even layer on a baking tray.
Bake in the heated oven. Halved squash is ready in 20 to 30 minutes, while cubed and sliced squash is ready in 20 to 25 minutes.
Seasoning Acorn Squash
Acorn squash produces dense, sweet, slightly vegetal flesh. It takes well to a range of seasonings, from savory to sweet. Always use added fat to prevent the squash from sticking to the baking tray during cooking. The fat also adds richness and flavor, as well as helping seasonings stick.
Fats for Richness
While a neutral-tasting oil, such as vegetable oil, can work with baked acorn squash, the flavor is deepened when a richer-tasting fat is used.
- Melted butter
- Olive oil
- Nut oils, such as walnut or peanut oil
Spices and Herbs
The sky is the limit it seems with baked acorn squash. The squash can be prepared as a sweet or savory dish, or even a combination of the two.
Some classic combinations include:
- Italian herb blend of dried oregano and basil
- Fresh or dried rosemary with minced garlic or garlic powder
- Cinnamon powder with nutmeg and allspice
- Lemon or lime zest with chili pepper powder and onion powder
Spice blends, such as Montreal steak spice, can also be used, as can spice or herb pastes, such as pesto.
Sprinkle cut acorn squash with salt prior to roasting to boost flavor. However, acorn squash, with its natural sweetness, takes well to added sugar too. While sprinkling with brown or white sugar will help with browning and flavor, other sweeteners can be used, such as maple syrup or honey.
Choose your sweetener based on the other seasoning ingredients. For example:
- Maple syrup with browned butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice makes for a spicy, sweet squash dish reminiscent of cool fall evenings.
- Honey can be drizzled onto olive oil- and rosemary-seasoned squash, sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese, for a classic blend of Italian flavors.