American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash is my favorite because its:   delicate winter squash

  • creamy
  • sweet
  • rich
  • a nutrient powerhouse
  • easy to cut and seed
  • quick to cook
  • thin-skinned

If you often avoid winter squashes like Butternut and Acorn because of their tough, thick skin and seeds that are hard to scoop out, try Delicata squash. Its super easy to prepare and quick enough for a weeknight. Easy dinner on a weeknight is my jam.

What’s a Delicata squash?

Delicata squash are smaller, oblong-shaped squash sometimes called Peanut squash. They are sometimes cream colored with green stripes, and sometimes yellow with orange or green stripes. I haven’t noticed a difference in taste between the colors. The light green ones are not ripe, so pick yellow and cream colored squash that are heavy for their size and unblemished.

One squash is enough for 1-2 people, depending on their appetite.

The skin of the Delicata is tender enough to eat, and easy to cut through. Removing the seeds is easy too – they just scoop out with a spoon. You’ll only spend a minute or two prepping this squash, no matter how you want to cook it. Some people eat it raw like zucchini.

One cup of Delicata squash has just 40 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, vitamin A, vitamin C and many antioxidants.

It cooks quickly in the oven too. Roasting brings out its natural sweetness and enhances the creamy texture.

Here’s how to cook it:

  1. Cut off the top of the squash, then slice it long-ways down the middle and scoop out the seeds.
  2. You can stop here – I usually do – or slice the squash into half-moon shapes. No need to peel, in fact the peel will keep its beautiful shape in the oven and is edible after cooking.
  3. Brush the cut sides of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and any spices you like. Any seasoning you like on sweet potatoes would be great here. Place on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, use parchment paper, foil, or oil the pan so it won’t stick.
  4. Roast in a hot oven (400F – 425F) for 20-25 minutes. That’s it. If you cut the squash into half moons, start checking at 10 minutes.

I usually make 1-2 extra, and use it in a salad for lunch the next day or add it to soup.

roasted Delicata SquashDelicata squash makes a fantastic side dish for any roasted meat.  It can cook beside chicken breasts or thighs, a pork tenderloin or even tofu, on the same pan.  I often add it to a bowl with farro, something green like actual greens or broccoli, beans or baked tofu and a dressing.

I should probably give you a recipe for that, although I just wing it.

How to make a Farro-Squash Bowl

  1. Cook your farro in salted boiling water like pasta until its done to your liking (usually around 20 minutes). Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. This keeps for several days, so make it once and eat all week.
  2. Saute greens with olive oil, garlic (1 clove, chopped) and red pepper flakes (a pinch) until tender. Squeeze some lemon juice on top if you have it. Leftover cooked broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, or any other roasted vegetable works great here too.
  3. Warm up the leftover squash if you like.
  4. Open a can of beans, rinse them off, and add to your bowl. Toss the beans with your dressing before adding them to the salad, or else they will have no flavor. Leftovers will last several days.
  5. I often just use olive oil, lemon juice and a little balsamic vinegar for a dressing, or this lemon-tahini sauce from Cookus Interruptus.
  6. Use a wide bowl, and put farro in as a base. Add your squash, beans and greens around the bowl, and drizzle your dressing on top. Top with chopped nuts or pumpkin seeds if you like, and enjoy!

Really, anything can go into a bowl like this. Something about eating a meal in a bowl is  comforting and satisfying.

How to make stuffed Delicata Squash

Oh, and if you have farro around, or brown rice or barley you can stuff your squash and make it pretty. Just combine a cooked grain, something a little saucy (like marinara) or olive oil to moisten it, lentils or beans for some protein, and really anything else you’d like to add.

Roast your squash halves while making your filling. Then scoop out a little of the squash, leaving enough for a stable “boat” once its filled. Add the cooked squash to your filling, stuff, top with a grated cheese, and back into the oven for about 10 minutes. When its hot and the cheese is melted and a little brown its done. A little fancier, and absolutely delicious.

Here’s how to make soup with leftover squash:

  1. Saute one large chopped onion and a pinch of salt in 1 TBS. olive oil in your soup pot until soft. Add 1/2 tsp of thyme if you like, I do.
  2. Scoop the squash out of the skin, you don’t want the skin in your smooth soup.
  3. Pour one quart of low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock into your pot, along with the roasted squash and a can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling). Add another pinch or two of salt. Stir until combined and bring to a boil.
  4. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, until everything is combined and cooked through. For a smooth soup use an immersion blender or blend until smooth and return to the pot.
  5. Finish the soup with one or two tablespoons of butter for richness. Add salt and pepper to taste. I usually top each bowl with some grated Gruyere cheese – its rich but adds so much to the soup.

This soup makes a great dinner with a simple salad or a sandwich. Sometimes I put slices of good bread with grated Gruyere on top under the broiler and serve with the soup, like an open-faced grilled cheese.

Next time you are in the market, pick up Delicata Squash and give it a try. I think you will fall in love with it like I have. Its so easy to work with and gives us so much in return for just a little time and attention.

Let me know how it goes!

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