We all love a good butternut squash soup, and it would be a pretty sad fall without pumpkin pie, but there are plenty of other squashes that rarely make it into the spotlight. Here are 11 beautiful and tasty varieties of winter (a.k.a. hard) squash that you should either meet for the first time or get more familiar with.
1. Spaghetti Squash
It’s pretty amazing when a vegetable can double as a bowl of noodles: Roasted and topped with tomato sauce and cheese, the humble spaghetti squash is a healthy alternative to the carb party otherwise known as pasta.
Best for: a healthy side dish or vegetarian main course | Try it in: Spaghetti Squash Cakes
2. Kabocha Squash
3. Buttercup Squash
Although the buttercup is very close in appearance to the kabocha, the texture of this compact squash is much drier and the flavor much more mild than its nutty and sweet look-alike. Thanks to its dense character, the hearty buttercup is best cubed and cooked into stews, or roasted until tender.
Best for: substituting in any recipes that call for butternut squash | Try it in: Pear, Buttercup Squash, & Chorizo Hash
4. Delicata Squash
One of the milder, less sweet winter squashes that’s so tender you can eat the rind (remember to scrub it well first, though). Since it calls for almost zero prep, delicata’s a good choice for a quick, healthy weeknight dinner.
Best for: salads, or served alone, roasted and drizzled with balsamic vinegar | Try it in: Roasted Delicata Squash Salad
5. Red Kuri Squash
This teardrop-shaped beauty goes well with something creamy, like dairy or coconut milk, and is best cooked unpeeled.
Best for: pies and soups; roasting and braising | Try it in: Roasted Red Kuri Pumpkin & Coconut Soup
6. Blue Hokkaido Squash
A lovely pale blue on the outside, this sweet, versatile squash looks like it’s straight out of Cinderella. Roast it cut into wedges but unpeeled, and the contrast between blue rind and orange flesh looks great on the plate (don’t try to eat the skin, though).
Best for: roasting with a savory or sweet filling and puréeing | Try it in: Hokkaido Stella blue squash purée, fava leave pesto, persimmon and bee pollen.
7. Lakota Squash
One of the more interesting varieties, this green-skinned, orange-streaked beauty has a nutty flavor. It’s as decorative as it is delicious—keep a bowl of Lakotas as a centerpiece for the dining room table.
Best for: decoration, roasting, mashing | Try it in: A roasted fall vegetable medley, puréed or braised.
8. Calabaza Squash
A versatile variety that’s often candied (we hear it’s been used to make dulce de leche, though we’ve never seen a recipe). You can find it in some Latin American markets chopped and ready to go, so there’s no excuse not to give it a try.
Best for: sweet dishes and roasting; also works well in soups | Try it in: Roasted Calabaza
9. Acorn Squash
This small green squash is one of the most commonly found on the Thanksgiving dinner table—check out our guide to basic roasting for an introduction to your favorite new quick side dish.
Best for: roasting, adding to salads and pasta | Try it in: Acorn Squash with Red Onion and Currants Recipe
10. Sweet Dumpling Squash
A tiny squash that looks like a miniature pumpkin, the sweet dumpling is great for individual servings. Cut one in half, drizzle honey or olive oil in the center, and roast away. It’s also a great base for rice, meat, or vegetable fillings.
Best for: stuffing, individual servings | Try it in: Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash with Millet & Caponata
11. Carnival Squash
Best for: can be used as a substitution for both butternut and acorn squash and is great roasted or broiled | Try it in: Salad of Roasted Carnival Squash, Pears, and Red Onion
One more benefit of trying lots of winter squashes: the seeds. You’ve always enjoyed roasted pumpkin seeds from the Halloween jack-o’-lantern. Squash seeds are just as tasty (and healthy), baked and sprinkled with a little salt. Check out our CHOW Tip video on how to roast squash seeds.
Photo Credits: Farmers’ market squashes, Spaghetti squash / Steamy Kitchen, Spaghetti Squash Cakes / CHOW.com, Kabocha squash, Thai Red Curry with Kabocha Squash / CHOW.com, Buttercup squash / Grow It Organically!, Buttercup squash hash / Cara’s Cravings, Delicata squash / Oregon Live, Roasted Delicata Squash Salad / CHOW.com, Red kuri squash / BBB Seed, Roasted red kuri soup / The Kitchn, Blue Hokkaido Squash / One Messy Kitchen, Hokkaido Stella blue squash purée / Flickr, Lakota squash / It's So Very Cheri, Lakota squash / My Humble Kitchen, Calabaza squash / Sybil Cooper Fitness, Roasted Calabaza squash / Como Come Cami, Acorn squash / Passports & Pancakes, Acorn Squash with Red Onion and Currants Recipe / CHOW.com, Sweet Dumpling Squash / Fanatic Cook, Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash with Millet & Caponata / Blue Apron, Carnival Squash / Humane Living, Carnival squash salad / What I Do
Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.