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The Home Cook's Guide to Acorn Squash

An acorn squash is easy to recognize by its shape, which is ridged and squat like an acorn. But unlike the nuts which fall from oak trees, acorn squashes are typically dark green on the outside and pale yellow on the inside. Because they're hardy and can be prepared in a variety of different ways (even the peel is edible!), these squashes are very popular winter vegetables.

Acorn squash halves. Photo by Meredith

Photo by Meredith

How Does Acorn Squash Taste?

Acorn squash is milder in taste and slightly more fibrous in texture than butternut squash: Its sweet, nutty flavor is additionally muted by the watery character of its flesh. Still, most recipes that call for acorn squash can be made with another member of the squash family, such as Hubbard or butternut. Pumpkin is another possible substitute.

Nutritional Benefits of Acorn Squash

One cup of acorn squash contains only about 76 calories, but provides more than half of the vitamin A you need all day, as well as a quarter of the recommended daily allowance of fiber and vitamin C. In addition to being nutrient dense, it's also a source of a wide range of nutrients, which means the vegetable can help strengthen your bones, aid digestion, ward off cataracts, and help regulate blood sugar levels. Another healthy snack is roasted acorn squash seeds, which supply about 125 calories per ounce. If serving baked or mashed, it's important not to squander its nutritional value by adding too much sugar or salt.

Picking, Purchasing, and Storing Acorn Squash

Acorn squashes are common backyard crops, but home gardeners need to know how to tell if one is ripe. The biggest clue is color: A squash ready for picking will be dark green with a dried stem. Even if the stem isn't present on a squash sold at a grocery store, shoppers can check its hue and make sure the skin is sufficiently firm by testing it gently with a fingernail. It should also be heavy for its size and free of mold or other blemishes.

Stored at room temperature, an acorn squash will last one or two months; to determine if one has gone bad, slice it in two. Slimy, gray seeds are a good indicator that the squash has turned.

Once cut, you can tightly cover any unwanted portion with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to four days, or cook the squash and freeze it for as long as a year.

How to Cook Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is easy to prepare for cooking: The simplest prep involves splitting the squash in two with a sharp knife, and then scooping out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon. If a recipe calls for cubes, turn the squash half flesh side down and slice into rings, then cut away the peel with a knife.

Once cut and cleaned, a half acorn squash can be baked in the oven.

Chef John's Baked Acorn Squash

Check out this technique, which involves scoring the squash to let the orange-maple glaze soak in.

Alternately, you can cook it in the microwave by placing it cut side down in a microwave-safe dish with an inch of water and heating for approximately 10 minutes, or until tender.

Finally, to grill acorn squash, wrap squash halves tightly with tin foil and cook over low flames until tender.


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About Hanna Raskin

Not just a grits eater, but a one-time grits roller (a sport involving an inflatable tub and 27 cases of instant grits). Devoted to queso, chopped liver, Cuban toast, soft-shell crabs, and the roads that lead to them.