Butternut squash is a vine-grown winter squash, like pumpkins and acorn squash. Most people consider it a vegetable, and in culinary terms, it is one, but butternut squash is technically a fruit.
This squash is round at one end and has light yellow-orange fresh inside the tough, pale yellow skin. Many people remove the skin before using it in a dish, but it softens during cooking and is edible.
Cooks also scoop out the seeds, which are edible and delicious raw or roasted. The flavor of the flesh is similar to pumpkin. Most winter squash varieties taste alike and work as substitutes for each other in a recipe.
The skin and flesh of the squash are hard enough when it's raw that many people have a hard time cutting it. Fortunately, you can microwave butternut squash before cutting to make it easier.
- Can You Microwave Butternut Squash to Soften It?
- Can I Microwave a Whole Butternut Squash?
- Can I Cook a Whole Butternut Squash in the Microwave?
- How Long Does Butternut Squash Take in the Microwave?
- Roasting Softened Butternut Squash
- What Can I Do With a Microwaved Squash?
- How Do I Use Butternut Squash Seeds?
- Final Thoughts
Can You Microwave Butternut Squash to Soften It?
Cubed and spiralized butternut squash is available in most grocery stores' produce and freezer sections. Many cooks purchase it prepared this way because they're intimidated by the hard-to-cut squash and unsure how to cook it.
The easiest way to prepare it for use in recipes is to microwave butternut squash before cutting. Microwaving the squash softens it enough to let the knife slide through easier. Once the skin softens, even a little, it's safer to cut with less chance of the knife slipping.
You'll still need a large, sharp knife to do the best job. Whether you cut it raw or microwaved, if the skin is wet, pat it dry first to reduce the risk of the blade sliding on the water.
Can I Microwave a Whole Butternut Squash?
The safest way to soften it is by microwaving it whole, so you don't have to try to cut it in half while it's raw.
Recipes with squash often call for cutting it in half, roasting the halves, or cubing it. You can microwave butternut squash before cutting to slice it easier and reduce the oven cooking time.
To microwave a whole butternut squash, wash it to remove any dirt or pesticides from the skin and pat it dry.
Place it on a microwave-safe plate and poke the tip of a sharp knife into the skin in several places. A small paring knife works well. You can also use a fork to poke several small holes, but a knife is easier.
You don't have to push the knife deep like you're trying to cut it. The slices in the skin let steam escape as the squash heats to keep it from exploding in the microwave.
Can I Cook a Whole Butternut Squash in the Microwave?
Yes! Cooking the squash in the microwave is an easy way to enjoy squash in your meals. You can cut the squash and steam it in the microwave, but you can also cook the entire thing at one time and cut it after it's cooked.
The only drawback to cooking whole butternut squash in the microwave is letting it cool before you can handle it enough to cut it. Waiting for it to cool adds to the preparation time, but if you're patient and have the time to spare, microwaving the whole squash is a fast and easy method.
How Long Does Butternut Squash Take in the Microwave?
Butternut squash takes between 3 and 6 minutes to soften in the microwave, with most of the biggest squash softening enough to cut within 5 to 6 minutes. If you plan to microwave butternut squash before cutting, you shouldn't need to go over 6 minutes.
It will take 10 to 12 minutes to cook an average of three-pound squash. Adjust the time up and down according to the weight. Then, test it by pressing a knife into it. When it's ready, the blade will slide in easily.
The longer you microwave the squash, the more steam and pressure will build up, so use the same method of cutting the skin to release steam before cooking.
Roasting Softened Butternut Squash
After softening the squash enough to cut, you can cube it and cook by steaming, boiling, or roasting within a casserole. To oven-roast the halves, place them cut-side up. Brush on olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any herbs you want
Butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon with a bit of salt turn the squash into a sweet dish reminiscent of lightly candied sweet potatoes.
Roast the halves in a 375-degree oven for about 15 to 17 minutes per pound. You can insert a knife easily into a fully cooked squash. Start testing at the minimum time and try every minute or two to avoid overcooking.
It takes a long time to burn squash while roasting it, but overcooking dries out the flesh and makes it tough.
What Can I Do With a Microwaved Squash?
If you thoroughly cook the squash, let it cool enough that you can safely handle it without being burned. However, the inside will remain hot longer than the skin, so leave it at room temperature for several minutes before slicing.
If you want to remove the skin, a paring knife or vegetable peeler works well. However, the skin is edible, so it's fine to leave it on.
After you slice the squash in two, scoop out the pulp and seeds from the rounded end. You can cut or mash the remaining flesh for use in your recipe. Or you can cube and serve it with seasonings as an easy, healthy side dish.
How Do I Use Butternut Squash Seeds?
Like toasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash seeds make a delicious savory snack when roasted and seasoned.
If you microwave butternut squash to soften it, save the seeds you scoop out before finishing the cut squash in the oven or microwave.
How to Roast Butternut Squash Seeds
Clean the seeds by removing the stringy, fleshy pulp. Squeezing it in both hands in a bowl of cold water helps separate them.
The seeds float, so they're easy to scoop off the top. You won't be able to remove all of the pulp, but the tiny dots that remain won't matter.
Spread the seeds on a clean, dry dish towel or paper towel and pat them dry.
After the seeds are as dry as possible, toss them with olive oil. Use about one teaspoon of oil for each half-cup of seeds. Start with a one-quarter teaspoon of salt and pepper, or to your taste.
Adding a teaspoon of fennel gives the seeds a unique flavor. A half-teaspoon of curry powder, red pepper flakes, or smoked paprika can add variety.
Spread the seeds on a cookie sheet and roast them in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Toasting in a Skillet
You can also toast the seeds in a hot skillet with a tablespoon of oil and your preferred seasonings until they're cooked and golden brown.
Roasted butternut squash seeds are a delicious snack to eat by the handful. They also make an excellent topping for casseroles, salads, and soups.
Butternut squash is delicious and healthy, and like all winter squash, it adapts to various dishes. Don't let the size or hardness of the squash intimidate you and keep you from using it in your kitchen.
You can microwave butternut squash before cutting to make it safer and shorten the time needed to roast in the oven. And don't forget to try roasted butternut squash seeds as a tasty snack.