Why You Should Be Eating Kabocha Squash, Pumpkin's Sweeter Cousin

Ingredient Intelligence

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Move over, sugar pie pumpkins and butternut squash: delicious kabocha squash is now widely available and giving you guys a run for your money. Have you tried this tasty Japanese pumpkin yet?

Why Kabocha Squash?

Kabocha squash is very sweet and has a fluffy, chestnut-texture that's similar to a sweet potato crossed with a pumpkin. It is used widely in Asia, especially Japan and Korea, where it is fried into tempura, stewed, or even used in desserts. Food anthropologists have determined that the squashes originated in Mesoamerica and were then brought to Asia by the Portuguese.

Full of beta carotene, iron, vitamins, and other good stuff, kabocha is also extremely good for you. It's smaller than most winter squashes, so it's perfect for single servings or small households.

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Buying and Storing Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squashes are squat and have a dull finish. They are usually a dark green in color with some faint stripes or bumps, but there are some varieties that are bright orange on the outside. The flesh inside is a bright orange-yellow.

When buying kabocha, choose squash that are heavy for their size. The rind should be dull and firm with no soft spots. The light-colored bumps on the green rind are normal. Kabocha squashes are usually available in the late summer to early fall and can be stored like other hard winter squashes for up to a month in cool, dry conditions.

Cooking Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squash is versatile — it can be roasted or steamed and used in much the same way like other hard winter squashes like butternut or pumpkins. Try it in your next pumpkin pie or pureed soup!

Updated from a post originally published in July 2008.

(Image credits: padu_foto/Shutterstock; Christine Gallary; Faith Durand)