methods to cook spaghetti squash
Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

We Tried 7 Methods for Cooking Spaghetti Squash and Found 2 Very Different Winners

updated Jun 21, 2021
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Spaghetti squash makes its way onto our dinner table at least once a month. I love its lightly sweet, low-carb strands that I can sauce up and nosh, knowing that I’m getting a good fiber boost while I’m at it. But I flit around from one cooking method to another, trying a different technique each time. Sometimes, I get pleasing results (separate, al dente strands), while other times I end up with a bowl of mush.

To find a technique I can rely on, I tested seven popular methods. These aren’t all the methods for cooking this magical squash, of course, but they are the ones that seem to appear most frequently at popular cooking resources and websites.

My goal was to find a cooking method that was easy to prepare, quick on cooking time, and resulted in slightly sweet and perfectly al dente spaghetti squash strands. After testing seven different methods, two techniques for cooking spaghetti squash came out on top.

Wait, What is Spaghetti Squash?

So, what is spaghetti squash, anyway? Spaghetti squash is a type of winter squash that ranges in color from pale yellow to canary yellow. Once you’ve explored the best ways to cook this funny, surprising squash use it in one of these delicious recipes:

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot; Design: The Kitchn

How I Tested These Spaghetti Squash Cooking Methods

Squash: The spaghetti squash I used ranged in weight from 2 to 2 1/2 pounds. I had to purchase them from two different stores (I couldn’t find enough at one store). 

Tests: After trying each cooking method, I let the squash cool slightly and removed the strands. I tasted the strands as-is and then seasoned them with salt and pepper and tasted them again.

Time: The time I’ve listed includes all active time plus cooking, which might include cutting the squash, scooping out seeds, preheating the oven, and cooling the squash slightly before extracting the strands. 

Ratings: I rated each method of a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing perfection. The main factors that affected the ratings were texture and taste, but I also considered the ease or difficulty of the method.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Steamed Spaghetti Squash in the Microwave

  • Total Time: 25 minutes 
  • Rating: 4/10

About This Method: For this technique, I followed the instructions from Delish: I cut the squash in half lengthwise, scooped out seeds and membranes, and placed the halves in a microwave-safe dish (I used an 11×7-inch baking dish). I then added water to a depth of 1 inch and microwaved on HIGH, uncovered, for 20 minutes. The recipe says the squash should be “fork tender” when done.

Results: Texture-wise, the results were nice; the strands were fluffy and separate with a little crunch. But the flavor was very bland and, when pitted against some of the other methods, stood out as watery. It was as if the microwave zapped away the squash flavor. 

My Takeaway: This is definitely the quickest method — but what you gain in speed, you lose in flavor.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Roasted Whole Spaghetti Squash

  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes 
  • Rating: 5/10

About This Method: The prep for this method from Martha Stewart couldn’t be easier: Simply pierce the squash all over with the tip of a knife, and place it on a baking sheet. You then roast the squash at 375°F for 1 hour 20 minutes, flipping it once about halfway through, and then let it cool slightly (I went 10 minutes). After cooling, cut the squash in half, and remove the seeds before scraping out the squash strands. 

Results: While keeping the squash intact did help lock in flavor, giving it a concentrated sweetness, it unfortunately made the strands excessively tender, bordering on mushy. Also, removing the seeds after the squash cooks is a little more difficult than you might think; they tend to cling to and get tangled up in the strands.

My Takeaway: The prep work is indeed simple and might attract those who don’t like cutting through a whole, hard squash. But the lack of evaporation in this method almost ensures that the flesh of the squash will be a little watery and too soft.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash (Halved and Whole)

  • Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes (halves); 6 hours 10 minutes (whole) 
  • Rating: 6.5/10

About This Method: I ended up trying two different slow cooker methods. The first, from Inquiring Chef, is for slow-cooking seeded squash halves with 1 cup of water on HIGH for 3 hours. The other, from MyRecipes, calls for piercing a whole squash several times with a fork and slow-cooking on LW with 2 cups of water for 6 hours.

Results: With both methods (halves and whole), the squash ended up a little mushy, with strands that broke easily. The halved squash tasted rather bland, but the whole squash had a nice concentrated sweetness. As with the roasting whole technique above, removing the seeds from the whole slow-cooked squash was a little cumbersome. 

My Takeaway: Although the texture was softer than I prefer, the flavor of the whole squash was lovely.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Halves at Medium Temperature

  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes 
  • Rating: 7/10

About This Method: This technique, which comes from Skinnytaste, has you cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and membranes, and cook — cut-side up — for 1 hour at 350°F. 

Results: Although the flavor was just a little bland compared to other methods, the squash strands were nicely al dente and very separate. The squash seemed a little drier than I’d like, but I’ll take that any day over watery or mushy.  

My Takeaway: This is a fine method that ensures separate strands to sauce up as you like.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash

  • Total Time: 30 minutes 
  • Rating: 7.5/10

About This Method: For this technique, I used the instructions from Real Simple in their roundup of spaghetti squash methods. After cutting the squash in half lengthwise and scooping out the seeds and membranes, you pierce the skin several times with a fork. You then arrange the steam rack in the Instant Pot, add 1 cup water, and place the squash halves cut-side down on the rack (I had to tilt them to get them to fit). You then set the cooker to high pressure for 10 minutes and quick release pressure at the end of the cook time. 

Results: My squash had an al dente texture with some pleasing crunchy parts. The strands were separate with distinct texture — in other words, not at all mushy. This cooking method coaxed out a little bit of squash sweetness, but the flavor was still a little bland.

My Takeaway: This is a fast method that gives you great texture and mild flavor. If you’re going to add a potent sauce that would overpower the squash anyway, it’s a good technique to use. 

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Rings

  • Total Time: 50 minutes 
  • Rating: 9/10

About This Method: This technique, from Eating Bird Food, has you cut the squash crosswise into 1 1/2-inch-thick rings, scrape out the seeds, rub on a little oil and seasonings, and roast on a sheet pan at 400°F for 30 to 40 minutes (I went for 35), flipping the rings over after 15 minutes. You then cool the squash slightly, peel away the skin, and separate the strands with a fork. (One note is that I did something a little differently: I cut through each ring so that instead of squash strand Os, I got longer squash strand Cs.) 

Results: The site claims that this method will give you “long pasta-like strands and spaghetti squash that isn’t watery.” I couldn’t say it any better — that’s exactly what I got. Even better was the flavor: sweet with a roasted, caramelized richness.

My Takeaway: Cutting a hard, raw squash into rings is a little tricky, so be prepared for more involved prep. I found that making small incisions with a serrated paring knife all the way around the squash and then dragging the knife to connect the “dots” was easier than trying to push a large chef’s knife through. The little extra prep work rewards you with the longest strands possible, great flavor, and wonderful al dente texture.

Credit: Photo: Ghazalle Badiozamani; Food Styling: Brett Regot

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Halves at High Temperature

  • Total Time: 50 minutes 
  • Rating: 9/10

About This Method: For this method, I used just the squash instructions (step 1) from the New York Times’s Baked Spaghetti Squash recipe (the full recipe has you finishing the squash with cheese, breadcrumbs, and herbs). You halve the squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds, brush with a little oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then you lay the squash halves cut-side down on a parchment-lined sheet pan and roast at 450°F for 35 to 40 minutes — mine were done after 35.  

Results: This method yielded squash with yummy caramelized edges and concentrated squash sweetness. The texture offered both al dente strands and some pockets of buttery (not mushy) softness. Even though I was testing and tasting lots of squash, I stopped and devoured a whole squash half on the spot.

My Takeaway: A little oil and high heat go a long way here, giving you wonderful flavor and texture. It’s a relatively quick method, too. 

Best Way to Cook Spaghetti Squash: Roasted in the Oven at High Heat

For the best results, you need to be willing to put in a little elbow grease and/or patience. The most successful methods have you coat the squash with a little oil before cooking at relatively high heat. The quickest, easiest methods simply fall a little flat in either taste or texture — or both. While the ease of cooking whole or in the microwave is appealing, the additional flavor of roasting with the flesh exposed directly to heat truly improves the flavor.

Does this match up with your own way of cooking spaghetti squash? Tell us if we missed a method or if this is how you do it too!