How To Cut and Peel a Butternut Squash
What kind of sorcery does it take to start with a bowling pin-shaped butternut squash and turn it into perfect, uniform slices and squares? You don’t need professional training or a magic wand — just a few basic kitchen tools and some know-how. Familiarize yourself with this method for how to cut and peel a butternut squash and you’ll be ready to tackle any squash-filled recipe winter throws your way.
When cutting or carving large wobbly produce, safety comes first. Stabilize your cutting board with a wet paper towel to eliminate any twists and turns the board may take as you slice and dice.
The Best Tools for Cutting Butternut Squash
The most important thing when working with large, hard vegetables is to be sure that you have the right equipment. This basically means grabbing the largest, sharpest knife you own since the weight and length of the knife will be doing a fair amount of work here. A flimsy or dull knife will make your life much harder and can also be dangerous since it can easily slip and cut you.
Your other important tool is a peeler, which should also be as sharp as possible. I recommend looking for peelers that have carbon steel blades as these hold a sharp edge longer than stainless steel. I like simple, cheap “Swiss” peelers. They’re usually under $5 each and last a long, long time.
3 Steps for Prepping Squash for Cutting
This one-two-three method for prepping the squash will leave you with slices and cubes.
1. Remove the ends first.
Choose a large, heavy, sharp knife to pierce the skin. Once you have the knife wedged in, lean into the knife adding weight (make sure the tips of your fingers are way out of the way!) and let the knife slice through the sturdy flesh, removing the top and the bottom ends of the squash.
2. Peel the squash.
Grab a sharp vegetable peeler that fits comfortably in your hand. I’ve given swivel, serrated, and ceramic peelers all a chance, but the one I come back to is Oxo’s Y-shaped peeler with a wide, ergonomic handle. It’s more comfortable to hold than the standard swivel and leaves a smooth surface on the vegetable, which I prefer over the small striations left by serrated ones. Peel up the neck of the squash and around the base until all of the peel has been removed.
3. Halve the squash and remove the seeds.
Peeling the squash will leave you with areas of the squash that are slightly more flat. Find a flattened side, then use your knife to slice the neck of the squash away from the base. The anatomy of these two parts is slightly different. You’ll see that the neck is a solid piece of squash, while the base is where the seeds reside. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pieces. You can rinse and roast these as you would pumpkin seeds.
Determining How to Cut the Squash
From here, consult your recipe to determine whether you need to cut the squash into rounds, slices, wedges, or cubes.
If you are cutting it all the way down to cubes, the most efficient way to do it is to cut the neck into rounds, then cut those into sticks, and then turn and cut the sticks crosswise into cubes. Doing it this way means you’ll complete your chopping more quickly, and the cubes will be more uniform.
A Few of Our Favorite Butternut Recipes
- Butternut Squash Fettuccine Alfredo
- Quick Butternut Squash Curry
- Butternut Squash with Sriracha and Coconut
- Butternut Squash with Honey & Lime
- Vegan Amaranth Bowl with Garam Masala Butternut Squash
- Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach & Blue Cheese
- Butternut Squash in Fresh Green Curry
- Gingery Roasted Butternut Squash & Sweet Potatoes
- Butternut Squash & Sausage Lasagna
How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash
- Whole butternut squash
- Cutting board
- Large sharp knife
- Vegetable peeler, preferably Y-shaped
Trim the ends. Place the squash on its side and cut off both ends. The safest way to slice into a butternut squash is to stabilize it with your non-dominant hand formed into a "claw," and then make an initial cut into the squash to penetrate the skin. Do this with as little pressure as possible — you're not trying to hack though the whole vegetable at this point. Once the knife has made its way through the skin and no longer poses a threat to slip, you can lean heavily into it to complete your cut.
Peel. Run a vegetable peeler along the length of the squash to remove the skin, rotating the squash as you go. You can peel the length of the squash in long strokes, or you can peel it halfway up the sides and then turn it and peel the other half.
Cut the squash in half at the neck. The neck of the squash and the body will be dealt with slightly differently, so cut the squash in half where it looks like the neck ends and the body begins to curve out.
Cut the neck end into cubes. If you'd like squash cubes, cut the squash neck crosswise into rounds as thick as you want your cubes to be. In other words, if your recipe calls for 1-inch cubes, cut the squash into 1-inch rounds. Cut the rounds into sticks, then cut the sticks crosswise into cubes. A few of the end pieces will be more triangular in shape, but that can't be avoided and is actually just fine!
Cut the body end into cubes. Cut the body in half lengthwise, exposing the seeds. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and any stringy bits. (Save the seeds if you have ambitions to roast them.)
Slice each half crosswise into half-moons the same way you cut the neck, then repeat with cutting those pieces into sticks and then cubes.