How To Cut Spaghetti Squash for Any Recipe

updated Dec 12, 2023

Here's how to use your microwave to make it much easier to cut spaghetti squash, plus two ways to cut it — into boats and into rings.

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Spaghetti squash is a perennial favorite here at Kitchn. We love its versatility — this squash is good for so much more than faux spaghetti noodles. But whether you’re planning to make spaghetti squash chicken Parm or broccoli and cheese spaghetti squash casserole, you have to prep it first. Cutting a spaghetti squash the right way isn’t hard, as long as you have the right tools and technique. 

Cutting most squash (like butternut or acorn) can be intimidating, due to the vegetable’s tough skin. In most cases, that skin is not edible — delicata is an exception — so you’ve got to remove it before eating.

Because a spaghetti squash’s skin is so thick, you should not attempt to trim it away before cooking. Instead, cut and cook the squash with the skin on, then once the squash is cooled, remove the flesh and get cooking. Ready to learn the two essential techniques for cutting spaghetti squash? Let’s go!

The Tools You Need to Cut a Spaghetti Squash

You’ll need a few tools to cut spaghetti squash. The first and most important is a very sharp chef’s knife. Ideally, the knife should be 8 inches or larger, so the blade can make contact with the entire squash at once. A too-short blade may get stuck and be tricky to dislodge. If your knife is not sharp, you’ll saw at the squash, rather than slicing through it. Need a refresher on sharpening your knife? Here’s how to sharpen a knife hand, and here’s a great electric knife sharpener we love. (Ina Garten loves it too.)

You will also need a kitchen towel and a large spoon, like a soup spoon or sauce spoon. A microwave and a small paring knife are also helpful — more on that in a moment — but not essential.

Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Do You Need to Microwave a Spaghetti Squash Before Cutting It?

Microwaving a spaghetti squash briefly will make it easier to slice through. But there are a few steps you need to take first. Remove any stickers, then rinse the squash and pat it dry.

Then use the tip of your paring knife to make several short slashes in the skin of the squash. This allows steam to escape in the microwave; skip this step and you may have an exploding squash on your hands. Don’t worry about making a deep incision; just a handful of cuts all over the skin will do.

Set the squash on a paper towel in the microwave to catch any excess moisture, and cook it on full power for 4 to 6 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Afterward, the squash will be very hot. Remove it with care, using the towel or potholders to hold onto it. Set it on your cutting board to cool for a few minutes before proceeding. 

A quick note here that it’s not essential to microwave the squash before cutting it. The brief period in the microwave won’t cook the squash, either; you’ll still need to roast it (or continue microwaving it after cutting it and removing the seeds.) If you’re short on time, have an ultra-sharp knife, or don’t own a microwave, you can skip right ahead to the next step: cutting it.

How to Cut a Spaghetti Squash Lengthwise for Boats

The most common way to cut a spaghetti squash is lengthwise in two halves, producing “squash boats.” You may use this method if you want to re-stuff the boats after cooking, as in this recipe for sausage and kale stuffed spaghetti squash.

  • Inspect your squash to identify the flattest part — this is typically where the squash was resting on the ground as it grew. Set that side on a large cutting board to minimize rolling.
  • Grip one of the butt ends of the squash with a kitchen towel (especially if you’ve microwaved it) to steady your hand and insert the knife tip into the middle of the squash, lengthwise.
  • Slice downward in one confident motion, then lift the blade upward to remove the knife. Turn the squash around and repeat on the other side, inserting the knife into the previously-made incision.
  • Remove the knife and open the squash; you should now have two long halves. Use your spoon to scoop out the seeds and any fibrous skin. You can discard the seeds, or rinse and roast them. Now you’re ready to cook!
Credit: Photo: Julia Gartland; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Cut a Spaghetti Squash in Rings

Although less common, this is a clever way to cut spaghetti squash for long spaghetti-like strands. After roasting squash rings, it’s easier to separate the flesh into individual “noodles.” 

  • First, find the flat side of the squash. Hold onto the butt end with a towel, as in the boats method. Then insert your knife width-wise into the other end of the squash, about 1 inch or 1 1/2 inches from the edge.
  • Slice down in one motion, then lift the knife to let the cut end fall to the cutting board. Repeat with the rest of the squash, creating thick rings. Don’t worry about making them exactly the same width.
  • Once your entire squash is in rings, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the center of each one. It’s helpful to run a paring knife around the fibrous stuff first, to separate it from the tender flesh. After that, you can cook the squash.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Most spaghetti squash recipes require the squash to be cooked twice. The first method is what we’ll discuss here: Simply baking it in the oven. You can use these instructions whether you have cut the spaghetti squash into boats or rings.

Preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack set in the middle. Then line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment; this makes cleanup easier and eliminates sticking. Set the pieces of squash cut-side down onto the parchment. For the rings, just choose a side, as most of the pieces will be cut on both sides. 

Place the squash onto the rack and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size and thickness. For the rings, flip the exposed pieces upside-down halfway through. (The butt ends can stay cut-side down). Remove from the oven when the squash pulls apart easily. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then scrape the squash away from the skin with a fork. 

How to Cut a Spaghetti Squash Safely: Tips to Keep in Mind

To avoid accidents when cutting a spaghetti squash, always use a sharp, large chef’s knife. It’s not a good idea to cut spaghetti squash with a small knife. A bread knife won’t work, either. Although the serrations can help cut through the skin, the shape and narrow blade won’t properly slice all the way through. Remember that the goal is to slice, not saw.

If your knife gets stuck in the squash, firmly hold the opposite end with a towel and gently wiggle the knife upward from the handle. Do not attempt to pull it out by the blade.

Spaghetti Squash Recipe Ideas

Now that your spaghetti squash is cooked, you can either store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it, or you can make one of these delicious recipes.

How to Cut Spaghetti Squash

Here's how to use your microwave to make it much easier to cut spaghetti squash, plus two ways to cut it — into boats and into rings.

Ingredients

Spaghetti Squash

    Equipment

    • Small paring knife

    • Very sharp chef's knife, at least 8 inches

    • Kitchen towel

    • Large spoon, such as a soup or sauce spoon

    Instructions

    Show Images

    Microwave Squash to Soften (optional)

    1. Use the tip of your paring knife to make several short slashes in the skin of the squash. This allows steam to escape in the microwave.

    2. Set the squash on a paper towel in the microwave to catch any excess moisture, and cook it on full power for 4-6 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.

    3. Afterward, the squash will be very hot. Remove it with care, using a kitchen towel or potholders to hold onto it. Set it on your cutting board to cool for a few minutes before proceeding. Once the squash is cool enough to handle you can cut it into boats or rings.

    How to Cut Spaghetti Squash Lengthwise into Boats

    1. Inspect your squash to identify the flattest part — this is typically where the squash was resting on the ground as it grew. Set that side on a large cutting board to minimize rolling. Grip one of the butt ends of the squash with a kitchen towel (especially if you’ve microwaved it) to steady your hand and insert the knife tip into the middle of the squash, lengthwise. Slice downward in one confident motion, then lift the blade upward to remove the knife. If your knife gets stuck in the squash, firmly hold the opposite end with a towel and gently wiggle the knife upward from the handle. Do not attempt to pull it out by the blade.

    2. Turn the squash around and repeat on the other side, inserting the knife into the previously-made incision.

    3. Remove the knife and open the squash; you should now have two long halves.

    4. Use your spoon to scoop out the seeds and any fibrous skin. You can discard the seeds, or rinse and roast them. The squash is now ready to be fully cooked.

    How to Cut Spaghetti Squash into Rings

    1. First, find the flat side of the squash. Hold onto the butt end with a towel. Then insert your knife width-wise into the other end of the squash, about 1" or 1 ½" from the edge. Slice down in one motion, then lift the knife to let the cut end fall to the cutting board.

    2. Repeat with the rest of the squash, creating thick rings. Don’t worry about making them exactly the same width.

    3. Once your entire squash is in rings, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds in the center of each one. It’s helpful to run a paring knife around the fibrous stuff first, to separate it from the tender flesh. After that, you can cook the squash.