Ingredient Intelligence

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

updated Aug 30, 2022
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(Image credit: padu_foto)

As much as we love butternut squash and sugar pumpkins, they’re certainly not our only choices. An array of options fill farm stands and grocery stores, including kabocha squash, a squat, usually round squash you might spot nestled among the acorns and butternuts.

Here, we explore what kabocha squash is, how to shop for and store it, and how to use it in recipes from soups to desserts.

What is Kabocha Squash?

Kabocha squash has dark green skin and an orange interior with a fluffy, chestnut-like texture. Its sweet flavor might remind you of sweet potatoes or the sort of sugar pumpkins you bake into pumpkin pie. The exterior may have faint stripes or bumps, and there are some orange-skinned kabocha as well.

Historians trace the roots of kabocha squash to South America, and believe it was brought to Hokkaido, Japan circa the 1860s-70s. Today, it’s widely used in Japanese, Korean, and other cuisines.

Like many other orange-hued vegetables, the health benefits of kabocha squash include beta carotene, which can help protect your vision via vitamin A.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Buying and Storing Kabocha Squash

When you buy kabocha squash, consider its color and weight. Choose one that feels heavy for its size. Look for deeply green skin that’s firm with no soft spots (though a smattering of light-colored bumps is perfectly normal on quality kabocha squash).

Kabocha squashes are usually available in the late summer through the fall. Store them in cool, dry conditions. If kept that way in your kitchen, kabocha squash can stay fresh for up to a month.

How to Cook Kabocha Squash

As with pumpkins and butternut squash, cut kabocha squash with care. You’ll want to scoop out the seeds, which you can roast like pumpkin seeds, and scrape away any stringy parts. From there, you can leave on the skin or peel it as desired, and then chop, cube, or slice the flesh.

Once you’ve got it prepared, kabocha squash is a versatile addition to any kitchen. It can be roasted in any recipe where you might use butternut or acorn squash; or steamed to create a purée for pumpkin pie.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Kabocha Squash Recipes