Drop the Peeler: There’s a Faster Way to Prep Butternut Squash

updated Oct 26, 2019
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Butternut squash is beloved for its sweet, creamy flesh, but it can be hard to prepare. The traditional method involves slicing off the ends and going to town with a vegetable peeler. But it can take a while to get through the tough flesh, and the process can leave your fingers covered in sticky residue, or even cause an allergic reaction.

This is why so many recipes suggest using bags of pre-cut squash, or cooking it whole and scooping out the flesh. But sometimes you want to avoid the expense (and the packaging, and the who-knows-how-long-since-it-was-cut questions), but still make those delicious roasted chunks. So what do you do? The solution is to stop treating the squash like a tuber and start thinking of it like a melon.

What I’m saying is: you don’t need a peeler or a cleaver to get into your next butternut squash — just a sharp chef’s knife and a mindset shift.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

A Sharp’s Chef Knife Is Easier than a Peeler for Hard Squash

If you’ve ever tried to peel the length of a butternut squash from top to bottom, you know that it takes work. The thickness of the skin and the oblong shape make it difficult, and getting a specific peeler only helps a little. Instead of trying to peel it like a potato, think of squash like a melon: When you cut up a honeydew or watermelon for a salad, you start by cutting it into to smaller sections, and then use a sharp chef’s knife to remove the peel. You can do the same thing with a butternut.

Credit: Meghan Splawn

Here’s how you do it: Trim off the top and bottom of the squash first. If you’ve got a really unsteady squash, shaving off just little part of one side to make it flat will stabilize it. With the top and bottom trimmed, cut the squash in half horizontally — I suggest cutting it where the squash naturally tapers from the longer, thinner top to the round bottom.

Now stand one of the sections up and guide your knife between the peel and the flesh like you’re removing the rind from a melon, down the sides of the squash. You should be able to get the tough outer peeler and the thinner pithy peel off in one swoop. Don’t worry if you also take away a bit of the edible flesh. There will be more than enough to eat, and this method is all about ease, not accuracy.

Once peeled, you can halve the two sections for roasting whole, or cut everything into cubes for soup or roasting. Another bonus of this method? Cut into evenly sized quarters, your butternut squash will roast faster and more evenly. And since you didn’t spend 20 minutes peeling one squash you’ll get it enjoy all of it sooner!