Ingredient Intelligence

The 16 Varieties of Winter Squash You Need to Know

updated Oct 11, 2022
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types of winder squash arranged on white
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

Whether you pick up a sugar pumpkin at the supermarket or butternut squash at your nearest farm stand, winter squash are delicious and versatile ingredients. Unlike summer squash, these cold-weather varieties are harvested in autumn when they are ripe and hard, and are hardy enough to be stored and enjoyed throughout the winter.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Types of Winter Squash
Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Types of Winter Squash

Here, a visual guide to 16 types of winter squash, and what you need to know about each.

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

1. Acorn Squash

  • What it looks like: Acorn squash is small in size, typically weighing between one and two pounds, with orange-yellow flesh and thick, dark green-and-orange skin.
  • Buying and storing: Choose acorn squash that have a firm exterior, are free from soft spots and blemishes, and feel heavy for their size. Store them in a cool, dry place and they will keep for at least one month.
  • Flavor: Acorn squash has a mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. This skin is also edible.
  • How to use it: Like most varieties of winter squash, acorn squash is versatile. It can be baked, roasted, steamed, sautéed, or even cooked in the microwave.

Acorn Squash Recipes

2. Banana Squash

  • What it looks like: This large, elongated squash can grow two to three feet in length and weigh as much as 40 pounds. It has smooth orange, pink, or blue skin and firm, brilliant orange flesh.
  • Buying and storing: Banana squash is sold whole, and can also be found in more manageable pre-cut portions with the seeds removed.
  • Flavor: When cooked, banana squash has a rich, sweet, earthy taste.
  • How to use it: Use banana squash in place of other varieties, like butternut or kabocha. It’s great for roasting and in soups and stews.

Banana Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

3. Buttercup Squash

  • What it looks like: Buttercup squash is squat and round with an inedible dark green rind that has green-gray striations. It has firm, dense, vibrant orange flesh. It resembles kabocha squash but can be distinguished by a round ridge on its bottom.
  • Buying and storing: Choose a squash that’s heavy for its size and has even coloring. Avoid squashes with blemishes, soft spots, or dull skin. Buttercup squash can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to three months.
  • Flavor: Buttercup squash has a sweet, creamy flavor and is considered sweeter than other winter squash varieties.
  • How to use it: The flesh tends to be dry, so steaming and baking are the best methods for cooking this squash. And its firm texture makes it ideal for a curry.

Buttercup Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Butternut Squash

4. Butternut Squash

  • What it looks like: This pear-shaped squash has a smooth, cream-colored exterior with bright orange flesh and comparatively few seeds.
  • Buying and storing: Look for squash that’s firm, heavy for its size, and free from cracks and soft spots.
  • Flavor: This is the sweetest variety of winter squash.
  • How to use it: Butternut squash is extremely versatile. It’s perfect for roasting and sautéing, or using in purées or soups.

Butternut Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Carnival Squash

5. Carnival Squash

  • What it looks like: A cross between sweet dumpling and acorn squashes, carnival squash has an orange-, yellow-, and green-striped exterior and yellow flesh.
  • Buying and storing: Look for unblemished carnival squashes that are heavy for their size. They can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a month.
  • Flavor: This is a sweet, mellow-flavored squash that takes on a buttery texture when cooked.
  • How to use it: Roasting brings out its natural sweetness, but carnival squash can also be steamed or puréed.

Carnival Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Delicata Squash

6. Delicata Squash

  • What it looks like: Also known as sweet potato squash, this small cylindrical squash has thin cream- to yellow-colored skin with green stripes, and orange-yellow flesh. Delicatas are smaller than most winter squash, so they’re quite easy to prepare and cook.
  • Buying and storing: Choose squash that are heavy for their size, and free from blemishes and soft spots.
  • Flavor: Delicata has creamy flesh with a mild flavor akin to sweet potatoes.
  • How to use it: The skin on this small squash is edible, so don’t worry about cutting it off. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then you can either bake it as is, or cut it into slices which can be roasted, sautéed, or steamed. Delicata squash is also ideal for stuffing.

Delicata Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Hubbard Squash

7. Hubbard Squash

  • What it looks like: Hubbard squash is one of the largest varieties of winter squash. It has a hard, firm exterior that can range in color from deep green to gray or blue.
  • Buying and storing: Look for a squash that’s hard and firm, heavy for its size, and free from soft spots. You’ll find whole hubbard squash at farm stands and farmers markets, although because of its size, it’s generally sold pre-cut and seeded in grocery stores.
  • Flavor: Hubbard squash has a rich, sweet pumpkin flavor.
  • How to use it: While the hard exterior is generally discarded, the sweet orange flesh can be substituted for any other variety of winter squash. It’s ideal for both cooking and baking, and is especially great for making pie.

Hubbard Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Green Kabocha Squash

8. Green Kabocha Squash

  • What it looks like: Kabocha squash is squat and round, and similar in size and shape to buttercup squash, although the base points out. It has a dull finish with dark green skin that sometimes has small lumps, and bright yellow-orange flesh.
  • Buying and storing: Look for a squash with dull coloring that’s firm and heavy for its size, and free from soft spots. Store it in a cool, dry place for up to one month.
  • Flavor: Kabocha squash is remarkably sweet with a nice nutty flavor, and texture that’s similar to a blend of sweet potato and pumpkin.
  • How to use it: Kabocha squash is very versatile and can be used as a substitute for any other winter squash. It can be roasted or steamed, added to soup, or used for a pie filling.

Green Kabocha Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Red Kabocha Squash

9. Red Kabocha Squash

  • What it looks like: Like its green brethren, red kabocha squash is short and round. Its red-orange skin may have white stripes running up the sides, and its interior is orange.
  • Buying and storing: Here, too, you want a squash that’s firm and heavy for its size. Red kabocha squash will stay fresh up to one month if kept in a cool, dry place.
  • Flavor: Red kabocha squash is notably sweeter than green kabocha squash, and has the same texture.
  • How to use it: Roast or steam your red kabocha, try it in a soup, or purée it into a pie.

Red Kabocha Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
White Acorn Squash

10. Mashed Potato Squash (White Acorn Squash)

  • What it looks like: Oval-shaped mashed potato or white acorn squash has deeply ridged, not-too-thick skin that’s cream-colored. The stringy interior can have yellow or cream hues and ample amounts of white seeds.
  • Buying and storing: Look for unblemished squash without any soft spots. Store for up to one month in cool, dry conditions.
  • Flavor: This mild-tasting squash takes on a tender, almost buttery texture when cooked.
  • How to use it: A versatile squash, white acorn can be roasted, baked, steamed, or puréed into sweet or savory recipes.

White Acorn Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Sugar Pumpkin

11. Sugar Pumpkin

  • What it looks like: Pumpkins used for cooking and baking are smaller than the field pumpkins used for decoration. Sugar pumpkins are round with a firm exterior that can range in color from pale to bright reddish-orange, with vibrant orange flesh.
  • Buying and storing: For the best flavor and texture, choose pumpkins grown specifically for eating rather than carving. They’ll last up to a month stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Flavor: Sugar pumpkins have tender flesh and a sweet, earthy taste.
  • How to use it: You can bake, roast, or purée sugar pumpkin. It’s ideal for soup, curries, and of course, pies!

Sugar Pumpkin Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Red Kuri Squash

12. Red Kuri Squash

  • What it looks like: Squat and round with an elongated neck toward its stem, red kuri squash have dark, dense reddish skin and firm, orange-hued flesh.
  • Buying and storing: Buy firm red kuri squash without any soft spots, and store for up to a month in a cool, dry place.
  • Flavor: When cooked, red kuri squash has sweet, mellow, chestnut-like flavors.
  • How to use it: You can steam, roast, or stew red kuri squash. It also purées beautifully and is at home in sweet or savory dishes.

Red Kuri Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Spaghetti Squash
  • What it looks like: Spaghetti squash has a cylindrical shape with a firm exterior that ranges in color from pale cream to bright yellow. When you cook the squash, the moist flesh develops strands that resemble spaghetti.
  • Buying and storing: Look for spaghetti squash with a firm outer shell, that’s heavy for its size, and free from soft spots. Store it in a cool, dry place for up to one month.
  • Flavor: No, spaghetti squash doesn’t actually taste like spaghetti. It has a tender, chewy, fragile texture, and a very mild flavor. Unlike other winter squash varieties, it lacks sweetness.
  • How to use it: Roast or steam it, then scrape out the strands. Top with marinara, pesto, or mix in other veggies, and eat it as you would spaghetti.

Spaghetti Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Sweet Dumpling Squash

14. Sweet Dumpling Squash

  • What it looks like: This small yellow squash, with bright orange to dark green striations, may be the cutest of the bunch.
  • Buying and storing: Look for squash with deep coloring, with a smooth rind that’s free from soft spots, blemishes, or cracks. Stored in a cool, dry area, away from sunlight, this squash can last for up to three months.
  • Flavor: The flesh is starchy and sweet, with a flavor that’s reminiscent of corn.
  • How to use it: The small, single-serving size of this squash makes it ideal for stuffing and roasting.

Sweet Dumpling Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen
Turban Squash

15. Turban Squash

  • What it looks like: This large, decorative squash has an irregular turban shape with a dull-looking, bumpy exterior that can range in color from mottled green to orange and yellow.
  • Buying and storing: Like other winter squash, choose one that feels heavy for its size and free from soft spots.
  • Flavor: This large squash has a very mild, nutty flavor.
  • How to use it: Turban squash is most often used as a decoration, though

    you can use it in recipes in just about any way you use butternut, acorn, or other winter squash. Hollowed out, it makes a beautiful soup tureen.

Turban Squash Recipes

Credit: Photo: Andrew Bui; Food Styling: Jessie YuChen

16. Honeynut Squash

  • What it looks like: A hybrid made from buttercup and butternut squash, honeynut has a similar shape and outward appearance to butternut squash, but is smaller and has a deeply orange interior.
  • Buying and storing: Look for unblemished honeynut squash that feels heavy for its size, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one month.
  • Flavor: This is a very sweet, buttery squash.
  • How to use it: Use it the same way you would butternut or buttercup squash, in sweet or savory preparations.

Honeynut Squash Recipes

Thank you to Melissa’sBaldor, and GrowNYC’s Greenmarket for help sourcing the squash for this photo shoot.