Butternut Squash: Nutrients, Recipe and Cooking Tips

There’s a great David Benoit album called “Waiting for Spring”.  It’s about time I put that one for a spin on the turntable once again.  In these late winter days when it’s dark when you wake up and it’s almost dark when you leave work, we all are yearning for the warmth and sunlight of springtime.  Even me, living in Southern California!  Sorry, I probably sound like a BIG whiner to you guys out in Chicago or Buffalo. 

But let’s not rush the seasons like we rush through almost everything else in life.  Be in the now, and focus on the delicious, nutritious winter vegetables that are right in front of your eyes.  I know, you feel like you’ve been seeing the same vegetables in the store for the past few months, and you have!  But let’s take a fresh look and try something a little different for dinner tonight.  A great example:  winter squash — this covers a vast array of different varieties, including pumpkin, acorn, and spaghetti squash to name just a few.  Today, let’s talk about one of the most popular types — butternut squash. 

Winter squash is one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  It’s an excellent source of vitamin A, a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B-1, B-3, and B-6, copper, and pantothenic acid.  It’s also an excellent source of beta-carotene.  Our bodies convert beta-carotene to Vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin, vision, and bone development and maintenance. They are also one of the few vegetables that do not lose nutritional quality after picking. 

When mulling over in the store how much you’ll need for dinner, a good rule of thumb is that 1 pound of whole, raw winter squash generates about 1 cup of cooked squash which is about 1 serving. 

Butternut squash has exceptional flavor and is fairly easy to peel.  The skin is a light tan-color, it has a long, straight neck and a roundish bottom.  It’s incredibly versatile… Wonderful in soups, risotto…roasted, steamed, braised…it can even work on pizza…or dessert! 

Be careful when cutting into it…take a heavy knife or cleaver and carefully whack the knife or cleaver into the squash, then bear down or tap it with a rubber mallet to open the squash – cut next to the stem rather than through it – always be mindful of where your hands are – just go nice & slow…it’s also a good idea to put a dish towel under your cutting board to steady it. 

My recipe for Braised Butternut Squash is a simple recipe that you can handle on a cold winter’s night when you’re tired and just want to get dinner on the table.  It’s quick and the reward is tender, savory squash which can be interpreted as a main dish or a side dish.  For a simple, satisfying meal, I would recommend serving it as a main dish and pairing it with some red, brown or wild rice and some garlicky greens.


1 small – medium size butternut squash

¾ cup vegetable broth

2 – 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper (to taste)

1 tsp dried sage

1 tsp dried marjoram

½ tsp dried thyme

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat.  Peel butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds.  Cut squash crosswise into ¼ inch slices.  At medium heat, sauté squash a couple of minutes on each side.  Season with salt and herbs, stir.  Add broth to pan, cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender when pierced with a fork.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Serves 6 as a side dish

Enjoy it while you still can!  Spring and summer and the hot weather will be here soon enough.  Luxuriate in the cool winter nights when cooking is a pleasure.

Please feel free to comment and share your favorite winter squash recipe with us.


Lisa Henderson, RDN

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