This is winter’s multitalented squash. Its bright orange meat is prominently sweet and barely nutty, which means it works well mashed, roasted, blended into a soup or even cubed and baked into a cobbler with a streusel topping. Slim on top and curvy on the bottom, butternut is best handled by cutting the neck from the body and working with each piece separately.
This dark green winter squash has a mildly sweet, nutty flavor and is one of the most versatile in the bunch. Bake it or saute it. Stuff it or toss it on a pizza. It’s hard to go wrong. But if you want a no-fail preparation: Cut it in half, sprinkle it with brown sugar and butter, and roast until tender.
3. Blue Hubbard
Ditch pumpkin in your next pie for this savory-sweet squash with a lumpy, gray-blue exterior and bright orange interior. Typically huge (one reason it usually comes precut at the grocery store), blue hubbards are wonderfully rich with pumpkin-like flavor. Use it like you would a butternut squash.
Take a fork to the yellow flesh, and there’s no question how this oblong squash got its name: It peels apart like strands of spaghetti when you cook it. Nutritionists and the carb-adverse praise this squash as a healthier pasta option. While it doesn’t taste like your grandma’s hand-rolled pasta, it is mild and more savory than other winter squash and will soak up any sauce or pesto it’s tossed with.
This green squash with grayish-green striations has a tell that’ll give it away every time: Look for a circular ridge on the bottom. Although the fragrant, orange flesh is tender and custardy, it can tend to be dry. So it’s best used for purees, curries and pies. Plus, store it in a cool, dry place and it will stay fresh for up to three months.
The most summer of the winter squash, the cylindrical delicata has a thin, edible pale yellow skin with green stripes. It’s custardy like a sweet potato (hence its alias as sweet potato squash) but with earthier flavor. Delicatas are ideal for roasting or stuffing.
Turban squash is so named for its irregular shape — a squat, round base that looks like it’s wearing a large hat. Most often, turban squash, found in an array of fall colors, are used as decorations. But it has so much more potential than just another pretty gourd. Mild and nutty, it’s every bit as versatile as butternut and acorn squash.
Round with deep ridges, carnival squash is the speckled offspring of acorn and sweet dumpling squash. Just like its parents, it’s great for stuffing or cubed and thrown into a stew. But if you really want this carnival to sing, roast it.
This Asian squash is also referred to as a Japanese pumpkin (kabocha means squash in Japanese). It’s green and round like a buttercup but with a base that points out like the tip of a turret. The vibrant yellow-orange flesh is surprisingly sweet with subtle nuttiness (its red cousin is noticeably sweeter). Kabocha is an easy substitute for butternut squash in almost any recipe.
10. Red Kuri
Like all members of the hubbard family, red kuris have an asymmetrical look, like a bumpy dark orange top about to fall over. Unlike the blue hubbard, this squash is smaller, which makes it easier to work with. It’s nutty, buttery, smooth yellow interior goes well in mashes and purees.
11. Sweet Dumpling
Every bit as adorable as its name suggests, sweet dumplings are petite, round, whitish-yellow squash with pronounced ridges. Inside, it’s starchy and sweet with a taste akin to sweet potato but oddly reminiscent of corn fresh off the cob. Its compact size works wonders as single-serving dishes if you want to wow at your next dinner party.
12. Sugar Pumpkin
This one is the smaller version of its carvable cousin. What this bright orange squash lacks in size it makes up for in classic pumpkin flavor. It has fleshy walls and mellow taste that make it good for traditional prep like roasting. But it also shines in risotto or baked into bread.
Three creative ways to work squash into every meal.
Appetizer: Roasted Kabocha & Apple Soup
Pura Vida and Blue Canyon Kitchen & Tavern chef and owner Brandt Evans roasts this Japanese squash with apples, sage and garlic for a hearty, earthy soup. “The kabocha has a little more nutty flavor [than butternut] with a touch of sweetness,” says Evans.
Entree: Simple Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a Jill Vedaa favorite. “It’s super simple and holds whatever sauce you want to put on it, just like a good pasta would,” says the chef and owner of Salt in Lakewood. And it doesn’t need much more than a toss of olive oil, butter, fresh garlic and red pepper flakes.
Dessert: Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Fire Food & Drink chef and owner Douglas Katz uses a sugar pumpkin as a vessel, hollowing it out and stuffing it with brioche, cream, maple syrup, brown sugar and spices. “Then just slice it, and it’s a cool dessert with whipped cream, local maple syrup and toasted pecans,” Katz says.