Nothing signifies the start of the cooler season like seeing beautiful winter squash displays at grocery stores and farm stands. Their comforting presence is as fall as pumpkin spice lattes and fresh notebooks.  

The name "winter squash" doesn't refer to the respective harvest season, but the fruit's (yes, squash is a fruit) hardiness and ability to be stored through the winter. While summer squash are picked when they are immature and their seeds are tender, winter squash are allowed to mature longer and their skins and seeds are typically removed before eating.

Winter squash boast an impressive array of nutrients, most notably carotenoids, which are an important group of antioxidants. They also have high vitamin C content and phytonutrients, all good things for aiding in cell turnover and protection against harsh metabolic byproducts. 

One of the most appealing aspects of winter squash is their versatility. They can be roasted, sautéed, microwaved, stuffed, turned into dessert, made into soups and sauces, and eaten with a sweet or savory flavor profile. Their deliciousness truly knows no bounds. The following are the most common types of winter squash found in grocery stores and some ways to enjoy them. 


gourd, pumpkin, squash, vegetable, pasture
Becky Hughes

When you think butternut squash, you think soup. It just works. It also makes a great puree that can be used as the base for a ravioli filling. Accompanied by a browned butter sage sauce, it is the epitome of sweet and savory perfection. Butternut squash is also incredible when roasted and stuffed, like these quinoa and kale squash bowls.


pumpkin, acorn squash, squash, vegetable, pasture
Margaret Weinberg

Acorn squash's round shape makes it perfectly suited to hold tasty fillings. Simply cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast the squash by itself while you prepare whatever mixture your heart desires. Then allow the two to cook together. The filling can be anything from sausage and egg to mushrooms and rice for a vegetarian version. 


Kelly Newton

Kabocha squash is similar in shape to a pumpkin, but it's much sweeter. It's commonly used in Asian cuisine where it can be fried in delectably light and flaky tempura batter, or pureed into soups and stews or squash curries.  


Kelly Newton

Delicata is perfect for the squash novice. It's on the smaller side of the spectrum, and its beautifully striped skin is slightly thinner, or more delicate, if you will. Because of this, the skin can stay attached and be eaten once cooked. Delicata is most commonly eaten as a simple roasted side dish, or stuffed with a filling in a similar manner to acorn or butternut.  


pumpkin, pasture, vegetable, gourd, squash
Jodi Graf

Pumpkin is probably the most famous of the winter squash, conjuring up images of jack-o-lanterns and pie alike. The canned variety is usually used in desserts (pumpkin breads, muffins, cakes, oh my!), but it can be much more satisfying to roast it whole and scoop out the insides to make it yourself. Then you get the added benefit of a delicious, salty snack by roasting the seeds. Win-win. If you're too proud to order the season's most popular drink in public, you can make a PSL in the privacy of your own home. 

Thinking about all the different possibilities for cooking these delicious gourds can be slightly overwhelming. Not to fear! These guys are pretty resilient and hard to mess up. If you aren't feeling particularly adventurous and want a fail-safe way to prepare them, you can never go wrong with simply roasting with salt, pepper, and olive oil until they are tender and sweet. Since these types of winter squash all have a similar texture and flavor, the different varieties are pretty interchangeable. So if you don't feel like wrestling a giant butternut to make soup, delicata will do just fine. All the tips in this article are more like guidelines anyway.