Acorn Squash Cooking Tips

Toast acorn squash seeds like pumpkin seeds

Acorn Squash at Farmers Market
David Winters/Getty Images

The acorn squash is a great choice among the winter squash varieties available. It can be used in both savory and sweet recipes and it has a sweet nutty flavor that you'll really enjoy. Before you dive into that prized acorn squash from the market or your garden, you'll want to get a few tips for preparing and cooking it.

Essential Tips

Before we get into the cooking details, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind when it comes to acorn squash.

  • The ribbed shape of the acorn squash makes peeling it virtually impossible, so don't try it. It is, however, wonderful for stuffing with a wide variety of fillings and is most often served and cooked in its shell. 
  • Selecting acorn squash is not easy because you can't see inside the shell. Look for squash that has a dull skin with some orange color (but not too much) and no soft spots. It should also feel heavier than it looks.
  • The deeper the yellowish-orange color of the flesh, the sweeter the squash will be.
  • If you end up with a stringy squash, you can beat the pulp with an electric mixer on high speed for ten seconds, then switch to low speed for sixty seconds. The strings should wrap around the beaters for easy removal.
  • Squash blossoms are also edible if you are lucky enough to have a garden. Just don't eat all of them or you won't have squash.
  • Save the acorn squash seeds to toast for snacking just as you would pumpkin seeds.
  • Ginger and cinnamon really bring out the flavor of acorn squash.

    Preparation Tips

    Preparing an acorn squash is easy, though the tough shell does make it a little tricky. Follow these tips and make the job a little easier.

    • A sturdy knife to slice the squash in half is a necessity. To make the squash easier to cut, pierce the skin in a few spots, place it in a microwave oven and heat on high for 2 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before carving.
    • When halving, cut through the stem end to the point rather than across the diameter.
    • To prevent the halves from rocking on a baking tray, cut a small slice off the bottom to create a flat surface for it to rest on.
    • You'll need to remove the fibers and seeds from the center of the squash before steaming, broiling, or baking.

    Cooking Tips

    With the acorn squash cut in half, it's time to cook it. There are a few approaches you can take and one that you should avoid.

    • If you need only the pulp for your recipe, you will need to cook it first, then scoop the pulp from the skin.
    • The squash is done when the flesh is very tender. When baking it (the most common method used), this usually takes about one hour at 400 F for a squash that is cut in half. The timing depends on the size of the squash, but it's rather difficult to overbake it.
    • Acorn squash can also be cooked whole. To do so, be sure to pierce the skin in several places. Place it on a baking sheet in a 350 F oven for about 1 1/2 hours. Squeeze the squash to test for doneness. When it yields to gentle pressure, it's ready. You can then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and serve it or allow it to cool and use the cooked innards.
    • Avoid boiling acorn squash because it damages both the flavor and the texture.
    • To quickly microwave acorn squash, cut a whole squash in half, cover and cook it for 13 minutes on high. Do not add water.