What Is Delicata Squash?

Buying, Cooking, and Recipes

Delicata squash

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Different types of winter squash have been showing up at supermarkets over the past few years, in addition to the familiar butternut and acorn. Delicata is one of these varieties, with an oblong shape, pale yellow skin with green or orange stripes, and orange-colored flesh that resembles butternut squash. The roughly three-by-six-inch squash is notable for having thin, edible skin, which sets it apart from most winter squash that have hard exteriors that are more like rinds. The most common way to prepare delicata is to roast it, but it can also be stuffed or cubed and added to dishes.

What Is Delicata Squash? 

Also known as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash, delicata squash is part of the Cucurbita pepo family. This group of squash includes varieties of summer squash, such as zucchini and yellow summer squash, as well as acorn and spaghetti squash, which are recognized as winter squash. Delicata is categorized as winter squash since it is has a hard flesh and is harvested late in the season. What makes it similar to types of summer squash, though, is its thin skin, meaning preparing and eating delicata is much easier than many other winter squash. Its colorful, striped skin also gives cooked delicata a visually appealing presentation as compared with many monochrome squashes, such as butternut, which is uniformly beige. 

Delicata squash was introduced in the late 1800s but fell out of favor during the Great Depression because of its susceptibility to disease, as well as low yield and short shelf life. At the end of the 20th century, a disease-resistant squash made its way into the market, and delicata has regained popularity since.

How to Cook With Delicata Squash

Because of its edible skin and uniform shape, the delicata squash requires little preparation. One of the most common ways to cook delicata squash is to cut the squash in half crossways, scoop out the seeds from each cavity, and then slice into rings. The squash is placed on a baking sheet, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with salt, and roasted or baked. Alternately, you can simply slice the squash into rings and then clean the seeds and pulp from each ring individually. Either way, the rings make for a unique presentation.

An even easier way to prepare delicata is to slice it lengthwise, scoop the seeds from each half with a metal spoon, and then slice the halves into crescents as opposed to rings. No matter how the squash is cut, the delicata will become caramelized, the hot oven bringing out its natural sweetness. Thinner slices will yield crispier rings, but a width of about 1/4 inch will strike the right balance between crispiness and creaminess.

Its uniform shape and medium size also lend itself to being stuffed. The squash is sliced into halves creating "little boats" which are filled with ground meat, vegetables, and/or nuts, and then roasted. The squash can also be cut into cubes and incorporated into casseroles and stews.

What Does It Taste Like?

When it comes to winter squash, the standard basis for comparison is butternut squash, as it is the one most people are familiar with. Delicata squash is indeed very similar to this variety, with a sweet, buttery flavor, but can also be compared to sweet potato, with its rich taste and moist texture.

Delicata Squash Recipes

If the delicata is sliced thinly, it can be cooked under the broiler for a quick dinner side dish. The squash can also be sauteed or grilled and pairs well with herbs like rosemary and sage, spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, and brown sugar and maple syrup.

Where to Buy Delicata Squash

Delicata squash is available starting in late summer, through the fall, and into early winter. You can find it at most grocery stores, specialty food stores, and farmers' markets. Look for squash that feels heavy for its size without any soft or moldy spots. Whether the stripes are orange or green has no bearing on ripeness.

Storage

You can keep whole delicata squash at room temperature, or in a cool, dark spot like the pantry, for about 10 days. Once it is cut open or cooked, the squash will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.