When faced with the plethora of winter squash that begin filling up the supermarket produce bins starting in the late summer and early fall, it's easy to reach for the familiar like butternut or maybe acorn instead of trying to make sense of all of this squash diversity. But maybe something stripy and colorful catches your eye. The sign says delicata squash. Delicata? What is it? And how do you cook it?
What Is Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash is a variety of winter squash with an oblong shape, pale yellow skin with green or orange stripes, and orange-colored flesh that resembles butternut squash, acorn squash, or kabocha squash. It's notable for having thin, edible skin, which sets it apart from most winter squash that have hard inedible skins more like rinds.
Delicata squash's thin skin makes preparing and eating it much simpler and easier than many other winter squash. Its colorful, striped skin also gives cooked delicata squash a visually appealing presentation as compared with many monochrome squashes, such as butternut, which is uniformly beige.
How to Use Delicata Squash
Because of its edible skin and uniform shape, one of the most common ways to prepare delicata squash is to cut the squash in half crossways, scoop the seeds and other innards out of the cavity of each half, and then slice into rings before roasting or baking them. Alternately, you could 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.
A still easier way to prepare it is to slice it lengthwise, then scoop the seeds from each half with a metal spoon, and then slice the halves into crescents as opposed to rings.
Its uniform shape also lends itself to being stuffed. This is usually done by slicing the squash into halves and then arranging the halves like little boats on a baking sheet, brushing the flesh with olive oil and seasoning with Kosher salt, filling the boats with ground meat, vegetables, or other fillings, and then roasting.
You can even cook the rings under the broiler. Simply slice them about 1/4 inch thick, brush them with olive oil, season them with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and arrange them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Broil the rings on low until the flesh starts to brown slightly, then flip them over and continue broiling until this side starts to brown. That's it! Serve right away as a side dish, perhaps accompanying a burger in place of onion rings. Thinner slices will yield crispier rings, but 1/4 inch will strike the right balance between crispiness and creaminess.
What Does It Taste Like?
When it comes to winter squash, the standard basis for comparison is butternut squash, which is the one most people are probably most familiar with. Delicata squash is indeed very similar to butternut squash, with a sweet, buttery flavor that pairs well with herbs like rosemary and sage, with spices like cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg, and with butter, olive oil, brown sugar and maple syrup. It has a similar texture, too, becoming tender and almost creamy once cooked.
Delicata Squash Recipes
Simply roast, broil, or sauté delicata squash or use it to make these winter squash recipes:
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 their size without any soft or moldy spots. Whether the stripes are orange or green has no bearing on ripeness.
You can keep whole delicata squash at room temperature, or in a cool, dark cupboard, for about 10 days. Once you cut it open or cook it, keep it in the fridge for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Nutrition and Benefits
A one cup serving (about 116 grams) of delicata squash provides 40 calories, 1 gram of protein and less than a gram of fat, along with 10 grams of carbs and around 2 grams of dietary fiber .