Honeynut squash is a relatively new variety of squash that was specially bred for better flavor. It looks like a darker, miniature version of butternut squash and has deep orange flesh. Its flavor is sweeter and richer than butternut, and even though it's a winter squash, the skin is thin enough that it doesn't need to be peeled and can be eaten. It is most often roasted, but can also be stuffed or made into soup.
What Is Honeynut Squash?
Introduced in 2017, honeynut squash was created by a Cornell University plant breeding and genetics professor and a chef and restaurant owner. Although most vegetables are bred for high yield rather than taste, these two men sought out to make a squash with rich flavor. Honeynut is a cross between the butternut squash, which is the familiar dark beige winter squash that looks like a stretched-out bell, and buttercup squash, which is a small, round, green squash that kind of resembles an acorn squash. Unlike other squash, honeynut changes from a dark green color to a golden orange when it is ripe.
Honeynut Squash vs. Butternut Squash
Both of these squash can be cooked in the same way, but are different from each other. The most apparent dissimilarity between these two varieties of squash is size. Honeynut squash will grow to about 6 inches long as opposed to 8 to 12 inches for butternut squash. Their exterior color is also a distinctive marker, as honeynut is caramel in color while butternut squash has tan-colored skin. When it comes to taste, honeynut has a richer, sweeter flavor. And although honeynut is smaller in size it is actually higher in nutrients than the butternut.
Another difference is that the honeynut squash has a thin, edible skin, which means you don't have to peel it or scoop out the flesh. Other than the seeds, pulp, and stem, you can eat the whole thing. It also takes about half as long as a butternut squash takes to roast, so honeynut is a good choice when short on time.
How to Cook With Honeynut Squash
The best way to prepare honeynut squash is to roast it as the high heat cooking brings out its natural sweetness. Simply slice it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and season it with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast at 400 F for about 20 minutes. Because of its small size, it can be considered a single-serving, allotting one squash per person.
Honeynut squash can also be pureed, made into soup, and used in the same way as other winter squash. Since the skin is edible, you can slice it into rings and roast or bake it, similar to the way delicata squash is often prepared. The cooked and pureed squash can be baked into muffins, quick breads, and biscuits, and cubed and cooked honeynut can be included in breakfast hash, curry dishes, tacos, and pastas.
What Does It Taste Like?
Honeynut squash has a deep, rich, sweet, nutty, malty flavor, meaning it can be prepared without adding sweeteners like brown sugar or maple syrup, which are often included when cooking butternut squash. The flavor is much more intense due to its lower water content and thus more concentrated flavor. (Butternut squash has a high water content, which contributes to its larger size.)
Honeynut Squash Recipes
Honeynut can be cooked in a variety of ways, with roasting being the most common. Feel free to replace honeynut squash for butternut in a variety of recipes; just remember to shorten the cooking time.
Where to Buy Honeynut Squash
In its early days, honeynut squash was mainly available in the Northeast. But as its popularity has grown, it has made its way across the country as increasing numbers of squash growers have adopted it. Now it can be found in most parts of the country, including at retailers like Whole Foods, Costco, and Trader Joe's. It's harvested in late September and early October and is generally available through December.
Look for squash that is a deep orange, with no green patches, and use while still firm. When it takes on a wrinkly exterior, it's starting to go bad.
Because of its thin skin, honeynut will not last as long as thicker-skinned squash. It should be stored in a cool, dark spot where it will last for 2 to 3 months. Once cooked, the cubes or puree can be left in the refrigerator for a week, or frozen for 3 months.