Kabocha squash is a small to medium-sized winter squash with a hard, dark green skin and sweet flavor. It can be used in all kinds of sweet and savory dishes, like soups, stews, casseroles, and curries, as well as muffins, quick breads, pies, and cookies.
What Is Kabocha Squash?
Also known as Japanese pumpkin, kabocha squash grows to around 9 to 12 inches in diameter, and weighs 3 to 4 pounds. It is a variety of Cucurbita maxima, which also includes Hubbard squash, banana squash, and buttercup squash. It is grown and eaten extensively in Japan, where it is enjoyed baked and grilled, in cakes, soups, jams, and pies, and as an ingredient in tempura.
Kabocha squash are notable for their dark green skin, with white speckles or streaks, along with its bright orange flesh and firm, dry texture. The flavor is remarkable, and among the sweetest of all squash and pumpkins. The texture is sometimes compared to that of a sweet potato. The shape is fairly round, and smooth, with few ridges, along with fibrous pulp and flat, cream-colored seeds that can be roasted to eat as a snack or for garnish. The flavor offers hints of chestnuts, and is enhanced by roasting.
Kabocha squash is enjoyed throughout Asia, including in Korea, where it is used for making sweet rice porridge, and in Thailand, where it is a common ingredient in custards and other desserts, as well as curries. In Japanese cuisine, in addition to tempura, kabocha is frequently paired with miso paste, and is a favorite ingredient in shabu-shabu, or hotpot dishes, and for making croquettes.
How to Cook With Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash is incredibly versatile, as its flavor lends itself both to sweet as well as savory uses. Like all winter squash (as opposed to summer squash like zucchini), kabocha squash has a hard shell that softens with cooking, and the skin can be eaten. The contrasting colors of the dark green skin and vibrant orange flesh add an attractive visual dimension to dishes.
The flesh can also be scooped out of the shell after cooking, or it can be sliced into wedges and then baked or roasted. Sautéing, simmering, and steaming are also common cooking techniques, and it can be cooked it in the microwave. Kabocha squash is ideal for making soups, sauces, jams, and chutneys. It works well as an ingredient in casseroles and gratins, curries, and stews, and the smaller ones are great candidates for being stuffed.
With any of these methods, scoop out the pulp and the seeds first. Doing this after cooking, it is too easy to scrape away the tender flesh along with the pulp. So it is best to do this task before cooking.
To roast a kabocha squash, wash it well on the outside and then dry it. Halve it through the stem with a heavy, sharp knife, scoop out the stringy pulp and seeds, and then brush the flesh with olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and roast, cut side down, on a sheet pan, in a 400 F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. When a sharp knife easily pierces the shell, it is done.
What Does It Taste Like?
Kabocha squash has a rich, sweet, nutty, earthy flavor, with hints of chestnuts, and a smooth, dry, starchy texture.
Kabocha Squash Recipes
Where To Buy Kabocha Squash
Kabocha squash can be found, sold whole, at farmers' markets and supermarket produce departments during the autumn and winter months, and into early spring. Look for squash that feels heavy for its size, with a stem intact and free from any dings, dents, or soft spots.
A whole kabocha squash will keep for up to 5 months when stored in a cool place away from sunlight. The ideal temperature for storing a whole kabocha squash is around 50 F, with around 60 percent humidity. Once It is sliced, it will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge.
A 100-gram serving of kabocha squash provides 34 calories, 1 gram of protein, 9 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber along with negligible fat. It is also a source of vitamin A and beta carotene.