Red kuri squash is a small or medium sized winter squash with a hard, orange skin that can be used in all kinds of sweet and savory recipes, like soups, casseroles, and curries, as well as muffins, quick breads and tarts. Its sweet, nutty flavor is what gives it its name, as the word "kuri" is the Japanese word for chestnut.
What Is Red Kuri Squash?
Also known as Hokkaido pumpkin, or onion squash, red kuri squash usually grows to around 7 inches in diameter, and weighs from 4 to 7 pounds. It is a variety of Cucurbita maxima, which also includes Hubbard squash, banana squash and kabocha squash. It is grown and eaten extensively in Japan, where it is enjoyed baked and grilled, as well as in cakes, soups, jams, and pies.
Red kuri is notable for its bright, red-orange skin. Its shape is fairly round, and its flesh is a golden yellow color, with fibrous pulp and numerous seeds that can be roasted and eaten as a snack. Its flesh has a sweet, nutty flavor, and its sweetness is enhanced by roasting.
As a winter squash (technically a fruit), red kuri squash spend about 90 days on the vine before maturing, as compared with summer squash, which are harvested in as few as 40 to 70 days. This additional maturation time is necessary to give red kuri squash their hard shell, although this softens with cooking.
How to Cook With Red Kuri Squash
One of the most common questions that is asked about red kuri squash is whether you can eat the skin. Like all winter squash (as opposed to summer squash like zucchini), red kuri has a hard shell. Many winter squash need to be peeled before eating, or the flesh can be scooped out of the shell after cooking. Examples of this include butternut squash and kabocha squash. With red kuri squash, you can go either way. The skin does soften with cooking, and you can eat it. The skin isn't as soft as a delicata squash, so it might be somewhat tough. But it is definitely edible. So the choice of whether or not to peel it is a matter of preference.
Apart from that, red kuri squash cooks up more or less like any winter squash, and can be used in all of the same ways. Roasting, baking, sauteeing, simmering, and steaming are common cooking techniques, and you can even cook it in the microwave. And like other winter squash, you can use red kuri for making soups, sauces, jams, and chutneys, in casseroles and gratins, curries, stews, and it also lends itself to being stuffed.
Whatever method you choose, you'd first halve the squash, scoop out the pulp and the seeds, and then prep the squash according to your recipe. For roasting, slicing it into thin wedges will help it to cook faster. You can also cut it into cubes to simmer or steam, or to use in soups and stews. To stuff it, you can halve it, scoop out the seeds and then fill each half with your filling of rice, grains, or ground meat, and then bake.
What Does It Taste Like?
Red kuri squash has a mild, sweet, nutty flavor, similar to chestnuts, and a smooth, creamy texture.
Red Kuri Squash Recipes
You can substitute red kuri squash for practically any recipe that calls for winter squash, including butternut, acorn and kabocha.
Where To Buy Red Kuri Squash
Red kuri squash can be found at farmers' markets and supermarket produce departments during the autumn and winter months. Look for squash that feels heavy for its size, and is firm, with no soft spots or dents.
A whole red kuri squash will keep for up to 9 months when stored in a cool place away from sunlight. The ideal temperature for storing a whole red kuri squash is around 50 F. Once it is sliced, it will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Once the flesh is removed from the rind, it can be frozen, and it will keep for up to six months in the freezer.
A 100-gram serving of red kuri squash is about 90 percent water, and 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.