What is butternut squash?

Butternut squash is one of the most popular varieties of winter squash or pumpkin. These hardy squashes have a longer season and keep better than short-season squashes, such as summer courgettes. All squash are native to the Americas, and the butternut variety is thought to have been developed there in the 1940s. It was named 'butternut' due to its smooth-as-butter texture and nutty taste.

Butternuts are recognised by their pale skins and unique shape, which is usually tube-like at the top and more bulbous at the bottom. Its seeds are only in the lower portion.

Read our guide on how to prepare butternut squash and watch the video below for easy step-by-step instructions:

How to cook butternut squash

Butternuts add colour and sweetness to almost any plate.

The squash is usually peeled, but if you're roasting or grilling it, this isn’t necessary. The flesh is dense and can be hard to cut, so this should be done carefully to ensure the knife doesn't slip. Start by cutting through the bottom end of the neck to divide the butternut into two, then lay the bottom half, cut-side down, on a board and cut downwards.

Butternuts can be roasted, grilled, microwaved or steamed, and will hold their shape well. Roasting or grilling concentrates the flavour, and a small amount of oil or butter will help caramelise the outside.

Roast pieces of squash with tomato, garlic and herbs, then finish with chunks of parmesan; make a Mexican-style dish by sprinkling with chilli seasoning, oregano and feta, or roast with butter, maple syrup, nuts and spices. Add lightly oiled chunks of squash to any selection of roasted vegetables and serve with poultry or meat.

Cooked butternut makes a great mash – mix with butter, sweet spices, garlic and herbs or almost any proportion of potato you like.

One of the best uses of the squash is butternut squash soup. Cook in a small amount of stock (or microwave) to concentrate the flavour, then purée, including as much of the cooking liquid as needed. Add melted butter, milk or cream, then top with toasted nuts, maple syrup and cinnamon; crumbled bacon and onion rings; fresh mint and grated orange or lemon zest; lime zest with soured cream and chilli seasoning, or sumac or za'atar.

See our butternut squash recipe collection for more delicious ideas.

How to store butternut squash

Butternuts will keep for a long time anywhere that is cool and dark. They can be refrigerated, and should be once cut. Beware of a slimy surface or acidic smell – this would suggest the cut pieces have been stored too long.

When is butternut squash in season?

Butternut squash are harvested in late summer and autumn, but because they keep so well, they can be found all year round.

Choose the best butternut squash

Butternuts should always feel heavy for their size. The skin should not be wrinkled and there should be no soft or mouldy patches. A thicker upper portion will allow you to cut more even-sized slices, but this isn't necessary.