Someone recently sent me an email asking if I had any easy butternut squash recipes, which got me to thinking that I should talk just a bit about how incredibly healthy butternut squash actually is.
Did you know butternut squash is bursting with anti-aging and anti-inflammatory nutrients? This super vegetable is rich in a broad spectrum of carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, etc.) as well as vitamin C, fiber, omega-3’s, potassium, magnesium, B vitamins and more! And, nutrition aside, the sweet, rustic flavor of butternut squash pairs well with many foods. It is especially charming with roast chicken, but it also pairs perfectly with black beans, baked or pan-seared tofu, and even eggs (yes, we do eggs for dinner at our house pretty regularly.) I actually make butternut squash (spaghetti squash too) as a dinner side dish pretty frequently. Many nights I either roast it or make butternut squash fries (see below.) But before you can start preparing butternut squash you need to safely cut into it…
How to Cut Butternut Squash
For years I would pass right by the butternut squash in the supermarket simply because I was just too intimidated by its appearance and thick hard skin to buy it. But, the thing is, if you get a really good, super sharp 6-inch chef’s knife you can easily—and safely—cut into it. Although most recipes for preparing butternut squash suggest you cut it lengthwise, I think it is much easier and much safer to place the butternut squash on a towel…so it doesn’t slip…cut it horizontally first and then cut it lengthwise (see notes below.)
Preparing Butternut Squash in a FLASH!
My two easiest of easy butternut squash recipes include roasted butternut squash and butternut squash fries below.
How to Roast Butternut Squash
Roasted butternut squash has to be one of the easiest dishes on earth. All you have to do is place the butternut squash on a towel (so it doesn’t slip), cut it in half horizontally first and then cut each half in half vertically. Scoop out the seeds and fibers with a spoon.
Place the four squash pieces on a large baking sheet, flesh side up. Rub a little extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil on top of the butternut squash, season with unrefined sea salt and pepper and a little bit of brown sugar.
Roast at 400 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until flesh is fork tender.
How to Make Butternut Squash Fries
Fries of any sort are practically a universal hit and, in my opinion anyway, butternut squash fries are a tad tastier than potato fries.
To make butternut squash fries all you have to do is peel the butternut squash with a potato peeler (don’t worry, the peel comes off super easy) then place the butternut squash on a towel (again, so it doesn’t slip) and cut it in half horizontally. Cut each half in half vertically.
Slice the butternut squash into thin pieces (resembling French fries). Toss the butternut squash pieces in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil and season with salt and pepper (I sometimes season them with either cumin or curry powder depending on what I’ll be serving them with.)
Spread the butternut squash pieces out on a large oiled baking sheet (or use 2 large well-oiled cast-iron skillets) and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.
Cooking Butternut Squash as Part of an Entrée
I also love incorporating butternut squash as part of a main entrée pilaf. The millet pilaf recipe below is vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free—and easy too! If you are not familiar with millet you can read more about it and how to cook it HERE. You can also substitute whole wheat couscous for the millet if you like (but then of course the dish won’t be gluten-free.)
Although I serve this as a main entrée (often on “meat-free” Monday’s) and round out the meal with a salad and sometimes a soup, you can also just as easily add some grilled chicken or grilled fish too if you want something a little heartier. But actually, this is a rather robust dish all alone…
Millet Pilaf with Roasted Butternut Squash, Black Beans & Pumpkin Seed Crumbs
- 1 whole butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil, divided
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 3 cups cooked millet (or whole wheat couscous)
- 2 cans (15 ounces) organic black beans, rinsed and drained (look for a BPA-free brand such as Eden Organics)
- Juice from 1 whole lime
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash cubes on an oiled baking sheet or well-oiled cast iron skillet. Toss with 2 teaspoons oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove butternut squash from oven and set aside.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add the onion and sauté 3-4 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the millet, season with salt and pepper to taste (FYI: layering your salt gives more flavor and in the end you actually use less total salt to achieve the level of saltiness as you would if adding the salt all at once.) Fold in the black beans and roasted butternut squash cubes; gently toss. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.
- Place pumpkin seeds in a mini food processor or high speed blender; process into crumbs. Sprinkle the pumpkin seed crumbs on top of the millet pilaf. Serve warm.
P.S. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for 3 days.