How to Prep a Butternut Squash

Winter squash can be a bit intimidating to the uninitiated. They suddenly appear in the supermarket when the first hint of autumn is in the air, a heaped pile of colors and shapes. A lot of people buy them for decoration. But the wise cooks buy them and cook them up into wonderful pies and stews all winter long.

Recipes with butternut squash are abundant this time of year, and if you’ve never had one they’re delicious – and are used in many nutritious low calorie foods. If you’ve never cooked one, here is a primer on how to get the squash ready for cooking. This same methodology could be applied to any winter squash. By the way, I didn’t get a picture of the squash before I peeled it, but it’s skin is light brown/khaki color. The pictured squash was medium size and ended up yielding 4 cups of diced squash.

1. First, use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of the squash. The round part at the bottom can be tough. I found that it helped to hold the peeler in my right hand, and then use my left hand to apply pressure to the outer tip of the peeler, while somehow balancing the squash with my left hand as well. With a little patience, your squash will soon look like this.
Peel the butternut squash

2. Perhaps I should preface this by saying that this may not be the “official” way to prep a butternut squash. It worked for me, though, so I’m going to share how I did it, no matter how unorthodox it may be.

So, next take your knife and stab the squash right in the middle. Feel free to picture whomever you like at this point. Now keeping the tip of the blade deep in the squash, push the handle down towards the cutting board (you are using a non-slippery cutting board, right?) so that it cuts the squash in half (see below). Repeat the stabbing and slicing on the other end of the squash so that you have two perfectly symmetrical squash halves (Just kidding! Mine were not symmetrical at all).
Cut the butternut squash in half

3.For the next step you’ll need a good sized spoon. Use the spoon to scrape the seeds and pulp from the interior cavity of the squash. This step is not for wimps; it’s going to take some arm strength to get that stuff out. When you’re done, your squash should look like the one on the left in the picture below.
Scoop the seeds from the butternut squash

4.Turn the squash cut side down, and cut it into strips like this.
Cut the butternut into strips

5. And then cut each of the strips into cubes, if needed for your recipe. I was making a stew, so I cut mine up into bite-size pieces.
Cube the butternut


  1. ~Michelle says:

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing some other squash tips – I love squash:

    Susan Voison of Fat Free Vegan taught me to use a grapefruit spoon to remove squash innards – the serrated edge works perfectly. She also gives tipson preparing squash in the pressure cooker or steaming it – with the skin on and then removing it later when it peels off.

    Cindy from taught me that many kinds (if not all) squash skin can be cleaned and then eaten after cooked, adding fiber and nutrition and minimizing work. I tried acorn squash peel/skin tonight inside a soup and didn’t notice a difference. Yay for sneaky nutrition.

    of Something in Season uses a serrated knife to cut off pumpkin skin like you would a pineapple.

    Best of luck!

  2. THANKS SO MUCH for sharing this Mary Frances! I AM one of those people intimidated by squash!! I will be trying this one week this fall, thanks to you! Really great instructive post!!

  3. Michelle, thanks for the additional tips. I completely agree about the grapefruit spoon; if I had one I’d use it. And you’ve reminded me that peeling first, would definitely not work for all winter squash. I always peel my large pumpkins and squash after I’ve cooked them. I’m going to go back and edit the post to include that point. I’ll have to try leaving the skin on the butternut next time. Like you I am all for sneaky nutrition =)

  4. OK, so we’ll make your squash YUM and my dressing YUM. Now all we need is a turkey and some cranberry sauce (and Carrie can bring the Shoo Fly Pie).

    I would love to list your blog on my list! Let me know if it’s OK!


  5. Ginger,
    That makes me hungry just thinking about it =)