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How to cut up butternut squash (without losing a finger!)

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

Butternut squash is my arch nemesis of the cooking world. I absolutely love eating it, I even love cooking with it, but chopping it up… not so much. I quite like having ten fingers, and don’t fancy losing one any time soon (…well, ever, really), but often when I chop a squash I definitely feel like it’s a possibility. Luckily, I’ve learned one or two little tricks that can make chopping a butternut squash much easier.

So here’s how to cut up butternut squash without losing a finger!

For this little how-to, I chose the biggest squash I could find (the things I do for you). This thing was enormous. Here’s my attempt at a photo to show you just how big this thing was:

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

(apparently it’s absolutely impossible to get a photo holding a butternut squash without it looking completely dodgy… sorry mum)

The first trick to making a butternut squash easier to chop is to pop it in the microwave for a few minutes. It softens the flesh just enough that it’s so much easier to cut into. For this enormous squash, which weighed about 1.85kg (!!), I microwaved it for about 5 minutes. Obviously a smaller squash won’t need to be heated for as long – just a minute or so is sometimes enough to soften it. Remember you’re not aiming to actually cook it here, just soften it a little.

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

Next, you need to make three strategic cuts through the width of the butternut squash – two cuts to remove the two ends, and one to split the squash in half, just above the rounded end. With some strangely straight squashes, it can be hard to tell where the rounded end (which is full of seeds) finishes, but it doesn’t matter too much – just make your best guess.

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

Use a nice big, sharp knife for this. I tend to use this un-serrated knife because it’s my biggest and best one, but you can experiment with your knives to discover which you find easiest to use. I find that a good method is to gently rock the squash back and forth to help the knife ease into the cut – but if you’re still finding it too tough, just pop it back into the microwave for another minute. Don’t force it too much or you’ll risk hurting yourself.

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

See? Three perfectly smooth cuts! Honestly, it was a revelation when I discovered the microwave trick. No fear of losing fingers! Hurrah!

You can now discard the two end pieces, and turn your focus to the narrower of your two chunks (not the bulbous end piece!). Standing it on its end, carefully remove the skin – hold the squash steady with one hand, and use the other hand to gently saw downwards. If your piece of squash is especially long and thin, and you don’t feel that it’s sturdy enough to stand on its end, chop it into two shorter pieces so that it’s more stable.

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

To peel the more bulbous half of the butternut squash, you can sometimes use the same method – just saw around the edges to remove the skin. However, this method was going to be a bit fiddly with my mega squash – it was too rounded, so it was going to be tricky to peel all the way to the bottom. See?

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

It can definitely be done, but instead, I used my back-up method. It takes a little longer and you probably end up wasting a little more of the squash, but I feel safer doing it, so I think it’s worth it!

Cut the piece of squash in half, right down the middle. Remove the seeds and membrane with a spoon (you can either discard the whole lot, or fish out the seeds for roasting if you’re so inclined. This time I got rid of it all).

Cut each half into wedges, then trim the skin off the edge of each wedge.

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

From here, you can chop up your squash however you need to – dice it, grate it, leave it in big wedges… it’s up to you!

How to cut up a butternut squash (without losing a finger!) - plus 23 of my favourite vegetarian butternut squash recipes

This time, I diced it all up to make my butternut squash and red lentil stew.

Butternut squash and red lentil stew

However, if that isn’t your thing, here are a few other butternut squash recipes that you might like:

Paneer stuffed butternut squash with spiced yogurt

Paneer stuffed butternut squash with spiced yogurt (pictured above)
Roast butternut squash and gorgonzola salad from Cook Sister
Quick spelt butternut squash cake from Fab Food 4 All
Simple caramelised butternut squash and kale florentine lasagne from Half Baked Harvest

Smoky coconut and butternut squash soup

Smoky coconut and butternut squash soup (pictured above) [vegan]
Butternut squash black bean chimichangas from Connoisseurus Veg [vegan]
Roasted butternut squash panini from Oh My Veggies
Penne with butternut squash, mushrooms and goat’s cheese from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Butternut squash pancakes from The Roasted Root

Butternut squash and black bean skillet

Butternut squash and black bean skillet (pictured above)
Roasted butternut squash salad with goat’s cheese
Sweet potato and butternut squash soup from Hungry Healthy Happy [vegan]
Spiced butternut, chickpea, red onion and raisin couscous from Greedy Gourmet [vegan]
Stovetop butternut squash mac and cheese from Kitchen Treaty

Caramelised butternut squash quinoa burritos

Caramlised butternut squash and quinoa burritos (pictured above) [vegan]
Butternut squash, black garlic and blue cheese bake from Kavey Eats
Butternut squash and cranberry smoothie from Fuss Free Flavours
Butternut squash and taleggio tart from Maison Cupcake
Butternut squash and yam curry from The Roasted Root [vegan]

I hope I’ve put your mind at ease about how to cut up a butternut squash, and inspired you to get more creative with your squashes! Which recipe will you try first?

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Jimi Cullen

Wednesday 6th of May 2015

Hi Becca, not sure if you still see the comments on these old posts! I was wondering how well squash like this lasts in the fridge or freezer overnight? It takes me quite a long time to cut up a squash and I was hoping to make squash soup for tomorrow. I'm trying to decide whether to chop it up tonight and use the pieces to make the soup in the morning, or just make the whole soup tonight and warm it up at lunchtime tomorrow. Thanks for any advice!

Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche

Wednesday 6th of May 2015

Hi Jimi! Yep, I see all comments :) I've not tried freezing squash but it lasts ok in the fridge! I often only use half a squash at a time, so I just wrap the rest in cling film and it's fine in the fridge for at least a couple of days. I don't usually chop it up into pieces beforehand though, I guess it might dry out a little but I don't suppose it will matter for soup :)

Annabel

Friday 2nd of January 2015

A Y-shaped peeler is all you need, I find - it was a revelation when I discovered how much better that is for squash (and carrots, and parsnips) than the conventional peeler, which really only does potatoes.

If you are roasting it in large chunks, for stuffing, you can leave the skin on, and either serve it that way or peel it off before serving. It is, actually, edible although I tend to leave it.

Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

Wednesday 31st of December 2014

I always make such a mess of cutting up butternut squash.

Thanks for linking to me recipe :)

Happy New Year Becca!

Alissa

Monday 29th of December 2014

I always stick my squash in the oven for a few minutes to soften it up - I don't know why I never thought to just use the microwave! I love this roundup - butternut is a favorite! Thanks for including my chimichangas!

Timaree

Monday 29th of December 2014

I peel the squash with a potato peeler and then slice into about 2-3 cm slices which I then cube. Done. Easy peasy. I always look for the ones with the least amount of round bulb end too.

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