How to cut up butternut squash (without losing a finger!)
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:
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
This time, I diced it all up to make my 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 (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 (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 (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]
Butternut maple butter from An Edible Mosaic [vegan]
Stovetop butternut squash mac and cheese from Kitchen Treaty
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?