Have you ever eaten Kabocha squash? I used to be afraid of it since I wasn’t sure what is was BUT now, I think it might be my favorite squash of all…move over butternut!
It’s considered a Japanese pumpkin and has a hard, deep green skin. This winter squash is known for it’s exceptional flavor and texture and has a succulent, naturally sweet flesh.. Kabocha is even sweeter than butternut squash when it’s ripe (see notes below on how to pick a ripe one). The flavor and texture of the Japanese pumpkin has been said to be a cross between a sweet potato and a pumpkin.
Kabocha squashes are available all year round, but my research indicated the best flavored ones are harvested in the late summer and early fall. Kabocha can vary in size, with the average weighing two to four pounds. You can easily recognize a kabocha by its dark green color with some celadon colored stripes and a dull surface. It’s shape is like a squatty pumpkin and has a very short grey stem, and is more dense than a pumpkin because of its smaller cavity. The firm and stringless flesh inside is an intense yellow-orange color.
How to store: Kabocha squashes can be kept at room temperature for up to a month without refrigeration. After cooking, however, the leftovers must be refrigerated.
Nutrition: Eat up! Kabocha has an abundance of beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, is kabocha’s prime nutrient, along with vitamin C, iron and potassium. This starchy squash also contains folic acid, calcium, and trace B vitamins.
How to select a ripe Kabocha: Select a squash that looks heavy for it’s size, has splashes of golden or grayish hues on the exterior. The lighter gray the exterior, the sweeter it will be. You can still cook kabocha if it’s a deep emerald color (many people do!) but it’s at it’s peak with splotches of golden and/or gray.
TO BAKE/ROAST: Simply wash the squash and place, whole on a baking dish. Bake at 375 for 50 to 60 minutes unless exterior gives to the touch. To shorten the baking time, cut the squash in half with a very firm knife. Scoop out the seeds, brush cut areas with a little olive oil (or grapeseed or and place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking dish. The squash bakes in about 40 to 50 minutes at 375 F (350 for glass dish) until soft but not browned. The flesh can then be scooped out with a large spoon. You can mash well to form a puree, it makes a great substitute for pumpkin puree!
A cooked ripe kabocha is so delicious that it needs little or none of the usual fats and sweeteners traditionally added to bland squashes. It tastes lovely sprinkled with salt and pepper.
*If you wrap the squash in aluminum foil, shiny side inside, the skin, which is completely edible and highly nutritious, will remain soft enough to enjoy along with the delicious flesh.
TO STEAM: Use a very firm chef’s knife to cut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and lay cut side down on cutting board. You can leave the skin on the squash or if you choose to remove the skin, use both hands with the knife in a horizontal position, peel off the skin by holding the blade away from the body and using a pushing motion to cut. Cut squash into cubes and place in a steamer with sufficient water. Turn heat to high and steam for 7 to 10 minutes.
TO BRAISE: Cut into cubes as above and add to stews or soups the last 10 minutes of cooking.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy kabocha squash is mashed, sprinkled with salt, a bit cinnamon and a tablespoon or two of nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, and pecan butter are my favorites with this squash but cashew butter, sunflower seed butter and tahini would work too). This may sounds strange but it is SOOO delicious — thick about sweet potato casserole: potatoes, pecans and streusel – this is basically the same thing!
Mashed kabocha works great as a side dish, breakfast or a nutritious snack! You could even drizzle with maple syrup or honey for a dessert-like squash…If mixing nut butter with squash raises red flags (don’t knock it til you try it though), this squash could also be mashed with a small pat of butter or ghee (optional but delicious), salt and pepper and served as a nutritious replacement or addition to mashed potatoes at your next holiday or family meal!
Mashed Kabocha Squash with Nut Butter
1 cup cooked, roasted kabocha squash flesh, warmed (see instructions above how to bake)
sea salt to taste
ground cinnamon to taste
1-2 Tbsp of creamy or crunchy nut butter (peanut butter is my #1 choice)
drizzle of maple syrup or honey
1. Mash the kabocha flesh into a thick paste using a fork or a masher. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and salt to taste. Drizzle with warm or room temperature nut butter and enjoy! Delicious served hot or at room temperature.
Serves one but could be easily be doubled, tripled etc.
You can substitute cooked kabocha for other winter squashes in recipes too with yummy results:
- Try using kabocha squash in my Crustless Pumpkin Pudding Pie in a Jar
- Use cubed and roasted kabocha in my Caramelized Onion, Butternut and Goat Cheese Pizza
- Make Kabocha Fries like my Butternut Squash Fries (skin is edible if difficult to peel)
- Substitute Kabocha puree for pumpkin in my Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
- and of course, you can make Kabocha soup…recipe to come 🙂