15 Types of Squash A-Z + Nutrition Benefits
If you ask me, squash is totally underrated as a vegetable. There are so many different types of squash, a million ways of using it in plant-based recipes and it’s incredibly good for you too. So I wanted to put together this list of 15 different types of squash, plus tell you everything you need to know about how to cook different types of squash as well as the squash nutrition basics.
As a dietitian, one of the most important tools in plant-based nutrition is embracing variety. From the American Gut Project, we know that eating a high variety of plants helps improve the diversity and resilience of our gut microbiome. As a recipe developer and cookbook author, variety also means enjoying different flavours and textures that help make healthy eating even more fun + delicious!
Seriously, eating well should make you feel happy as well as healthy…and getting stuck in food ruts isn’t very fun.
This post will give you everything you need to know about 15 of the most popular types of squash, in addition to the nutritional benefits of eating squash as well as plenty of ways to cook squash. This is a long one…you’ll definitely need the table of contents below to help you jump to the spot you want!
- Nutrition Benefits of Squash (General)
- Selecting + Storing Summer Squash
- How to Cook Summer Squash (General)
- Types of Summer Squash
- How to Cook Zucchini
- Zucchini Nutrition
- Selecting + Storing Winter Squash
- How to Cook Winter Squash (General)
- Types of Winter Squash
- Acorn Squash Nutrition
- How to Cook Acorn Squash
- Butternut Squash Nutrition
- How to Cook Butternut Squash
- How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
- Spaghetti Squash Nutrition
Nutrition Benefits of Squash
While each squash is a bit different, I wanted to start with a basic overview of the nutritional benefits of squashes. Summer squashes are often pale-fleshed and thin-skinned and I highly recommend you consume the skins (after a good wash!) because a lot of the colourful pigments – your clue to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals – and nutrition are found in the skin. Summer squash isn’t super high in fibre, and consuming the skin will help with that. However, it will offer some soluble fibre, which is good for the gut.
Green + yellow pigments in summer squashes like zucchini and patty pan boast plenty of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein + zeazanthin. They also contain small amounts of minerals like calcium, magnesium and even zinc plus B vitamins, vitamins C + K.
Winter squash tend to have a bit more fibre, putting some varieties on par with other high fiber foods. They may be a little higher in minerals, plus tons of vitamin A carotenoids like beta-carotene! Otherwise, they are similarly nutritious to summer squash and also contain B vitamins such as folate as well as vitamins C + K.
Want more than just an overview? You can jump to specifics on Zucchini nutrition, Butternut squash nutrition, Acorn Squash nutrition + Kabocha squash nutrition listed below.
Everything you need to know about Summer Squash
There are so types of summer squash, way more than just zucchini! Here’s a look at how to select + store summer squash as well as yummy ideas on how to cook them.
Selecting and Storing Summer Squash
You want to select squash with firm flesh and no signs of shriveling or bruising. Summer squash should be stored in the refrigerator and enjoyed within a week. You can also freeze cut zucchini for smoothie additions, or grate and squeeze out excess water from zucchini before freezing for additions to soups, stews and baked goods because otherwise it can get kind of weepy and weird when cooked.
How to Cook Summer Squash
You can eat summer squash raw or cooked, cubed, noodled or blended…the opportunities are as endless as your imagination!
- Add finely sliced or shaved raw squash to a salad
- Make zucchini noodles (zoodles!) with a spiral cutter or mandolin
- Even more flavour? Salt cut/sliced raw squash liberally with coarse salt and let sit in a colander over a bowl for 15 minutes. Rinse off excess salt and gently pat dry with a towel.
- Marinate and grill on the BBQ
- Dice and add to pasta sauces, soups and stews
- Grate into baked goods like zucchini muffins
- Cook and blend into a pasta sauce, like the low FODMAP cacio e pepe in Good For Your Gut
Types of Summer Squash
- Chayote: Mexican in origin, but enjoyed in cuisines from North African to India (where it is called chow chow), chayote resembles a pear, with its lighter green skin and shape. Its skin is a bit ridged and bumpy and the flesh is very firm, but yields when cooked and tastes summer squash-like.
- Pattypan Squash: these cute, squat little round squashes with almost scalloped edges come in colours ranging from white to green to yellow. Beautiful roasted, grilled or browned in a saute pan. You could even enjoy them quartered, raw with dip.
- Vegetable Marrow: Often large, with striped or mottled, paler green skin, this is a variety of zucchini bred to grow through full maturity. They are great for slicing and roasting, or stuffing!
- Yellow Squash: these look a bit like zucchini, just yellow. They can be straight necked or crook necked and have a mild, zucchini-like flavour.
- Zucchini: one of the most common squash varieties, zucchini are long, come in small and large varieties and have a mild flavour that makes them super versatile.
How to cook zucchini
Zucchini can be enjoyed in a variety of ways:
- Grated zucchini (always squeeze to remove excess moisture) can be added to smoothies, cookies, muffins and other quick breads
- Zucchini can be sautéed with any spices or herbs you like, and eaten as a side dish or blended up to create a creamy pasta sauce.
- Zucchini does well on the BBQ, either marinated or just tossed with oil, salt + pepper
- Try it grated in a fritter!
- Spiralized zucchini can be enjoyed as a lighter alternative to pasta on hot days, or mix 50:50 with whole grain spaghetti just to boost your intake of plants. Zoodles seem bland? Toss with a tablespoon of coarse salt and let drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Rinse quickly in cool water and pat dry. They will be perfectly seasoned and flavourful beyond belief!
- Zucchini can also be cut into spears, breaded and roasted or air-fried into zucchini fries and served with dip.
- Of course, zucchini can be diced or chopped and added to sauces, tray roasts, soups, stews and curries.
- One cup of raw chopped zucchini contains 1.3 grams of fibre
- Small amounts of calcium, magnesium and iron plus 340 mg of heart healthy magnesium
- That bright green skin delivers plenty of lutein and zeazanthin for healthy eyes as well as smaller amounts of beta-carotene.
- It does boast 31 micrograms of folate alongside a bit of vitamin C and 12mg of choline, a mineral particularly important for vegans or those on a plant-based diet.
Everything you need to know about winter squash
I hate to play favourites…but I think I like winter squash better than summer squash! It’s just so cozy and lends itself so well to comforting meals and I can’t get enough of it.
Selecting and Storing Winter Squash
You want to select squash with firm flesh and no signs of shriveling or bruising. Winter squash will keep for a couple of months in a cool + dry root cellar or pantry. Once cut, store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Many squashes, such as spaghetti + acorn squash can be frozen for later additions to soups and stews.
How to Cook Winter Squash
There are a lot of ways to enjoy winter squashes, from using the purees in pies and quick breads to roasting as part of a sheet pan meal and simmering in stews and curries. Some winter squash don’t even need to be peeled! I’ve got more details on that in the individual varieties of squash. All you need to do is scoop out the seeds (but don’t toss them – if you have time, you can roast the seeds!).
- Boil or steam and puree for sauces, dips and soups
- Marinate and grill on the BBQ
- Toss with oil and spices and roast in the oven
- Saute with fresh herbs and spices
- Dice and add to pasta sauces, soups and stews
- Simmer in curries
- Stuff and roast for a special plant-based meal
Types of Winter Squash
- Acorn Squash: acorn squash is actually shaped like an acorn! Their flesh is green with yellow and the skin is thin enough to eat. I love roasting acorn squash as a delicious side dish or grain bowl addition.
Acorn squash nutrition
Acorn squash is nutrient dense and definitely worth eating more of!
- A cup of baked acorn squash cubes contains just more than 4 grams of fibre
- That same cup also contains about 100 mg each of calcium + magnesium for bone health plus almost a whopping 1000 mg of potassium, critical for electrolyte balance and supporting healthy blood pressure
- Acorn contains less beta-carotene than butternut, but similar amounts of folate + vitamin C.
How to Cook Acorn Squash
- Halve, stuff and roast for a special plant-based main
- Slice and roast with oil + spices
- Simmer in a stew or curry
- Buttercup Squash: a cute squat pumpkin-like shape, these green veined, speckled squash are delicious in soup or curries.
- Butternut Squash: by far one of the most popular squash in North America, butternut squash have a creamy beige skin and a long neck originating from the rounded base. They can be quite large; be sure to look for squash that are heavy for their size.
How to cook butternut squash
- Butternut squash are super versatile. Just be sure to peel it’s thicker skin away first!
- Roast butternut squash cubes and blend into soup
- Steam the cubes and puree into a pasta sauce, even a vegan mac + cheeze! .
- Try diced butternut simmered in stews and soups or roasted as part of a sheet pan meal
- Try it Hasselbacked and roasted for an impressive holiday side dish.
- Purees can be added to cookies + quick breads too
Butternut squash nutrition
Butternut squash is incredibly nutritious!
- A cup of baked butternut cubes contains almost 4 grams of fibre for a healthy gut
- It’s rich in minerals too: 89 mg of calcium, making it a surprisingly calcium-rich food plus 1.3 mg of plant-based iron. It also contains 615 mg of potassium and 63 mg of magnesium for a healthy heart.
- It contains plenty of carotenoids, including almost 10 000 micrograms of beta-carotene, along with beta-cryptoxanthin.
- Finally, it boasts B vitamins like 40 micrograms of folate, alongside a little boost of vitamins C, E + K.
- Delicata Squash: a smaller, cylindrical shaped squash with a pale yellow skin + green stripes. The skin is thin (and cute!) so you don’t have to peel. It’s mild in flavour, but roasting it with a bit of maple syrup or brown sugar helps bring out the sweetness.
- Kabocha Squash: one of my personal favourites, I fell in love with Kabocha squash in Japan. A bright orange flesh with a flattened, round shape and dark green edible skin. It is sweet in flavour and has a very creamy texture.
- Hubbard Squash: these tough skinned squash can be soft green or orange and can grow quite large. They have a bit of curvy teardrop shape at the ends. Perfect in soups and purees with a flavour a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato.
- Honeynut Squash: These are really just baby butternut squash, with a more concentrated, sweeter flavour! Same creamy beige skin, usually a shorter neck.
- Pumpkin: not all pumpkins are made for eating! Sugar pumpkins are the one we make pies from; they have a vegetal yet sweet flavour and make for great desserts (obviously!)
- Red Kuri Squash: related to Hubbards, but smaller and onion-shaped, and a deep red-orange skin and a nutty sweet flavour that makes them wonderful in desserts and soups.
- Spaghetti Squash: These yellow, oblong squashes got their fame due to their stringy flesh that looks like spaghetti when shredded with a fork after roasting!
How to cook spaghetti squash
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Halve the squash, brush with some olive oil, add salt and pepper and roast cut side down until golden and soft, 40-60 minutes depending on size.
Spaghetti squash nutrition
- a cup of cooked spaghetti squash has about 2 grams of fibre, with smaller amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium than acorn or butternut.
- Spaghetti squash also contains small amounts of folate (11 micrograms) and niacin, a B vitamin.