All the Reasons (and Recipes) to Cook Delicata Squash

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You’re not alone in your sentiments if the sight of gourds, squash, and pumpkins evokes a seasonal, perhaps nostalgic, feel. These green, gold, and orange hard-skinned beauties make appealing centerpieces and fall decor. Squashes also bring a certain coziness and grounding energy to the nourishment we need during the cold weather.

But cutting, peeling, and actually cooking hard-exterior varieties like butternut and acorn squash can sometimes seem a bit daunting. Here’s the good news: If you’re craving that perfect home-cooked fall dish but want to cut out most of the cutting and peeling, I have just the squash for you: delicata!

You’ll recognize delicata as a medium-size oblong squash with yellow and green pinstriped skin. This lovely fruit (yep, squashes are fruits) gets its name for its delicate, edible (!) skin and sweet, buttery-smooth insides. As promised, no peeling is required! (Plus, there’s minimal mess and hassle.)

Delicata season is August through December, and the warm, sweet, earthy qualities of delicata are a perfect match for the cool weather. To pick a ripe squash, make sure the fruit is firm and feels heavy and the skin is mostly yellow. Underripe squashes are light green, while overripe ones are soft, wrinkly, and oddly lightweight when you hold them.

Delicata is related to yellow summer squash and zucchini and is rich in potassium, fiber, magnesium, and vitamins A and C.

While it’s lower in carbs than other winter squashes, such as butternut and acorn, it’s not completely keto-friendly. So if you want to include it in your meal plan, it’ll depend on the portion size.

You don’t really need my help in preparing delicata squash — instincts can guide you in the right direction (salt, pepper, and olive oil). After simple roasting, it can be eaten as a stand-alone food, stuffed, or mixed into a salad.

But I’ve been doing a little experimenting with delicata this season, and some of my faves will really wow your taste buds. Here’s delicata roasted three ways!

1. Maple syrup squash boats

I got this idea from a cooking show where they filled an acorn squash with butter and maple syrup and then roasted it. I tried it with delicata, and my experiment proved delicious.

My recipe is simple, pleasantly sweet, and delicious without garnish. But if you want to make it a more well-rounded meal, consider topping your boats with walnuts, raisins, and/or Greek yogurt with a side of arugula, kale, or dandelion greens.

Serves 3 to 4

Ingredients

  • 3–4 delicata squashes
  • Butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • Organic maple syrup
  • Rock salt or sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dried rosemary, sage, or thyme (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  2. Halve delicatas and scoop out seeds and insides.
  3. Add a little water to a rimmed sheet pan (maple syrup tends to leak out onto the pan, and the sugars can burn — the water will prevent burning).
  4. Place delicata halves in the pan, cut side up.
  5. Add pat of butter or heaping spoonful of ghee to the hollow of each half. Drizzle delicata halves with 1–2 teaspoons maple syrup, depending on their size. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Sprinkle with rosemary, sage, or thyme, if using.
  7. Roast for 45 minutes or until tender and golden brown.

2. On the spicy side

Another great way to roast delicata is to slice it into half-moons. This creates nice three-bite pieces and tends to cut back on the roasting time by a few minutes.

When it’s done, eat it plain (yup, skin and all!) or toss it with some greens, some olive oil, and a tangy cheese, like feta, for a cool-weather salad. Pomegranate seeds, another seasonal favorite, also make a nice addition.

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

  • 2–4 delicata squashes
  • Olive oil, avocado oil, or ghee
  • Rock salt or sea salt
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Fresh or dried rosemary

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  2. Halve delicatas and scoop out seeds and insides.
  3. Slice each half into half-moons, about 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Spread out delicata on a sheet pan.
  5. Drizzle with oil or melted ghee.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and cayenne to taste (you can sub paprika if hot spices don’t agree with you).
  7. Add either a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can put them straight in the pan, stems and all) or several pinches of stemmed rosemary needles.
  8. Roast for 35–45 minutes or until edges are golden brown and insides are tender. (Testing for tenderness with a fork should do the trick. The fork will go in easily when the delicatas are done.)

You could turn up the heat to make them a little more crunchy, as described in this article from Rachel Cooks.

3. Italian flair

This third recipe features a simple Tuscan flavor profile and the zesty taste of roasted lemon. This dish is hearty enough to be a main, but you can eat it alongside a protein and some greens to round out the meal.

Serves 3 to 4

Ingredients

  • 3–4 delicata squashes
  • 2 whole fresh lemons
  • 4–5 whole cloves garlic
  • Olive oil or avocado oil
  • Rock salt or sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh or dried rosemary

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  2. Halve delicatas and scoop out seeds and insides.
  3. Slice each half into half-moons, about 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Halve each lemon, then slice into thin wedges.
  5. Smash each garlic clove with large knife and remove the skin.
  6. Put delicata, lemon wedges, and garlic in a large baking pan.
  7. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and rosemary to taste.
  8. Roast for 35–45 minutes or until edges are golden brown and insides are tender.

Delicata is wonderful as a stand-alone small meal or snack, but you can also dress it up and make it an entrée.

Check out this Delicata Squash Pasta Salad from Trader Joe’s (which, by the way, is a good place to score some delicata if you can’t make it to the farmers’ market). If you’re looking for a vegetarian recipe for a holiday feast, try this Nutloaf-Stuffed Delicata Squash from Green Gulch Farm. Your guests will surely be impressed!

With no peeling required and so many fun, easy, mouthwatering ways to prepare delicata, this pinstriped squash may become your new seasonal favorite!

Greta Kent-Stoll is a writer and Ayurvedic practitioner. Find more of her work at ashevilleayureveda.net.

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