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Substitutes for Butternut Squash – What can I use instead?

Butternut squash is a fall favorite, and it can be prepared in a practically endless variety of ways. It is delicious when roasted, simmered into a soup, served with pasta or rice dishes, and can even be a great addition to baked goods.

Butternut squash is believed to have originated in South America, specifically near the northern Argentinian Andes, and it spread to other parts of the world after Spanish conquistadors invaded the area and brought it back to Europe with them.

This winter squash, which has a thick skin and orange flesh, is an essential ingredient around autumn. However, some people are turned off by how difficult it is to peel and cut, or perhaps you are simply unable to get your hands on any.

If you are looking for butternut squash substitutes, you have nothing to worry about. There are a number of other options that have very similar flavors and textures, and you can use them to replace butternut squash in just about any recipe.

Butternut squash – taste, texture, and uses

Butternut squash has a slightly sweet and even nutty taste, and when cooked is moist and smooth. It is most often roasted, but it can also be grilled, simmered, or prepared in a variety of other ways. Most commonly, only its soft, orange flesh is consumed, but its seeds are also edible and can even be used to make butternut squash seed oil.

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Butternut squash is also a very healthy food, though relatively high in carbohydrates as compared to other varieties of squash, with almost 12 grams of carbs per 100 gram serving. However, in 100 grams of butternut squash, there are only 45 calories and practically no fat.

Butternut squash is also rich in vitamin A and also contains vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese. Another plus side of butternut squash is its impressively long shelf life, as it lasts up to 3 months when stored correctly and some varieties as long as 6 months.

Butternut squash can be used in a variety of dishes, both to complement savory ingredients or highlight its natural sweetness. Perhaps the best way to bring out its flavors is by roasting it, after which it can be incorporated into countless recipes.

Butternut squash is used in savory dishes. Butternut squash is a delicious addition to many recipes, especially when paired with other cold-weather ingredients like Brussels sprouts and cranberries or onions and sage. It can be cooked into a stew or simmered and blended into a creamy soup, and goes great with white meat dishes like roast chicken or turkey. Butternut squash can even be used to add a twist to pasta, lasagna, or risotto, or served as a sweet side dish by preparing with apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Butternut squash is used in desserts. Thanks to its naturally sweet flavor, butternut squash can also be used in a number of baking recipes. It can be roasted and then pureed and baked into a pie, cake, or cupcakes, and can even serve as a surprise autumn ingredient in creme brulee or pudding.

The best substitutes for butternut squash

You may have a few reasons for looking for a substitute for butternut squash. Perhaps you would like to avoid the laborious peeling process or simply can’t get your hands on a butternut squash. Whatever the case, the following butternut squash substitutes won’t let you down!

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So, without any further ado, here are the top 4 best substitutes for butternut squash!

1. Buttercup squash

Buttercup squash is perhaps the most similar tasting butternut squash substitute due to the fact that it also has a sweet and nutty flavor. However, it is much smaller than butternut squash and has a round appearance with a thick, dark green rind.

Buttercup squash is also a great source of vitamins A and C and has fewer calories (34 per 100 grams) and carbohydrates (9 grams per 100 grams) than butternut squash. Its flesh has a similar texture and color to that of butternut squash, and it can be prepared in very similar ways, most commonly by roasting. However, buttercup squash can also be steamed, simmered, stewed, or baked.

Buttercup squash can replace butternut squash in practically any recipe thanks to the fact that they have such similar tastes and textures. You likely won’t have to alter any cooking times, and the two squashes can be swapped in 1:1 ratios.

Consider incorporating buttercup squash into soups or stews, or you can simply season and roast it to be served as a side dish. It can also take the place of butternut squash in a pasta or risotto recipe, and pureed buttercup squash can even replace butternut squash in baked goods, though other options are better suited for the latter situation.

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2. Pumpkin

Another fall favorite, many people just think of pumpkin as a key element in pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread. However, it can also serve as a great substitute for butternut squash. Pumpkin is lower in calories than butternut squash, at just 26 calories per 100 grams, and with only 7 grams of carbohydrates is an even better option than butternut squash for those limiting their carb intake.

The specific variety of pumpkin that you will want to use when substituting for butternut squash is sugar pumpkin, which has a sweet, though distinctly pumpkin, flavor. It can be cooked much like butternut squash and is typically roasted, but it can even be prepared in a large slow cooker or crock pot.

Given pumpkin’s characteristic flavor, it combines especially well with other sweet ingredients, and is perhaps most appropriate to replace butternut squash in dessert recipes, such as pies or other baked goods. However, it is also an excellent addition to soups and stews. Blend it into a creamy puree or cube and cook it with ground turkey and beans for a hearty, comforting chili.

3. Acorn squash

Acorn squash is another excellent option when it comes to substituting butternut squash thanks to its similar, yet slightly less sweet, flavor. Acorn squash also has less calories than butternut squash (only 40 per 100 gram serving) and fewer carbohydrates (10 grams per 100 gram serving). Like butternut squash, acorn squash is also a source of magnesium and vitamins A, B6, and C.

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In contrast to butternut squash, acorn squash tends to have a stringier and more fibrous texture, so it is not the best option when substituting in a soup or puree. However, if you want to make soup and acorn squash is the only substitute that you have available, add in a potato or sweet potato to create a thicker and creamier consistency.

However, acorn squash can serve as a great replacement for butternut squash in a variety of recipes, and is especially delicious when roasted and stuffed. Additionally, acorn squash seeds, like butternut squash seeds, are also edible.

4. Sweet potato

Though we are no longer talking about a member of the squash family, the sweet flavor of sweet potato can certainly serve as a great replacement for butternut squash, especially when baking. Perhaps you are turned off by how difficult peeling and cutting squash is, or are looking for something smaller and easier to handle, in which case sweet potatoes are the perfect butternut squash replacement for you.

Sweet potatoes are, however, higher in calories and carbohydrates than butternut squash, with 86 calories and 20 grams of carbohydrates per 100 gram serving. However, sweet potatoes are loaded with Vitamin A, serving up more than double the daily recommended value in just 100 grams.

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When roasted, sweet potatoes have a smooth, sweet, and creamy texture, so they are a perfect butternut squash replacement in pies, cupcakes, quickbreads, and other desserts. They are also an excellent addition to soups, chilis, and stews, though it should be noted that they have a lower water content than butternut squash, something that could potentially impact on the outcome of your dish depending on the recipe.

How to substitute butternut squash with other options?

Which substitute you use in place of butternut squash depends on the type of recipe you are preparing, as each option is best suited for a specific situation. However, all butternut squash replacements can be substituted in a 1:1 ratio, helping to keep things simple.

When it comes to butternut squash replacements for soup, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are excellent options. If you’re looking to make a stew or curry, buttercup and acorn squash work great, though pumpkin and sweet potatoes are also suitable options.

Acorn squash, as it is slightly less sweet than butternut squash, is best used in savory recipes, and is especially delicious when roasted and stuffed. Buttercup squash, on the other hand, tends to dry out when baked, which is why it is best used in stews or other recipes that have some quantity of liquid.

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When it comes to desserts, pumpkin or sweet potato are your best options, as both have a natural moisture and sweetness that lends especially well to baking. Just keep in mind that both pumpkin and sweet potato have quite distinct flavors, so while your final product might not taste exactly like butternut squash, it is still sure to be delicious.


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