How to Roast Butternut Squash in the Oven, Air Fryer, and More

Roasting butternut squash brings out the sweet nuttiness of this beloved food.

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Butternut squash is easy to love. This winter squash is immensely versatile and takes to a wide range of seasonings and cooking methods deliciously, especially roasting. Its orange, subtly sweet flesh is mild, tender, and nourishing. Go beyond butternut squash soup and discover how to roast butternut squash in a number of easy ways for satisfying sides and even main courses (butternut squash can make a stunning vegetarian main!).

First things first, know how to prep butternut squash like a pro. Peel the skin using a vegetable peeler—a Y-shaped peeler is one of our favorite kitchen tools. This can be done before or after cutting the squash into two more manageable pieces. On a sturdy work surface and using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the neck from the rounded bottom for easy prep if you’re planning on cooking the squash in chunks, diced, or sliced. Then work with the two parts separately, making sure to scoop out the seeds with a spoon. If you’re roasting two halves for a centerpiece beauty, cut the squash in half lengthwise. From there, you can also hasselback butternut squash by placing each squash half cut-side down and making shallow, even cuts on top of the squash. Of course, you can also roast butternut squash whole, leaving the skin on, and then scooping out the flesh after cooking.

Uses for roasted butternut squash are endless. It’s an excellent addition to a mixture of roasted vegetables or in winter salads, and can also be blended into a silky pasta sauce. Dress up roasted squash with crushed pistachios or pepitas and spoon some tahini on top, or a showering of lemon zest and shaved Parmesan for a zesty, umami-packed side. You could also try a simple drizzle of maple syrup and sprinkle the squash with crushed red pepper for a touch of spice.

How to Roast Butternut Squash in the Oven

This is one of the best ways to cook butternut squash. Roasting allows for subtle browning and caramelization to occur, which means even more flavor by enhancing the natural sweetness of the squash. Take your pick among roasting the squash whole, halved, sliced, or in chunks. Cooking time will vary widely depending on weight and how the squash is cut, and can take anywhere from about one hour for a whole squash, skin and all, to about 30 minutes for butternut squash that’s been cut into bite-size pieces. Pro tip: If roasting squash halves, place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel, seed, and cut one medium butternut squash into 1-to 2-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, until browned in spots and tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. 

How to Roast Butternut Squash in the Air Fryer

The allure of the air fryer is still going strong and for good reason. In a fraction of the time it takes to roast vegetables in the oven, an air fryer can produce the same crispy-on-the-outside and tender-on-the-inside outcome. And roasting butternut squash in an air fryer is no exception and is extremely simple. In addition to seasoning with salt and pepper, try paprika and garlic powder, ground cumin and coriander, or a spice blend like chili powder or ras el hanout. 

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees. 
  2. Peel, seed, and cut one small butternut squash into 1-inch pieces.
  3. Toss squash with a drizzle of oil and season with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and any other spices, if desired, in a large bowl.
  4. Lightly coat the air fryer basket with cooking spray and add the squash, in batches if necessary. Cook for 10 minutes. Open the fryer and shake the basket, or gently toss the squash. Continue cooking, until browned and crispy in spots, about 10 minutes more.

How to Roast Butternut Squash in an Instant Pot

You can get roasted butternut squash-like results using an Instant Pot. Technically, it’s not roasting since roasting as a cooking method requires dry heat, but this method of cooking butternut squash yields caramelized edges and a tender center to each bite of the subtly sweet squash, much like the result of roasting in a hot oven. 

  1. Peel, seed, and cut one small butternut squash into 1-inch pieces.
  2. Turn Instant Pot to the “Sauté” setting. Heat a drizzle of olive oil. Add squash and cook, in batches if necessary, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add ¼ cup water and place the lid on the Instant Pot. Lock lid and turn steam-release handle to sealing position. Select the manual setting with “high-pressure”. Set to 5 minutes (it will take a few extra minutes to come up to pressure). 
  3. Carefully quick release the pressure. Remove the lid when the pressure has fully released.

How to Roast Butternut Squash From Frozen

A frozen bag of already-cut butternut squash can be a weeknight hero. The good news is that you can roast butternut squash straight from frozen and serve it as a side dish, or toss it into a wide range of other dishes. A hot oven is key to avoiding any mushy results due to the extra moisture of frozen squash (and other frozen veg). Throw in a few sprigs of herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, or season with your favorite spice blend, if desired. 

  1. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil and place it on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, leaving the baking sheet in the oven.
  2. Toss cubed squash with a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  3. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven. Add squash to the hot baking sheet in an even layer. Roast on lowest rack, stirring halfway through and using a spatula if necessary, until browned in spots and tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
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