It can be easy to confuse this jumbo gourd with a classic pumpkin – especially since not only do they look a fair bit alike, but they’re often used in similar ways – but this winter squash is indeed a different item (and there’s been a fair amount of debate on whether it’s a fruit or a vegetable), and one that can be used across a plethora of healthy and delicious dishes. Like its very similar cousin pumpkin, however, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals (including vitamin A, C, and zinc, to name a few), as well as fibre, and all of the other benefits that beta-carotene-loaded veggies do (the hint to recognizing these nutritional gems is in their naturally orange hue). Thanks to its nutrient content, butternut squash is said to be great for eye health, bone health, immune function, skin health, high blood pressure, inflammation, and weight loss.
How do you use it?
One of the best things about butternut squash is its versatility: Blend it into soups (it goes great with everything from parsnips to broccoli), mash it as a slightly sweeter substitute to mashed potatoes that goes wonderfully with everything from roast chicken and steaks to lamb chops, incorporate it into pasta dishes like penne dishes or even lasagne (hint: it’s great in chunks or pureed), roast it and eat it on its own or toss it into salads (it pairs wonderfully with goat’s cheese, spinach, and pine nuts), blend it into a unique take on risotto, or serve it with noodles and stir-fries. You can also bake it into desserts, from pies and tarts to galettes, stuffed crepes, and more, or have it fall in the sweet-and-savoury spectrum by combining with cheeses and serving atop toast, tossed into a medley of taco-stuffing ideas, or spiralize it and use it as a noodle option.
So what exactly is the difference between a pumpkin and a butternut squash? Sure, they both grow the same way – on a vine – but unlike butternut squashes (or any other type of squash), pumpkins’ seeds can actually be eaten too. Pumpkins are still also typically sold with their stiff and spikey stem which differs from that of a butternut squash. The latter is also sometimes called a butternut pumpkin or even a “gramma” in some places.