Far from the aisles of Halloween candies, past the long queues for haunted houses, and miles away from the kitschy costume stores, many different varieties of winter squash are happily growing into bulbous beauties.
While we can’t hide our excitement for candy corn, caramel-coated apples, and chocolate bars this fall season, we’re also looking forward to the various types of hard-skinned squash we can enjoy in all their natural splendor.
And the recipes we can make with them!
Starting with the basics, a simple preparation of homemade pureed squash can be seamlessly incorporated into many dishes.
Pureed pumpkin often wears the crown in the realm of fall favorites, but we’re giving another variety the fame and glory it deserves to illustrate this basic how-to method today: homemade pureed butternut squash!
With a similar texture to pumpkin, butternut squash can be pureed just as easily into a smooth and thick mixture with a bright orange color. And our method of roasting and blending works for any winter variety, from kabocha and hubbard to acorn, delicata, sweet dumpling, and more.
Because the flavor is not as pronounced as that of pumpkin, butternut offers a subtly sweet lightness to recipes. You can use it in so many applications all fall and winter long: in soups, sauces, desserts, and so on.
Some types have less body, a slightly stringier texture, a less sweet and more vegetal taste, or a higher water content. And they come in different shapes and sizes as well. But for whatever type of roasted winter squash puree you need to add to your meals, this is sure to become your go-to method.
Read our step-by-step guide now so you can learn how to roast and blend this fruit’s (yes, it’s a fruit!) vibrant, perfectly caramelized flesh into a velvety smooth puree.
What You’ll Learn
- How to Make Winter Squash Puree
- Amplify Caramelization
- Serving Ideas
- Puree Possibilities
How to Make Winter Squash Puree
With about 10 minutes of prep and an hour of cooking time, you’ll have a smooth and flavorful homemade puree!
To produce about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of puree that’s ready to use in recipes, you will need about 2 pounds of squash. Depending on the size and variety you choose to use, you may need to use just one or roast multiple squash at a time.
In the following step-by-step tutorial, we will be using butternut squash as our main example illustrated in the photos. By applying the same techniques and methods, along with a few timing adjustments, you can easily substitute your favorite winter variety.
Ready to get started? Let’s begin!
Step 1 – Gather and Prep
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Position the rack in the center of the oven. A moderate oven temperature will ensure that your chosen variety of winter squash will cook gradually and evenly.
Set out a cutting board, a freshly sharpened large chef’s knife, a small paring knife, a food processor or high-speed blender, a bowl to set aside the seeds, and a spoon – preferably one that is sturdy or that has sharp edges for scraping.
Rinse and dry the squash.
For this simple preparation, we’re skipping any seasonings so the flavor remains completely neutral and versatile to incorporate into recipes.
Step 2 – Cut
Using your chef’s knife, slice the squash in half lengthwise.
You may need to carefully rock your knife back and forth and use a little force to slice all the way through – especially if it has a thick, woody stem still attached to the base.
Step 3 – Remove the Seeds
Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and inner membrane or strings from each half, but hold onto those seeds!
Step 4 – Rub with Oil
Using your fingers or a basting brush, rub the exposed flesh of each half with the oil.
Place the halves cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. This placement creates steam and will evenly cook the thick flesh.
Step 5 – Roast and Cool
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the paring knife can easily pierce and glide through the flesh. Depending on the size and variety, this may take anywhere between 40 minutes and 1 hour.
Check for doneness at 40 minutes, and continue cooking in 10-minute increments if it still feels too hard and is difficult to pierce.
To make the smoothest puree, its should be cooked thoroughly – err on the side of softer, rather than firmer, flesh!
Remove the pan from the oven and let the halves cool on the baking sheet until you can handle them. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Step 6 – Remove the Flesh
Getting as close to the skin as you can without breaking it to avoid collecting any tough pieces, scoop out the flesh using the spoon.
Dispose of the skin.
Step 7 – Puree
Puree the flesh until the texture is smooth, velvety, and uniform. This will take 1 to 3 minutes.
If the mixture appears to be too thick to blend properly, slowly pour in 1 tablespoon of water at a time, continuing to blend after each addition until you achieve the desired consistency.
Step 8 – Use and Store
Use the puree immediately, or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months, until you are ready to use it.
You can also freeze it in individual portions as part of your meal prep. With this smart method, you can thaw just what you need for making a single recipe at a time.
Roasting squash halves whole is a very easy technique with minimal prep work involved, but there is an alternative method available to create a puree that will increase those roasted, caramelized flavors.
It requires a few additional prep steps, but you’ll love the delectably rich results:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Chop the flesh into large cubes and toss them with a tablespoon of oil in a large mixing bowl.
Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast, tossing once halfway through, until tender and browned around the edges. This will take about 30 to 45 minutes.
Chopping the flesh increases the amount of exposed surface area, and the cubes will develop more caramelization that will add extra depth of flavor to the puree, while roasting a bit more quickly as well.
Making the puree is only half the fun – now it’s time to serve and enjoy it!
Need a little inspiration? We’re glad you asked…
Simple Side Dish
Keep the flavors pure and simple with a sprinkle of freshly cracked salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, or mix in a tablespoon of browned butter and a drizzle of maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter profile.
A dash of ground spices such as cinnamon or cayenne pepper, or a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary, will provide additional flavor.
For heartier applications, a casserole is the way to go!
Use the homemade puree in the sauce to make casseroles like a gooey cheddar mac and cheese topped with pancetta and crispy breadcrumbs, or use it to sub in for the spuds in a classic sweet potato casserole topped with pecans.
Pizzas and Flatbreads
Tired of tomatoes?
For an autumnal spin on your favorite handhelds, swap out the tomato sauce on your pizzas and flatbreads with a luscious spread of creamy puree instead.
Take a look at our squash apple pizza with toasted pecans, blue cheese, and arugula for inspiration!
Soups and Stews
As the ultimate warm-you-up-from-the-inside-out recipe category, soups and stews also serve as a fantastic place to feature this puree.
Desserts and Baked Goods
Pureed squash also has a sweet side! This can be an essential ingredient in homemade pies, custards, and biscuits.
You can also use a 1:1 ratio of your choice of puree in place of pumpkin puree in any sweet or savory recipe that calls for it if you want to play with the flavor profile, or use what’s available locally at the farmers market.
Interested in growing your own winter squash at home? Visit our sister site, Gardener’s Path, for all the details!.
And to think that this is only the beginning!
Beyond our suggestions, there are so many fun and delicious ideas out there to inspire you to incorporate this beautifully vibrant puree into breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes.
And any winter variety can easily be roasted and pureed! When you find one that you really love, make sure you stock up so you can puree, store, and enjoy it all year long.
How will you use this tasty homemade puree in your baking and cooking? What variety will you try first? If you have any other tasty ideas, send them our way in the comment section below!
When your food processor needs a little break, there are plenty of other ways to use winter squash in the kitchen. Read and take your pick from this selection of butternut squash recipe favorites, or try these sweet and savory options that feature squash now:
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Chelsea Miller on October 25, 2014. Last updated on September 24, 2022. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu and Nikki Cervone.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”