Honeynut squash, the smaller, cuter, and more nutrient-dense cousin of butternut squash is so rich and flavorful on its own, all it needs is a simple roast in the oven to make the perfect side dish for a simple weeknight or a Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner. Shall we?
What is Honeynut Squash | What Does Honeynut Squash Taste Like | Health and Nutrition | Ingredients | Instructions | Ingredients Notes and Resources | Pro-tips | Tools and Equipment | Best Ways to Serve Honeynut Squash | FAQ | RECIPE
What is Honeynut Squash
It may look like just a baby butternut squash, but Honeynut Squash is actually a slightly different variety within the winter squash family. It is a relatively "new" hybrid of the familiar butternut squash and buttercup squash, cultivated over multiple generations to produce what might be considered a "better" squash in terms of flavor and texture.
The backstory is that in 2009, Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill Stone Barns challenged plant breeder and genetics professor Michael Mazourek to breed a better tasting butternut squash, which Barber thought generally watery and bland. That was all the encouragement Mazourek needed to continue with a side project on producing mini squash he had already started. A decade and many generations of hybrids later, we get the literal fruit of that labor.
What Does Honeynut Squash Taste Like
Honeynut squash tastes like a richer, "squashier," somewhat sweeter version of butternut squash, with a dense, more velvety texture than its parent varieties, butternut and buttercup. You know butternut squash is one of my all-time favorites so no hate to the original! The skin on Honeynut squash is much thinner, so it's edible!
Health and Nutrition Considerations of Honeynut Squash
Surprisingly, honeynuts are more nutritionally dense than butternut squash, with about 2-3 times more beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Beta carotene serves as a potent antioxidant.
Like butternut squash, honeynut is low in fat and high in fiber. Though it is technically a higher carb food, Honeynut Squash has a low glycemic index.
This Roasted Honeynut Squash recipe is:
- 100% vegan/vegetarian
- keto, paleo, and Whole30 compliant
The suggested Kale Pumpkin Seed Pesto to serve with the squash is also vegan/vegetarian, dairy-gluten-, and sugar-free, keto, paleo and Whole30.
What Ingredients You Need to Roast Honeynut Squash
Honeynut Squash is so sweet and flavorful on its own, it doesn't require much else to roast. You will need:
- honeynut squash
- olive oil, avocado oil, or other neutral flavored oil
Instructions for How to Roast Honeynut Squash
Because honeynut squash are small and have an edible skin, there are only a few steps to roasted perfection:
- scrub the skins, you do not have to peel them
- cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds; you may have to cut off the stem first as it's pretty tough
- rub the cut sides of the squash with oil
- throw a couple of peeled, smashed garlic cloves where the seeds used to be
- roast, cool, and enjoy!
Pro-tip: you can actually leave the seeds in the squash, then remove them after roasting, which is slightly easier.
Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Honeynut Squash. When first developed, honeynut squash were considered a "specialty" product that were only ever available at local farmers' markets. It's been a few years now and honeynuts have now reached a point in their cultivation that I've seen them in grocery stores. Here in southern California, I have seen them at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Bristol Farms.
- Olive Oil. I used this olive oil that's pretty widely available, though it is not organic.
- Salt. I use this brand of salt for everyday cooking.
- All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
Pro Tips and Techniques for Roasted Honeynut Squash
- On peeling Honeynut Squash: You can definitely peel the honeynut squash before roasting, but I find that to be a waste of time. Not only is the skin edible, but it's also infinitely easier to simply scoop the squash out of the skin with a spoon after roasting, similar to the way you scoop an avocado out of its skin.
- Advance Cooking. You can roast honeynut squash in advance. It will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three days.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, there is nothing in the kitchen you NEED to make a certain dish, as a solid cutting board and a sharp knife will almost always be enough. However, that doesn't mean there aren't a few tools and gadgets that you may WANT to make it infinitely easier, as easy as it already is, of course:
- All-time favorite workhorse chef's knife
- Cutting board that's huge for stability and surface area
- Garlic press
- Vegetable Scrubbing Brush to get every bit of dirt off since we're leaving the skin on! I have one exactly like this
- Vegetable Wash to remove the outer wax and residues on the skins. I have been using this organic brand for YEARS.
- Salad Spinner/Colander you don't technically need to get the squash desert dry, but a salad spinner is great for any herbs that go with them!
- Multiple metal baking sheets
- Parchment paper, unbleached, so you feel less bad about yourself using single-use paper ha
How to Serve Roasted Honeynut Squash
Serve Roasted Honeynut Squash as-is alongside roast chicken or turkey or seared salmon, or try these ideas:
- drizzle with Kale Pesto for a plant-based side dish
- dollop Whipped Feta and Pomegranate for Holiday side dish with wow factor, pictured above
- scoop the roasted flesh out of the skin and add it to grain bowls
Roasted Honeynut squash can be a solid base (literally!) for a main dish. They are the perfect size and shape for a protein-rich stuffing like lentils or beans. Drizzle with dressing or pesto of your choice.
More Honeynut / Butternut Squash Recipes
You can absolutely substitute Honeynut Squash for butternut squash! Try these recipes:
- Butternut Squash with Whipped Feta and Pomegranate Salsa - this is a Reader favorite for years!
- Butternut Squash Carbonara Pasta
- Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili
- Butternut Squash and Ricotta Toasts
One thing to keep in mind is that for recipes in which the squash is puréed or combined with a lot of other flavors like soups, sauces, and chili, it may be worth it to stick with butternut squash. Not only are butternut squash more widely available, but they are easier to peel a single large squash rather than a lot of small ones.
A: Honeynut squash is a hybrid cultivar of butternut squash and another winter squash, buttercup. It is smaller, denser and sweeter in flavor. You can, however, substitute interchangeably in recipes.
A: Yes! You can use Honeynut Squash instead of butternut squash and vice versa! Treat Honeynut Squash the same as butternut squash when peeled, cubed and cooked. To roast the halves just be mindful of the timing since Honeynut Squash are smaller.
A: No, you do not have to peel Honeynut Squash. The skin is actually edible, and when left on, protects the sweet tender flesh during roasting. However, just as with other fruit and vegetables, if you prefer to peel the skin, using a vegetable peeler is the easiest.
A: Honeynut squash should have a golden caramel color skin and feel heavy for their size. Some light green veining is okay. When buying, look for smooth skin.
A: Yes! For those of us who experience "squash hands," the red, tight, sometimes itchy palms from handling raw butternut squash, handling honeynut squash will likely cause the same reaction. The contact dermatitis is caused by an unnamed allergen that is present in all squash of the same family, though with varying degrees of reactiveness. I always wear gloves when handling all hard winter squash.
A: Fresh Honeynut Squash will keep in the cool, dark place for 1-2 months. Because they have thinner skin than their butternut ancestors, they don't keep quite as long. I just keep Honeynut squash in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator.
Roasted Honeynut Squash Recipe
- 4 honeynut squash skin thoroughly scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic
- Heat over to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper if using.
- Cut each squash in half lengthwise. You many have to slice off a small piece of the top end with the stem attached because the stem itself is pretty tough and fibrous to cut through. Remove the seeds with a spoon or just use your hands.
- Place honeynut squash halves on baking sheet, then drizzle with olive oil. Rub the oil all over the cut surfaces of the squash. Sprinkle with salt and place 1-2 garlic cloves in the hollows.
- Roast until squash is tender and turnings golden brown at the edges, about 35 minutes. Remove baking sheet and allow squash to cool. Transfer roasted squash to serving plate.