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How to Cook Acorn Squash

Okay, so you’ve probably prepared or eaten pumpkin, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash, but have you tried the lesser known winter squash, the acorn squash? Learning how to cook acorn squash is easy, and you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it a regular part of your side dish rotation.

Acorn squash, olive oil, salt, and pepper go a long way toward creating a healthy side you will want to pair with absolutely everything. Cut, scoop, season, and cook the acorn squash using four different methods. Follow our step-by-step guide and make great-tasting acorn squash every time, whether you choose to make it in the oven, air-fryer, microwave, or Instant Pot.

WHAT IS ACORN SQUASH?

Although you can find it in stores throughout the year, this buttery-tasting squash is harvested in the fall and winter, and is often referred to as a winter squash. It is characterized by a small acorn-like shape and thick, green outer layer with beautiful ridges and bright orange flesh. This tasty vegetable is an excellent source of vitamin A (thank you, beta-carotene), vitamin C, and riboflavin.

WHAT TO DO WITH ACORN SQUASH

Using these methods for how to cook acorn squash results in a fork-tender vegetable that’s ready to be topped with your favorite ingredients or added to another dish. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stuffed Squash: Combine the cooked squash with vegetables, shredded meat, cheese, breadcrumbs, or a combination of a few of these and bake it inside the skins.
  • Casserole: Combine the squash with other ingredients in a casserole dish and bake. You can make a savory casserole like acorn squash au gratin or go the sweet route and combine pecans and brown sugar.
  • Soup: Cook the squash, cut it into pieces and add it to a soup as is, or you can puree it with other ingredients to make acorn squash soup.
  • Salad: Roasted squash is a beautiful addition to salad, especially when paired with bright, leafy greens and roasted pumpkin seeds.
  • Pasta: Eat it with pasta and sauce or toss it with protein to make a complete meal.

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE

  • Acorn Squash: Look for a 2-3 pound squash and check out our suggestions for how to choose the right one in the section below.
  • Olive Oil: Brush the squash with olive oil or another neutral oil of your choice. You can also use melted butter.
  • Salt + Pepper: Generously season the squash with salt and pepper.

SUBSTITUTIONS AND VARIATIONS

  • Spices: Ras El Hanout, Cinnamon, Chili Powder, Smoked Paprika, Pakistani Garam Masala, or North Indian Garam Masala
  • Meat: Sausage, Bacon, or Prosciutto
  • Sweets: Honey, Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar, or Butter
  • Cheese: Asiago Parmesan, or Goat Cheese
  • Nuts and Seeds: Pecans, Walnuts, or Pepitas
  • Fruit: Apples or Cranberries
  • Grains: Quinoa, Rice, or Couscous

HOW TO COOK ACORN SQUASH

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Oven

1. Preheat the oven to 400° F |176° C. Pierce the outside with a fork and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and, season with salt and pepper.

Season the squash and set it on a rimmed baking sheet.

2. Flip so the insides are face down on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

Set the acorn squash facedown on the rimmed baking sheet.

3. Flip so the insides are face down on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.

A baked acorn squash in the oven.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Air Fryer

1. Preheat the air fryer to 400° F | 176° C. Pierce the outside with a fork and place it into the air fryer. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and, season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.

One half of an acorn squash face up in the air fryer.

2. Flip so the insides are face down and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.

One half of an acorn squash face down in the air fryer.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Microwave

1. Add water to a microwave-safe dish, about ½-inch high. Pierce the outside with a fork. Flip and drizzle the squash with olive oil and, season with salt and pepper. Place the halved acorn squash flesh down.

Halved acorn squash in a microwave-safe dish with 1/2 inch of water.

2. Microwave for 7 minutes and check for doneness. Carefully remove the squash from the microwave and allow it to cool before serving. Cooking time depends on the size of your squash and the microwave; cook in 2 minutes increments as necessary until it reaches desired consistency.

Halved acorn squash in a microwave-safe dish with 1/2 inch of water in the microwave.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Instant Pot

1. Add a trivet and one cup of water to an Instant Pot. Pierce the outside with a fork. Flip and drizzle the squash with olive oil and, season with salt and pepper. Set the two halves onto the trivet facedown.

Halved acorn squash face down on a trivet.

2. Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to manual high pressure for 5 minutes with a quick release. Carefully remove the squash from the Instant Pot and allow it to cool before serving.

An Instant Pot set to 5 minutes.

COOKING TIPS

  • If you are having a difficult time cutting through the squash, try baking the squash whole for 15 minutes at 400° F | 176° C. You should have no problem cutting it in half.
  • Instant Pot: You can add more than one acorn squash to the Instant Pot, and there is no need to adjust the cooking time.
  • Microwave: Cooking time depends on the size of your squash and the microwave; cook in 2 minutes increments as necessary until it reaches desired consistency.

HOW DO YOU CUT AND PREPARE ACORN SQUASH?

Acorn squashes are easy peasy to cut compared to other varieties of squash like butternut and spaghetti squash.

1. Cut the squash in half from stem to bottom using a sharp knife. To make it easier, cut the stem, then cut it in half.

Cut the top off of the acorn squash.
Cut the acorn squash in half.

2. Scoop the insides out and discard, or you can set the seeds aside to roast, like pumpkin seeds.

Two halves of the inside of an acorn with seeds.

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Cooked acorn squash made in the oven, air fryer, microwave, and Instant Pot side by side.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SQUASH

  • Select one with light green skin with some orange coloring; this lets you know the squash is ready to cook. Too much orange indicates that the squash is overripe.
  • Choose a heavier squash, between 2-3 pounds. A lighter squash can suggest a loss of moisture.
  • They should be firm and without soft spots.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

STORAGE

  • UNCOOKED – Store squash in a cool, dry space like a pantry for up to one month.
  • FRIDGE – Leftovers should be kept in an air-tight container for 5-7 days.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does acorn squash taste like?

It is mostly sweet and mild in flavor with a hint of nuttiness. It’s buttery, sweet, and delicious and deserves a place at the table.

Do you peel the acorn squash before cooking?

There is no need to peel the squash; it will become tender as it cooks. Now, you may be asking- is it okay to eat the skin? As a matter of fact- yes, it is. 

How long to cook spaghetti squash?

Oven – Roast for 40 minutes.
Air Fryer – Cook for 20 minutes.
Microwave – Cook for 7 minutes.
Instant Pot – Pressure cook for 5 minutes.

YOU SHOULD ALSO TRY:

Two whole acorns on the table.
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5 from 1 vote

How to Cook Acorn Squash

For a perfectly cooked side dish, follow our step-by-step guide for how to cook acorn squash in the oven, air-fryer, microwave, or Instant Pot.
Prep Time5 mins
Active Time40 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Preparations
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to cook acorn squash
Yield: 4 Servings
Calories: 196kcal
Author: Tressa Jamil

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash , 2 pounds
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground

Instructions

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Oven:

  • Preheat the oven to 400° F |176° C. Pierce the outside with a fork and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Flip so the insides are face down on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Flip, and cook for another 20 minutes. Then, remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Air-Fryer

  • Preheat the air fryer to 400° F |176° C. Pierce the outside with a fork and place it into the air fryer. Drizzle both sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Flip so the insides are face down and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool before serving.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Microwave:

  • Add water to a microwave-safe dish, about ½-inch high. Pierce the outside with a fork. Flip and drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the halved acorn squash flesh down.
  • Microwave for 7 minutes and check for doneness. Carefully remove the squash from the microwave and allow it to cool before serving. Cooking time depends on the size of your squash and the microwave; cook in 2 minutes increments as necessary until it reaches desired consistency.

How to Cook Acorn Squash in the Instant Pot:

  • Add a trivet and one cup of water to an Instant Pot. Pierce the outside with a fork. Flip and drizzle the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the two halves onto the trivet facedown.
  • Secure the lid and set the Instant Pot to manual high pressure for 5 minutes with a quick release. Carefully remove the squash from the Instant Pot and allow it to cool before serving.

Notes

Cooking Tips: 
  • If you are having a difficult time cutting through the squash, try baking the squash whole for 15 minutes at 400° F |176° C. You should have no problem cutting it in half.
  • Instant Pot: You can add more than one acorn squash to the Instant Pot, and there is no need to adjust the cooking time.
  • Microwave: Cooking time depends on the size of your squash and the microwave; cook in 2 minutes increments as necessary until it reaches desired consistency.
 
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
 
Web Story: 
  • Check out our web story for how to make acorn squash!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 196kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 7g | Sodium: 10mg | Fiber: 5g
Recipe Rating




Abby

Thursday 18th of August 2022

Seeing them all together was super helpful; I made the acorn squash in the air fryer and it was perfect!

Tressa Jamil

Thursday 18th of August 2022

I love roasted and air fried acorn squash the most.