Spice Up Your Winter Meals With Acorn Squash

by Hannah Kirby

Incorporating acorn squash into your ‘cold weather’ meals is a great way to start off the New Year healthy and happy. Acorn squash is a winter squash that is native to Central America. It is part of the Cucurbita gourd family, which includes zucchini and pumpkin. The best characteristic of this squash is its versatility: it can be served sweet or savory, entrée or side, cookie or pie (1,2).

The health benefits of acorn squash are also numerous. It is a nutrient-dense food that can serve as a healthy unrefined carbohydrate choice. Acorn squash is high in both insoluble and soluble fiber. This fiber can aid in regular bowel movements, a healthy gut microbiome, and can increase satiety. 2 Similarly, one cup of acorn squash provides only 115 calories but is full of antioxidants. One half-cup serving can provide up to 9% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A in the form of carotenoids like beta-carotene. The ratio of antioxidants to calories in the acorn squash is among the highest and can help protect against non-alcoholic fatty acid disease and eye-related disorders (2,3).

Purchasing Acorn Squash
To choose the best acorn squash at the grocery store or farmer’s market, look for one that is firm and heavy. The skin should be dark green in color, however, small patches of orange/yellow are not uncommon. Inspect for signs of decay, by looking for soft spots or wrinkling of the skin. It is best to find a squash with the stem still intact, otherwise, bacteria may be able to enter the squash.1 Due to the elongated growing and sunbathing process that a winter squash goes through, the shelf life for acorn squash can be up to one month in a cool dry place (2).

Baked Acorn Squash with Butter and Brown Sugar Recipe (4)
yields 2-4 servings


  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • dash of salt


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (205°C).
  2. Prep the squash: If you have a microwave, microwave the squash for a minute each, to make it easier to cut. Stabilize the squash on a cutting board as best you can, stem end down if the stem is short enough, otherwise on the side. Using a sharp, sturdy chef’s knife, carefully cut the acorn squash in half, from tip to stem. If on its side, the squash can rock back and forth, so take care as you are cutting it.

    Use a sturdy metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits inside each squash half, until the inside is smooth.

    Take a sharp paring knife and score the insides of the acorn squash halves in a cross-hatch pattern, about a half-inch deep cuts.

    Place the squash halves cut side up in a roasting pan. Pour 1/4-inch of water over the bottom of the pan so that the squash doesn’t burn or get dried out in the oven.

  3. Add butter, salt, brown sugar, maple syrup: Rub a half tablespoon of butter into the insides of each half. Sprinkle with a little salt if you are using unsalted butter.

    Crumble a tablespoon of brown sugar into the center of each half and drizzle with a teaspoon of maple syrup.

  4. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for about an hour to an hour 15 minutes, until the tops of the squash halves are nicely browned, and the squash flesh is very soft and cooked through.

    It’s hard to overcook squash, it just gets better with more caramelization. But don’t undercook it.

  5. Remove from oven, spoon brown sugar butter sauce over squash: When done, remove the squash halves from the oven and let them cool for a bit before serving.

    Spoon any buttery sugar sauce that has not already been absorbed by the squash over the exposed areas.



  1. Smith, M.W. “Acorn Squash: Health Benefits, Nutrients Per Serving, Preparation Information, and More.” WebMD, WebMD, 6 Aug. 2020, www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-acorn-squash#2.
  2. Kubala , J. “Acorn Squash: Nutrition, Benefits, and How to Cook ItJillian Kubala, MS, RD .” Healthline, 11 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/acorn-squash.
  3. Wang, L., Ding, C., Zeng, F., & Zhu, H. (2019). Low levels of serum
    [beta]-carotene and [beta]-carotene/retinol ratio are associated with histological severity in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease patients. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 74(2), 156+.
  4. Bauer, E. “Baked Acorn Squash {With Brown Sugar}.” Simply Recipes, www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/classic_baked_acorn_squash/.
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