Sweeten up your cooking with nutty, gorgeous Kabocha squash! We’re going to blow your mind with our take on this exciting squash.
Read on as we examine the Kabocha squash and how to choose, peel, cut and cook this delightful squash with ease.
What is a kabocha squash?
Firstly, and this’ll surprise you, Kabocha squash is a fruit, not a vegetable, because its seeds are on the inside, and it grows from the flower bearing part of the plant. Another name for it is ‘Japanese pumpkin’.
Kabocha squash is a winter squash of Japanese origin and has a squat rounded shape, with bright yellowy orange flesh and seeds on the inside, and a hard deep green skin on the outside. Size wise you’re looking at anything from 2 to 8 pounds for Kabocha and it’s used and appreciated by cooks in the know because of its highly sweet flavor. It’s even sweeter than butternut squash!
How to buy top quality kabocha squash – our checklist!
You will always get the best quality produce by buying in season, and peak Kabocha squash season is late summer, fall and early winter. Your chosen Kabocha squash should also:
- Feel heavy relative to its size
- Have dull, unpunctured and unbruised skin
- Have the stem still attached
- Be of a deep green color, golden streaking on the skin is perfectly fine
- Be at peak ripeness. This is 1 and a half months to 3 months after harvesting, so check with your grocer that your squash has been matured properly!
Peeling kabocha squash – a step by step guide
It’s important to note here that Kabocha squash peel is entirely edible and very good for you, it contains fiber and just under the skin is lots of nutrition, so it’s a bit of a pity to peel it. If you just want the golden flesh though or simply don’t like squash peel, here’s how to remove the peel from your Kabocha squash:
- If the squash is still raw, wash the whole squash first under running water to remove dirt and dust, and dry it off.
- Next, place the squash on a chopping board and using a sharp chef’s knife, slice off each end so that you’ve removed the stem portion and the base. An inch and a half off each end should be fine.
- Once the Kabocha is ‘topped and tailed’, slice it in half straight through the middle, across its widest point, going crosswise.
- Place a half of the squash skin side up on the chopping board and holding it in place with your non – knife hand, use either your chef’s knife or a sturdy vegetable peeler to remove the skin, cutting or peeling towards the board for safety, not towards yourself.
- As you remove the first bits of peel, you’ll be able to judge how thick the peel is and how deep to go with your tools and what sort of pressure to use.
- Continue on in this fashion, slicing the peel off carefully with your knife or peeler until the whole squash is peeled.
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Tip: A flimsy plastic peeler won’t work here, the Kabocha squash skin is hard, so you need a tough metal peeler like the one pictured below.
If your Kabocha squash is sliced and cooked already, you can see quite clearly where the skin and peel meet, so use a chef’s knife or utility knife to carefully cut along that dividing line and separate the peel from the squash flesh.
Tip: Don’t just toss that squash peel in the bin! You can save it and freeze it as part of your vegetable stock store, or compost it for use in the garden.
Cutting kabocha squash like a samurai
You’ll need a sharp chef’s knife here, as well as a non – slip cutting board, a bowl for discarded bits and a strong metal spoon. If your chopping board isn’t firmly affixed to your work surface, put a damp kitchen towel under it to stop it sliding around.
The microwave hack
Kabocha squash is easier to chop when it’s softened. Pierce the skin of the squash with a sharp knife deeply 3 or 4 times, and microwave it on high for around 4 minutes. If the whole squash is too big for your microwave, cut it in half and do each half separately.
Once the squash is slightly softened in this way, slicing it will be much easier.
Halving a kabocha squash – perfect cut for roasting in the oven!
- Take the whole, washed and dried squash and trim of either pole by about an inch and a half. This means both the base and the top or stem end including the stem will be removed.
- Now that you’ve got two flattened ends on which to balance the squash, you can secure it on the board and cut it safely.
- Place the squash on one of its flattened ends and whilst holding it with your non – knife hand, slice it once firmly through the middle, you might have to saw away a bit if it hasn’t been microwaved first.
- Cut across the width of the squash, exerting good pressure to get it separated into 2 halves in one slice.
- Once the halves of squash are separated, use the metal spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith matter on the inside. This can be composted, or the seeds roasted for a snack.
- Once halved and deseeded, drizzle the inside of the squash with oil and sprinkle over seasonings that you like. The squash is now prepped to be roasted in the oven.
Cutting kabocha squash into slices or wedges – roast, steam, or fry as you prefer!
Trim, halve and deseed the kabocha squash as outlined above.
- Place a half of the squash skin side down in front of you on the cutting board and secure it with your non – knife hand.
- Starting at one end of the squash, slice down firmly through it vertically.
- Your slices can be as thick or as thin as you’d like, so decide on the thickness and then continue slicing along the squash in the same uniform increments until the whole half of squash is sliced.
- Continue with the other squash half until the whole squash is divided into slices or wedges.
- The squash slices can now be oiled and/or seasoned to your liking and you can cook them as you prefer.
Cutting blocks or cubes of kabocha squash – soups, stir fries, casseroles!
Start off by cutting your Kabocha squash into slices as outlined above.
- Take the slices of Kabocha squash and lay them in front of you horizontally in a neat pile, you can use your fingers to shuffle them into place.
- The squash slices will be lying horizontally, so running in alignment from your one hip to your other hip on the cutting board.
- Holding the slices of squash in place with your non – knife hand, start at one end of the pile and cut vertically downwards.
- Decide how big you want your cubes of squash and use that as an imaginary spacing guide to space your cuts. The wider apart your vertical cuts are, the bigger the cubes of squash you’ll get.
- Keep your vertical cuts evenly spaced and neat.
- Continue cutting vertically along the horizontal pile of squash slices until all of your squash is divided into neat squares of a size you like.
- The cubes can now be put into soups, casseroles, stir fries or roasted dishes as you like.
Eating the deliciousness that is kabocha squash!
Kabocha squash is versatile and lends itself to so many dishes, it’s used with great imagination particularly in Asian cuisines. Here are some basic cooking guidelines to prepare it at home for delectable dining.
Wedges work great for roasting, or you can roast halves of Kabocha squash. Simply cut as we’ve directed and preheat your oven to 400F.
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Oil and season the squash in a roasting tray and roast the squash at 400F for about 40 minutes, flipping the squash over halfway during that time. When the squash flesh is fluffy, soft, and slightly caramelized, it’s ready to enjoy.
Cut the squash into cubes or wedges, season, and place in a microwave steamer or a microwave safe bowl with half a cup of hot water. Tightly cover the bowl with cling film. If using cling film, pierce the film a couple of times with a fork.
If using a microwave steamer, follow the manufacturer’s directions on cooking times and general usage. When it’s done cooking, check if the squash is soft enough for your preference, and if it’s still too firm, microwave again on high for another couple of minutes.
Kabocha squash cut into thin pieces or blocks can be easily fried for use in something like an omelet or stir fry.
Heat your oil to medium high heat and add the Kabocha squash pieces, adding seasoning. Allow to fry whilst turning the pieces occasionally for around 4 minutes on each side, the pieces should be golden brown when you’re done. Remove the squash from the pan with a slotted spoon to eliminate excess oil.
Once the squash is nicely colored and very slightly crisp, you can serve as is as a side dish or enjoy it with a dipping sauce as a healthy part of your Asia inspired meal!
Kabocha squash is easy to prep and chop, just delicious cooked in a variety of ways and crammed full of health and goodness. Our blog is just bursting with marvelous fruit and veg articles so do explore it and you’ll learn so much about selecting, prepping, cutting, and serving these healthful goodies at home!