Roasted Butternut Squash with brown sugar makes an amazing fall or winter vegetable on chilly nights, and a perfect accompaniment to a baked chicken or roast.
A sturdy winter squash with dangerous curves and creamy, sweet flesh, butternut squash is hard to resist. Sometimes I roast it whole, but in this recipe I cut the squash into bite-sized cubes and toss them with brown sugar and freshly-grated nutmeg. The whole house smells wonderful every time I make it.
If you need a vegan vegetable side dish, just switch out olive oil for melted butter.
If you’ve ever wondered how to prepare butternut squash, I’ll break it down for you here. Roasted butternut squash, like all roasted vegetables, is easy to make and frees you up to do other stuff. The oven does everything for you!
Got a giant squash that needs roasting? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
How do you peel a butternut squash?
These babies can be tough to peel and cut up, but here’s some tricks I’ve learned along the way to make things a little easier. Before you begin, you’ll need a chef’s knife, a serrated vegetable peeler, a sturdy cutting board, and a spoon.
First, cut the bottom and top off of the squash, squarely. You want the squash to be flat on both ends, for stability.
Next, cut the squash in half, right where the squash begins to flare out. You’ll be left with one oblong half and one round half.
With a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the skin. As you peel, you’ll notice light green lines beneath the skin. Make sure to peel all of those green lines away from the squash—they can be tough and fibrous. Try to keep peeling until all of those green lines have disappeared and just the orange flesh remains.
Then cut the round half of the squash in half, to reveal the seeds. Scoop these out with a spoon and discard, or save for wasting separately.
Can you roast butternut squash seeds?
Yes, you can! Not just pumpkin seeds, but all squash seeds are edible and nutritious. They make excellent snacking, too. The seeds are packed with healthy fats and high in protein. They’re smaller than pumpkin seeds, but still every bit as delicious.
All you have to do is scoop them out of the raw squash, rinse them, and roast them in the oven with salt or other spices.
How to roast Butternut Squash (and other vegetables):
Once you memorize how to roast butternut squash and other vegetables, you probably won’t need a recipe anymore-it’s an easy and hands-off process that allows for a lot of improvisation, no matter what you roast!
Here are some tips to get you started on the path to perfectly roasted vegetables:
Uniform sizes: Whatever vegetable you’re roasting, make sure that the pieces are about the same size, to cook evenly. I like to dice butternut squash up into 1-inch pieces.
Keep things dry: After you rinse your vegetables, pat them dry or allow them to air dry before they go into the oven. More moisture= more steam, which prevents your veggies from getting browning up.
Roast like with like: If you’re just cooking one type of vegetable, you don’t need to worry so much about this…but if you’re mixing it up, see the section below for how I like to sort my vegetables for roasting.
Keep the temperature high: Roasted vegetables cook best at higher oven temperatures, between 400-450 degrees, to develop caramelization and a deep, rich, concentrated flavor.
A little oil goes a long way: You don’t need a ton of oil to roast vegetables, but you do need some to get them crunchy and browned. Drizzle a thin stream of olive oil over the sheet tray, and gently toss with your hands to coat everything.
Or use a spray mister with your favorite cooking oil to lightly coat your vegetables. If you like, you can combine oil and vegetables in a bowl and toss them before arranging them on the baking sheet.
Don’t crowd your veg: Spread ‘em out! Crowded vegetables create steam, which prevents them from getting roasty. The baking sheet surface in contact with the flat sides of the squash while the cooking oil is what gives your roasted vegetables those brown, crunchy bits.
Also, flip everything halfway through cooking so the other sides have a chance to get just as delicious.
Add flavor: Salt and pepper go a long way to finish your dish, of course, as does brown sugar. But there are some other fun ways to have fun with roasted butternut squash, too.
What can be added to roasted butternut squash?
Butternut squash has a velvety texture that can be prepared in sweet or savory ways, depending on your mood. Roasted a chicken with butternut squash? Finish your butternut squash with sage and prepare to dig in!
Lemon, lime, or orange zest: Add citrus zest or juice over roasted squash before as a finishing touch. Butternut squash loves a little acid.
Roasted butternut squash with cinnamon: Squash and warming spices like cinnamon are made for each other. If you can’t find the nutmeg, switch out cinnamon.
Make yogurt sauce: a good-quality yogurt makes a fabulous base for a sauce for squash or roasted veggies of any kind. Try minced garlic and a swirl of olive oil mixed in some plain Greek yogurt, and spoon over the squash with abandon.
Butternut squash without sugar: Instead of brown sugar, a spritz of fresh lemon juice, some fresh chopped thyme or sage, or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar all make butternut squash shine.
Switch up the salt: Coconut aminos, lemon juice, or soy sauce can be drizzled over butternut squash instead of salt.
Butternut squash with maple syrup: Maple syrup, or even honey is a perfect substitution for brown sugar, to keep things natural. Use half as much honey as you would brown sugar, though; if you try it, let me know how you like it in the comments.
Do different vegetables have different cooking times?
When you’re planning to roast combinations of vegetables, such as butternut squash and sweet potatoes, it’s helpful to know that because vegetables have different densities, they also have slightly different cooking times.
Vegetables that take longer to roast can be put in the oven first, and then shorter-cooking vegetables can be added to the tray partway through the roast.
Not all of this is a hard and fast rule, however. If you want to roast butternut squash with garlic, for example, you can definitely can. Just add slices of garlic to a sheet tray of florets without worrying about keeping them separate.
Vegetables that take longer to roast (35-45 minutes, depending on the size of the slice/chunk/or left whole):
Squash: kabocha, pumpkin, butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti
Potatoes, root vegetables, and tubers: Beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas
Alliums: Garlic, shallots, onions, leeks
Vegetables that have a shorter cook time (18-25 minutes depending on the slice/chunk/or left whole):
Brassicas: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
Mushrooms: shiitake, morels, cremini, portobello, and hen of the woods
Summer squash: zucchini, pattypan, and yellow squashes
Peppers: bell peppers, poblano, and Hungarian peppers
How do I roast whole butternut squash?
It’s easy to roast a butternut squash with skin on, because you don’t have to peel anything. Roasting butternut squash whole works best if you are planning to make a butternut squash purée, or you simply want to scoop out the cooked flesh and eat, already!
Here’s how to roast butternut squash with skin on:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice off the stem and bottom ends of the squash so that both ends are flat.
- Set the squash on a cutting board with the widest cut end against the board. With a heavy chef’s knife, cut the squash from top to bottom, slicing it in half vertically. This may be difficult depending on how strong or sharp your knife is, or how big and thick your squash is. Just take your time.
- If you encounter more than a little resistance, you can tap downward on either end of your knife blade with a rubber mallet, if you have one, to slowly move it along.
- Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
- Then, brush the flat sides of each half with olive oil and place flat sides down on a baking sheet.
- Roast the squash for about 1 hour, turning the sheet once halfway through cooking. Start checking for doneness at the 45 minute mark. Smaller squash will cook faster, but it will take a full hour or longer to cook a 3 pound squash.
- The squash is ready when the flesh is tender all the way through to the skin. You can pierce the squash with a skewer or the tip of a sharp knife. The outer beige skin should appear slightly blistered and browned. The inner flesh will be dark orange, soft, and caramelized around the edges.
What can you make with leftover butternut squash?
I add leftover cubes of roasted squash to a salad with dried cranberries, pecans, and spinach. If I’m lucky enough to have a lot of roasted squash left behind, I might make a butternut squash soup.
Can you freeze roasted butternut squash?
Yes you can. Squash freezes well raw or cooked, as long as you store it in freezer ware or a freezer-friendly bag. Place the cubes on a baking sheet, spaced out so they don’t touch each other, and freeze until very firm.
Bag them up once they’re frozen. The squash should last 10-12 months, if stored at the proper temperature and kept airtight.
Roasted Butternut Squash
- 2 medium butternut squash (4 to 5 pounds total)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
- Peel butternut squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Place on prepared baking sheet.
- Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat and spread into a single layer.
- Roast until the squash is tender and starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally to promote even browning, about 45 to 55 minutes.