During the autumn and winter months squash is plentiful and today I’m sharing my five favorite squash substitutes for delicata squash. The date of this post may scream summer but when August rolls around my eyes look to the calendar to start counting down to fall and winter produce. When winter arrives, our CSA box from Sage Mountain Farm brings beautiful delicata squash that, in terms of texture, is rich and creamy. It’s not overly sweet and with this slightly thinner skin, you can eat all parts of this squash variety.
One practice I regularly employ is crafting recipes that can use different types of ingredients in similar ways. I also try to craft recipes where I can easily find an excellent substitute in case a specific ingredient isn’t available or in season. Enter: the delicata squash substitute!
Quick Notes On Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is an easy squash to work with in that the skin is edible and roasting releases it’s slightly nutty and sweet flavors. While it is technically a summer squash (aka Cucurbita pepo) you’ll typically find this in the farmers markets in fall and early winter.
When it comes to cooking delicata squash, roasting is the most common way to unlock the sweet flavor of this squash. Roast slices of it in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven with a little bit of olive oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. This helps to caramelize during roasting creating the best delicata you can enjoy in salads and more.
Keep reading for five more autumn and winter squash varieties that come in clutch as substitutes for delicata squash.
Squash Substitute Number 1: Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is a great alternative to delicata given its mild nutty flavor and mild sweetness. The yellowish flesh becomes tender and caramelizes well during roasting, much like delicata. Use this squash for baking, stuff it with your favorite ingredients, or transform it into gnocchi to serve with a delicious seasonal pesto.
Like delicata squash, acorn squash has an edible skin that can be left on after roasting over high heat. Additionally, though the shapes of these two squashes are distinctively different acorn squash also tends to be more fibrous making it a less ideal candidate for soups. Use as a puree or roast slices instead.
Squash Substitute Number 2: Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a quintessential autumn and winter squash variety. It’s a squash that is versatile, regularly found in grocery stores nearly year round, and is a great source of vitamin c and beta carotene. The sweet taste of butternut squash makes this an excellent option for a number of both sweet and savory dishes. This is a go-to for delicious side dishes, salads packed with winter vegetables, soups, purees, and more. This versatile ingredient has a tougher skin than delicata and acorn so peeling is necessary to get to the flesh.
Squash Substitute Number 3: Sweet Dumpling Squash
Dumpling squash is a small winter squash that looks like a small and fun colored pumpkin. With a hard, cream-colored and spotted green skin, this squash is a popular variety grown in the hardy winter months. When roasted this squash elicits a sweet flavor that is a great compliment to glazes made with brown sugar or maple syrup. It’s also great puréed in soups. Puréed soups are usually on repeat during the autumn and winter months meaning my favorite blender gets good use. Check out this recipe for a soupe that makes good use of our favorite squash varieties.
Squash Substitute Number 4: Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash is another variety of winter squash that is a great substitute for delicata in that it has a similar flavor of mild nutty sweetness that is an excellent choice for a number of dishes. What makes this member of the winter squash family fun is that the flesh mirrors spaghetti noodles making this a great low carb healthy option for pasta. Cooking methods for spaghetti squash are the same: roast these babies in a hot oven until fork tender then scoop out the tender flesh. Use olive oil for a slight buttery flavor and proceed to toss the “noodles” with your favorite pasta sauce. One of my absolute favorite recipes for spaghetti squash during the winter season has to be latkes. If you haven’t tried them this way with blend of red potatoes and yellow or red onion, you’re in for a treat!
Squash Substitute Number 5: Sugar Pumpkin Squash
Our final type of winter squash that is a great option for delicata substitutes is the sugar pumpkin. Also known as pie pumpkin, this member of the winter squash family and has a lovely mildly sweet flavor. Yes, they do look similar to a carving pumpkin; however, they are small and less stringy affording a more velvety texture while containing more orange flesh.
Use sweet pumpkin for your classic pumpkin pie by roasting the pumpkin halves, pale orange flesh side down, on a baking sheet for 40 to 50 minutes until tender. Scoop out the flesh then purée for that creamy texture that will pave the way for the perfect pie filling. The smooth texture of this purée will also work well in soups, much like the way we make the roast dumpling squash soup here. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds to really use everything to the last drop.
These five popular types of squash substitutes are some of the sweetest squashes around. Literally and figuratively the sweetest! When it’s that time of year, I hope these squash substitute ideas offer inspiration for a mix of savory and sweet dishes you can enjoy through the season.