How To Cook Kabocha Squash, the Perfect Fall Ingredient

Kabocha Squash sliced in half with knife.

For those looking for a different spin to standard orange pumpkin recipes this fall, no look further than the kabocha squash. A dark green-skinned pumpkin about 9-12 inches in diameter, this Japanese ingredient is delicious, combining a flavor profile best described as a mix between pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and chestnuts. Like the familiar orange pumpkin, kabocha squash can also be made into a variety of recipes both sweet and savory. It’s the perfect addition to your fall cooking repertoire.

How To Prep Kabocha Squash

Originally from South America, kabocha squash was brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Kabocha squash is very popular in Japan, finding its way into stews, desserts, tempura, and even sushi. Because of its popularity in Japanese cuisine, the best place to purchase kabocha squash is at your local Asian grocery. If you can’t source kabocha squash, a suitable replacement is calabaza squash, which is very popular in Latin American communities. Calabaza squash has a similar texture to butternut squash. Just remember — calabaza squash is much larger than kabocha, so adjust the recipe accordingly.

Preparation of kabocha squash starts with slicing the whole pumpkin in half and removing the seeds. Since the rind is edible, there is no need to remove it. Most grocery stores will also sell kabocha squash sliced in half or quarters for those looking for smaller portions. If left intact, kabocha squash can be stored for a month without going bad. If sliced, however, kabocha squash should be refrigerated and used within a few days. Besides being tasty, kabocha squash is also packed with nutrients. Specifically, it’s a great source of vitamin A alongside magnesium and vitamin C.

Fall Stuffed Kabocha Squash

Slices of kabocha squash on a roasting pan.

(By Chef Noah Zamler of the Press Room in Chicago.)

A culinary professional since the age of fifteen, chef Noah Zamler’s food philosophy is driven by an emphasis on seasonality and high-quality ingredients. Zamler has worked everywhere from Metro-Detroit and Chicago to Rome. His culinary expertise ranges from pasta and sourdough bread making to whole animal butchery and seasonal seafood.

For Zamler, kabocha squash is a great replacement for traditional pumpkin. Although this recipe uses many seasonal fall ingredients, it can easily be enjoyed year-round. Simply make this dish whenever you are hankering for the flavors and aromas of autumn. This dish is also gluten-free and can easily be made vegan (simply remove the feta crumbles).

Ingredients:

For Squash:

  • 12 baby portabella mushrooms
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 Roma tomato
  • 1/2 bunch Swiss chard
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 tbsp sage
  • 2 honey crisp apples
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cup feta crumbles
  • 2 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 kabocha squash

For Sauce:

  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp black pepper

Method:

  1. To prepare the sauce, grate the cucumber and garlic on a cheese grater and lightly season with salt, let sit for about 30 minutes and then with cheese cloth or a towel ring them dry. Combine the yogurt and cucumber mixture with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and black pepper.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, cut kabocha squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Dice eggplant, Swiss chard, shallots, apples, and mushrooms, and cook over high heat until caramelized, add your sage and deglaze the pan with white wine. Let sit until squash is done cooking.
  4. In a food processor blend together the cooked rice and cooked vegetables until smooth, remove the squash from the oven and place the filling in the halved squash, and crumble feta on top, bake at 375 F for an additional 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler for 2 minutes. Garnish with pumpkin seeds.
  5. Pull out of the oven and serve immediately.

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