This butternut squash recipe emphasizes the natural sweetness of the squash while adding just a touch of heat. Jazz it up with a little sage for that quintessential Fall flavor. Using the hasselback cutting technique on butternut squash allows every bit of flavor to get into all the nooks and crannies while ensuring a perfectly cooked squash.
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The weather turns colder, and the leaves begin to change, it is officially squash season. Hasselback squash is a great option for a plant-based main course, pair it with a simple house salad for a weeknight dinner or let it be the centerpiece of your holiday table.
📖Why This Recipe Works
Butternut squash is notoriously hard to cook. Often it gets made into soups because it is difficult to keep it firm yet soft enough to eat. That is where the hasselback cooking technique comes in.
The squash stays whole at the bottom, but the top is cut into thin slices. This allows the flavor to permeate the entire squash while ensuring it evenly cooks. It also makes for a lovely display.
This recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free. We have also included dairy-free and vegan accommodations so everyone at your Christmas Dinner can enjoy!
Butternut squash is the star of the show. Pick one that is heavy for its size and has no obvious deep cuts or bruises. Any green spots on the skin mean the squash has not fully ripened. The stem should be intact and firm.
Butternut squash can weigh anywhere from 1 pound to 5 pounds. I generally use a 2 to 3-pound squash for this recipe but it really doesn't matter. You just may need more or less of the hot honey butter and a slight adjustment to cooking times.
For this recipe you will also need:
Unsalted Butter- If you use salted butter reduce the salt to ¼ teaspoon.
Honey- Raw local honey is always my favorite. But you can also use brown sugar or maple syrup. You can also use fermented garlic honey and skip the fresh garlic.
Crushed Red Pepper- I tried this recipe with jalapeno pepper to start. I felt it was too overpowering. Dried red chili gives just the right heat and texture. Plus, you can reduce it down to ¼ teaspoon in increase it by ½ teaspoon. Much easier to control the spice level.
Rice Vinegar- Anytime I do a pungent mix of sweet and spicy in a recipe, I balance it with acid. I like rice vinegar for its light flavor. Champagne vinegar is a lovely choice. But when I am out, a little apple cider vinegar can be used.
Aromatics- Fresh sage, fresh garlic, and salt.
Toasted Pecans- You can also toast up the squash seeds or use slivered almonds or chopped walnuts.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
⏲️How to Make Hasselback Squash
While this is an easy recipe to prepare, prepping the squash is always the most difficult. I recommend a sharp vegetable peeler and bread knife over a Chef's knife for more control.
Before we get started, preheat your oven to 425 F degrees. If you are cooking other items at the same time, you can reduce the heat to 400 F degrees and cook for an extra 5 to 10 minutes.
I highly recommend lining your pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Otherwise, be sure to oil the bottom half of the squash to prevent it from sticking to your baking dish.
Step 1- Hot Honey Butter
In a small saucepan combine your honey and unsalted butter. Melt the butter over low heat, stirring to combine. Add the fresh garlic, finely minced, and the crushed red pepper flakes.
Cook for 1 to 2 minutes to soften the garlic and release the oils in the chili flakes. Remove from the heat and add the fresh sage, salt, and vinegar. Set the butter aside and allow it to steep.
Note: When I first tested this recipe I made brown butter before adding the honey. I didn't find that the extra time and work made any significant difference in this recipe.
Step 2- Cut the Squash
Start by peeling the squash with a vegetable peeler. It is important to peel away all the white skin, so that the orange flesh shows through completely. Any white skin leftover on the squash will make be tough when cooked.
Use a large knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh in the center.
Lay the interior side of the squash flat on your cutting board. Place two wooden spoons on each side of the squash.
Using a very sharp knife, make even cuts that are roughly ¼ inch wide. The thin slits should stop approximately ¼ inch from the bottom of the squash leaving each half intact.
Repeat with the other half.
Note: I prefer to use a wooden spoon over chopsticks to align my cuts. Chopsticks are tapered resulting in an uneven depth. The curve of the spoon fits the squash perfectly.
Step 3 - Bake
Place the squash halves center side down on your rimmed baking sheet. Brush or spoon over the melted butter mixture, working it in between the slices.
Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes. The size of your squash will greatly impact the cooking time. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking but leave the squash face down.
The squash is ready when the flesh easily pierces with a fork, but it is not yet mushy.
Step 4- Garnish and Serve
Move the roasted butternut squash to your serving platter. Spoon over any juices from the bottom of the pan. Garnish with the toasted chopped pecans and additional fresh sage leaves.
🥗What to Serve with Butternut Squash
This squash is an excellent side dish for my Thanksgiving turkey breast recipe. But when served as a main course it compliments all the classic Fall staples. From our modern green bean casserole or my favorite garlicky green beans, there are so many options.
Check out all our favorite side dish recipes!
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips
- A grapefruit spoon makes easy work of removing the squash seeds.
- Use a bread knife instead of a large knife to cut the squash in half.
- If the garlic begins to burn tent the squash with aluminum foil.
- This recipe can be made in a cast-iron skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking pan.
To make this recipe dairy-free substitute vegan butter or olive oil for the butter. To make it vegan you should also change the honey to maple syrup.
The uncut butternut squash should be stored in a dark, cool room temperature place. Like an under-counter cabinet. When properly store it will last 1 to 3 months.
Leftover hasselback squash should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep for up to 5 days. Or freeze in a zip-top bag for 3 months. Defrost before reheating.
More Fall Side Dishes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Ripe butternut squash should feel heavy for its size and has no obvious deep cuts or bruises. Any green spots on the skin mean the squash has not fully ripened. The stem should be intact and firm. A dry or nonexistent stem means the squash is likely past its prime.
Ripe butternut squash will last 1 to 3 months when properly stored. Keep at room temperature in a dark place.
To toast pecans on the stovetop add them to a small saute pan over medium heat. Dry toast for 3 to 5 minutes. Watch the pan carefully to ensure the pecans don't burn. The pecans are ready when they have a nutty smell.
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Sweet and Spicy Hasselback Butternut Squash
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 F degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small pan melt the butter and honey over low heat. Add the garlic and the crushed red chili flakes, and for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the salt, sage, and vinegar. Set aside.3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon raw honey, 2 cloves garlic, ¾ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons fresh sage, ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon rice vinegar
- While the hot honey is infusing, prep the squash. Use a vegetable peeler to peel down to the bright orange. Cut in half lengthwise. Spoon out the seeds. Place the cut side down on the cutting board. Align two wooden spoons or chopsticks on either side of one squash half. Trim off the stem and cut into ¼ inch slices. Stop at the wooden spoon to keep the bottom intact and the top sliced. Repeat with the other half.1 butternut squash
- Place the squash on the baking sheet. Brush the top of the squash with the butter mixture. Brush the mix in between the cuts. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.
- Sprinkle with the chopped pecans and sage leaves to serve.¼ cup pecans
- If prepping in advance, toasted butternut squash seeds can be used in place of the pecans. See blog post for instructions.
- This recipe serves 4 to 6 as a side dish or 3 to 4 as a vegetarian main course.
- To make this recipe vegan substitute vegan butter and maple syrup for the honey.