What is Kabocha Squash (Japanese Pumpkin)?
Move over, pumpkin—There’s a new winter squash in town. Meet kabocha squash, a Japanese staple ingredient that’s prized for its sweet taste, velvety texture, slew of health benefits, and versatility. If you love pumpkin and sweet potato, then kabocha will quickly become your new best friend this fall. Let’s get to know it better.
What is Kabocha Squash?
Kabocha squash is a staple of Japanese cuisine. In restaurants, you may have enjoyed it dipped in tempura batter and fried, or slow simmered in hot pots or soups. And while this winter squash may look like pumpkin’s short and stocky cousin, it’s actually closer to sweet potato in flavor and texture. The coarse, deep-green skin gives way to tender, reddish-yellow flesh on the inside.
On top of its delicious flavor, kabocha squash packs impressive health benefits. Like pumpkin, kabocha’s bright orange flesh is high in the anti-oxidant beta-carotene, which translates to vision-protecting Vitamin A. The skin is also an excellent source of fiber. Additionally, using kabocha squash in any dish boosts the sweetness without adding extra sugar.
How to Buy Kabocha Squash:
While available year round, kabocha squash’s true season is late summer to early fall. Look for it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, your local Asian grocer, or at the farmers market. When picking out the perfect kabocha squash, the two most important factors to consider are color and weight. It should feel heavier than expected when lifted and the skin color should be a rich, deep green. Golden speckles and streaks across the exterior are also good indicators of ripeness.
How to Cook with Kabocha Squash:
To break kabocha squash down, use a sharp knife to slice the entire squash in half. Be careful—like butternut or acorn squash, these suckers can be tough to cut. Scoop out the pulp and seeds (roast those like you would pumpkin seeds), then slice into wedges. Kabocha squash is perfectly fine to be consumed whole, but you can use your knife to remove the skin if desired.
Kabocha squash has endless savory and sweet applications and takes well to a plethora of cooking methods. Try swapping it into recipes that call for pumpkin, butternut squash, or acorn squash. To get you started, we’ve rounded up the best ways to cook with kabocha squash.
1. Roast It: Toss kabocha squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices, and let the oven make magic, such as in our Roasted Kabocha and Kale Salad. Kabocha halves also make perfect vessels for roasting flavorful fillings, as shown in Quinoa Stuffed Squash.
2. Simmer It: When cooked slowly in a fragrant broth, curry, or stew, kabocha takes on a new depth of flavor. See for yourself in Winter Squash and Tofu Panang Curry.
3. Puree it: Kabocha Squash Puree acts as a speedy side to roasted chicken or pork tenderloin. Or, throw cooked cubes into a food processor to add body to Coconut-Red Curry Squash Soup.
4. Bake it: Kabocha and cheese is a match made in heaven, as proven in our indulgent take on the classic gratin, Pumpkin Poblano Casserole.
5. Grate it: Shred raw kabocha with a box grater to add flavor and texture to cakes, muffins, breads, and desserts. If you love the grated carrots in carrot cake, then our Chocolate-Swirled Pumpkin Bundt is a must-try.