Do you like butternut squash but sometimes think it’s a bit too big? If so, super sweet and personal-sized honeynut squash is here to save the day!
The other day Mike and I were wandering down the leaf strewn streets – getting into the fall spirit – when we randomly ran into some old not-quite-friends, but not really acquaintances. I’m pretty sure we could end up being good friends if one of us made the move to get together, but you know how life is – everyone always says they want to hang out but life gets in the way and it never happens. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What did end up happening was a half hour chat about the different merits of all the boba tea houses in town. It was a serious discussion.
Anyway, our friends mentioned the fall farmers’ market nearby and I got incredibly excited because how did I not know about it?! Mike and I headed there immediately, after picking up some takeaway banh mi. It was AMAZING. I mean, we ended up going at the tail end of the market, but I still managed to buy some apples and…a honeynut squash!
What is honeynut squash?
Have you guys heard of honeynut squash? I’ve seen it floating around on menus and the internet, but the first time I saw one in real life was at that market. It felt so special – apparently I’m nerdy like that. Honeynuts are kind of rare, like a unicorn squash: they’re are on their way to being sold in grocery stores, but right now they’re still kind of a farmers’ market kind of thing.
Honeynuts are essentially tiny butternut squashes that were created to be a better tasting, tinier squash. A chef (Dan Barber) met up with a squash breeder (Michael Mazourek) and asked him why he couldn’t make a smaller, tastier squash. After a couple of years, honeynuts were born.
Honeynuts are not just smaller than butternuts, they’re also sweeter. You don’t need to peel the skins, and when roasted, they take on a caramel, almost malty flavor. The flesh is smooth and tender without any of the stringiness you get from larger squashes. They’re the perfect personal-size squash and are absolutely delicious.
After exclaiming “wow, they’re SO CUTE!” about 16,000 times, I picked through the box of honeynuts to find my forever honeynut and carefully cradled him home. I cracked him in half, scooped out his insides, roasted him to a deep golden honey color, then ate him with yogurt, pickled shallots, and honeyed walnuts. So GOOD. I felt truly blessed.
What does honeynut squash taste like?
If you love squash, honeynut squash tastes like the best gosh darn squash you’ll ever eat. It’s flavorful, sweet and nutty, with a hint of caramel and malt. They’re what butternut squash dream of being. Plus they have twice the amount of beta-carotene of butternut squash!
How to roast honeynut squash
- Heat the oven. Heat the oven to 425°F. We’re going for high heat so that the squash can caramelize and become soft and tender.
- Halve the honeynut squash. Wash and dry the honeynuts then use a large sharp knife to cut them in half lengthwise from stem to base. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulpy insides.
- Roast. Drizzle the cut sides with a bit of oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast, skin side up on foil lined baking sheet for 20-30 minutes (depending on size) or until fork tender.
Where to buy honeynut squash
Honeynut squash season is late September to early October. You’ll find honeynut squash at local farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and sometimes even your regular grocery store. They’re very seasonal, so when you see them, pick some up! They’re getting more and more popular so you’ll probably see them popping up more and more.
How to pick a good honeynut squash
Honeynut squash are orange when they’re ripe so look for a squash with no green. You want a firm squash with no soft spots and the stem attached. They’ll keep for quite some time (a couple of months in a cool dark spot) but you should eat them when they start to wrinkle because that means they’re starting to dry out.
What’s the best way to cook with honeynut squash?
The best way to eat a honeynut is to roast it! Roasting it brings out its intense sweet flavors. Because they’re so tender, you can also cook them on the stove top, like I did in this Pan-Roasted Honeynut Squash with Creamy Garlicky Pasta.
Can I eat the skin?
Yes, the skin is completely edible, just like a delicate squash. This is the best part because it means no more peeling squash!
What can I use instead of honeynut squash?
If you can’t find honeynut squash, its closest cousin is a butternut, although butternuts aren’t as sweet and a tiny bit stringier. You can also use any other winter squash.
If you love honeynut squash, try this pan roasted honeynut squash with pasta! It’s fall in a bowl: creamy, cozy, garlicky pasta with honeynuts and swiss chard.
Have you guys had honeynuts? Do you want to? Tell me all your honeynut dreams.
Heat the oven to 425°F. Carefully halve your honeynut squash and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with a bit of oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven, skin side up on a foil lined baking sheet, for 25-30 minutes, or until browned and tender.
While the squash is roasting, make your side dishes if desired.
Quickly pickle your shallots: Place thinly sliced shallots in a small bowl with vinegar, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir and let sit while you make the honeyed walnuts.
Honey roast your walnuts: In a small non-stick pan, melt your butter along with the honey over medium heat. Add the walnuts and toss with the honey and butter until it bubbles and caramelizes. Remove the nuts from the pan and let cool completely.
In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, cucumber, and a pinch of cumin. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Swoosh onto a plate and add the squash on top. Garnish with the shallots and honeyed walnuts. Enjoy!