Sure, you know all about pumpkin and zucchini but what about patty pan, luffa and banana squash? It turns out that this plant family is large and surprisingly diverse. In fact, there’s a delicious squash available for pretty much every occasion—and season. Here’s a crash course on 20 different squash types to get you started.
From Acorn to Zucchini, Here Are 20 Different Squash Types (Plus How to Use ’Em)
This standard summer squash (sometimes called courgette, if you’re French or fancy) is a grocery store mainstay that boasts all the health benefits of the more exotic breeds. Watery, slightly sweet and very mild, this versatile and nutrient-rich vegetable pairs well with a variety of flavors. Bonus: Thanks to its thin skin, zucchini can be baked, sautéed or enjoyed raw for an extra satisfying crunch. Here are 63 zucchini recipes that will show you exactly how versatile this green squash can be.
2. italian Heirloom Zucchini (costata Romanesco)
In terms of shape, Costata Romanesco looks the same as an ordinary zuke, but this heirloom breed can easily be distinguished by its paler green and fluted appearance. The skin is soft and edible like a run-of-the-mill zucchini and can be used in all the same dishes, but this mildly sweet summer squash is set apart by its more complex and slightly nuttier character.
3. kabocha Squash
Also known as the Japanese pumpkin, this winter squash boasts a dark green exterior with bright orange flesh. When it comes to flavor, think of this one as equal parts pumpkin and yam: sweet, rich and wholly satisfying. And in more good news, the kabocha squash knows how to keep it together—so much so that it can endure most any kind of cooking method (and you don’t even have to peel it). In other words, feel free to turn up the heat (or even give it a deep-fry tempura treatment). Here are 20 kabocha squash recipes to make while it’s still in season.
4. patty Pan Squash
This variety of summer squash is pretty unmistakable—namely because it’s shaped like a flying saucer wearing a poodle skirt. The mild taste of this ingredient is comparable to an average zucchini, but the texture is slightly tougher so you can sauté it a couple minutes too long without worrying that it will turn to mush.
5. red Kuri Squash
Shaped like an onion, but with none of the bite, this moderately sweet squash has a rich, nutty character (think: chestnuts roasting on an open fire). Much like a potato, this Japanese squash has a firmer flesh, too. Cook it in chunks or whip it into a buttery puree—either way, the outcome will be good.
6. straightneck Squash
Don’t be thrown by the name, because probably know it by another one. This type of summer squash is just the basic yellow variety you often find next to the zucchini at the store. Like its popular green cousin, the straightneck squash has smooth edible skin with tender, mild-tasting meat. Best of all, you don’t need to have a green thumb to plant this one, as it is particularly easy to grow. Here, 19 summer squash recipes you'll want to make over and over.
7. cousa Squash
Cousa, a summer squash commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine, is a true gem. This oval-shaped squash looks a lot like spaghetti squash, but the entire cousa squash is edible—skin, seeds and all—with a delicate flavor that’s slightly sweeter than other summer varieties. Take advantage of its squat shape by serving this tender squash stuffed. (Cheese is never a bad idea.)
8. spaghetti Squash
This winter squash gets its name from the fact that, when cooked, its flesh naturally separates into ribbons. Spaghetti squash has an exceptionally mild (bordering on bland) flavor profile so—just like its gluten-based namesake—it's particularly satisfying when served up with a tasty sauce or delicious stuffing. From four cheese to fajita chicken, here are 14 spaghetti squash bowls you need in your life.
9. buttercup Squash
Dark green, round and dense, this popular winter variety has bright orange flesh that boasts a slightly sweeter taste than butternut squash, but is just as versatile. Buttercup squash is delicious when roasted or sautéed and extra comforting when pureed for a silky soup on a cold day.
Fun fact: Loofahs, the shower accessory you use when in need of an extra aggressive scrub down, are made from the roughly textured skin of this peculiar looking squash. Luffa squash aren’t just useful for exfoliation, though: When harvested young, this summer variety has a fresh and subtly sweet flavor that’s similar to zucchini.
11. delicata Squash
A tough exterior is a common trait among many winter varieties, but delicata squash—with its delicate, edible skin—is a notable exception. (Three cheers for minimal prep work.) For a hearty dish, roast delicata halves and stuff them with whatever fillings you fancy; alternatively, you can simply slice the squash into rings and roast for a daintier looking and equally delicious side dish. Either way, the mildly sweet and nutty flavor of this squash will shine through.
12. butternut Squash
The vibrant orange interior of butternut squash is dense, creamy and sweet. When roasted this beloved winter squash tastes like a sweet potato but milder, and its melty texture works well in soups and mashes. Note: You can eat the skin of butternut squash, but since it’s much more fibrous than say, delicata squash, most people prefer to peel it away after roasting. Why not toss this orange squash into pasta, purée into pizza sauce, fold into quesadillas or turn into soul-warming chili or soup? All that and more with these butternut squash recipes.
13. acorn Squash
If you see a squash that’s round and dark green with small areas of orange coloration, it’s highly likely you’re looking at an acorn squash. The flavor profile of this mild-tasting gourd is equal parts sweet and savory, with a pleasant nutty character that pairs well with pretty much any recipe. When selecting an acorn squash, keep in mind that the ones with less orange are more tender.
Thick, lumpy, sometimes grey—the hubbard is not the most attractive of the bunch, but there’s more to this squash than meets the eye. The bright orange flesh inside is wonderfully sweet and tastes lovely on its own, though it plays well with others as well.
15. banana Squash
These creamy pink, oblong beauties can grow to be quite big so if you scoop one up, you’ll have enough squash to feed a small army. That’s not such a bad thing though, because the sweet and earthy interior is flavorful enough that you can enjoy it with nothing more than a pinch of salt and a pad of butter.
16. field Pumpkins
Bright orange, large and eye-catching, the field pumpkin is the go-to variety when it comes to jack-o-lanterns. In fact, these pumpkins aren’t particularly flavorful so they actually do much better as a Halloween prop than they do on a plate (but you can and should still toast the seeds for a salty snack).
17. cinderella Pumpkins
As you might have guessed, Cinderella pumpkins get their name from the iconic appearance they make in the classic Disney fairytale. However, these too, are nicer to look at than to eat. Grow these big, boldly colored pumpkins if you want some festive eye-candy in your garden—just don’t expect much in the way of flavor.
18. pie Pumpkins
As the name suggests, pie pumpkins are indeed the kind you want to eat. In contrast to the other varieties, the flesh of these somewhat smaller pumpkins is particularly sweet and pleasantly rich. Hint: These ones work well in savory dishes (like pumpkin polenta) as well as sweet treats (hello, pumpkin cream cheese bread).
19. sweet Dumpling Squash
Sweet dumpling squash is...you guessed it, sweet. In fact, this winter variety is very similar to sweet potato in terms of both its taste and its mouthfeel. As such, sweet dumpling squash doesn’t need more than light seasoning and butter to taste divine (but feel free to get creative, if you wish).
20. carnival Squash
Carnival squash is actually a cross between acorn and sweet dumpling squash, so it boasts both the versatility of the former and the creamy sweetness of the latter. Roast the pale orange flesh in cubes and toss them into pasta dishes for a hearty meal or simply serve the squash solo for a yummy side dish.