Honeynut squash are pretty new on the market, so you may or may not know what they are. They look like small Butternut squash, and they are related, but not the same plant. They are a hybrid of a Butternut squash and a Buttercup squash. They are sweet and delicious, so let me urge you to at least give one a try! The following is a comprehensive article about these beauties, from what they are to how to enjoy them. I hope this helps!
Honeynut Squash 101 – The Basics
About Honeynut Squash
Honeynut squash are relatively new on the market, having been available for only a few years. They look like a small butternut squash, but are only up to 6 inches long. They were developed as a friendly challenge between a food scientist, Michael Mazourek, an associate professor in Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University, and Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of the Blue Hill at Stone Barns Restaurant in Pocantico Hills, New York. The challenge resulted in a hybrid squash variety of Cucurbita moschata that looks like a mini butternut, but with a sweeter flavor. It is actually a cross between a Butternut and Buttercup squash. Honeynut squash are available in the fall through winter months.
A specific trait that makes the Honeynut different than Butternut squash is that the Honeynut is green like a zucchini until it ripens, when it turns its characteristic honey-orange color. The flesh is firm, moist, and orange with a small cavity in the bulbous end of the squash filled with stringy pulp and a few flat, cream-colored seeds. When cooked, Honeynut squash is tender and creamy with a flavor described as sweet, nutty, caramel, and malt-like.
Honeynut squash can be used interchangeably with any other winter squash in most recipes. Mazourek describes the flavor of Honeynut squash as, “starchy with a smooth, even texture, and a flavor that gets sweeter as you eat it.” Since the flesh is sweeter than that of Butternut squash, he also suggests that you reduce sweeteners in a recipe when substituting Honeynut for Butternut squash. The skin is edible like that of a delicata squash, so peeling is optional.
Nutrition Tidbits and Health Benefits
Honeynut squash is an excellent source of beta-carotene, and is a good source of B-complex vitamins like folate, niacin, and riboflavin. It also contains iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Butternut squash are well known for their beta-carotene content. Honeynut squash top their Butternut cousins by having up to three times the beta-carotene.
Since Honeynut squash are relatively new in the food market, little information is available about their health benefits. However, there is ample information about the benefits of eating winter squash (in general), so the benefits are well worth mentioning. Chances are that they also apply to Honeynut squash.
Blood sugar management. Winter squash are classified as low to medium on the Glycemic Index. This means they help to control the release of sugar in the digestive tract. This effect can help to ward off the spike in insulin and blood sugar levels that we commonly experience from some foods, such as potatoes. It is believed that the pectin content of winter squash causes this effect. Studies have shown that pectin in foods has antidiabetic effects by slowing the release of sugars in the digestive tract. The B-Vitamins found in winter squash also have important roles in regulating carbohydrate metabolism. So with all nutrients considered, including winter squash in your diet may be very beneficial for everyone, but especially for those who have issues with blood sugar control.
Antioxidant protection: We know that winter squash are high in beta-carotene, a well-known antioxidant. The Vitamin C and minerals copper and manganese also found in winter squash are known to aid in the activity of antioxidants. Together, these nutrients help to protect us from harmful molecules that can form in the body, protecting heart health and helping to ward off cancer and other diseases.
Eye protection: It is a well-established fact that the leading cause of blindness world-wide stems from a Vitamin A deficiency. Winter squash are known to be rich in Beta-carotene, and Honeynut squash are no exception, with them containing two to three times the Beta-carotene as Butternut squash. Beta-carotene is a precursor in the body for Vitamin A. So there is no doubt that consuming Honeynut squash as well as other winter squash can help to ward off eye diseases including blindness through its Beta-carotene content.
How to Select Honeynut Squash
Look for ones with the least green and most orange color. The orange color indicates ripeness, more intense flavor, and greater nutritional benefits. Opt for those with smooth skins, few blemishes, and no signs of wrinkling (which indicates age and dehydration).
How to Store Honeynut Squash
Honeynut squash can be stored for a month or more if kept in a cool, dry place. The ideal temperature range for storing winter squash is 50-68°F, according to The World’s Healthiest Foods website at http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=63. Note that the skin of Honeynut squash is not as thick as that of other winter squash, so it may not keep quite as long as expected. (Some winter squash may keep for as long as 6 months within that cooler temperature range.) If you notice that your squash has started to wrinkle, use it right away. Wrinkling is a sign that it is drying out and won’t keep much longer.
Of course, once your squash has been cut or cooked, it should be placed in the refrigerator in a covered container, and used within several days.
How to Preserve Honeynut Squash
Honeynut squash can be frozen like any other winter squash. Roasted, baked, or boiled squash can simply be removed from the peel, mashed or pureed (if desired), and placed in a suitable freezer container or bag. Flatten the bag and remove the air. Seal, label, and freeze flat. Smaller amounts can be frozen in ice cube trays, muffin tins, or in specific amounts placed on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Transfer frozen lumps to a freezer bag, label, seal, and return to the freezer. (If the frozen squash pieces are stuck to the pan, just wait a couple minutes and they should release without too much effort.) Properly frozen cooked winter squash will keep up to 12 months in the freezer.
When it’s time to use your frozen squash, it may be used frozen or thawed overnight in the refrigerator, or on a thaw setting in the microwave. The freezer container may also be placed in a pan of warm tap water. Change the water often. Do not heat the water on the stove unless the freezer container was designed to withstand such heat.
Honeynut squash may also be blanched before being frozen. This method would be helpful if you intent to cook your squash in a casserole or soup where you want the cubes to be further cooked later. Cut the squash into cubes and blanch them by placing them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Immediately transfer the cubes to a bowl of ice water and allow them to chill for another 3 minutes. Remove from the ice water and drain them well. Place them into a freezer container or on a tray to freeze individually. Place container or tray in the freezer. Transfer frozen cubes from the tray to a freezer container, label, and return them to the freezer. They should wait for you up to 12 months.
Honeynut squash that was cut and frozen raw will keep in the freezer for up to three months. To prevent having one big lump of frozen squash cubes, place your cut squash in a single layer on a tray. Place the tray in the freezer until the squash is frozen (about an hour). Transfer the cut squash to a freezer container or bag. Label the container, remove air if possible, and return the squash to the freezer.
Once cooked, Honeynut squash will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
How to Prepare and Cook Honeynut Squash
Honeynut squash can be cooked like any other winter squash. The best way to enjoy and intensify the flavor would be to roast the squash. Wash the squash well and slice it in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds with a spoon and place cut side down in a baking dish. The dish can be clean and dry, or lined with a silicone sheet or parchment paper to make cleanup easier. It is not necessary to coat the squash with oil. Roast it in the middle of the oven at 375°F or 400°F until a sharp knife can easily pierce the flesh. The skin of a Honeynut squash is edible, so the peel does not have to be removed. However, it may be a bit tough after being roasted in this manner, so removing the peel is optional.
Honeynut squash can also be boiled, steamed and sautéed. They can also be microwaved by using the “baked potato” setting.
Quick Ideas Using Honeynut Squash
Here are some simple ways to include Honeynut squash in your meals…
* Roast one squash for a simple side dish. Their small size allows them to be put on a plate for an attractive inclusion in any meal. Use one squash for two people. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, then place cut side down on a baking dish. Roast at 375 to 400°F until you can easily pierce it with a fork. Remove from oven and season as desired. Flavor suggestions: (1) Drizzle with sesame oil, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and cayenne pepper. (2) Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon; add maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey to taste. (3) Top with feta cheese, nuts of choice, and a sprinkle of coriander, cumin and mint. (4) Drizzle with melted butter, honey and chopped pecans.
* Add roasted (and cooled) Honeynut squash to your favorite smoothie. Season with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and ginger (or just use pumpkin pie spice) for a Fall pumpkin pie flavor.
* Use roasted, mashed Honeynut squash in place of mashed potatoes. Simply roast, remove flesh from the shell, mash and stir in some butter and salt, if desired.
* Use Honeynut squash in place of Butternut when making a squash soup.
* Add cubes of roasted Honeynut squash to a spinach or kale salad.
* Spiralize your Honeynut squash into noodles. Sauté onion and garlic in a small amount of your favorite oil. Add the noodles and sauté until just tender. Sprinkle with some salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese.
* Add a little roasted and pureed Honeynut squash to pancake batter. It’ll add a nutrient boost, beautiful color, and a sweet flavor to your pancakes.
* Make a delicious salad with a mixture of kale and salad greens, avocado, diced apple, shredded carrots, and steamed or roasted Honeynut squash cubes. Top with a honey mustard dressing, or other dressing of your choice. Add a protein of your choice (meat or poultry, cheese, nuts/seeds, or beans) for a complete meal.
Herbs/Spices That Go Well with Honeynut Squash
Allspice, basil, bay leaf, cardamom, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, cilantro, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, marjoram, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley (flat-leaf), pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, salt, savory, star anise, tarragon, thyme, vanilla, za’atar
Other Foods That Go Well with Honeynut Squash
Proteins, Nut, Seeds: Bacon, beans (in general), beef, black beans, chestnuts, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, nuts (in general), pecans, pine nuts, pork, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, tahini, tofu
Vegetables: Artichoke (Jerusalem), arugula, cabbage (savoy), carrots, cauliflower, celery, celery root, chiles, chives, fennel, greens, kale, leeks, mushrooms, onion, radicchio, shallots, spinach, tomatoes
Fruits: Apples, apple juice, berries, coconut, cranberries, dates, lemon, lime, orange, pears, pomegranate seeds, raisins
Grains and Grain Products: Barley, bulgur, corn, couscous, grains (whole), farro, millet, quinoa, rice, wheat
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Butter and browned butter, Cheese (in general), coconut milk, cream, milk (dairy and non-dairy), Parmigiano Reggiano, yogurt
Other Foods: Honey, maple syrup, miso, oil, stock (vegetable), sugar (brown), tamari, vinegar (esp. balsamic, cider, red wine, sherry)
Winter squash such as Butternut and Honeynut have been used in…
Baked goods (i.e. muffins), casseroles, curries, gratins, pasta (i.e. gnocchi, lasagna, ravioli), pies and tarts, pizza, purees, risottos, soups and bisques, succotash
Suggested flavor combos using Honeynut squash
Combine Honeynut squash with…
Apples + cinnamon + ginger+ maple syrup + walnuts
Cilantro + curry powder + lime + yogurt
Coconut milk + lemongrass
Fruit (i.e. cranberries, dates) + nuts (i.e. pecans, pistachios)
Orange + sage
Quinoa + walnuts
Rosemary + tomatoes + white beans
Sage + walnuts
Twice Baked Honeynut Squash http://dishingupthedirt.com/lifestyle/favorites/twice-baked-honey-nut-squash/
Vegan Butternut Squash with Chili Risotto http://wallflowerkitchen.com/vegan-butternut-squash-chilli-risotto/
Roasted Honeynut Squash with Za’Atar and Pomegranate Molasses http://tastyoasis.net/2014/11/06/roasted-honeynut-squash-with-zaatar-and-pomegranate-molasses/
Honeynut Squash Risotto http://eatupnewyork.com/honeynut-squash-risotto-recipe/
31 Butternut Squash Recipes That Will Make You Wonder Why Pumpkin Gets All The Attention https://greatist.com/eat/butternut-squash-recipes-31-ways-to-enjoy-it-at-every-meal#Desserts
Stuffed Honeynut Squash https://www.nutmegnanny.com/stuffed-honeynut-squash/
Savory Stuffed Honeynut Squash https://www.garlicandzest.com/savory-stuffed-honeynut-squash/
Vegan Wild-Rice-Stuffed Butternut Squash https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/vegan-wild-rice-stuffed-butternut-squash-3362734
Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia. (1993) So Easy To Preserve. Athens, GA: Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.