Can You Eat the Skin of Butternut Squash and Other Winter Squash?

Butternut, acorn and other winter squashes are hearty and healthy and perfect comfort foods for cold months. But these squash can be a pain to prepare. They have thick skin, irregular shapes and firm flesh, which makes them difficult to peel and chop.

It’s definitely much easier to just leave the skin on – a common practice when cooking squash to scoop out the flesh to eat. But is the skin actually safe to eat? And beyond that, it is comfortableo eat?

Some well-known chefs advocate leaving the skin on winter squash. Jamie Oliverfor example, advocates eating the skin of butternut squash.

“You can eat the skin, so there’s no need to peel it,” says Oliver’s website. “Simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and chop it up, roast it and add it to a warm winter salad or toss it into curries, stews or soups. You can also toast the seeds and eat them as a snack or sprinkle over a finished dish.”

Others say the tough skin on most winter squash isn’t very tasty.

“I’m always in the camp of using the whole product whenever possible, and squash can be great for this,” Colin Millssenior recipe developer at Hi Fresh, told HuffPost. “However, there is a big difference between edible and tasty when it comes to squash skin. For those you should eat, it can provide a huge nutritional boost of fiber and vitamin A.”

So which winter squash skin can you eat? We asked chiefs to weigh in.

Is winter squash skin safe to eat?

All winter squash skins are technically edible (and when we refer to winter squash, we’re contrasting it with soft summer squashes, like yellow squash and zucchini).

“All hides are just fiber and perfectly safe to eat,” said Ann Ziataa cook on Department of Culinary Education. “The skin can look beautiful while adding color and texture to a dish. You’ll also save a lot of time by skipping all that pesky peeling.”

Squash with deep orange or yellow flesh, skin and all, offers numerous health benefits. They are good sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, protein, fiber, magnesium and potassium, according to Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Is winter squash skin tasty?

Whether you’ll enjoy eating the skin depends on the type of squash and how thick the skin is, Ziata said. Some are better prepared when peeled.

“The thicker the skin, the more likely it is to remain hard to chew even after it’s cooked,” said Isaac Toups, owner of Toups’ Meatery in New Orleans and developer of the spice line Spiceology. “But if you treat them just right, you can get them crispy and tasty, even the thicker skins.”

Honeynut squash, like smaller butternut squash, has a thinner skin that is tastier to eat.

Claudia Totir via Getty Images

Honeynut squash, like smaller butternut squash, has a thinner skin that is tastier to eat.

It’s ultimately a personal choice and depends on the type of squash you’re cooking.

“If the squash or pumpkins are young, then most of the skins will be” tasty, Toups said. “I take them case by case. I fry one up. If the skin is tasty and not tough, then, and only then, I will leave it in the dish.”

Here’s what chefs have to say about eating the skins of these popular varieties:

It’s common to leave the skin on butternut squash while it’s cooking, especially if you’re halving it, roasting it, and scooping the flesh into a soup or sauce (in which case you’re not actually eating the skin). But if the squash has a thick skin, Ziata said, it could be uncomfortable to eat. So if you’re dicing it for a dish, it might be best to peel it.

Spaghetti squash, loved for its woody flesh, can be a sub for pasta, Toups said. It is often cut in half and cooked with the skin on, so you can easily separate the stringy meat. But it is best to avoid eating the skin. When cooked, the skin sometimes becomes papery described as eggshell-likeand unpleasant to eat.

With deep ridges, acorn squash can be one of the most difficult varieties to peel. Fortunately, most chefs agree that you can leave the skin on and eat it. The skin of acorn squash softens as it cooks, and it’s one that Mills recommends eating. If you’d rather not, you can always peel it off after it’s cooked.

Delicata squash is an excellent option if you want to leave the skin on.

Tom Kelley via Getty Images

Delicata squash is an excellent option if you want to leave the skin on.

“I’ve never peeled a deli — the skin is thin and tasty, so there’s no reason,” Toups said. The oblong, striped squash has a thin, delicate skin that becomes tender when cooked and often takes on a chewy texture.

Kabocha is a round squash with dark green skin that Ziata said is “beautiful and delicious with the skin on.” But others, like Mills, suggest removing the skin. “It won’t be as tasty or add as much value to a dish,” he said.

Here’s how to eat the skin if you really want to

Whenever you plan to eat the skin of squash, buy organic and wash it well, Ziata said.

To make the skin as tender as possible and tastier, she recommends cutting the squash into bite-size pieces, roasting or steaming it and serving it with a glaze or sauce. Or cook it in a soup or stew.

While Mills recommends eating only the skins of deli meats, honey nuts and acorns, he said roasting them is the best course of action. Halve the squash, remove the seeds and cut into approximately one-inch slices. Toss the slices with neutral cooking oil, salt, pepper, and your favorite fall spices—Mills likes garlic powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, smoked paprika, and mustard powder.

Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes at 425 F, flipping halfway through. Serve straight out of the oven as is or with thyme-maple butter.

“This will turn these stone-like vegetables into tender, golden-brown pieces full of fall flavor,” Mills said.

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