Delicata squash is an extraordinarily delicious and nutritious winter squash that has a beautiful appearance, and which is extremely easy to prepare and cook.
The biggest problem we run into is that we cannot seem to find it as easily as other squashes.
This is mainly because of seasonality, but also because it isn’t as well-known and is only now becoming more and more popular. So, luckily, we have compiled a list of amazing substitutes in case you find yourself in a similar situation.
So, what are the best substitutes for delicata squash? The best substitutes for delicata squash include butternut, carnival, and acorn squash, sweet potato, spaghetti squash, sugar pumpkins, and Kabocha squash. All of these have very sweet and nutty tastes and cook in similar ways.
Today, we will have an in-depth discussion on the characteristics of delicata squashes and how to choose a substitute. Then we will discuss the best substitutes, how to use them, and why they work so well.
What is Delicata Squash?
As the name suggests, it is a type of squash specifically found in the winter. This squash also goes by many other names which you might be more familiar with including peanut squash, sweet potato squash, or Bohemian squash.
This winter squash is very easily distinguishable because of its very unique appearance. It is a large oblong-shaped squash with cream-colored skin and distinct green or orange stripes that run vertically down the vegetable.
It is, on average, the size of a stick of butter, measuring about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide (that’s about 15cm in length and 7.5cm in width).
Like with any type of fruit and vegetable, there are certain exceptions because of growing conditions and varietals, and some delicata squashes can reach up to 12 inches (30cm) in length.
This squash is becoming extremely popular because not only can you eat the flesh, but the skin is also quite tasty. The skin itself has another very unique characteristic. It has very soft skin, hence the name, delicata.
If you thought it couldn’t get better, you are wrong! This vegetable is also very nutritious and contains a ton of Vitamin B and C, magnesium, manganese, and is a fantastic source of fiber.
How is Delicata Squash Used?
This squash not only has a very unique color and easy-to-peel skin but is also very delicious. It has a sweet flavor that sometimes hints at earthy. Once cooked, it has a very soft almost creamy texture that is out of this world.
To prepare it is also very easy; simply cut it in half, remove the seeds, slice, and cook. You can keep the skin on or easily peel it off.
We love to roast our delicata squash, but you can also use a ton of other cooking methods. Steaming this squash will help it retain all of its nutrients and delicious flavors. You can also boil it, blend it into a puree or soup, or even deep fry pieces.
Some delicious recipe ideas include;
- Roasted maple syrup flavored squash with some pecan nuts and chopped bacon
- Seasoned delicata squash where you can use a wide variety of spices and herbs
- Crusted and roasted delicata squash bites (you can crust them using breadcrumbs, or some nuts)
- Stuffed delicata squash (you can use a wide variety of stuffing including feta and spinach, or a meatier one like lamb and tzatziki)
- Delicata squash spiced soup
- Pasta with a delicata squash pasta sauce
- Autumn roast squash salad with rocket, feta, seed mix, and a balsamic dressing
Choosing a Substitute for Delicata Squash
When choosing a substitute for any ingredient, it is important to break down its original characteristics, and then look at which part you want to substitute.
If for example, you want to substitute the flavor, you will obviously choose one that has the most similar sweet flavors.
If you want to substitute its creamy color, you won’t use orange pumpkins or butternuts. If you are looking to substitute the easy-to-peel skin, you will look for some similar vegetables.
When it comes to delicata squash specifically, we prefer staying inside the winter squash, or at the very least the squash family. This category of ingredients has very similar characteristics so will all make excellent substitutes.
The 7 Best Substitutes for Delicata Squash
So, now that we have had a look at delicata squashes specifically, let’s have a look at their many different substitutes. Each one is unique in its own way and most of these will work as a fantastic flavor substitute.
1. Butternut Squash
This is our number one recommendation when looking to substitute delicata squash, simply because of its availability and for the fact that everyone is familiar with this vegetable.
Butternuts are large orange squashes that are similar in size to delicata squashes. This means that when looking at recipes that call for half or a quarter squash, you can easily substitute it accurately.
Butternut has a thick orange rind that is difficult to peel and that isn’t all too appetizing when eaten.
Once you remove the skin though, you reach the juicy orange flesh that also has a sweet and slightly nutty flavor to it. Delicata squash is however still sweeter, but butternut is a close substitute.
If you are looking at substituting the nutrients in delicata squash, butternut definitely has very similar ones. It is also a very good source of fiber and minerals.
You can prepare butternut in exactly the same way delicata squash is prepared or that the recipe calls for.
2. Carnival Squash
Carnival squash has a very similar appearance to that of delicata squash. Usually, it is much rounder in shape and quite smaller in size.
These squashed has cream-colored skin with green or orange stripes running down their sides.
Sometimes the skin does have a more yellowish color, or sometimes a completely green color. The stripes however still remain unmistakenly bright and clear.
It does have very hard and dry skin, but once removed reveals a pale orange center. When you cook this squash it gets a very rich buttery texture and a sweet and nutty flavor.
This squash is easier to find compared to delicata squash depending on where you are. It is also packed with nutrients like vitamin A, C, and E, and a ton of fiber.
3. Sweet Potato
Now, we know that sweet potato aren’t a type of squash, but they do however have extremely similar flavors and colors.
There are a few different sweet potato varieties, but we would recommend white sweet potatoes or purple sweet potatoes (the one with the purple skin but white flesh).
Both the skin and flesh of sweet potatoes are edible and have very sweet flavors. And what makes this another great substituting, especially if you hate a ton of preparation, is that the skin is extremely easy to peel!
Sweet potatoes are just as easy to find as butternuts and can be prepared in exactly the same way delicata squash is. You may need to adjust the cooking time of sweet potatoes slightly as they are smaller compared to the squash.
4. Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is one you have definitely seen before at the very least. It has dark green skin with sometimes hints of orange or yellow. This skin is also very soft and easy to remove.
Then, you reach the beautiful orange-yellow flesh that has very nutty flavors and a slight sweetness to it – definitely, a great option if you want to reduce the sweetness of the dish.
Once cooked, its flesh becomes very tender and sometimes slightly dry – take this into consideration when making a recipe as you may need to add more creamy ingredients like butter.
When substituting delicata squash with acorn squash, just remember that acorn squash is much larger compared to delicata squash. So make the necessary adjustments to ensure you still have the correct quantity.
5. Sugar pumpkins
Sugar pumpkins, also commonly referred to as pumpkin pies or sweet pumpkins, are cute small bright orange pumpkins with a large green or brown stem.
As the name suggests, these pumpkins have a very sweet flavor with subtle nutty hints. When cooking the yellow flesh, it transforms into a very creamy and smooth texture.
You have to remove the thick skin before cooking the flesh itself. You can follow the exact same cooking methods that you would use for delicata squash, but you may have to slightly adjust the quantities of these small pumpkins.
6. Kabocha Squash
Imagine the sugar pumpkin but with dark green skin and light green-yellow textures. This squash is extremely popular and like delicata squash and butternut, it has a very sweet flavor profile.
It also has an edible rind, so removing it is optional. The rind closely resembles that of butternut, which is very hard to remove. By microwaving it for a minute or two you will help soften it and make it much easier to remove.
We would highly recommend using Kabocha squash as a substitute in soups, stews, or sauces.
7. Spaghetti Squash
Our final substitute for today is spaghetti squash. The main reason we have included this squash as a substitute is because of its sweet flavor and its availability.
There are many different colors and sizes of spaghetti squash you can choose from, so you can really get creative. The name of this squash comes from the cooked texture, which resembles cooked spaghetti strands.
The massive difference in textures means that you can only use this substitute for certain recipes like casseroles, or stews where it won’t be as notable. With soups, however, you will instantly notice the texture differences.
Despite the texture, it is a fantastic, delicious, and nutritious substitute and one we still highly recommend.