Roasted Acorn Squash
You only need 5 ingredients for this caramelized, flavorful, and easy Roasted Acorn Squash. This is one of the simplest acorn squash recipes you can make, and it’s a great staple side dish for fall cooking. It pairs beautifully with meats like Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Prime Rib, and Glazed Spiral Ham.
Squash is one of those ingredients where you don’t have to do that much to it to make it taste good. Because it inherently has a natural sweetness to it, I find roasting to be the best method, because it intensifies and caramelizes the sweetness and flavors already in there.
There are many varieties of squash, and each one is unique in its own way. But the acorn variety is one of my favorites because of its flavor and rich flesh. I find it’s more similar to kabocha or traditional pumpkin, versus delicata or butternut. The flesh of the squash is naturally sweet and almost creamy.
What’s Great About This Recipe
Slices maximize browning – While you can always roast a squash whole, I always think it’s worth the extra effort to cut it up because it maximizes surface area for browning and caramelization. Part of what makes my Butternut Squash Soup so good is that you use Roasted Butternut Squash Cubes, which greatly enhances flavor by adding so much caramelization. Browning is good and is a great way to intensify natural flavors!
Spiced maple butter is so good – We’ll brush the slices with a simple spiced maple butter, enhancing the flavor and also giving a subtle sticky glazed exterior.
Customize it as you like – You are certainly welcome to tweak the flavor profile here, or even to roast it simply in slices with oil and salt. What’s really key here is the cooking method to get the most from the flavor that’s already there.
Preps in less than 10 minutes – I’ll show you how to trim and slice the pieces quickly and safely. The key is to cut on the flat surfaces.
Tips for Best Results
Pick good acorn squash – When you’re at the store selecting your squash, it’s fine to have a good mix between green and orange on the exterior. Look for an exterior that’s smooth, with dull instead of shiny skin, and no soft spots. The squash should be very firm when pressed with your thumb, and should also be heavy for its size. Also, you may use carnival squash for this recipe, which is a cross between acorn squash and sweet dumpling.
Use good maple syrup – Absolutely use a 100% pure maple syrup here, but also know which maple syrup you like the most. Grade B generally has a more robust flavor than Grade A, as do maple syrups that are darker in color.
Use fresh spices – Spices tend to lose their flavor rapidly as they sit in the pantry. The general rule of thumb is that they will stay potently fresh for 3 to 6 months after opening. They won’t necessarily be “bad” at that point, but less flavorful. So try to use freshly purchased cinnamon and cloves here for optimal flavor.
Step by Step Overview:
All we need to do for our roasted acorn squash is trim, scoop, and slice into pieces, brush with a simple maple butter, then bake.
Wash, Trim, and Scoop
Wash each squash well (especially if you plan to eat the skin), trim the top and bottom off, then slice the acorn squashes in half through the middle with a sharp knife. Next scoop out the inner seeds and stringy bits:
Pro tip: Using a melon baller (affiliate) to scrape out the seeds from the insides of the squash is the easiest way of removal, because its edges are sharper than a regular spoon.
How to Cut It
Lay the cut squash halves on its flat side, then cut straight down toward the cutting board with a chef’s knife to create 1″ thick slices:
Make the Maple Butter Glaze
To make the maple butter for brushing, combine pure maple syrup, butter, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, and kosher salt in a small bowl:
Microwave this mixture for about 60 seconds until the butter is melted, then stir it together and brush onto the cut side (top and bottom) of all the squash slices:
Substitutions and Flavor Swaps
The Butter: If you don’t wish to do the maple butter, you can also make this with the oil of your choice, such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, etc. Butter certainly has the best flavor though.
The Sugar: You may swap in brown sugar or coconut sugar, but know that the flavor won’t be as aromatic.
The Spices: In addition to or in place of the cinnamon and cloves, also try nutmeg, allspice, ginger, or pumpkin spice. You can also go savory with chili powder and a pinch of cayenne, with chopped fresh herbs like rosemary, sage leaves, or fresh thyme leaves, or with some parmesan cheese and pumpkin seeds sprinkled on at the end.
There should be enough maple butter to coat both sides of each squash slice:
Roast the slices for 25 minutes on the first side, then flip them over and roast for another 15-20 minutes, until the acorn squash is soft and golden:
That’s it! It’s such a simple side dish great for the colder time of year. Feel free to customize it with the suggestions above, otherwise, enjoy!
How to Serve
Most nights I will simply place the entire hot baking sheet right at the dinner table, but you may also move the slices to a platter for a prettier presentation (I do this for a holiday table). Make sure to serve while hot and sticky.
My family will pick up the pieces like a rib and eat the flesh from the skin, which is very easy for separating the two. Sometimes if the outside isn’t heavily coated in wax and it’s fairly delicate and thin, we will simply eat the slices with the skin on. The choice is yours.
For more fall recipes, I recommend Spaghetti Squash with Rosemary Olive Oil and Parmesan, Pumpkin Muffins, and Butternut Squash Soup. Enjoy!
Recipe FAQ and Tips
Yes, just make sure you wash the outside well before baking.
I find it pretty much impossible to peel before roasting, because of the nature of the crevices. I think it’s easier to simply peel the skin off before eating, if desired. The skin is edible, so it may also be eaten.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Yes, but just know that the texture won’t be as good later. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
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Roasted Acorn Squash
- 2 whole acorn squashes*
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter**
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Wash each squash well, then dry with a towel.
- Trim the top and bottom off, then cut each squash in half through the center.
- Use a melon baller or spoon to remove the inner seeds and strings.
- Lay each cut half on its flat side, and cut straight down toward the cutting board to make 1-inch thick slices.
- In a small bowl, microwave together the maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, cloves, and salt for about 60 seconds, until the butter has melted. Stir well with a spoon.
- Place the cut slices on a rimmed sheet pan in a single layer, then brush the maple butter onto both sides of each piece.
- Roast for 25 minutes on the first side, then flip each slice over and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until caramelized and soft. Enjoy!
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in October 2018 with new photos, writing, and tips. Originally published in October 2012. This post contains an affiliate link.