How to Cut, Cook and Use Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is one of the most interesting winter squash available thanks to its stringy, spaghetti like interior. The long, translucent strands are mild flavoured and perfect for tasty sauces, herbs and spices.

spaghetti squash shell and fork with strands

Also read: How to Make Crispy Spaghetti Squash Pancakes, Spaghetti Squash Mac n’ Cheese, Identifying & Cooking Winter Squash

Let me be clear, spaghetti squash doesn’t taste like spaghetti – you’re not going to fool anyone.

Spaghetti is soft and tender while spaghetti squash is slightly watery and crispy. But they do look very similar and they’re both delicious with spaghetti sauce, roasted tomatoes, cheese, bacon and herbs. For that reason, spaghetti squash is a popular alternative for anyone wanting a low carb or gluten free option to pasta.

Spaghetti squash is also very nutritious. It’s high in fiber, beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and vitamin B6.  Lots of reasons to add it to your meal plan.

fork with strands microwave spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash strands are long and stringy like spaghetti, but their texture is slightly watery and crisp. They have a neutral flavor and pair well with cheese, sauce and herbs.

How to Select Spaghetti Squash

The most common spaghetti squash found in grocery stores is pale yellow, but visit a farmer’s market and you may find orange, white, or dark green spaghetti squash with yellow stripes and speckles or yellow rind with green stripes. They’re all great with hardly any difference in texture or flavour. You’ll only notice a difference in the colour of the strands.

Select ripe squash that is firm, dry and has no cracks. The rind should be dull not shiny. Rind that still has a green tinge or is shiny is underripe and may end up being watery.

Compare squash and pick the one that is heaviest and has the most uniform, even coloured, well ripened skin compared to all the others in the bin.

colours of spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash comes in different colours based on variety. The pale yellow ones are most commonly sold by grocery stores. There is very little difference in flavour.

How to Cut Spaghetti Squash

Cooking spaghetti squash is easy – cutting it is the hard part! I either soften the rind in the microwave first or use a towel and mallet.

Option 1 – Soften the Rind

To make cutting hard, wobbly winter squash safer and easier, soften the rind before you try cutting it. I do this by placing it in the microwave on high power for 4-6 minutes. ALWAYS pierce holes into squash before putting in the microwave. Use a knife, fork or skewer to make at least 5-8 deep holes around the squash. Let it cool slightly before cutting. It should be much easier to cut. You can also follow the same steps using the oven.

tips for softening rind before cutting squash

Option 2 – Use a Towel and Mallet

If you want to get right to the cutting without softening the rind, I recommend using a towel and mallet. The mallet will help power through the tough rind and the towel will protect the knife and your fingers if anything slips.

Use the tip of your knife or a small paring knife to score a groove in the squash where you want to make the cut. This will help position your big knife and will guide the cut.

Cut on either side of the stem to avoid cutting through the toughest part of the squash.

cutting winter squash with mallet

If you really don’t want to cut raw squash, consider cooking the squash whole, just remember to pierce holes into it.

Four Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Prefer a visual tutorial? Check out this video on 4 Ways to Cook Spaghetti Squash.

1. In the Oven

Oven roasting squash provides some caramelization and allows liquid to evaporate thereby offering the driest strands, especially if roasting round slices.

  • Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.
  • Wash, cut and remove seeds. Cut in circular slices, in half crosswise or in half lengthwise.
  • Drizzle with oil and salt and pepper or your favourite seasoning.
  • Place squash cut side down on baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until fork can pierce skin. Slices will take 30 to 40 minutes.
  • No need to add water to the pan.
oven roasted squash
Cut squash in slices or in halves (lengthwise or crosswise) to oven roast.
roasted sliced spaghetti squash
Spaghetti squash cut in round slices produces nice caramelized, dry strands and fun little nests.

2. In the Microwave

Microwaving is a speedy way to cook spaghetti squash. The squash will be steamed with no caramelization. Great for Spaghetti Squash Mac and Cheese.

  • Wash, cut and remove seeds. If cooking whole, pierce all over with knife or fork.
  • Place squash cut side down in shallow glass or ceramic dish with 1/2 cup (125 ml) water.
  • Heat on high power for 8 minutes. Check squash and continue to heat until tender up to 15 minutes depending on size and microwave.
fork with strands microwave spaghetti squash
Strands cooked in the microwave.

3. In the Instant Pot

Pressure cooking spaghetti squash in an electric pressure cooker is another fast, efficient way to cook squash whether cooking whole or cut squash.

  • Wash, cut and remove seeds from squash. If cooking whole squash, wash and pierce all over.
  • Place squash in steamer basket or on trivet in cooker cut side down. Add 1 cup (250 ml) water to a six quart pot and 1 ½ cups (375 ml) to an eight quart pot.
  • Seal and set timer for 8 minutes at high pressure for cut squash and 15 minutes for whole squash.
  • Use quick release when time is up.
fork spaghetti squash strands instant pot version
Strands from squash cooked in the Instant Pot. Squash was cut in half around the circumference to follow the natural grain of the strands.

4. In the Crockpot

If you remember to set it up, using a crockpot is probably the easiest way to cook whole squash.

  • Wash squash and pierce all over with fork, skewer or knife.
  • Place in crockpot with 1 cup of water. Ensure lid fits securely.
  • For a small to medium sized (~three pounds) squash cook 3 to 4 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low. Add an hour for larger squash. This works out to about 1 to 1 1/2 hours on high per pound of squash.

Can You Cook Whole Squash

Yes, you can. This is a great alternative if you really don’t enjoy cutting raw squash. Just be aware that the squash may be a little more watery if cooked this way as there will be a lot of steam trapped inside.

You can cook whole squash in the microwave, oven, Instantpot or crockpot. Follow the same procedures as described above just expect it to take a little longer. And ALWAYS pierce whole squash deep, all over with a knife, fork or skewer. This allows some of the steam to escape and prevents squash from bursting.

Be very careful when cutting open whole squash – it will be very hot and steamy. Let it cool for 20-30 minutes before cutting and removing seeds.

squash exploded in microwave
Always pierce whole squash before cooking.

How To Get Long Strands

To get nice long strands use a fork and work around the circumference of the squash. In the photo below you can see the strands naturally grow in a circular pattern inside the squash. By following this natural growth pattern, you’ll get longer strands. Just be aware that the strands are delicate and many will break in the process, no matter how careful you are. But it’s really no big deal – when everyone sits down to eat, no one will notice.

circular strands in spaghetti squash
The strands grow in a circular pattern around the squash.
spaghetti squash fork and strands
Move the fork from side to side rather than lengthwise to separate the strands.

How to Store Spaghetti Squash? 

Well cured spaghetti squash (properly dried and hardened by the grower) can be stored for several months in a cool, dark place.

Cooked spaghetti squash will keep in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

Can You Freeze Spaghetti Squash?

If you really want to, you can freeze well-drained, cooked spaghetti squash, but it’s not my favourite vegetable to freeze. Vegetables with a high water content like spaghetti squash can end up limp and soggy when thawed.

To Freeze – Cook your squash and drain it overnight in a colander or squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place in freezer grade bags and freeze for 3 months. To use, thaw and reheat by pan frying in a skillet, steaming in a steam basket or heating in the microwave in short 30 second increments. Don’t overcook – it won’t take long to reheat that squash.

Using Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash can be used as a side dish, in main entrées or even as appetizers.

It really is a good stand-in for pasta because many of the ingredients that go well with pasta go really well with spaghetti squash too. Cheese, pasta sauce, roasted tomatoes and bacon are perfect toppings.

Here are some of our favourite spaghetti squash recipes:

Cheesy Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

cheesy stuffed spaghetti squash

 

Spaghetti Squash Mac & Cheese

spaghetti squash mac and cheese

Crispy Spaghetti Squash Pancakes

spaghetti squash pancakes

Parmesan Herb Spaghetti Squash 

Herb and Parmesan spaghetti squash

Other Squash Articles

Interested in more articles and recipes for winter squash? Check out the following or type “Squash” in the Search field and be inspired!

Now you tell me, what’s your favorite way to use spaghetti squash? Leave a comment here or on social media, I’m on Instagram @getgettys and Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist.

Getty Stewart is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker, frequent media guest and writer dedicated to putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of several recipe books on enjoying and preserving fruit, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener. Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this.

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