Sweet summer has come and gone this year, and while we definitely are going to miss its seasonal produce — like all those amazing summertime squashes — we’re also excited to usher in the new lineup on squash that thrives in the cooler weather. Most of all, we’re happy to welcome kabocha!

Kabocha is also known as the Japanese pumpkin, and it is used widely in Asia, and particularly Japan and Korea. It is also popular as a side and curries in Caribbean cuisine, where it is just referred to as pumpkin. Essentially, kabocha is similar to butternut squash, only sweeter and more buttery (a fact that underscores butternut squash’s namesake, but it’s true). Kabocha is beloved for its velvety and fluffy texture — almost like a pumpkin-sweet potato hybrid, which makes it extremely suitable for Thai curries and tempura dishes. To learn more about kabocha, read on!

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What Does Kabocha Look Like and Where Can You Find It?

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Kabocha squashes are squat (almost like a shorter and stockier pumpkin) and are a dull, dark green in color. Once you slice open a kabocha squash, however, you’ll find they their inside flesh is brilliantly bright and ranges from rich reddish-orange to yellow in hue.

Kabocha is in season in the late, late summer and early fall, and can be stored for up to a month, provided you keep it in a cool and dry location. When deciding which kabocha to buy, try to select a squash that seems heavy for its size. The outer rind of the squash should feel firm and avoid any squash with soft spots (although light-colored, firm bumps on the outside green rind are perfectly normal).

You can buy kabocha at many grocery stores and farmers markets; Whole Foods is a good bet. You will also likely have good luck finding them at Asian supermarkets or in Caribbean neighborhoods.

Nutritional Benefits

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One cup of Kabocha contains forty calories — twenty calories less than butternut squash.

Kabocha is high in the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is also known as vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for healthy white blood cells, good immunity, and healthy eyes, skin, and hair. One serving of kabocha squash provides you with 70 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement.

The skin of a kabocha squash is rich in fiber (and you can safely consume the peel), and also a good source of iron, vitamin C, and some B vitamins.

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Preparing Kabocha

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Kabocha is an extremely versatile squash, and while it is a sweet and unctuous treat to enjoy straight after roasting in the oven, it can also be prepared in a number of ways to fit many different dishes.

To first prepare kabocha, thoroughly wash and dry the exterior of your squash, and then cut into it with a large and sturdy knife (be sure it’s on a cutting board first!). Kabocha is tough to get through, but if you plan on just roasting halves, you can cut it right down the center and through the stem. Rock the knife back and forth carefully to complete the cut. After halving, scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller.

If you want to roast the kabocha in chunks, continue cutting your halved kabocha into the desired size pieces. Here’s a pro-tip: if you are all out of cornstarch and need to thicken a recipe, such as soup, you can use kabocha instead! Just mash up some cooked kabocha and plop it into your soup, combining until your desired consistency is reached.

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Recipes Featuring Kabocha

Kabocha can be roasted, steamed, simmers, baked, or puréed, and its seeds can also be consumed! You can try swapping in a kabocha squash for recipes that call for pumpkins or butternut squashes. You could also try coming up with some kabocha-specific recipes on your own.

Frying kabocha, like for tempura, is a popular preparation of the sweet squash. You could also make these Kabocha Croquettes for an appetizer or even a light lunch.

Kabocha is super creamy and can be used as a sauce or a spread. Try making this Creamy Kabocha Butter (it would taste delicious on toast!) or even make a pizza, and slather this Cheesy Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce on your dough.

If you want to go the savory route, both this recipe for Wild Rice With Kabocha Squash and Sage Butter and this quick 20-Minute Lentil and Kabocha Squash Curry recipe are sure to delight.

Want to learn more ways to work with squash? Check out these 15 Savory Recipes Made With Winter Squash. Then, check out these 10 Warming Fall Spices, because Kabocha pairs particularly well with some of the sweeter ones, such as cinnamon, like in this recipe for Kabocha Leek Soup With Maple Cinnamon Chickpeas.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

Lead image source: Kabocha With Maple Butter Glaze and Fried Sage