Best Butternut Squash Substitutes & When To Use Them

Looking for a butternut squash substitute? Whether you don’t have it on hand, can’t find it at the store, have an allergy, or don’t like the taste, try one of these substitutes for butternut squash instead.

What is Butternut Squash?

Butternut squash, known in Australia and New Zealand as butternut pumpkin, is a variety of winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a cylindrical shape with a bulb-shaped end that houses the seeds and tan skin with a smooth texture. A vibrant orange flesh signifies that it’s ripe and as the name suggests has a nutty, sweet taste. It’s primarily found in the U.S. but has made its way to South Africa, Australia, and Europe.

This fall favorite is in season from September to December. However, because of the long shelf life, you can find this particular variety at many grocery stores into January, February, and even March.

Butternut squash is a versatile ingredient used in various dishes such as pizza, curries, risotto, soups, salads, casseroles, lasagna, creamy sauces, breakfast hashes, mac and cheesebowls, breads, galettes, and more. Although it’s typically used in savory dishes, it’s also used in some sweet dishes and desserts. 

Best Alternatives For Butternut Squash

If you live in an area where butternut squash isn’t available or it’s not in season, there are many other options with a similar flavor, texture, and nutritional value. Most other winter squashes can be used in place of butternut squash. Here are the best substitutes you can use in your favorite recipes. 

Orange Sweet Potatoes

Orange sweet potatoes are an excellent substitute. They have a naturally sweet flavor, deep orange flesh, edible skin, and a creamy texture when cooked.

Sweet potatoes can be roasted, baked, mashed, or pureed and used in recipes such as soups, stews, casseroles, and lasagna. They’re also packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and dietary fiber.

Delicata Squash

Delicata squash is a small, oblong squash with a sweet flavor, creamy texture, and thin, edible skin. The delicate, thinner skin is delicious once cooked and doesn’t need to be peeled.

It’s easy to prepare and can be roasted, grilled, stuffed, or cut into rings, breaded, and shallow fried for an appetizer. Delicata squash is a great substitute for side dish recipes, salads, and grain bowls.

Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is a winter squash with a subtly sweet, mild flavor and a tender texture. While it may not be as sweet as butternut squash, it’s still a good substitute in many of the same recipes.

Unlike butternut squash, there’s no need to peel the thin skin on an acorn squash. Once cooked, it’s edible and tender. Acorn squash can be roasted, stuffed, or pureed and used in soups, salads, and side dishes.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, is an excellent substitute for butternut squash. It has dark green skin with light green streaks, a sweet, nutty flavor, and a dense, bright orange flesh that becomes smooth and creamy when cooked.

It can be roasted, steamed, or mashed and used in recipes like butternut squash mac and cheese, butternut squash soup, vegetable mash, curries, salad, sauces, and side dishes.

Buttercup Squash

Buttercup squash has a round, squatty shape, thick dark green skin with light green stripes, and a light grayish green protruding circular mound on the bottom of the squash.

It has an orange-yellow flesh with a sweet flavor and a semi-dry texture. Buttercup works as a great substitute in stews or baked recipes such as bread since its flesh tends to dry out once cooked.

Hubbard Squash

Hubbard squash is a large teardrop-shaped squash with a hard, bumpy skin, a rich, sweet, buttery, nutty taste, and a dry, grainy texture. It’s often used in savory dishes like soups, stews, and casseroles.

It can be roasted, mashed, or pureed. Many stores sell it pre-cut because of its thick skin.

Sugar pumpkin

Sugar pumpkin, also known as pie pumpkin, can be used as a substitute for butternut squash in many recipes.

It has a similar flavor profile and texture, making it perfect for dishes like soups, pies, bread, and muffins. Sugar pumpkin can be roasted and made into pumpkin puree and then canned for convenience.


Carrots may seem like an unconventional substitute for butternut squash, but they can work well in certain recipes. They have a naturally sweet flavor and a semi-firm texture when cooked.

They can be roasted or pureed and used in soups, sauces, salads, and side dishes.

More Winter Squash Varieties

  • Honeynut squash – looks like a mini butternut squash. It has the same shape, a bright orange, creamy flesh, a similar texture, and a sweet flavor. But unlike butternut squash, the skin is tender and edible! You can use this variety in any recipe that calls for butternut squash such as Hasselback butternut squash, but reduce the cooking time since they’re smaller.
  • Spaghetti squash – a type of winter squash with stringy spaghetti-like noodles. This isn’t a suitable substitute in most recipes unless it calls for spiralized butternut squash noodles.
  • Sweet dumpling squash – a small winter squash with a hard skin that is cream and mottled green in color. Its flesh has a sweet flavor and pairs well with maple syrup and other sweet glazes, but can be used in savory dishes as well.

When it comes to substituting ingredients, it all comes down to availability, seasonality, and personal preference. Plus, it’s one of the best ways to build kitchen confidence.

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