Smoked Butternut Squash (halves) – A Fall staple prepared on the grill for an easy dinner recipe on the weekend or weeknight. Oh, and it might be one of the best butternut squash recipes I’ve ever had. Half the squash, scoop out the guts, season, smoke, then eat. Just like that.
Though most would argue the best way to cook butternut squash is to roast it, I’m going contrarian and will argue that this smoked version is the best butternut squash recipe for my money. It also proves that just about any food is smokable. Hardwood smoke belongs in the category with bacon and butter, i.e. smoking makes everything mo better a fact that butternut squash bears out!
Austin winters, feel more like fall and not surprisingly butternut squash is still plentiful here locally. This smoked butternut squash is good practice for the fall football season, as this recipe will be added to the tailgating menu. Hey, I’m a Texan so it’s never too early to be planning for football.
Smoking is not an everyday thing for me, so whenever I crank up the smoker I aim for maximum efficiency and smoke as much as I can at one time. This particular day I was cooking Jerk Chicken Leg Quarters and decided smoked butternut squash would be a good idea for future consumption. I had never smoked butternut squash before but figured the squash had several things going for it including density and a flavor profile that pairs well with applewood smoke. The density would allow it to hold up well to long slow smoking process texturally without absorbing too much smokey flavor if that’s not your thing. In the back of my mind I was thinking I could always use the oven to finish the job if necessary.
What is the flavor profile of the dish?
This is a simple recipe with few ingredients. You’re essentially relying on the natural sweetness of the squash which intensifies during the cooking process. This sweetness is a great balance to the earthy and savory ancho spice rub. The smoke just takes things up a notch and seamlessly blends well with the squash. It doesn’t overpower and mask that sweet, moist and nutty butternut squash flavor.
How to tell if butternut squash is ripe
This smoked butternut squash recipe is super simple relying on just a few ingredients. However, choosing the right squash makes a huge difference. It’s not like you can make up for a subpar key ingredient. Choosing a ripe squash is critical. Unripened squash is bland AF and also hard as hell to cut vs. a ripe one which is sweet like candy and has that world-renown nuttiness that you associate with a good butternut squash soup.
The tricky thing about picking a ripe one, is it ain’t like you can squeeze it to check. You have to rely on other ways. Here are a few key pointers to help you get the right one:
- Make sure the skin is free of any blemishes (no green spots) and go with the darker shade of beige. The darker the riper usually. Glossy skin is also a telltale sign your squash is unripe.
- The weight of the squash is usually a good indicator of ripeness. Ripe squash tends to feel very heavy for its size. So pick a few up and test them
- Similar to watermelon you can also give the old thump test. The more hollow the sound the better.
- Checkout the stem. Old stems will pop off easily, too easily as a matter of fact.
- Softness is bad. A soft squash is too ripe
How to cut butternut squash
Butternut squash cooked the right way is delicious, but it ain’t the easiest vegetable to cut. The key is to start with a heavy, sharp knife with a nice point cause flimsy and dull ain’t gonna cut it, pun intended. The goal is to simply half the squash. Do this by stabbing the middle of the wide end of the squash to wedge. Using some good old elbow grease, put some weight on the knife to push the knife in further. The wide end is hollow so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Once you’re in far enough press the place edge down into the flesh and cut through all the way.
You can also pre-soften the squash via your microwave before cutting. 2-3 minutes on medium power settings should be sufficient.
What Ingredients You Need To Roast Butternut Squash
This vegan butternut squash recipe requires only a few ingredients:
- Butternut squash
- Chili powder (ancho preferred)
- Garlic powder
- Salt & Pepper
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
How To Smoke Butternut Squash (Halved)
- Prepare smoker for indirect heating at 350 degrees F.
- Using a large, sturdy knife, cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise.
- Scoop out the seeds with a spoon or a melon ball scooper and remove stringy bits by scraping with a spoon.
- Transfer the butternut squash, cut-side up onto a baking dish and brush with olive oil or melted butter, coating the entire surface of the squash.
- Season with chili powder, garlic, salt, pepper and brown sugar.
- Smoke with the lid closed for approximately 90 minutes or longer to get squash to fork-tender soft. If time is an issue you can finish in the oven
- Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop flesh from the skin and enjoy as is or use as in ingredient in another recipe like smoked butternut squash soup.
What type of wood works best for smoking butternut squash?
Smoking butternut squash adds all kinds of dimensions of flavor. Depending on cook times and variety of wood you can determine how much smokiness and the overall flavor profile.
I tend to use wood to smoke the squash and I generally defer to what’s available locally. Down here it’s pecan and oak which are both mild-flavored woods that are versatile and work with many different foods. I tend to avoid the stronger woods like mesquite. Hickory is a good one, but if cooked too long, it’s flavor can become dominant. Stick to oak, pecan or any of the fruit woods like apple or cherry.
Key tips for making smoked butternut squash
- Use woods like apple, oak or pecan that impart a mild sweetness and pair well with vegetables. Stronger woods like hickory and mesquite will overpower the squash
- To reduce the amount of smoke flavor, cut the smoking time in half and finish the squash off in the oven.
- For a sweeter profile cook at lower temperatures (225-250) for a longer period (2-3 hours). Higher heat increases savoriness. Alternatively, you can adjust the spice rub to be a bit more sweet with additional brown sugar, honey, or cinnamon.
- I eliminated butter from the recipe to keep this a vegan butternut squash dish, but works fine with it if you prefer adding a bit more fat. Honestly, I don’t think it’s needed.
Smoked Butternut Squash
Add this dish to your compilation of the best butternut squash recipes. If you make it, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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- 1 butternut squash peeled cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or more to taste substitute regular chili powder or cayenne is ancho unavailable
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Prepare smoker for about 325-350 temperature (F).
- Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise end of the butternut squash.
- Cut criss-crossing diagonal lines into the flesh of the squash.
- Mix olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, brown sugar, and chili powder in a mixing bowl
- Brush olive oil mixture on top of each half of butternut squash.
- Place on smoker and cook until soft all they way through about 90 minutes. If not to desired softness, finish in the oven roasting for 15-30 minutes at 350 degrees.
- During the last 30 minutes of cooking add more of the olive oil mixture.