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This roasted kabocha squash recipe was the first winter squash I learned to cook, which may sound odd because it’s less common than some others, but I picked one up at the farmers market decades ago when I knew nothing about winter squash. If you haven’t tried it before, you’re in for a treat. This Japanese pumpkin has a taste, texture, and vibrant orange flesh similar to butternut squash or acorn squash, but has a more rich, sweet, and nutty flavor. It’s also more dense than other types of winter squash, a bit like sweet potatoes. It’s still one of my faves today!
If you’re less familiar with this unique vegetable, you’ll be happy to know that it can be used in virtually any recipe that uses other winter squash, such as a squash soup recipe or stuffed acorn squash. You can throw kabocha squash into almost anything, from soups and salads to side dishes and even desserts.
Why You’ll Love This Kabocha Squash Recipe
- Rich, sweet, and nutty flavor
- Smooth, dense, creamy flesh
- Just 5 simple ingredients
- Prep in 5 minutes
- Ready to eat in 30 minutes
- Versatile healthy side dish
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for roasted kabocha squash, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Kabocha Squash – You can typically buy kabocha squash at your local grocery store or farmers markets from the late summer or early fall through the winter season. Sometimes it will be labeled Japanese pumpkin. Look for squash with a firm, dark green skin. It should feel heavy for its size, which indicates freshness and ripeness.
- Olive Oil – This promotes browning, adds flavor, and helps the seasonings stick. You can also use avocado oil, or any neutral cooking oil you have on hand.
- Garlic Powder – Although optional, garlic powder adds a savory kick to the Japanese pumpkin for the best flavor.
- Sea Salt & Black Pepper
How To Cut Kabocha Squash
You can cut kabocha squash much like other types of winter squash — in halves, sliced wedges, or cubes. The skin is very tough, so peeling it is not fun. While you can roast halves like I do for roasted acorn squash, I prefer wedges for kabocha squash for faster cooking and caramelization. Here’s how to do it:
- Cut off the ends. Use a sharp knife so that you can cut through the skin. If this is difficult to do depending on its shape, you can do this after slicing it in half in the next step.
- Cut in half. If you struggle with this, it can help to score where you plan to cut. Cut away the stem if you didn’t already.
- Remove the seeds. Scoop out the seeds and any stringy flesh inside with a spoon.
- Make wedges. Place the squash vertically and slice downward into 1-inch wedges. Repeat with the other half.
How To Cook Kabocha Squash
This section shows how to roast kabocha squash, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Prep. Preheat your oven and prepare a small to medium baking sheet with foil, parchment paper, or brush with oil. Arrange the squash slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet, without touching each other.
- Season. Drizzle the squash with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder (if using), salt, and pepper.
- Roast. Bake kabocha squash in the oven, until the squash is fork-tender, caramelized, and slightly browned. I like to garnish with fresh parsley, but this is optional.
TIP: Use a bare pan for best results.
You can line the pan with foil or parchment paper if you like, but parchment paper will reduce browning. Foil works fine for browning, but sticks more easily, so be generous with the oil.
How Long To Roast Kabocha Squash?
Sliced roasted kabocha squash in the oven takes 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through. Halved kabocha squash takes longer.
I used simple seasonings for this kabocha squash recipe, but there are so many ways to season it. Here are a few ideas:
- Maple – Add sweetness to the Japanese squash by drizzling it with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (or zero sugar maple syrup). You can also add pecans or pepitas in the last 5 minutes of roasting, for extra crunch.
- Herby – Sprinkle the squash with 1 tablespoons of thyme, rosemary, or oregano, or 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning . For an extra touch, consider adding a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese at the end, or coat the squash in it before roasting.
- Pomegranate – Make it vibrant by topping your Japanese pumpkin with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, walnuts, or pepitas, and parsley or fresh mint leaves.
- Asian – Create an Asian-inspired twist by drizzling it with Japanese ginger dressing and adding a touch of sesame seeds and green onions.
- Fall Spices – Embrace the cozy flavors of fall by roasting kabocha squash with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and other fall spices according to your taste. Or, simply sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
- Store: Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
- Reheat: Warm Japanese pumpkin in the microwave, or in a 350 degree F oven for 10-15 minutes until warmed through.
- Freeze: You can freeze both cooked and uncooked kabocha squash. For uncooked squash, peel, seed, and cut it into portions before storing in airtight containers for up to 12 months. For cooked squash, freeze in airtight containers or zip lock bags for up to 6-8 months.
What To Serve With Kabocha Squash Recipes
There are so many tasty ways to enjoy this winter squash. Here are a few options to try:
- Chicken – Enjoy the sweet and savory flavors of teriyaki chicken or honey garlic chicken alongside your Japanese pumpkin.
- Seafood – I love serving this squash with my Asian-inspired keto honey glazed salmon, but it would be delicious with sweet bacon wrapped shrimp.
- Pork – Add a side of squash to your air fryer pork chops, savory Crock Pot pork chops, or a crispy pork belly for a comforting meal.
- Sauces – Drizzle the squash with tahini sauce or spicy mayo.
- Repurpose Leftovers – Puree any extra roasted kabocha squash into a butternut squash soup or throw cubes into low carb beef stew for added flavor and nutrition. Fold it into your favorite fall or winter salad. Add it to your beef stir fry or chicken stir fry. So many possibilities!
More Winter Squash Recipes
I love winter squash, and if you do too, try some of my other recipes, next:
Tools To Make Japanese Pumpkin
- Baking Sheet – I prefer using this nonstick baking sheet because it eliminates the need for greasing or parchment paper, making clean-up a breeze.
Kabocha Squash Recipe
Kabocha Squash Recipe (So Easy!)
You'll love the rich flavors of roasted kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin) in this easy recipe. Perfectly caramelized with simple seasoning!
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). Prepare a small to medium baking sheet by lining it with foil or parchment paper, or you can leave it bare if it’s a good non-stick surface. (If using a bare pan or lining with foil, brush lightly with oil. This is not necessary with parchment paper.)
Cut off the top and bottom of the squash ends.
Cut the kabocha squash in half from stem to tip, and scoop out the seeds. Place one half with a flat side down (stem side up or down), then slice downward in a circle, to make 1-inch-thick wedges (a little similar to how melon slices would look). Repeat with the remaining squash half.
Arrange the squash slices in a single layer on a large baking sheet, without touching each other. (You can line the pan with foil or parchment paper if you like, but parchment paper will reduce browning. If using foil or a bare sheet pan, brush it with some extra oil before adding the squash.)
Drizzle the squash with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle both sides with garlic powder (if using), salt, and pepper.
Roast kabocha squash in the oven for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the squash is tender and the edges are browned.
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Serving size: 1 cup
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