Squash is one of those vegetables that have such a unique taste and texture that it is difficult to find a substitute. There are many varieties of squash that range in taste from very mild to quite distinct, but their textures are all quite similar. So, if your recipe calls for a certain kind of squash and that kind of squash is not available to you, what can you use as a substitute?
The seven most similar substitutes for squash in a recipe are (1) carrots, (2) cucumbers (3) eggplants, (4) potatoes, (5) pumpkins, (6) sweet potatoes, and (7) other varieties of squash.
While carrots have a more distinctive taste than most varieties of squash, they can be used as a substitute for squash in many recipes. Carrots are very nutritious and will make a healthy substitute for squash on any kind of diet or eating plan.
Carrots are also sweet and will make an excellent choice as a substitute in recipes calling for buttercup squash, which is considered the sweetest squash, butternut squash, and acorn squash, all of which have sweet flavors similar to carrots.
Here are several instances where carrots can be substituted for squash in your recipes:
- Casserole or salad recipes that call for butternut squash can be made successfully with carrots, and the results will be very similar in taste and color to when the recipe is made with butternut squash.
- Vegetable soup recipes which call for cubes of butternut squash will be very flavorful if carrots are used instead of the squash.
It will probably surprise you to find that the cucumber would make a good substitute for squash in certain instances. In fact, the cucumber and both summer and winter squash belong to the same family, or Cucurbitaceae, better known as “cucurbits,” and are all packed with nutrients, high in antioxidants, and low in calories.
While we don’t consider the cucumber to be a vegetable that is normally cooked except for making pickles, the cucumber would be a good substitute for any kind of squash in salads, vegetable platters, or stir-fries.
Eggplant and zucchini have similar textures and tastes, which means that eggplant could be substituted for squash in recipes such as stir-fries, casseroles, soups, and stews, in which you would normally include squash. Here again, like potatoes, the substitution would more likely be squash for eggplant. If you wanted to make an eggplant recipe and didn’t have one, several kinds of squash, including yellow squash and zucchini, could be used in place of the eggplant.
Potatoes can definitely be substituted for squash in certain recipes. For example, if you intended to have roasted squash, but there were no squash to be found, or maybe just not enough squash for your recipe, then you could either roast potatoes or mix squash and potatoes for a modified version of your roasted squash recipe. Either dish would be good.
But, the more likely substitution here would be to substitute squash for potatoes.
- Mashed butternut squash could be substituted for mashed potatoes, and
- A few yellow squash chunks added to a beef stew would be delicious if you were out of potatoes.
Many people consider the pumpkin, along with the sweet potato, to be one of the two best substitutes for butternut squash in any recipe calling for butternut squash because the three vegetables have such similar textures and flavors. By the same token, butternut squash and sweet potato can also be substituted in recipes calling for pumpkin.
In fact, if you read the ingredients list on a can of pumpkin pulp, you will find that the main ingredient is cooked and mashed winter squash.
6. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are very similar in color and texture to certain kinds of squash like butternut, delicata, acorn, hubbard, and buttercup squash. For that reason, sweet potatoes can be substituted for any of the types of winter squash mentioned here, in such dishes as soups, stews, and casseroles.
Other Varieties of Squash
While the other vegetables mentioned here will make very good substitutes for squash, the absolute best substitute for any kind of squash is one of the other types of squash. There are so many different varieties of squash, that it would be hard to imagine not being able to find some type of squash any day of the year.
What the different varieties of summer squash all have in common are the thin, edible skins and tender flesh. Summer squash does not store well and must either be cooked or refrigerated within a few days of being harvested. The varieties of squash that are considered summer squash include the following.
The chayote squash is somewhat pear-shaped and has an apple-like taste, and it is primarily prepared like most other summer squash, but if you happen to live in the Deep South, it is often stuffed with a cornbread-like stuffing. The chayote squash originates from Central America and is known in the Louisiana area as the mirliton, which is very popular in South Louisiana cuisine.
The chayote squash can be replaced in many recipes by eggplants or cucumbers because of their similar tastes and textures.
The cousa squash is often confused with the zucchini because the shape is similar, but the cousa is a Middle Eastern squash variety. It looks like a shorter version of a zucchini with a lighter green color, and, like zucchini, it has a thin, tender skin and mildly sweet taste.
The cousa squash can be substituted for zucchini in any dish calling for zucchini as an ingredient.
The patty pan squash is another squash with a distinctive shape. The patty pan is round and resembles the shape of descriptions of UFOs. The patty pan is most often cut into chunks and sauteed, grilled, or roasted. The patty pan and yellow straight or crookneck squash can be used interchangeably in recipes.
Round zucchini tastes just the same as regular zucchini but is shaped like a small grapefruit. Even though they are often cooked the same way as regular zucchini, they are the perfect shape for stuffing. The round zucchini can be substituted for the zucchini, the tatume, the zephyr, and the tromboncino squashes with no discernable taste or texture difference.
The tatume is a Mexican heirloom squash that is shaped like a zucchini, although it is paler in color, and is sweeter and much more flavorful than the zucchini. It also has very small seeds and a very thin skin.
The tatume squash, also known by several other names, including tatuma and calabacita, is unique because even though it has soft skin, flesh, and seeds like all the other summer squash, it can be grown and harvested as a summer squash or as a winter squash.
The tatume is most often cooked the same way as the zucchini and can be substituted for the zucchini, the round zucchini, or the zephyr in any recipe calling for zucchini.
The tromboncino is an Italian heirloom squash that has an unusual shape, and it has the best flavor when it is about 12 inches long. While this squash is of the same species as the butternut squash, which has a tough outer peel, the tromboncino is harvested when it is young and tender with a thin edible skin like summer squash.
This type of squash is best when cut into chunks and sauteed, and can be substituted for any of the thin-skinned summer squashes.
The yellow crookneck or straight-neck squash has a distinctive shape with a bulbous end and a long slender neck. This type of squash is often either steamed, stewed, or sliced and fried, although there are some excellent squash casseroles that are made from this yellow squash.
The crook neck is often substituted for the patty pan or any of the other types of summer squash. The yellow squash, which includes crook neck and straight neck, can be substituted for each other and for potatoes in recipes such as soups and stews.
The zephyr is a two-toned yellow and green squash with a tougher skin than the regular zucchini, but the flesh is tender and flavorful. It is one of the types of squash that can be turned into zucchini noodles. The zephyr can be substituted for zucchini, tromboncino, tatuma, and the round zucchini.
The zucchini, along with the yellow squash, is one of the more common types of summer squash. The zucchini is very versatile and can be steamed, stewed, fried, pickled, and can even be made into zucchini butter or zucchini bread.
The zucchini can be substituted for any of the other types of summer squash.
What the different varieties of winter squash have in common is that most have a thick, tough outer skin or rind and sweet flesh. Winter squash are also more easily stored for longer periods of time than summer squash, some lasting for as long
as 6 months from harvest when stored under the right conditions. Winter Squash varieties include the following.
The acorn squash, also called the Des Moines squash, is acorn-shaped with a thick and tough dark green outer skin that is ridged from end to end all the way around. While the acorn squash is a variety of the same squash species as the zucchini, which is a summer squash, it has a tough outer rind, and so it is treated as a winter squash. The inside of the acorn squash is quite similar to a pumpkin or a cantaloupe. Its flesh is yellow-orange with a cavity in the center filled with seeds and fibrous pulp.
The acorn squash is frequently cut in half, the seeds and pulp removed, seasoned, roasted or baked, and served as a delicious side dish. Not only is the acorn delicious, but it is loaded with antioxidants, potassium, and fiber.
The acorn squash can be substituted in any recipe calling for a butternut, a banana, or a kabocha squash.
The banana squash, like many other types of squash, gets its name from its shape. Native to South America, the banana squash tastes very much like butternut squash and can be substituted in any recipe calling for butternut, acorn, or kabocha squash.
The banana squash will last for up to a month after harvest if stored properly.
The buttercup squash, which is sometimes called a turban squash because of its shape, is a type of kabocha winter squash that has a tough outer green rind, and the inside resembles a pumpkin. It has orange flesh and seeds that, like pumpkin seeds, can be roasted and eaten as a snack food. The flesh can be used in soups, muffins, and pies and can be pureed and substituted for sweet potato.
In this video, I roast some pumpkin seeds, which is the same process as it would be for buttercup squash:
The buttercup squash is thought to be the sweetest of all the different types of squash and can be stored for up to 4 months in a cool, dry area.
The butternut squash, which is known in Australia and New Zealand as the butternut pumpkin, is a bottle or pear-shaped squash that has a pale tan rind that is tough and makes peeling the squash quite difficult, but the flesh is a vibrant yellow-orange. Butternut squash is especially good, sliced in half and baked or broiled, or cut into chunks and used as an ingredient in casseroles, soups, and stews.
The butternut squash is a member of the pumpkin family and is low in calories and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. However, if you have a recipe that calls for butternut squash and you don’t have one, you can substitute the delicata, hubbard, buttercup, or acorn squashes, or the sugar pumpkin, sweet potato, or carrots.
The butternut squash can be stored for up to 3 months in a cool, dry area.
The carnival squash, a hybrid of the sweet dumpling and the acorn squashes, is shaped like a small pumpkin and has a thick, tough outer rind that is a variegated green and orange color with pale orange flesh.
The carnival squash is quite versatile and can be cut in half and stuffed, baked or roasted, or used as an ingredient in casseroles, soups, stews, chilis, or curries. The carnival squash is smaller than the acorn squash and much sweeter and can be substituted in any recipe calling for the acorn squash, the butternut squash, the banana squash, or the kabocha squash.
The carnival squash can be stored for up to a month in a cool, dry area.
The delicata squash, also known as the Bohemian or sweet potato squash, has a cylindrical shape with thin edible skin that is pale yellow with a green pinstripe, and flesh that is a vibrant yellow. This is a very versatile squash that can be stuffed and baked, roasted, sauteed, steamed, or microwaved.
The delicata is high in antioxidants and fiber and low in fat and calories, and can be substituted for butternut, hubbard, buttercup, and acorn squashes, sugar pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
The delicata can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark area, but not as long as some of the other winter squash because of its thin skin.
The hubbard squash is a very large winter squash that grows to be about a foot long and 15 to 20 pounds on average, and like the pumpkin, the hubbard squash is hard to peel.
Because the flesh of the hubbard squash can be somewhat grainy, it is better served in soups or other recipes that call for pureed squash or pumpkin.
The hubbard squash can be substituted in certain recipes for the butternut, buttercup, delicata, and acorn squashes, sugar pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
The hubbard squash can be stored at approximately 50℉ for up to six months.
The kabocha squash is a Japanese squash that is perfect for stuffing and baking, roasting, pureeing, and steaming. It is almost identical to a sugar pumpkin with its hard rind and bright yellow-orange flesh.
The kabocha squash, like other winter squash, is low in fat and calories but high in antioxidants, especially beta-carotene, and can be substituted for the hubbard, the butternut, the buttercup, the delicata, and the acorn squashes, the pumpkin, the sugar pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
The kabocha squash can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dry area.
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