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Do you usually use butternut squash for a recipe and end up having some leftovers? When you’re left with so much extra of this vegetable, the thought of tossing it into the trash might just be the first to pop into your head. Instead of letting those go to waste, why not freeze the leftovers for future cooking? How? We pored over a bunch of reliable sources to provide the best steps in freezing fresh and cooked butternut squash.
Freezing is the surefire way to extend the shelf life of butternut squash. Fortunately, freezing it fresh or cooked is so easy. Follow the steps below, so you can start freezing your extra butternut squash:
- Peel the fresh butternut squash.
- Cut into small cubes, then blanch for three minutes.
- Pre-freeze for two hours.
- Seal using a freezer bag.
For cooked butternut squash, you just have to let the butternut squash dish cool. Then, place it in an airtight container or freezer-grade zip lock bag.
That’s how easy to freeze butternut squash. But if you want to learn more about these steps in detail, continue reading this post because we put the best bits below.
How do you prepare butternut squash for freezing?
Freezing raw butternut squash requires you to follow almost the same procedures used for most greens and other vegetables. But if you’re not really familiar with what those are, the steps are discussed in detail below:
1. Peel the butternut squash
Wash the squash using a vegetable brush to remove any dirt on its surface. After cleaning the squash, choose your best vegetable peeler and start skinning the squash bare until only the orange flesh is visible. Cut off the ends, and then cut it in two and remove the seeds.
2. Cut into small cubes, then blanch for three minutes
Cut each sliced squash diagonally into 5 pieces or until you get your desired thickness. Next, dice the butternut squash, preferably into 3/4 to 1-inch-thick cubes. You can choose to make it bigger. But the abovementioned thickness seems to give you better results in the next step you should take—blanching.
Bring a bowl of water to a boil and put the diced squash in, immersing it for at least 2 minutes and 3 minutes maximum. While other people do not include blanching as part of their freezing prep process, we suggest that you still do. Blanching is an effective way to make the butternut squash last longer in the freezer by inhibiting the growth of enzymes in the squash that could hasten its disintegration.
When the time’s up, immediately transfer the diced squash into a bowl of cold water for an ice bath. This will make sure that the squash does not continue cooking and retain its original texture. Drain after it has completely cooled down.
3. Flash freeze for two hours
Cover a baking tray with parchment paper. Lay the squash cubes on the tray evenly. Next, place and leave the tray in the freezer for at least 2 hours. You can also extend this pre-freezing process by 24–48 hours if you want to make sure that each cube is completely frozen before proceeding to the next step.
Why do you need to flash freeze the cubes, you may ask? This short freezing process helps in completely cooling down the diced squash, as well as sealing in the veggie’s natural flavor. In addition, it will keep the cubes from sticking together when stored in the freezer for long periods.
4. Seal in using a freezer bag
Pack the pre-frozen cubes with a heavy-duty resealable freezing bag. Once you filled the bag based on your desired amount, get rid of as much air as you can from the bag. You may use a vacuum sealer or use the power of water pressure by slowly dipping the bag in a bowl or bucket of water.
Here's a pro tip from some butternut squash lovers: Pack the cubes in portions so you only get the amount you will need in the future without thawing everything.
When you refreeze the thawed vegetable, you risk losing the texture. Plus, it can even cause the fast deterioration of its flavor.
By following these steps, you can have butternut squash in store for the next 6 to 9 months, with some sources claiming that it can even last a year. That’s almost letting yourself keep a stock of this nutty vegetable until its peak season.
How do you store cooked butternut squash?
But how about if you’re trying to make your leftover butternut squash last longer?
The best way to freeze cooked butternut squash is to turn it into a puree if you want to make it last for longer periods. But for most cooked butternut squash recipes, you can turn to the detailed steps below:
1. Cool down the butternut
Let your recipe completely cool down at room temperature. Make sure that not an ounce of moisture can build up when you cover it. Moisture is the major catalyst that causes all foods to go bad fast.
2. Place in an airtight container or freezer-grade zip-lock bag
Choose an airtight container in your cupboard to store the squash in. This type of storage helps in properly isolating its content from outside air that could cause faster spoilage. If you don’t have one, you can also use freezer-grade zip-lock bags. These bags provide tighter air blocking capability than regular box containers. Place in the freezer afterward.
How long can you freeze cooked butternut squash?
Unlike when frozen raw, cooked butternut squash, pureed or not, can only last for 3 months in the freezer at best. Make sure that it has been placed in an area in the freezer unaffected by frequent temperature fluctuations caused by frequently opening the freezer door.
Should I thaw frozen butternut squash before cooking?
When you’re ready to use your frozen butternut squash, you will be confronted with this question: to thaw or not to thaw? Well, it will depend if you have frozen it raw or cooked.
Most food bloggers prefer using the raw frozen butternut squash, straight from the freezer, especially for roasts, soup, chili, and stew recipes. Nevertheless, thawing the squash before cooking is still an option if you prefer to do so.
On the other hand, cooked butternut squash should certainly be thawed, especially the puree. No one would and could consume crystallized soup or stew, not to mention a solid puree as a dip.
How do you thaw frozen butternut squash?
If you choose to thaw the butternut squash, whether frozen or cooked, transfer the butternut squash from the freezer to the refrigerator. Leave it there overnight, or until the ice has completely melted.
Do not defrost at room temperature because this will make the raw butternut squash soggy, and the cooked one can even spoil right after being thawed.
One essential piece of information to remember is to use the butternut squash within 2 to 3 days after thawing. Leaving it untouched past that allowable time raises the chance that it’s gone stale. And as previously mentioned, never put it back in the freezer for the second time.
The Bottom Line
You can depend on freezing to keep butternut squash, whether you’re buying it for the weekend brunch or to have a nutritious and delicious veggie to enjoy all year round. With the detailed steps in this blog, never will you waste another bowl of your delicious butternut squash recipe or knock on your neighbor’s to take your leftovers.