Delicata squash is a member of the winter squash family and is a sweet and novel addition to your meals with its oval shape and signature thin green stripes.
Two reasons may call for delicata squash replacements. Some recipes or people might prefer a subtler flavor, or the seasonality of delicata squash may render it unavailable or difficult to source outside of the fall season.
If you cannot find or buy this delicata squash, your kitchen plans need not be squashed. Other squash and gourd alternatives can save your meal plan or craving. We have listed some substitutes that you can consider:
- Acorn squash
- Carnival squash
- Butternut squash
- Sugar pumpkin
- Buttercup squash
- Sweet potato
- Kabocha squash
Before we dive deep into each alternative, let’s understand a bit more about this ingredient commonly used for cooking
13 Best Substitute For Delicata Squash
Delicata squash is named such because it’s a delicate, sweet, and creamy squash—or gourd if you want to be scientific. Also known as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash
Another name (yes, there’s more) for it is candy potato squash because—you guessed it—cooked delicata squash features a corn and pumpkin pie taste that screams creamy and deliciously sweet.
This trait consistently classifies delicata squash as a fruit, though considered a vegetable when we use it for cooking.
Delicata squash is distinctly favored for its sweet, nutty flavor and buttery, creamy texture once cooked. Even its skin and seeds are palatable—which is why it earned the delicata name. Keep these things in mind with these 13 best delicata squash substitutes:
Acorn squash is a top substitute since it can capture the key flavor and textural traits of delicata squash. Acorn squash has a mild nutty taste and lower level of sweetness—making it an even more delicate version of delicata squash. This would be an ideal substitute for those looking for a tempered flavor for stuffing or baking.
Acorn squash is colored yellow-orange and is spongy when fresh. Once cooked, the dry texture should not be a problem since you can supplement the creaminess with butter (as an example).
Acorn squash is rounder and larger than delicata squash, so there is more flesh to prepare and serve. This makes it a substantial baking and stuffing substitute.
While the flesh is on the fibrous side, it might not be preferred in soups—so consider a more packed or solid execution for acorn squash. The dark green skin is edible and easy to remove.
The cream-colored carnival squash is a hybrid of acorn squash and sweet dumpling squash, so it qualifies as a delicata squash substitute. It is slightly smaller and rounder than delicata so it can be served individually or halved. The seeds can also be roasted and eaten as snacks, similar to delicata.
The skin is hard and dry, but cooking it will make it edible. While the flesh appears pale orange with a dry texture while fresh, the cooked version is mind-blowing—buttery and creamy. It also has a hint of nuttiness that makes it a lip-smacking side dish for meats and vegetable dishes.
It also gets the carnival nickname from its green or orange stripes.
Who doesn’t love butternut squash soup? That familiarity with the creamy butternut squash makes it an ideal substitute for delicata squash, and also because it is always available.
In terms of the sweetness level, butternut squash overtakes acorn squash and carnival squash, but is milder compared to delicata’s reign. Butternut squash has a smooth and velvety texture that makes it perfect for soups and purees (just remove the tough skin). Its bulb-shaped bottom can be sliced, diced, or stuffed. Roasting would be another popular cooking method to enjoy this squash—and the skin may be optional in this case.
Another value of the butternut squash is its smaller seed area. That means you get to serve and eat a higher proportion of flesh compared to other gourds.
If you think the name sugar pumpkin is not cute enough, this gourd also goes by the names “pie pumpkin” and “sweet pumpkin.” It deserves the adorable names since sugar pumpkin is dressed in flawless bright orange with a green or brown stem. Make a mental note that the skin should be removed before cooking—no matter how brilliant it appears.
The taste is just as lovely: sweet with nutty undertones. While the flesh appears dry, cooking it will unleash its creamy texture. The whole shape of the sugar pumpkin is also ideal for stuffing. Similar to delicata squash, sugar pumpkin can be roasted (to complement soups and salads), baked, or steamed as a siding.
Why do you build me up? Buttercup squash builds up your recipe since its orange flesh transforms to something creamy and sweet once cooked.
While dry as a fresh gourd, steaming or stewing will give it a softer texture akin to delicata squash. Use its sweetness to enhance soups or baked goods. Curries and casseroles can also benefit from their firm texture.
The dark green skin may be too thick to eat or serve, but this turban squash (it does look like a turban) will forgive you for not eating it.
Let’s deviate from the winter squash family and introduce a starchy root crop, the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are significantly smaller than the delicata squash, so you will need to incorporate more of these in your recipes.
Since it’s a root crop, sweet potato is hard (and fibrous) when raw, so you’ll need to steam or boil this to achieve the same texture as delicata squash.
Once cooked, you’ll finally enjoy its sweet and nutty flavor—with a hint of earthiness. Sweet potato is a versatile ingredient that you can bake, steam, fry, mash, and roast. It’s a worthy texture replacement for delicata and holds up well even when roasted or fried.
Sweet potato is also a super healthy option, and is rich in vitamins A, C, E, manganese, and fiber. It comes in many colors (and shapes, literally) but as a delicata replacement, choose the white or purple-colored sweet potato. Yes, the skin is edible too.
Kabocha squash is a Japanese pumpkin that is small and green. If you were to inspect it further, you’d call it a dark green cousin of the cute sugar pumpkin—which is why it’s another spot-on replacement for delicata squash.
Kabocha squash has a super sweet flavor profile and is best used in soups, stews, sauces, or just eaten as a snack or side dish. Similar to acorn squash, kabocha presents a slightly drier texture compared to other alternatives.
While the rind appears tough and thick, it’s actually edible. You’ll need to steam or microwave it for a few minutes to soften the rind to cut or slice the kabocha squash.
Top tip: Slicing the raw rind with knives will be a futile challenge so stick to the microwave method.
You read it right. Spaghetti squash exists, and it does look like spaghetti noodles! The novelty comes from the strands formed once cooked—and they’re the perfect substitute for delicata squash because they’re wonderfully sweet.
Spaghetti squash might become a crowd favorite not just because it is fun to eat, but also because it is widely available and inexpensive. Shaped like a curved tube, it also fares well when stuffed.
The squash is stringy, soft, and sweet, and can enhance any stuffed dish, casserole, or stew—where the strands can blend in easily. This slightly different texture might not sit well in dishes like soups, which may call for a firmer substitute.
The yellow squash comes to mind when we actually talk about squash. It represents the common traits of the squash and is available all year-round.
The texture is the same—soft and tender once cooked or steamed. The rind is also edible and can be cut with the flesh if the recipe calls for it. Yellow squash can be sliced, diced, or roasted with other meat or vegetable dishes.
Yellow squash ranks quite low in the sweetness department. It’s on the bland side and relies on sauces or other ingredients for its flavor.
Of course, there’s hope if you’re planning to use this as a delicata substitute. Roast and caramelize the squash to achieve your desired sweetness level. That should do the trick.
Sweet dumpling squash
It’s another no-brainer that the sweet dumpling squash is, well, sweet. It can also be considered a mix of sweet potato and pumpkin puree if you want to get more specific on the flavor.
The exterior of the sweet dumpling squash has characteristic ridges with a white and green speckled color combination. The skin is edible—so that’s a check. The shape is actually rounded, so it would make a good squash bowl or filling.
Baking the whole squash or roasting slices will give you a soft and creamy version that can be comparable to the delicata squash.
Honeynut squash looks like a small version of the butternut squash (same bell shape). It’s like a concentrated version of the butternut squash so it’s sweeter with a tinge of earthiness and an edible skin that’s just delicious.
The cooked version is smooth sans the stringiness. With a slightly dissimilar texture from delicata squash, the suitable cooking applications of honeynut would be in stews and purees.
While pumpkin may be a Halloween staple, it also makes it to the list as a delicate squash substitute. Pumpkins have a mildly sweet and earthy flavor that is intensified by cooking.
Baked or steamed pumpkin should render a smooth non-stringy texture that is great for baking or soups.
The tough skin and texture of the pumpkin may be a challenge for some—so if you’re not up for roasting or pureeing, the next best thing is to use the pumpkin for baking. Did anyone say delicata-pumpkin pie?
We end this list with Bugs Bunny’s favorite. Carrots are not from the winter squash family, though the orange color may give us the impression that it would make a rich color replacement—which is true in a way.
Carrots are tough when raw (but can be eaten just as well) and present a different texture when cooked. They may never take on that “creamy” form, but they will be an apt replacement for dishes replacing roasted or delicata squash fries or just a diced siding.
Carrots are high in Vitamin A and sugar, so we all know how well they fare in cakes, side dishes, salads, stews, and soups—perfectly sweet! There’s also no skin to worry about—another bonus point.