Who doesn’t enjoy a warming squash soup in the winter? But even if that soup is a regular guest on your menu in the cold months, it doesn’t mean the butternuts won’t spoil if you buy too many or keep them for too long. Especially if it’s late February already and you still have a couple on hand you purchased on a sale a week or so before.
Butternut squash is a winter squash, and as the name implies, it’s a seasonal product, at least if you buy it locally. In the US, it’s in season between October and February ([ETS]). So if you’re buying butternuts in the April or May, these are most likely imports that can taste a bit different, and you probably won’t be able to store them for as long as you would the local stuff. In that case, it might make more sense to buy local butternuts frozen.
In this article, we will go through ways to spot spoiled or old butternut squash, its shelf life, and the best way to store it long term. If that sort of info you’re looking for, continue reading.
Can Butternut Squash Go Bad? Hot To Tell If Butternut Squash Is Bad?
Butternut squash, obviously, can go bad. But at the same time, like onions and garlic, it lasts quite some time if bought fresh and stored well. Let’s talk about the signs of spoilage.
When it comes to butternut squash, you don’t really know if it’s spoiled or not until you open it up. But there are a few things that might hint that you won’t like what’s inside. First off, it’s mushy and bruised spots on the rind. And I’m talking here about large areas, not some minor cuts. Fortunately, you can cut these out during preparation. The second thing is the weight of the whole thing. If it’s heavy, the moisture content is high, which is good ([ETS]). If it doesn’t feel heavy at all, or even feels empty inside, most of the moisture is probably gone, and it won’t be any good. If it’s leaking or the whole thing is mushy, just throw it out. Now it’s time to cut it up and see what’s inside.
When it comes to the butternut’s flesh, it easy to tell if it’s okay or not. It all comes down to color and firmness. You can cut out any mushy spots, but if the whole flesh is super soft, discard it. Also, over time the seeds’ section might turn stringy and look kind of disgusting. That’s the butternut starting to dehydrate. Just throw it out like you usually would and eat the rest.
For cooked or cut butternuts, look for mold, “funny” smell, and changes in texture. If there are any white specks on the surface, or the quality isn’t good enough anymore, get rid of it.
Of course, the longer you store the butternuts, the higher the chance they will go off. That brings up to the next topic, that is the shelf life of this winter squash.
How Long Does Butternut Squash Last?
Whole butternut squash lasts about 2 to 3 months in ideal conditions ([OSU][ISU]). Unfortunately, the perfect storage temperature for this particular veggie is 50°F to 55°F (or 10°C to 13°C), and most of us don’t have access to a place that maintains such temperature.
The second best option is storing it in the pantry, possibly slightly below room temperature. In such conditions, butternuts can last a month or two. Of course, the time the squash will stay alright depends on when it was harvested and how long it sat on the shelf, too. And if you’re buying veggies in the supermarket, you never know for sure about these. In other words, you probably should subscribe to the strategy of hoping for the best and planning for the worst. That means don’t try to get the longest possible shelf life but plan on eating the butternuts within a few weeks of buying.
If you want to get the squash ready for cooking ahead of time, cut or chopped butternut squash can last for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Once you cooked or baked it, it should retain quality for about 4 to 5 days. So if you’re meal-prepping for the whole week ahead, keep 4 days worth of portions in the fridge and freeze the rest to be sure nothing goes off.
Speaking of shelf life, it also depends on how exactly you store the veggies, so let’s cover that.
How To Store Butternut Squash?
You already know what’s the perfect temperature for butternut squash, and that a cold pantry is the second best choice here. Besides the temperature, it’s important to keep the squash dry and well ventilated (which also helps with getting rid of moisture) ([OSU][ISU]). So if you’ve brought the squash home from the market in a plastic bag, take it out of it as these tend to trap moisture. And don’t let the squash sit next to apples, or any other ripening fruit. These produce ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening process.
Cut, chopped, or cooked butternut should sit refrigerated, and sealed tightly. An airtight container is probably your best option here, as it will keep any moisture and smells at bay.
Last but not least, if you’re afraid that your squash will go bad, freezing is the solution to this problem.
Can You Freeze Butternut Squash?
Not all veggies freeze super well, and butternut squash isn’t a superstar in this department. But you should be able to get away with freezing cooked butternuts.
The best way to go about this, at least in my opinion, is to test out freezing your favorite dishes that include this winter squash. Soups should freeze very well, just make sure you add any fresh herbs when reheating, not before freezing. For casseroles and stews, how well they freeze depends on other ingredients. So if you’re willing to make this work, try freezing a small portion and see how it goes. You might need to tinker with the recipe a bit, or find another one if your favorite clearly isn’t working.
Or you can just cook or bake the squash, divide into a few portions and pack each one in a freezer bag or an airtight container, and put in the freezer. This way you can easily thaw the butternuts overnight in the fridge and do whatever you want with them next. Defrosted squash should work well in soups and stews, and maybe even stir-fries. When it comes to casseroles, it depends on the recipe, so you have to find that out for yourself.
In a Nutshell
- Buy butternut squash when in season if possible. Make sure the rind is firm, and the veggie feels heavy.
- Cut out any mushy and discolored parts. If it’s still whole and feels super light or is leaking, throw it away.
- Store butternuts at room temperature for 4 to 8 weeks, or freeze cooked.