Here is a quick and easy guide on how to make the best Spaghetti Squash. Plus, TEN tried and true deliciously vegan spaghetti squash recipes as well as one of my very own- Sautéed Tofu, Baby Bok Choy, and Spaghetti Squash. Let’s skip the part about where I walked my dog last Sunday and how many pieces of candy I picked from the back of my car seat and just dive right in, shall we?
Spaghetti squash can be a daunting veggie to handle if you’re new to it. Also, depending on what you want to make will determine how you cut it, place it, and tend to it while it’s cooking. I am vehemently against cooking things in the microwave so you won’t find those instructions here. But, I will tell you how best to cook it in the oven, crock pot, pressure cooker, stove top, toaster oven, and even how to eat it raw.
What Does Spaghetti Squash Taste Like?
Well, it definitely doesn’t taste like spaghetti noodles, though it is an excellent substitute for traditional spaghetti. It has a very mild flavor and has the ability to take on flavors that you wish it to. By itself, or even with a little salt and pepper, it can actually taste a tiny bit sweet. Maybe a little nutty too. It’s quite pleasant. Conversely, if you’d like to make a ‘meatier’ dish, it will do that for you if, say, you sautéed some mushrooms and onions to mix in with it. It truly is a very versatile food and can be great in any main or side dish.
The texture of spaghetti squash is like tiny strands of a crisp piece of lettuce, in my opinion. Now, you can over cook it or trap in the water while cooking, which could make it soggy, but outside of that it is quite difficult to for spaghetti squash to lose that ‘crisp’. If you go into the spaghetti squash cooking thinking you’ll come out of it with a bowl full of nice, pasta-like noodles, you’ll be either quite surprised, or pretty disappointed, and leave me bad reviews. It’s. Not. Like. Spaghetti. It’s crispy. It’s only called ‘spaghetti’ because the ‘meat’ of it comes out in strands. You know, like spaghetti looks.
Nutritional Facts About Spaghetti Squash
Check out this cool site www.selfnutrition.data.com. You can find virtually every food possible there, to see what the nutrition information is, the glycemic index, amino acid profile, and tons more. Pretty snazzy, I think. If you’re a calorie counter, this is an excellent resource to cross-reference your My Fitness Pal with, for sure.
Let’s touch on why spaghetti squash should at least be a weekly thing for you, before we head into how to make the best spaghetti squash. As you can see, spaghetti squash is a very nutritious alternative to pasta, and as a stand-alone dish. It has a very low glycemic index and surprisingly high ‘fullness factor’ to boot. A good source of fiber, and even provides some Omega 3’s and 6’s. There’s a reason this big guy is gaining in popularity.
Storage of The Spaghetti Squash
This yellow, oblong versatile pasta alternative is of the winter squash variety. One of the cool things about this type is that it can be stored for sometimes several months, and still be very fresh and healthy to eat. So, if you’re like me and buy things on sale, forget that they exist in your home, and have to toss things from time to time, this is a pleasant pantry surprise sometimes 🙂 In order for it to last this long, it does need to be in a cool, dry location though, somewhere around 50-60*F. Nothing happens if it isn’t stored in those conditions, that’s just the ideal environment for the longest, freshest lifespan.
You can cut up raw spaghetti squash and refrigerate it for up to 1-2 weeks, or freeze it (3-6 months or more, depending on your freezer). This is pretty cool for when you find it at its best prices. Not that it’s expensive at all, because it really isn’t, but when they average around 9# each, those pounds and cents can add up, ya know? If you have leftovers after making spaghetti squash, store it in a sealed container for up to a week in the refrigerator, or 3 months in the freezer.
How To Choose The Perfect Spaghetti Squash
Learning how to make the best spaghetti squash will undoubtedly begin with how to pick the best spaghetti squash, no? Let’s figure that out.
Size/weight- The bigger the spaghetti squash, the bigger the fibers (spaghetti strands) will be. Do you want more of an angel hair pasta, or are you making something like fritters? You’ll want a smaller guy for sure. Are you putting together a big pasta dish, like traditional spaghetti or even an Alfredo? Grab one of the bigger ones. Careful with the smaller guys though. Sometimes their strands are so small that they do not ‘fork out’ properly and kind of stick together. On the other hand, be equally as suspect of the super big behemoth ones because they could be genetically modified. That’s a personal choice, but heads up if that’s a concern of yours.
Appearance/rind condition- The color of the spaghetti squash isn’t that big of a deal because it truly doesn’t vary all that much from squash to squash. The things you do want to look for are:
1. soft spots, because that could indicate that it has rotted some from the inside,
2. the integrity of the rind- if you can knick it with your fingernail, or see that there are big scrapes in it already, that is a sign that the squash may not have reached maturity before harvesting,
3. the luster of the rind- if it is shiny that could also be immaturity, or that a wax coating was applied to make it ‘prettier’ and you don’t want that in your body, and lastly
4. is there a stem and does it look healthy because if the answer is no to those, the squash is at an increased risk of carrying bacteria (not that you shouldn’t buy it if it doesn’t have a stem, just be on the lookout).
Ideally, we want a big, dark yellow, not overly shiny squash free of dark or soft spots, and with a nice thick stem still in place.
How Do We Cook It?
Step 1- Clean the outside of the squash by scrubbing with vinegar and water.
What are you making? A spaghetti-type dish or a boat that will serve as a ‘bowl’ for other ingredients as well?
Spaghetti- Cut the spaghetti squash into rings. They should be about 2″ thick. Remove the seeds from the inside of each ring, set the rings on a silicone baking sheet or a lightly greased baking pan. Heat the oven to 400 and cook for about 40-60 minutes, but begin checking on it around 40. The water composition of each squash is different, as are different ovens, etc. so there’s no exact time. To test it, take a fork and lightly insert it into one of the rings. Gently pull the fork away, to pull the spaghetti strands apart. If they come apart easily, it’s done. Another way to tell is to grab the outside of the ring [with a protected hand] and give it a little squeeze. If it has some give to it (the rind moves with your pressure) then it should be done.
Boats- Cut the spaghetti squash in half longways. Scoop out the innards and seeds. Place on the mat or pan, inside facing up. Heat the oven to 400 and cook for about 30 minutes. At this time, flip the squash over so that it faces down, but prop it up a bit with the side of your pan. This allows water condensation to escape better because if it doesn’t, the squash can become a bit soggier than you wanted. Test to see if it’s ready by squeezing it (as described above), or by turning it over and using your fork to gently test the strands to see if they’ll come apart.
You can cook it whole, or cut it in half short ways or longways here. If cooking it whole, pierce it with a knife a few times to allow for venting. If cutting it, prepare as described above. Then cook on low in the crockpot for 4-6 hours. If you did cut it, and if possible, prop the squash up on its side up against the ‘wall’ of the crock pot to decrease any excess water accumulation. I would start checking on it as early as 3 hours, and I’ve never had one go past 6. Test it as described above.
Again, you can cook it whole, or cut it in half short ways or longways here. If cooking it whole, pierce it with a knife a few times to allow for venting. If cutting it, prepare as described above. You’ll need a trivet or steamer basket for this. Place the squash on top of that, add 1 cup of water, seal the vent and pressure cooker, and cook using the manual setting for 7 minutes. When the time’s up, carefully turn the vent at the top to quickly release the steam and lower the pressure, carefully open the lid, and test to see if it’s ready as described above.
You can cook a whole squash if you have a big enough pot, or cut it up into chunks (it’ll cook a little faster this way too). If whole, bring a pot of water to boiling. Place the whole guy in there for 20-30 minutes. Test it by sticking a fork in the rind and if it goes in easily, it’s done. If cooking chunks, cut it up and remove the seeds and ‘guts’. Bring a pot to boil and place the chunks in it. Check on it after 15-20 minutes by using the forking method above.
Cut the squash into rings, around 1″ thick. Place on a lightly greased pan, cover the top of the squash with foil, and cook at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Again, all toaster ovens are different. Given the proximity of the squash to the heating elements, please stay close by during the cooking process. This is not the safest method to cook spaghetti squash, nor is it truly dangerous, but only you can prevent kitchen fires..
Yup, that’s a thing, and it’s quite good. So, you just cut it in half longways and scoop out the seeds and ‘guts’. Then take a fork and begin scraping it longways. It will, of course, be a bit more work than had it been cooked, and the strands will be shorter as well, but it is delicious and many raw foods have a more complete nutritional profile so I recommend you give it a try!
Move over pasta, this is a job for Spaghetti Squash
So, you can either eat spaghetti squash plain with a little salt, pepper, and [vegan] butter, or find a recipe that looks good to you, OR try out some of these creations from some very skilled vegan bloggers and chefs.