Pumpkin Spice Roasted Delicata Squash (air fryer or oven method)

By Ann Fulton

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Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

 

If you’ve never tried delicata squash, you may be wondering what it is, and more importantly, what it tastes like and what to do with it.

Sometimes referred to as peanut squash, Bohemian squash, or sweet potato squash, delicata is a variety of squash that is prized for its delicate, edible skin. The exterior of the pretty, cylindrical fruit (though we eat squash like a vegetable, botanically it’s a fruit) is cream-colored with green and orange stripes. 

If you enjoy the sweet, nutty flavor of butternut squash, you’ll likely enjoy delicatas as well. I recently heard someone say that a delicata’s flavor is like a blend of fresh corn and pumpkin pie. I usually describe it as a cross between the sweetness of butternut squash and the earthiness of acorn squash. Or perhaps like a slightly less sweet sweet potato. If you try, please feel free to offer your own flavor assessment! 

Conveniently, because delicata squash often weigh in around one pound, the variety is ideal when not inclined to wrestle with a three- or four-pound giant or simply seeking a smaller yield.

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

For ease and wide appeal, I often cook delicata squash quite simply. The use of pumpkin pie spice in the following recipe is judicious–just enough to enhance the natural flavor without being off-putting to those who don’t ride the pumpkin spice wave that washes over us every fall! 

If you’re still not sure you want to go that direction, opt for a combination of ground cumin, smoked paprika, onion and/or garlic powder. Or use curry powder. Or just salt and pepper.

Roasting further enhances the flavor and softens the squash without becoming mushy. An air fryer is an excellent option for those who have one. 

As mentioned, there’s no need to peel the pretty skin. It’s thin enough to soften while cooking and ultimately adds textural balance to the tender orange flesh. 

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

Delicata squash is more manageable than many larger squash varieties. You can get your hand around it for starters, making it easier to stabilize and cut. For the pretty shape, I like to slice it in rounds. For quicker removal of seeds, you could cut the squash into two long halves, scoop the seeds from the halves, and then slice into semicircles. 

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

I love cooking these in my air fryer because it’s so quick – and no waiting to preheat it. It also browns the slices very evenly. That said, the conventional oven method works very well, too.

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

A touch of maple syrup is optional in this recipe, as some squash are naturally sweeter than others, and personal preference plays in, too. And though you could add it along with the oil and spice before roasting, which will increase caramelization somewhat, adding it later allows you to truly add to taste. It also ensures that the baking sheet or air fryer rack will be easier to clean!

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

If you can’t find delicata squash, you could substitute another variety of winter squash–or even sweet potatoes.

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

The pretty rounds make a versatile side dish as is, or can be topped with toasted pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and dried cranberries. For a beautiful salad, serve these ingredients atop a bed of greens and top with your favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette, Apple Cider Vinaigrette, or Pumpkin Vinaigrette.

Warm spices add seasonal appeal to this easy side dish that quickly cooks to golden perfection in the oven or air fryer. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  

My original recipe offers a sweet and spicy option via a pinch of cayenne pepper and light drizzle of maple syrup. After Emily introduced me to hot honey, however, it has been a frequent topper and replaces the cayenne-maple syrup combination.

Did you know? Winter squash, in general, may be eaten immediately after picking, although squash will become sweeter once cured. To do this, you simply need a dry, sunny spot to rest the squash for 7 to 10 days. Rotate a few times so all sides are exposed to the sun.

Longer storage: I’ve had success keeping winter squash on the counter for several weeks to several months. (Sometimes, they become a decoration!) If you’d like to store winter squash for the winter, however, it’s best kept at an even 50°F in a dark place. Because they have thinner skin, I have noticed that delicata squash tend not to last as long as butternut, spaghetti, and other harder-skinned varieties.

 

Recently, my mom and dad joined us for dinner and this recipe was on the menu. Both commented that delicata squash was a first for them, and they enjoyed it very much. If you happen to try, I’d love to know what you think as well!

Pumpkin Spice Roasted Delicata Squash (air fryer or oven method)
Yield: 3-4 servings (recipe easy to double and leftovers taste great)
An easy, flavorful side dish that will add colorful appeal to your dinner plate. Feel free to mix things up with a different variety of winter squash (or sweet potatoes) and a short list of optional toppings if inclined.  
Ingredients
  • 1 pound delicata squash (about 1 large or 2 small; may substitute a similar amount of other winter squash or sweet potatoes*)
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (homemade or store-bought)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive, avocado, or melted coconut oil
  • Optional: a pinch (1/16 teaspoon) cayenne pepper; 2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup or honey (hot or regular)
Instructions

If using an oven instead of an air fryer, oil or spray a rimmed baking sheet and preheat the oven to 425℉. (Note that the air fryer will be set to a lower temperature of 400℉, but you do not need to preheat it.)

Slice the stem off the squash, and discard, and then continue to slice the squash into ½-inch thick rounds. With a teaspoon, scrape away the seeds. (You may discard these or reserve them and roast later.) Toss the slices with the pumpkin pie spice, salt, oil, and optional cayenne in a bowl to evenly coat. Place in a single even layer in the air fryer basket or on the prepared baking sheet.

To air fry: Air fry on 400℉ for 12-15 minutes, depending on air fryer, or until golden and fork tender.

To roast in oven: Roast at 425℉ for 15 minutes, give or take a few minutes depending on oven and color of baking sheet (dark sheets allow for slightly faster cooking with more browning) or until the squash is golden on the bottom and just tender.

Once cooked through, drizzle with the optional maple syrup or honey and serve.

Notes

*If your delicata squash is smaller than a pound, simply adjust the seasonings. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, try to weigh it at the store when you buy. While you can estimate, knowing the weight will facilitate proper seasoning.

*This recipe is delicious with any variety of winter squash as well as sweet potatoes. If you chop into larger chunks instead of slicing, simply adjust the baking time up to accommodate.

*Finally, if you’re using an air fryer and would like to double the recipe, you will likely need to cook the squash in two batches to maintain a single layer.

The Fountain Avenue Kitchen https://fountainavenuekitchen.com/

 

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