How to Prepare Kabocha Squash

12th November 2014

Kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, has a firm green skin and a bright orange flesh. When cooked this sweet flesh softens and fluffs easily and has a flavor and texture akin to a sweet potato. Kabocha has a lower water content than most squash and the thin green outer skin is edible.

How to Prepare Kabocha Squash

Hand-hammered knife by Shun

Growing up I remember eating kabocha in rice porridges, steamed rice (known as ‘kabocha gohan’) or as creamy kabocha noodle soup. Later in this post, I will show you how to make kabocha gohan using a rice cooker!

Kabocha Squash

Selection

Kabocha is grown year-round, but are best in the late summer to late fall. Select the ones that have a firm, deep-colored green rind. Bumps or blemishes on the skin are fine but avoid kabocha with soft spots or mold. Choose the ones that feel heavy for their size, they’re usually about 2-3 lbs.

If you are unable to find kabocha squash in your area, acorn or buttercup squash can be substituted. These two alternatives both have similarly edible green rinds and sweet orange flesh.

Preparation

Wash the squash and dry before cutting. It may be challenging to slice the raw squash. If you are not comfortable or capable of slicing the whole raw squash, which will often require a large sharp knife, an easier method is to wrap the squash in aluminum foil and bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Allow the squash to cool before slicing in half vertically near the stem. If the squash has a protruding stem, remove it prior to slicing. Quarter the squash by slicing each half down the middle vertically again.

Kabocha Squash

Using a large spoon, remove the seeds, pulp and fibre from the core of the squash. The seeds can be saved and used later but will need to be washed and dried if you intend on using them. The quartered squash can easily be sliced into smaller pieces depending on your recipe. The skin is edible but you may choose to remove it.

Storage

Store kabocha at room temperature in a cool, dry and dark place for up to 1 month. Refrigerate cooked and cut kabocha and use within 2-3 days. Store sliced kabocha in plastic wrap, foil or a sealed plastic bag.

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

Kabocha Squash

At this point it will be easy to break the remaining quarters down into smaller pieces if your recipe calls for it.

Kabocha Gohan

One of our favorite rice dishes on a cold day is steamed rice with kabocha squash. Gohan means cooked rice in Japanese. This is super easy to make using a rice cooker. I use a Zojirushi rice cooker and have had it for almost a decade, it still works perfectly (and frequently) for me. I haven’t attempted to make this using the stove top method yet. This recipe is for the rice cooker method.

Kabocha Gohan

One of our favorite rice dishes on a cold day is steamed rice with kabocha squash. Gohan means cooked rice in Japanese. This is super easy to make using a rice cooker. I use a Zojirushi rice cooker and have had it for almost a decade, it still works perfectly (and frequently) for me. I haven’t attempted to make this using the stove top method yet. This recipe is for the rice cooker method.

Ingredients

1½ cups short-grain white rice, preferably Japanese (if using rice cooker measuring cup, use 2 cups)
1¼ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoon mirin or sake
12 ounces kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 2½ cups)
½ tablespoon sesame seed (optional)

Method

Rinse rice under cold water, removing any impurities. Follow the directions for your rice cooker exactly as you would if you were making plain white rice. In the case of the Zojirushi, fill the bowl with water to the 2 cup line designated for white rice. Your cook setting will also be set to white rice. After you have added your water add salt and mirin or sake and stir.

Then place kabocha on the top of the rice, close the lid and start cooking as you normally would for white rice. When cooking is complete, use a rice spatula to fluff and gently mix. You now have your ‘Kabocha Gohan!’ Garnish with the optional sesame seeds (not pictured).

Kabocha Gohan

What is your favorite kabocha recipe?

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