Taste Test: Red kuri squash

IMG_0365.JPG Ladies and gentlemen, meet the red kuri. It's a winter squash — unlike its summer siblings, it's harvested at full maturity and has a very thick skin. I got this one from my CSA and fell instantly in love with its beautiful orange skin, which is hard to slice without killer knife skills.

kuri_6.JPG Red kuri squash risotto 1 red kuri squash 1/4c olive oil 2c Arborio rice 4c hot chicken or veggie stock 1/2 c grated parmesan 1 onion 1/2 c white wine 1/2 stick unsalted butter Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on the squash and roast it in the oven at 380F for about 1hr. Meanwhile, cook the onions and rice in a pot for a few minutes until the rice is toasty and opaque. Add wine and stock slowly as the rice absorbs it, for about 15 minutes until al dente. Stir in butter and cheese and squash last. Add salt, pepper, and parsley to taste.

Flavor-wise, the red kuri squash has a gentle sweetness to it with a slightly nutty aftertaste. Very autumn-y. My chef friend Julio helped me make risotto with my little red kuri. Some recipes say to cook the squash with the rice, but we actually roasted it separately. This prevents extra juices from the fruit from seeping into the rice, and it also allows for greater appreciation of its beauty and aroma as it bronzes in the oven. The red kuri and it winter squash relatives are rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant — this means it is not only great for the diet but awesome for skin care. To make an home-brewed anti-aging face mask, mix two parts of cooked red kuri squash (pumpkin works, too) with one part honey and leave that on your face for ten minutes. For a no-frills body scrub, puree the cooked red kuri and mix it with equal parts brown sugar. Easy, wonderful, and cheaper than The Body Shop! In 2007, a team of American anthropologists discovered that squash was grown by farmers in Peru 10,000 years ago. It was also one of the main crops of early Native Americans, along with corn and beans. Red kuri seeds are delicious, too! Wash and dry, place on a baking sheet, salt and pepper, then stick them in the oven for 10-15 minutes. The cooked skin also makes a fine snack — I fed mine to the dogs for dinner. Peak red kuri season starts now and goes through November — that's why we're seeing so many winter squash varietals at veggie stands right about now, including pumpkins. It's also part of the reason we carve pumpkins and eat pumpkin pie at Halloween and Thanksgiving. Be careful when taking a knife to the red kuri's thick skin, though — every October, thousands of people suffer from bloody hands and tendon injuries while carving pumpkins. The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has safety tips for the accident-prone. Every installment of Taste Test will explore recipes, the science, and some history behind a specific food item.


  1. Looks delicious. My personal favorite squash is Blue Hubbard. Cutting those is also a challenge. My mother-in-law had a friend that would place their hubbard in a clean pillowcase, tie it, and then throw it down the stairs to break it open.

  2. Oooh, that sounds awfully good, that risotto. I’m going to have to give it a go. I like squash a lot and I’m even keener on it now, thanks to Paul Coleman’s tip on how to access its delectable flesh. Squash-flinging might just become my favourite domestic art.

  3. I will say, that you probably want to make sure no pets or damageable walls are in it’s path. I suppose a pillowcase and a sledgehammer would accomplish the same.

  4. Here in Germany the Red Kuri is called “Hokkaido Pumpkin”, they’ve become quite popular in recent times. I love to prepare them baked with potatoes, apples and onions, some sour cream and cheese – or as a purée with potatoes, carrots, parsnip, cocoanut cream, chillies, and cinnamon.

    There’s no need to remove the skin of the Red Kuri. I just use a big fat knife of even a small axe to spit/cut them into big chunks, then remove the pulp and seeds. Finally I cut them into fine slices with a very thin, sharp knife.

  5. Kuri squash is extra nice in a coconut milk based curry. My favourite squash lately is Hokkaido-it’s a blue squat pumpkiny thing, with a fantastic flavour. I’ve taken to baking it in a pan with some water in the bottom, and adding chai tea to the water. Good stuff for winter.

  6. Hmm, one of my favourite risotto, but if I may suggest (from my Italian origins) go for carnaroli instead of Arborio, as that is the king of rices for Risottos.

    And add some thin cutted slices of tirolian speck too at the last minute :)

    1. Is it off topic to ask more about the risotto you mention? “carnaroli”? Very interested in what makes it special. I thought I’d hit the mark when I figured out a decent Arborio. So much to learn….

      One more question, what is; “…thin cutted slices of tirolian speck”? that you added at the last minute ?

      New squash, new risottos…I think I just found my next favorite blog.

  7. How would you compare red kuri to its winter cousins – Hubbard or Hokkaido as mentioned, not to mention acorn and butternut?

  8. Possibly my favorite squash! Very much like the taste of pumpkin, only deeper, more intense. If you like acorn & pumpkin, give it a go… Hope they start showing up around me soon, so far it’s just been pumpkins, acorns, and butternuts (meh on the butternuts).

  9. I love the red kuri, much better than the other winter squash although the coolest thing I learned about these guys is as you mention that the seeds can be made just like pumpkin seeds but being smaller they are somehow even tastier.

  10. If you’re dieting, remember that like many seeds and nuts, squash seeds tend to be high in fat/oil. The USDA’s chart puts most roasted squash seeds at 148 kCal per ounce (volume), with almost 12g of fat and 1 gram of fiber.

    That’s… what… 24 weight-watcher points per cup? Not lo-cal, anyway.

    The rest of the squash fruit generally isn’t bad — a couple points for a decent-size serving. One of my favorites when I’m trying to behave myself.

    1. Yeah, but they’re one of the rare foods that’s high in magnesium, which tends to be missing in western diets.

    2. Come on Bubba, red onion squash doesn’t make you fat – what makes you fat is fructose. The seeds are delicious, by the way.

  11. I’m going to have to try the flinging method of squash opening. I have a balcony on the 2nd floor directly above my very own parking space. Hm. Tempted to run out and get a squash right now.

  12. Thanks for posting this! I was wondering how to cook the winter squashes in my vegbox when I came across this recipe. I’m eating it right now, and it’s just the thing to vanquish the recently arrived cold weather here in SF. My slight modification was to add a little mushroom. Good stuff.

  13. I have found the best way to cook winter squash.Cut in half,de seed,place in 1/4″ of water in a pyrex pieplate,place in microwave oven and cook for about 20 min.When done scoop out the flesh mash and serve the way you like.Quicker than the oven,no nutriants lost to boiling.

  14. We accidentally bought a red kuri squash and didn’t know what to do with, until we stumbled upon this recipe. We tried the recipe last night, and it was delicious! I highly recommend it. It was pretty easy to make though the risotto was a bit labor intensive. We used white rice instead of arborio because it was much cheaper and it worked just fine. May try brown rice next time.

  15. I live in upstate NY. It is often hard to find and many farmers who grow squash are unfamiliar with Kuri Squash. It is the most delicious.

  16. This sounds so good. Bought one of these because it looks so nice and wasn’t sure what to do with it. You answered that question and it’s in the oven now. I’m going to give the risotto a try. Love to make new variations. I threw a yam in the oven at the same time because it was sitting there on the counter looking lonely. The mix seems like it will be tasty.

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