Acorn squash is believed to have originated in Mexico and Central America and was originally used for its seeds because its skin was too tough to be appetizing. Over time, Indigenous people developed squash with thicker skin, and years of selection has given us today’s succulent plant that is valued for its juicy and sweet yellow-orange flesh.
Acorn squash is now a cherished vegetable in North America, where it first surfaced in the Hawkeye State. Also known as Des Moines squash, the vegetable is believed to have made its way to Iowa from Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1800s, according to the Des Moines Register.
Mark Beahm, the creator behind the Sunday Baker, has a baked acorn squash recipe that was inspired by his professional baking experience and travels through Europe. With a preparation time of just 10 minutes, the recipe takes no time to throw together. Although the cook time is a bit longer — 50 minutes — it’s worth it for this delicious side, which can sit in the oven while you prepare the rest of your meal.
Now, let’s learn how to prepare this easy, delicious, and eye-catching side dish.
Gather your baked acorn squash ingredients
This recipe calls for two medium acorn squash, two tablespoons of olive oil, a quarter cup of maple syrup, one tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, and some salt and pepper.
Recipe creator Mark Beahm says that the best way to select the perfect squash is by noting its weight and surface.
"A good squash should feel heavy for its size. It shouldn’t have any soft spots or cuts on the surface," Beahm advised.
Ripe acorn squashes are also dark green on their surface, according to Gardening Know How. At the part that comes into contact with the ground, a prime vegetable will turn yellow to orange. In addition, the squash’s stem becomes brown and withered after ripening. You can also gently grip the vegetable’s body — ripe ones should be hard.
Prepare your acorn squash for baking
Start by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, cut your two medium acorn squashes in half from the tip to the stem. Recipe creator Mark Beahm recommends a sturdy chef’s knife to get this done as safely and effectively as possible.
With four squash halves in front of you, use a metal spoon to scrape out all the seeds and stringy bits from their insides. Once they’re cleaned (see the right half in the picture above), place each half on a rimmed baking sheet with the cut side up.
Season your acorn squash pieces before baking
It’s time to give your acorn squash some flavor. Start by drizzling half a tablespoon of olive over each of your four acorn squash halves. Afterward, use a brush or your fingertips to rub the oil all over the inside of the squash to give your seasonings something to stick to.
From here, grab your salt and pepper and season the inside of your acorn squash halves. Now, drizzle one tablespoon of maple syrup into the center of each piece.
"You could use brown sugar instead of or in addition to the maple syrup. You could even try substituting honey," recipe creator Mark Beahm said.
For the final seasoning, sprinkle a quarter of a tablespoon fresh thyme leaves over each acorn squash half.
Bake and serve your acorn squash
Roast the squash halves in your preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until they are nicely browned and caramelized. According to recipe creator Mark Beahm, a fork should easily pierce through the squash when they’re ready to eat.
Now, you can serve your baked acorn squash hot as a side with your favorite dishes.
"This would be really good paired with a roast chicken or other roast. Maybe something comforting and slow cooked," Beahm said.
If you can’t finish your baked acorn squash, leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.