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How To Tell If Butternut Squash Is Bad

I buy butternut squash a few times a year thinking that I’m ready to roast it and make something fabulous with it. 

Then procrastination happens, and I wonder how to tell if butternut squash is bad if it’s been sitting there on my countertop for a few weeks. 

It’s already hard to tell if I have a nice, ripe squash with a mildly sweet, vegetal butternut squash taste and nutty flavor, or do I have a bad butternut on my hands? 

Food safety is such an important aspect before we get to enjoy our favorite dishes, right? We at CookingChew are always checking to see if our food is still good, and if there’s a right way to keep good butternut squash. 

So let’s find out: Can butternut squash go bad? We don’t like to waste food or money, but the good news is that if it’s kept in a dry place, it can last for weeks. 

We’ll tackle the answers in this article about our much loved and accessible butternut squash, the main ingredient in butternut squash soup and more.

A seasonal gourd, butternut squash is one of the winter squashes, like spaghetti squash and acorn squash, usually harvested during the cold months between October and February. 

While it is a sturdy yellow squash with a thick skin, a whole fresh butternut squash will still spoil and go bad if not stored properly just like any other vegetable. Or any fresh, whole food, for that matter.

Let’s dive right in and know the signs of spoilage and explore the ways to keep the butternut squash fresh and ready for the oven.

How to tell if butternut squash is bad

Contents

You can tell if a whole, uncut butternut squash is bad if squishy spots appear to penetrate through the outer layer of the squash and it has a bad smell. A butternut squash gone bad may have what looks like “sores” on the rind. Any color of mold that appears on skin, rind, stem or inside means that your squash has gone bad. Sometimes you can’t tell if the squash is bad until you cut into it.

You can tell if a cut, cubed or sliced raw butternut squash is bad if the liquid that has run off the squash is slimy and stinky, and the flesh has degraded and smells bad. If mold has appeared on the skin or flesh, it is bad. Pre-packaged butternut cubes are only fresh and good to eat for three or four days, even if kept refrigerated.

If the stored cut butternut squash has been left too long uncovered, it will appear dehydrated, wrinkled, shrunken and possibly moldy, and it’s rotten.

You can tell if a cooked squash is bad because the flesh has become very moist, and the liquid is slimy and stinky. If mold appears anywhere on the cooked squash, it is bad.

Appearance

The first thing to look out for when determining the quality of your butternut squash is its general appearance. 

It’s the easiest way to know whether the squash has gone bad or not. 

The skin of the fresh squash should be firm, dull and has a uniform beige color. 

Mushy spots and bruises all over the skin are a few good indications that your vegetables are starting to rot. 

Another sign that your butternut squash gone bad is the liquid leaking out of the damaged squash. 

If you spot this sign, throw it out immediately. 

Sometimes butternut squash will look acceptable on the outside but have turned rotten on the inside.

To avoid this, you should also check its flesh by cutting the it in half vertically. 

If the fresh surrounding the seeds has mushy and dark spots and look somewhat stringy, it may be possible to cut it out and use the rest.

One spot doesn’t mean you have to throw away the entire squash, but if there are large areas of the flesh that are mushy and slimy, it’s best to discard the whole thing.

For cooked butternut squash, watch for any signs of mold in your food.

Smell

Fresh butternut squash doesn’t smell at all. 

When the vegetable starts to go rancid, this scent changes, becoming foul. A rotten odor means the squash is bad. 

If you come across a butternut squash in the grocery store that looks fine but smells bad, don’t buy it.

Feel

Another alternative to telling if your butternut squash is bad is by touching it.

Generally, fresh butternut squash should be heavy, sturdy, and show no cuts and bruises with smooth skin. 

Meanwhile, bad squash tends to be light and seem empty inside. 

If the stem isn’t firm, moves easily, or has mold, it means the “meat” of the squash has turned rotten, or is getting there.

How long does butternut squash last

The shelf life of your butternut squash can vary depending on several factors such as how it’s stored and for how long.

  • A fresh and whole raw butternut squash generally lasts for up to two months in the right conditions, which are in a dark, dry place or on the countertop. To chill a whole butternut squash means you stop the ripening process.
  • A peeled or cut raw butternut squash can last for about six days in the fridge. 
  • A cooked, pureed or cubed squash can last about six days in the fridge.
  • Frozen raw or cooked butternut squash will probably still be good-tasting if used within three months.

In the freezer, it can last for up to three months but I advise storing the it in your pantry or fridge instead for optimum taste.

The table below provides a detailed breakdown of the shelf life of butternut squash, based on whether it is whole, cut, or cooked.

STORAGE TYPE
In the pantryIn the fridgeIn the freezer
Butternut squash, raw
 (whole and fresh)
Up to 2 monthsNot advisableNot advisable
Butternut squash, raw 
(sliced, cubed or chopped)
Not advisableup to six daysup to three months
Butternut squash, cooked 
(roasted or puréed)
Not advisablefive to six daysup to three months

How to store fresh butternut squash

Refrigeration and freezing can cause extreme cold damage or prevent your fresh butternut squash from ripening to good flavor and texture. 

Store them at room temperature for the best quality. Here’s how to do it: 

Tools needed:

  • Fresh and whole butternut squash
  • Vegetable rack or wooden crate

Instructions:

  1. Place your whole and fresh butternut squashes in an open container like a vegetable rack or wooden crate to allow air circulation. 
  2. Store the squash in a well-ventilated, dry place at a temperature IDEALLY between 50 to 59°F, but can be kept at room temperature for a couple of months.
  3. Consume the squash within two months. 

How to store butternut squash in the fridge

Here are a few steps for storing raw, peeled or cut butternut squash in the refrigerator and keeping it cold for longer shelf life.

Tools needed:

  • Fresh butternut squash
  • Airtight container
  • Sharp knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Fridge

Instructions:

  1. Peel and cut butternut squash using a knife and peeler. 
  2. Place all the flesh in an airtight container. 
  3. Pop the container in your fridge and consume it for up to six days.
  4. Discard by adding the peels and stem to a countertop compost bin.

How to pick out butternut squash

Here are the important things you need to consider in choosing the perfect butternut squash for your next visit to the grocery store or farmers market. 

  • Choose a butternut squash that’s hard, dull and heavy for its size. These usually indicate that you have a ripe butternut squash.
  • Look for butternut squash with an intact, firm dark green stem.
  • Pick a butternut squash with skin a dark shade of beige, peach or tan color.

Pro tip: Avoid buying squashes with bruises, cuts, and soft spots as these are a clear sign they won’t last long.

😋 Want more details about what butternut squash tastes like? Go here. 😋

Can you freeze butternut squash?

Yes, you can freeze butternut squash but keep in mind that the longer it stays frozen, the more the taste and texture break down. 

Thawed butternut squash is great for blending into smoothies, stews, soups, casseroles.

Make sure to consume the butternut within three months of placing into your freezer. 

Here’s the best way to freeze butternut squash at home: 

Tools needed: 

  • Peeler
  • Knife
  • Fresh butternut squash

Instructions:

  1. Peel and cut the squash into one-inch chunks. 
  2. Place the chunks in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. 
  3. Put the baking sheet inside the freezer. 
  4. Once frozen, transfer the chunks to your freezer bag or container. 
  5. Put the bag or container in the freezer. 
  6. Consume the vegetable within three months.

🧊🧊 You can get more details about freezing butternut squash at our guide here. 🧊🧊

The bottom line

For fresh and whole butternut squash, it typically lasts for up to two months when properly stored in a regular pantry or kitchen cabinet. 

Butternut squash is one of those gourds (botanically a fruit) that has a long shelf life when stored adequately. 

When you slice or cook it, expect your butternut squash to last about six days in the fridge. 

In fact, it’s actually easy to spot those tell-tale spoilage signs using your sense of sight, touch, and smell. 

Butternut squash is best when bought in season for a long time on the shelf. Check if the rind is firm and the veggie feels solid and heavy. 

When you notice that there is only a small section that is mushy, cut it out and throw it away. If it’s the whole squash, better to throw the whole thing away.

If all the signs of rotting and spoilage are present, it is better to throw it away to prevent sickness or food poisoning. 

Here is an excellent butternut squash walk-through guide from Tori Avey: storing, roasting, peeling, and even how to prepare the seeds for snacking.

If you have a butternut squash on hand, this fragrant, creamy casserole recipe below is a tried-and-true winner!

Cheesy Butternut Squash Casserole recipe

Cheesy Butternut Squash Casserole recipe

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cheese and thick cream make this rich, tried-and-true, fragrant Butternut Squash Casserole side dish even more delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 small, raw butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1" pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t poultry seasoning or ¼ t each of thyme, sage, rosemary, and nutmeg
  • 1/2 c whipping cream or table cream
  • 1/2 c milk or half-and-half

Topping:

  • 1 c homemade breadcrumbs or Panko
  • 1 c Parmesan cheese or other favorite cheese, grated
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Instructions

We recommend using a standard potato peeler to peel the raw squash, but if you want to save some time, you can buy packaged raw butternut squash cubes in the grocer's product section—equal to three cups of cubes.

  1.  Use a pastry brush or napkin to coat a 9x13 casserole dish with olive oil. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients. Set aside.
  3. In a deep skillet, heat butter and add the squash, onions and garlic. Cover and stir occasionally until squash is starting to get tender but not soft, about 15 minutes.
  4. Add milk, cream, and seasonings. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until you see the liquid is cooking away and getting a little thicker, about 10 to 15 min. 
  6. Gently blend with a potato masher if any large chunks remain.
  7. Carefully transfer the hot mixture from the skillet to the oiled casserole dish.
  8. Sprinkle all of the topping on the casserole. 
  9. Bake uncovered 400F for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden.
  10. Let set for five minutes then serve warm.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 275Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 51mgSodium: 556mgCarbohydrates: 20gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 8g

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