Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla
Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla

Here’s an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner: butternut squash with walnuts and vanilla! It’s an unexpected combination that works beautifully.

Easy butternut squash side dish

Here’s an easy side dish, perfect for Thanksgiving or any cool-weather meal, with butternut squash. The vanilla makes you think you’re about to eat something sweet, and in a way, that’s true since the pumpkin has a natural sweetness, but this really is a savory dish.

The combination of walnuts, thyme, ginger, vanilla, and pumpkin might seem odd, but oddly enough, it works.

You can either cook the diced butternut squash with some bay leaves or roast it until lightly browned – in this case, omit the bay leaves.

Roasting will caramelize the squash a bit, giving it a bit more flavor, and the diced squash will hold their shape better.

Cooking the squash yields a softer squash and a little flavor from the bay leaves.

How to buy and store butternut squash

One of the things I love about winter squash is that you can buy one and then take your time figuring out what to do with it. They will last for months as long as you keep them cool and dry.

When purchasing pumpkins, look for ones that are free of blemishes or deep nicks, as these will be stored longer without developing rot. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to cook with. (But don’t forget them! Even hardy winter squash will eventually soften and mold.)

Towards the end of the season, keep an eye out for good deals on winter squash at your farmer’s market. Sometimes a giant bag of discount pumpkins can really hit the spot to see you through the winter.

How to peel and cut a butternut squash

Cutting up a butternut squash can definitely be intimidating. The most important thing is that your cutting board is stable. If it’s prone to shifting on your countertop, place a damp paper towel or dishcloth underneath to keep it stable.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer skin. If you have a microwave, you can microwave the whole squash for 30 seconds before peeling. This will soften the skin just enough to make it easier to peel.

Then cut into pieces with a sharp chef’s knife. Don’t try to settle for a dull knife or a tiny paring knife – you’re more likely to injure yourself.

Ready to slice? Follow this step-by-step guide and you’ll be just fine: How to Peel and Slice a Butternut Squash. (also with video!)

More butternut squash recipes

  • Butternut Squash Lasagna
  • Butternut Squash Apple Soup
  • Harvest Salad with Roasted Miso Maple Butternut Squash
  • Butternut Squash Risotto
  • Roasted butternut squash and kale sauté

Butternut squash with walnuts and vanilla

preparation time
10 mins

cooking time
30 minutes

total time
40 minutes

4 servings

We use butternut squash for this dish, but feel free to use kabocha squash or another firm, easy-to-peel winter squash instead.

You can either boil or roast the squash, instructions are provided for both methods.

Recipe can easily be doubled.


  • 1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds, peeled, seeded, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes (see How to Cut and Peel a Butternut Squash)

  • 3 bay leaves (if the squash is cooked)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (if squash is roasted)

  • Salt

  • 1 heaping cup walnuts (can substitute pecans or pine nuts)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Roast or cook the diced pumpkin:

    When roasting: Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush the diced pumpkin with a little olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and toast until cubes begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Take out of the oven.

    When she cooks: In a medium saucepan, add 4 cups of water and add the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Put the pumpkin in the pot. Cook covered for 10 minutes. drain.

  2. Roast walnuts:

    Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and toast the walnuts. Stir often or they will burn. Once they start to brown and you can smell the toasted walnut aroma, remove them from the heat.

  3. Melt the butter:

    Melt the butter in the pan with the walnuts over medium heat. Toss the walnuts to brush with butter, then add the squash. Toss them to brush with butter.

  4. Add the grated ginger, vanilla extract, black pepper, some salt and dried thyme:

    Throw once more. Turn off the heat and squeeze some lemon juice over everything. Taste for salt and lemon and add more as you like.

    If you want something a little more luxurious, mix in a tablespoon or two of butter before serving.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!