If you’re a sucker for squash like we are (hello, butternut, spaghetti, and pumpkin), you may already be well-acquainted with kabocha. If not, let us introduce you. Pumpkin’s Japanese cousin is one of the sweetest squash varieties out there. We love it because it's so versatile, and it holds up well to various preparation techniques. Translation: It's impossible to get tired of it. Here are 23 of our favorites, which prove that whether you’re puréeing it into pasta sauce, simmering it into soup, or simply slicing and roasting it, you really can’t go wrong when cooking with kabocha.
Think of this as a gourmet Egg McMuffin: American cheese is swapped out for the creamy goat variety, and instead of bacon, you get a more wholesome combo of peppery arugula and sweet kabocha mash. Caramelized onions score this sandwich even more points.
Pack more fiber into your breakfast with farro—this super-chewy grain’s got even more of it per ounce than quinoa. Layered with coconut milk and kabocha, the result is a cross between a parfait and a rice pudding.
This take on a Middle Eastern egg dish stays pretty true to a classic recipe, including paprika, cumin, and parsley. The unexpected (but totally welcome) ingredient is the chopped kabocha scattered into the tomato sauce, lending a subtle sweetness and making this shakshuka as much fun to eat as it is to say.
This recipe uses a specific brand of oats, but go ahead and use whatever you’ve got in your kitchen. The standout here is really the kabocha, puréed and then stirred into the chai-spiced grains. It’s hard to think of a cozier breakfast bowl than this.
From the chunks of roasted kabocha and apples to the dashes of cinnamon and ginger, there are plenty of sweet surprises in this recipe to set it apart from most other frittatas. Oh, there’s also bacon in here. Enough said.
They may be flourless and free of dairy, but these bars avoid “cardboard texture” territory, thanks to the four eggs and the puréed kabocha squash keeping them light and soft. Plus, we’re on board with anything that involves chocolate chips at breakfast.
Soups, Salads, and Sides
Packed with roasted kabocha and Brussels sprouts, plus white beans for added protein, this salad is best served warm, making it ideal for a cozy (but cold) night. Drizzle with a light Dijon and maple syrup dressing to bring out the veggie's natural sweetness.
Kabocha doesn’t need much tinkering with since it has next-level flavor. Take this soup, for example: With less than 10 additional ingredients, kabocha becomes a roasted, creamy, sweet and savory dish that’s ready in less than 30 minutes.
From the sweet kabocha and the slightly bitter kale, to the spicy Dijon mustard, the savory pumpkin seeds, and the tangy bite of the pomegranates, there’s an entire spectrum of flavors in this salad. The squash gives this dish a hearty quality that makes it work well as a main or a side.
Borrowing the famous kabocha toast recipe served at a popular New York restaurant, this dish is approved by food critics everywhere—and how could it not be? Creamy squash and goat cheese are slathered onto crispy toast along with maple syrup-kissed caramelized onions. It’s Michelin-star worthy stuff.
One of the best ways to prepare kabocha is by sticking it in the oven to bring out all its natural sugars. This recipe does just that, but dresses the slices up with a sweet and savory miso sauce and a walnut and pomegranate topping.
A dusting of za'atar spice, a tossing in olive oil, and a tahini and Greek yogurt drizzle give the humble squash some Mediterranean flair. With pomegranates and crushed pistachios on top, kabocha has never looked classier.
Find quinoa, kabocha, and kale in this well-balanced dish. The quinoa cooks right in the pot, and you don’t even need to remove the skin from the squash. So much nutrition for minimal labor and hardly any cleanup sounds pretty soup-er to us.
Go back to kabocha’s roots with this typical Japanese fast-food favorite. While croquettes are usually fried, these use just one teaspoon of oil and opt for an oven-baked method for crispy yet light patties.
Anything dipped in cheese has a good chance of working out well, but sweet kabocha is an especially tasty complement to the nutty Parmesan coating. This blogger makes the smart swap of Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for a cool touch to the roasted, spiced wedges.
Lunches and Dinners
Cauliflower and pumpkin are common ingredients used to make traditional cream sauces vegan, but kabocha might become your new favorite. Puréed with nondairy milk and nutritional yeast, it’s rich and silky, but light enough to eat practically every day (it’s so good, you may just want to!).
Using a ready-made polenta tube makes the gluten-free crust for this pizza a cinch to put together. The shift from tradition doesn’t end there—with a kabocha stirred into the tomato sauce, cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella, and toppings that include kale, this is one pie you won’t find on a delivery menu.
This recipe is proof that sandwiches can be easy without being boring. It’s just a simple layering job, but the combination of flavors from the kabocha, avocado, cheese, and Dijon-Greek yogurt spread is killer.
Intimidated by the prospect of homemade gnocchi? Don’t be! Calling for just three ingredients, it’s so much easier than it seems. Toss the kabocha-based bites with roasted veggies and chicken for a well-balanced, elegant twist on a regular pasta primavera.
With its own distinct taste, kabocha holds up incredibly well to stronger flavors. Take this recipe—even with all the red curry paste, garlic, ginger, and coconut milk going on in here, kabocha’s trademark sweetness shines through.
The secret to great risotto without the constant stirring? Let the oven do the work. With hearty chunks of chicken and kabocha throughout the Arborio rice, and white wine and thyme in the mix too, this baked dish is a step up from a regular casserole, but just as easy to prepare.
There’s no ground meat in this recipe, nor are there any of the beans you’d usually find in chili. Edamame lends plenty of protein, while cumin, coriander, and chili powder add tons of spicy flavor. This is plant-based eating at its finest.
Kabocha makes a great bowl as a tortilla replacement for an otherwise traditional chicken burrito filling. Ladle the rice and meat into roasted halves of the veggie and scoop up some kabocha in every bite.