Microwave acorn squash with butter and cinnamon-sugar is a super easy side dish or dessert that your family will love! I've served it to guests who had no idea what it was but loved it once they tasted the sweet, buttery topping and tender squash.
If you have never cooked acorn squash before, this tutorial is for you! I've included step-by-step instructions for how to choose, prepare, and microwave acorn squash.
I hope this will help you venture out of your comfort zone and give it a try. I first learned to cook it in the oven, but I prefer quick recipes so I adapted it to an acorn squash microwave version.
Time needed to microwave acorn squash
Using the microwave is the secret to having this easy side dish on the table in under 15 minutes. It takes about 5 minutes to cut and clean the squash, then about 10 minutes of microwave cooking time.
Cooking time depends on your microwave strength and the number of squash you are cooking; this recipe was tested using one squash—two halves—in a 1600 watt microwave.
The squash can be roasted in the oven instead, but it will take about an hour at 375ºF to cook. Instructions for the oven are included in the cooking instructions below and in the notes in the recipe card.
In addition to the acorn squash (1 squash yields 2 servings), this easy recipe uses:
- brown sugar or honey
- cinnamon and/or nutmeg
- water for steaming
See recipe card for quantities.
Choosing whole acorn squash
Season: Acorn squash it is a popular fall/winter variety, but is available all year long in most grocery stores. I find it a bit heavy for summer cooking, but we enjoy it year round other than in hot weather.
Color: Although heirloom acorn squash varieties are available that are more orange in color, the most common variety of acorn squash found in grocery stores is best when mostly green and dull in color. Too much orange indicates an overripe squash which will be stringy.
Sheen: A shiny squash indicates that it was harvested too early and the sweetness of the flesh was not allowed adequate time to develop.
Preparing acorn squash for the microwave
Like all of the winter squash varieties, acorn squash has a center filled with soft, stringy pulp and large seeds. To prepare the squash, wash the outside and slice it in half from stem to blossom end.
Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and stringy flesh from the center and discard.
The cleaned squash will look like this.
How to microwave acorn squash
For this recipe, prepare enough squash for each person to have one half of a squash. Pour just enough water to cover the bottom into a microwave-safe dish large enough to fit all of the squash. Place the squash cut side down in the pan (not pictured).
I find that the squash cook faster if I prop the squash on each other and the sides of the pan. The steam can circulate around the flesh of the squash better this way.
Cook in the microwave on high for several minutes until squash are fork tender. Usually this takes 4-6 minutes per squash, but it will depend on the size and number of squash you are cooking as well as the strength of your microwave.
Drain the water from the pan when the squash are tender.
Turn the squash over (careful, they're hot!).
Place a pat of butter in the center of each half.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon (and nutmeg if desired) to taste.
Heat until butter is melted and the butter/cinnamon/sugar mixture is bubbly. Serve immediately. To eat, just scoop the flesh of the squash out with a spoon or fork (don't eat the skin). It's delicious!
Sliced microwave acorn squash
For faster cooking, you can slice the squash instead of halving it. To make sliced acorn squash, clean the acorn squash as directed, then slice each squash half crosswise into 1" thick slices.
Steam the slices in a microwave steamer until tender, then brush with the butter and sprinkle the other toppings on top before heating briefly again as directed.
How to cook acorn squash in the oven
You can make roasted or baked squash in the oven if you prefer—skip the steaming step and put it face down on a baking sheet with shallow sides, and cook it in a preheated 375ºF oven for about 30-40 minutes (or until the insides are tender when pricked with a fork) Remove and turn skin side down and fill the hollow with the butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Cook until butter is melted and bubbling, about 15 more minutes.
Cooking acorn squash in the oven takes longer, but dry roasting the acorn squash in the oven brings out the natural sugars and results in a deliciously sweet version. The butter and sugar will begin to caramelize, producing a slightly crisp topping.
Acorn Squash FAQ
How long can you store acorn squash
Uncut acorn squash can be stored for up to three months in a cool and dry location.
Is acorn squash good for you?
Studies show many potential health benefits from acorn squash, including potential benefits such as cancer prevention and eye health from its vitamin A, cardiovascular health from carotenoids, and reduction of free radicals from antioxidants. [source]
How long does microwaved acorn squash last?
Microwaved acorn squash will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator, or up to about 3 months in the freezer in an air-tight container. Freezing for longer may affect texture.
Can you microwave a whole acorn squash before cutting?
If you are having trouble cutting the acorn squash in half, you can microwave the whole acorn squash for 3-4 minutes on high to soften it. Let the whole squash sit for a couple of minutes (and be sure it is cool enough to touch) before taking it out of the microwave and cutting it in half. You should be able to shorten the cooking time after cutting if you microwave the whole squash before cutting.
Microwave Acorn Squash
- 1 acorn squash
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey
- dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons butter
- dash of salt
- 2 tablespoons water, for steaming
- Wash 1 acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise; scrape out seeds.
- Place squash cut side down into a glass baking dish containing 2 tablespoons water.
- Cook in microwave until squash is tender, about 6 minutes. (Cooking time depends on your microwave strength and the number of squash you are cooking; this recipe was tested using one squash—two halves—in a 1600 watt microwave.)
- Remove from microwave, turn squash right side up in same dish.
- Divide the 2 teaspoons brown sugar or honey and 2 teaspoons butter evenly between each squash half and place in the hollow. Add a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg and a dash of salt to each.. Cook in microwave until butter mixture is bubbly, about 2-4 minutes. Serve hot.
- Cook in microwave until butter mixture is bubbly. Serve hot.