Cooks use butternut squash and pumpkin interchangeably in most recipes. Both of these squashes offer firm orange flesh that is excellent roasted, pureed, or mashed. They have identical growing requirements and are very sensitive to even the slightest frost. But they are different in a few key areas. They have different shapes and grow to different sizes. We use them in many different ways, and one of them keeps in storage for much longer than the other. So let’s discover everything you need to know about butternut squash vs. pumpkin!
Comparing Butternut Squash vs. Pumpkin
|Species||Cucurbita moschata||Cucurbita pepo|
|Taste||Sweet and nutty||Sweet and earthy|
|Description||Bottle-shaped, with a long neck and a short bulbous end. Dull tan skin, smooth rind, bright orange flesh.||Vary from oblate to globular to oblong. The rind is smooth and usually lightly furrowed or ribbed. Yellow to orange skin with orange flesh.|
|Uses||Roast, saute, puree, mash, baked goods||Roast, saute, puree, mash, baked goods, leaves are edible, toasted seeds, seed oil, jack o’ lantern as a fall decoration.|
|Storage||Store at 50°F and 50% humidity for 2-3 months||Store at 50°F and 50% humidity for 3-4 months|
|Size||Weighs from 1-5 pounds, most commonly 2-3 pounds each||Weighs from 4 oz to 200 pounds, most commonly 12-18 pounds each|
|Time to Harvest||From seed to harvest is 120 days||From seed to harvest is 120 days|
|Origins||Northeast Mexico and the southern USA||Northeast Mexico and the southern USA|
|Growing Requirements||Plant on a hill when soil is 60-65°F, heavy feed needs frequent fertilizer||Plant on a hill when soil is 60-65°F, heavy feed needs frequent fertilizer|
The 4 Key Differences Between Butternut Squash and Pumpkin
The main differences between the butternut squash and pumpkin are size, shape, and uses. The butternut squash is much smaller than the pumpkin, with a maximum weight of only five pounds. Pumpkins get much bigger and have won prizes at county fairs at over 200 pounds.
The two gourds are also different shapes, with pumpkins being round and butternut squash an oblong bottle shape. They also have several different uses, which we will discuss in more detail below.
Butternut Squash vs. Pumpkin: Description
Butternut squash is oblong shaped with one larger, more bulbous end. They hold their seed compartment on the blossom end and have dark orange flesh that is dense and moist. Butternuts have smooth tan skin that can easily be removed with a vegetable peeler. They are usually between two and three pounds each.
Pumpkins are round and symmetrical. They hold their seed compartment in the center and have bright orange and firm flesh. Pumpkins have ribbed orange skin that is best removed after the fruit is cooked. They most commonly weigh between 12 and 18 pounds each.
Butternut Squash vs. Pumpkin: Uses
Perhaps the most significant difference between these two gourds is in their uses. Cooks use pumpkins and butternut squash to saute, roast, puree, and mash, and they are delicious in many baked goods.
But the pumpkin has a few more common uses than the butternut squash. Pumpkin seeds are commonly roasted and eaten, pumpkin oil is commercially processed and sold, and the leaves of pumpkins are a common edible vegetable in Korea. Pumpkins are also carved and used as fall decorations in many places. Last but not least, pumpkin is the key ingredient in the famous pumpkin spice latte.
Butternut Squash vs. Pumpkin: Storage
Both butternut squash and pumpkin taste sweeter if they are allowed to cure. To cure a squash, you set it in a warm sunny place with excellent air circulation for a couple of weeks, rotating periodically to let the sun bake each side. An old screen in the yard works well for this task. Curing removes the excess water and concentrates the natural sugars, making your squash taste even more delicious.
After curing, it’s time to store the squash. Move them to a dark place with a temperate of around 50°F and humidity between 50 and 70%. Butternut squash will keep for three months, and pumpkin will store for four months. One great trick is to store them upside down (stem side down) on a soft surface, like a scrap of cardboard; this helps them last even longer.
Butternut Squash vs. Pumpkin: Size
Butternut squash is usually between eight to twelve inches long and three to five inches in diameter. They weigh between two to five pounds and provide three or four cups of fruit when cubed.
On the other hand, pumpkins come in a wide variety of sizes. Tiny varieties are only three inches in diameter and weigh four ounces. Gigantic varieties weigh hundreds of pounds, like the Guinness Book of World Records winner that came in at 2,702 pounds 13.9 ounces The average pumpkin that you will find in a grocery store weighs between twelve to eighteen pounds though and is nine or ten inches in diameter.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/chengyuzheng
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Are butternut squash and pumpkin easy to grow?
Butternut squash, pumpkins, and many other gourd family members have identical growing requirements.
Firstly, they are not frost-tolerant. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost has passed in the spring before you set the seeds outdoors. Take the temperature of the soil. If it is over 60°F, it is safe to plant a winter squash seed. If the seeds are happy in nice warm soil, they will sprout in ten days.
The second consideration is the size of the plot. Butternut squash vines grow as long as 15 feet long, and pumpkin vines grow as long as 30 feet, so they need a large area to spread out. It is best to mound the soil into a hill. Plant 4 to 5 seeds per 18″ hill, and thin to three viable plants after sprouting.
Lastly, winter squash varieties are heavy feeders. They need rich soil and regular fertilizer to provide you with lots of lovely squash. Plant in full sun, and feel free to interplant with corn, beans, or sunflowers to save on space.
With the proper care, your pumpkin or butternut squash will be mature and ready to eat 120 days after planting.
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- Foods Guy, Available here: https://foodsguy.com/butternut-squash-vs-pumpkin/