Butternut Squash vs Pumpkin: What Are The Differences?

butternut squash 2
© iStock.com/chengyuzheng

Written by Heather Hall

Published: October 16, 2022

Share on:

Advertisement


Listen to Article

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

CharacteristicButternut SquashPumpkin
SpeciesCucurbita moschataCucurbita pepo
TasteSweet and nuttySweet and earthy
DescriptionBottle-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.
UsesRoast, saute, puree, mash, baked goodsRoast, saute, puree, mash, baked goods, leaves are edible, toasted seeds, seed oil, jack o’ lantern as a fall decoration.
StorageStore at 50°F and 50% humidity for 2-3 monthsStore at 50°F and 50% humidity for 3-4 months
SizeWeighs from 1-5 pounds, most commonly 2-3 pounds eachWeighs from 4 oz to 200 pounds, most commonly 12-18 pounds each
Time to HarvestFrom seed to harvest is 120 daysFrom seed to harvest is 120 days
OriginsNortheast Mexico and the southern USANortheast Mexico and the southern USA
Growing RequirementsPlant on a hill when soil is 60-65°F, heavy feed needs frequent fertilizerPlant on a hill when soil is 60-65°F, heavy feed needs frequent fertilizer
Above is a comparison of the many differences and similarities between butternut squash and pumpkin

The 4 Key Differences Between Butternut Squash and Pumpkin

butternut squash 2

Butternut squash has a unique shape and typically weighs no more than five pounds

©iStock.com/chengyuzheng

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

pile of gladiator pumpkins

Pumpkins are much larger than butternuts and have a distinctly round shape

©JoannaTkaczuk/Shutterstock.com

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.

Up Next


Share this post on:
About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.