Acorn squash are just one of the many varieties of hard-shell squash to make their appearance once autumn’s cooler weather starts to move in. Along with butternut, pumpkins and delicata squashes, acorns are distinguished by their hard outer shell, yet interestingly, they’re actually botanically related to zucchini and yellow squash!
Shaped like an acorn (hence, the name), these squash are most often dark green in color with splotches or streaks of orange or yellow, although some newer all-orange or all-golden varieties have cropped up in recent years. Choose those that don’t have any cuts, nicks, bruises or soft spots, and try to buy ones that are about the same size so they’ll cook at the same rate. Also, look for squash with dull skin—shiny skin tells you that the squash was harvested too soon. And don’t be alarmed if there’s a pale spot on one side—that is very likely the side that the squash rested on while still on the vine.
Acorn squash are typically smaller than other hard-shell squash, often weighing one to two pounds max, making them perfect for individual servings, like this special occasion-worthy stuffed squash side dish! But simple preparations like baking or roasting squash halves with butter and brown sugar are equally delicious too.