Acorn Squash

Food Type:
Age Suggestion: 6 months +
Nutrition Rating:How nutritious a food is with a focus on the specific nutrients babies need for optimal growth. The more nutritious a food, the more stars it will have.
Prep Time:How much time a food takes to prepare safely for a baby. The more time-consuming a food is to prepare safely, the more clocks it will have.
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Poop Friendly:Whether a food has qualities that promote healthy pooping patterns. Yes
Common Allergen: No
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a whole acorn squash on its side

When can babies eat acorn squash?

Acorn squash may be introduced as soon as baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. With its sweet, nutty flavor and its soft, fiber-packed flesh, acorn squash is a terrific first food for growing babies. It’s also fun for beginners to eat as the squash can be sliced into crescent moons—an easy shape for babies to pick up and hold on their own.

Background and origins of acorn squash

Humans have been eating squash for thousands of years, first in Central America—the plant’s native terrain—and later around the world as European colonizers took the seeds to different parts of the world. Crossbreeding and wild propagation have resulted in thousands of varieties of squash to try, including acorn squash and its winter squash siblings, delicata and spaghetti squash. These varieties have been bred for their delicious flavor and texture, unlike some of their carving pumpkin cousins on the gourd family tree, which have been cultivated to grow into the perfect color, shape, and size to turn into jack-o-lanterns.

★Tip: When stored in a cool, dry place, the squash will last for a couple of months.

Amelia, 6 months, eats acorn squash for the first time.
Julian, 13 months, eats acorn squash and practices using his trainer fork.
Max, 16 months, eats acorn squash for the first time.

Is acorn squash healthy for babies?

Absolutely. Acorn squash offers tons of fiber along with many B vitamins, including vitamin B6 and folate to help babies grow and thrive. Acorn squash also offers a little vitamin A, magnesium for overall cell function, and vitamin C, which aids the absorption of plant-based iron. That means serving acorn squash with iron-rich foods like beans, lentils, and nut and seed butters can pack an extra nutritional punch.

What’s more, acorn squash is high in carotenoids—a term for plant compounds, some of which our bodies convert to vitamin A. In fact, the longer that acorn squash is allowed to cure after harvest, the more carotenoids it produces.1 Studies indicate that carotenoids may reduce the risk of cancer and help regulate free radicals that our bodies naturally produce.2 3

★Tip: There are different ways to break down an acorn squash without chopping off a finger. Here’s one way: place the squash on a cutting board with the stem facing up. Insert a sharp knife into the squash on one side of the stem, then cut vertically until the knife reaches the cutting board. Turn the squash on its side, insert the knife into the cut, and slide it through the rest of the squash, until it reaches the other side of the stem. Next, pull apart the two halves and scoop out the seeds. Cut the halves crosswise to create crescent-moon slices that are about one inch thick. Now you’re ready to cook!

Is acorn squash a common choking hazard for babies?

No. Cooked acorn squash is not a common choking hazard, but its seeds can be. As always, be sure to create a safe eating environment and always stay near your baby during mealtime. Check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.

For more information, visit our section on gagging and choking and familiarize yourself with common choking hazards.

Is acorn squash a common allergen?

No. Allergies to acorn squash are rare, though it’s not uncommon to get an itchy rash on the hands after handling winter squashes.4 To minimize any reaction, wash your hands after preparing the squash. Also, apply a barrier ointment (such as pure white petroleum jelly) to baby’s face before eating, and wash face and hands after eating.

As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity on its own for the first few servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.

How do you prepare acorn squash for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Let your baby munch on large, well-cooked crescent-shaped pieces, or mash cooked acorn squash and offer on a pre-loaded spoon. If your baby breaks off a too-big piece of squash from a crescent-shaped piece while eating, stay calm and give your child a chance to work the food forward independently.

9 to 12 months old: Serve bite-size pieces of well-cooked acorn squash if your baby has developed their pincer grasp and consider continuing to offer large pieces of well-cooked acorn squash for biting and tearing practice. Mashed acorn squash is a great food for spoon practice at this age as well because it grips the spoon, increasing baby’s chances for scooping success and allowing baby plenty of time to get the loaded spoon to their mouth before all the food falls off the utensil!

12 to 24 months old: Fork time! Offer bite-sized pieces of well-cooked acorn squash along with a fork to encourage utensil practice. Help show how it is used by pre-loading the fork for your baby to pick up independently or try spearing the squash while making a sound (boink!) to make it fun to use the utensil. If your child is not interested, keep in mind that using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many children toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and utensils. Try not to apply too much pressure—consistent and accurate utensil use will come in due time, and probably between 18 and 24 months of age.

a hand holding two semi-circles of cooked, orange squash for babies starting solids
Handle-shaped pieces of cooked acorn squash for babies 6 months+
a hand holding small pieces of cooked, orange squash for babies starting solids
Bite-size pieces of well-cooked acorn squash for babies 9 months +

Learn all about the nutrients that babies need in our Nutrient Cheat Sheet.

Recipe: Roasted Acorn Squash

crescent shaped pieces of roasted, peeled acorn squash

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil, coconut oil, or olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit / 185 degrees Celsius. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Wash the squash to remove any dirt and pesticide residue.
  3. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then cut the halves into crescent moons that are about one inch thick.
  4. Coat the slices in the oil of your choice, then evenly space on the sheet tray.
  5. Roast the squash for 15 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven and turn the pieces. Return the tray to the oven and roast until the squash is soft and a knife easily inserts into the flesh, between 15 minutes more.
  6. Remove the squash from the oven. When cool to the touch, let it cool completely then peel and compost the skin before serving.
  7. To serve: Place a couple of squash slices on your child’s plate. Let your child eat the squash slices as finger food or place a baby fork on the side of the plate to encourage utensil use.

To store: Cooked acorn squash can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Flavor Pairings

Acorn squash is nutty and sweet. Try serving it with umami-rich foods like lambmushroompork, or sardine, or go for a classic pairing of the three sisters: corngreen bean, and squash. Play up the earthiness of acorn squash by adding almond, chestnut, or hazelnut, or balance its sweetness with seasoning from bold herbs and spices like allspice, chili powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, oregano, pepicha, rosemary, or sage—or add brightness from the juice of limeorange, or your favorite citrus fruit.

Reviewed by

J. Truppi, MSN, CNS

V. Kalami, MNSP, RD, CSP

K. Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. Board-Certified Allergist & Immunologist (allergy section)

R. Ruiz, MD, FAAP. Board-Certified General Pediatrician & Pediatric Gastroenterologist

  1. Zhang, M.K., Zhang, M.P., Mazourek, M., Tadmor, Y., Li, L. (2014). Regulatory control of carotenoid accumulation in winter squash during storage. Planta, 240(5), 1063–1074. DOI:10.1007/s00425-014-2147-6. Retrieved October 12, 2020
  2. Zhang, M.K., Zhang, M.P., Mazourek, M., Tadmor, Y., Li, L. (2014). Regulatory control of carotenoid accumulation in winter squash during storage. Planta, 240(5), 1063–1074. DOI:10.1007/s00425-014-2147-6. Retrieved October 12, 2020
  3. Black, H.S., Boehm, F., Edge, R., Truscott, T.G. (2020). The Benefits and Risks of Certain Dietary Carotenoids that Exhibit both Anti- and Pro-Oxidative Mechanisms-A Comprehensive Review. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(3), 264. DOI:10.3390/antiox9030264. Retrieved October 12, 2020
  4. Potter, T.S., Hashimoto, K. (1994). Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) dermatitisContact dermatitis30(2), 123. DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1994.tb00588.x. Retrieved October 12, 2020