Butternut 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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Common Allergen: No
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a whole butternut squash before being prepared for babies starting solids

When can babies eat butternut squash?

Butternut squash may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age. 

Squash originated in Central America, where the plant has been grown by Indigenous people for thousands of years, but it was not until the 20th century that the modern-day butternut variety was developed. A descendant of the curvy Canadian crookneck and a cousin of calabaza, today’s butternut squash has been cultivated to withstand colder climes outside of the tropical and subtropical regions in which the native plant thrives. Butternut squash has a smooth, tender texture with little to no strings and a sweet, nutty flavor—a wonderful first food for babies. Read on for nutrition information and serving suggestions!

Money Saver Icon See butternut squash on sale? Buy more than one: when stored in a cool, dry place, the squash will last for a couple of months.

Zuri, 10 months, eats a porridge of butternut squash and cornmeal, a staple dish in Haitian culture.
Adie, 12 months, eats bite-size pieces of roasted butternut squash.
Julian, 13 months, eats large pieces of cooked butternut squash. If the cooked squash is soft, it’s fine to continue with larger pieces to encourage biting and tearing practice.

Is butternut squash healthy for babies?

Yes. Butternut squash is an excellent source of fiber and offers plenty of vitamin A for eyesight, B vitamins for healthy blood, vitamin C for resilient skin, and vitamin E for brain development. Squash seeds contain even more vitamin E than the flesh!

While all of these vitamins support your baby’s immune system, vitamin C has a special superpower: it helps your baby absorb iron from plant-based foods that are packed with the essential nutrient. That means serving butternut squash with iron-rich foods like beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds can pack an extra nutritional punch. 

What’s more, butternut squash is high in carotenoids— a fancy word for plant compounds, some of which our bodies convert to vitamin A. In fact, the longer that butternut 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

Is butternut squash a choking hazard for babies?

No. Butternut 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 as in theory, an individual can choke on any food. Keep scrolling for age-appropriate serving suggestions!

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

Is butternut squash a common allergen?

No. Allergies to butternut 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 butternut squash for babies with baby-led weaning?

6 to 9 months old: Let your baby munch on well-cooked crescent-shaped or half-moon pieces or offer mashed butternut squash to eat with their hands or from a pre-loaded spoon. If a too-big piece of food from the crescent-shaped pieces breaks off 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 butternut squash if your baby has developed their pincer grasp and consider continuing to offer large pieces of well-cooked butternut squash for biting and tearing practice. Mashed butternut 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: Offer bite-sized pieces of well-cooked butternut 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. If your child is not interested in using their fork or spoon, keep in mind that using utensils can be exhausting for new eaters, and many toddlers toggle back and forth between feeding themselves with their fingers and practicing with 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.

For more information on how to cut food for your baby’s age, hop over to our section on Food Sizes & Shapes.

An infographic showing How to Cut Butternut Squash for Babies with large half-moon and crescent pieces for 6-9 month (along with mashed), bite size pieces for 9-12 months, and bite sizes pieces with a fork for 12 - 24 months.

★Tip: How to cut a butternut squash without losing a finger: Place the squash on its side and slice crosswise to separate the bulb from the neck. Now cut off the flower and stem ends to create a flat surface that lets each piece sit upright on your cutting board without rolling. Next, use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove the skin. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out the seeds. Decide what shapes you want to create—chunks, crescent moons, large cubes—and cut accordingly. Now you’re ready to cook! 

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Lentils

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup Puy lentils or French green lentils

Directions

For the butternut squash:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit / 205 degrees Celsius. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the squash on a cutting board and cut crosswise to separate the bulb from the neck and remove the flower and stem ends. Halve the bulb and scoop out the seeds.
  3. Cut the squash flesh into age-appropriate sizes. Rub with 1 tablespoon of oil and evenly space on the sheet tray.
  4. Roast the butternut squash for 10 minutes, then remove the tray from the oven and flip the pieces over.
  5. Return the tray to the oven and roast until a knife easily inserts into a piece of squash, about 10 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool on the tray. Cooked butternut 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.

For the lentils:

  1. Rinse the lentils in a fine-mesh colander, then place them in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Add 3 cups of water and set the pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to create a gentle simmer.
  3. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain in a colander then return the lentils to the pot.
  4. Add the apple cider vinegar and remaining oil to the pot. Stir to combine with the lentils. Cooked lentils can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

To serve: Measure 1/2 cup of lentils in a bowl that suctions to the table for babies or a plate for older children. Place a few pieces of the cooked butternut squash on top or alongside the lentils. Let your child scoop with hands or place a baby fork on the side to encourage utensil use. Eat your meal alongside your child to show how it’s done!

Flavor Pairings

Butternut squash is nutty and sweet. Try serving it with umami-rich foods like mushroom, pork, or scallop. Play up its earthiness by adding nuts like almond, chestnut, or hazelnut, or balance its sweetness with seasoning from bold herbs and spices like chili powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, or sage—or add brightness from the juice of lime, orange, or your favorite citrus fruit.

Reviewed by:

Jamie Truppi, MSN, CNS

Venus Kalami, MNSP, RD

Kary Rappaport, OTR/L, MS, SCFES, IBCLC

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

Rachel Ruiz, MD 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