Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (2024)

  • Thanksgiving Side Dishes
  • Walnuts
  • Butternut Squash

Here's an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner: Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla! It's an unexpected combo that works beautifully.


Elise Bauer

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (1)

Elise Bauer

Elise founded Simply Recipes in 2003 and led the site until 2019. She has an MA in Food Research from Stanford University.

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Updated December 13, 2022

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (2)

4 ratings

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (3)

19 Winter Squash Recipes for Satisfying DinnersFEATURED IN:

Easy Butternut Squash Side Dish

Here's an easy side dish, perfect for Thanksgiving or any cool-weather meal, using butternut squash. The vanilla makes you think you are about to eat something sweet, and in a way you are, as the squash has a natural sweetness, but this really is a savory dish.

The combination of walnuts, thyme, ginger, vanilla, and squash may seem weird, but oddly it works.

You can either boil the cubed butternut squash with some bay leaves, or roast them until you get a little browning – in which case omit the bay leaves.

Roasting will caramelize the squash a bit, giving a little more flavor, and the squash cubes will hold their shape better.

Boiling the squash will yield softer squash and a little flavor from the bay leaves.

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (4)

How to Buy and Store Butternut Squash

One of the things I love about winter squash is that you can buy one and then take your time to figure out what to do with it. They last for months as long as you keep them cool and dry.

When buying squash, look for ones that are free of blemishes or deep nicks since these will store for longer without developing rot. Store them in a cool, dry place until you're ready to cook with them. (But don't forget about them! Even hard winter squashes will eventually start to go soft and moldy.)

Keep your eye out for good deals on winter squashes toward the end of the season at your farmer's market. Sometimes you can really score with a giant bag of discount squash that will last you through the winter.

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (5)

How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash

Cutting up a butternut squash can definitely be intimidating. The most important thing to do is make sure your cutting board is stable. If it's prone to slipping on your countertop, put a damp paper towel or dishcloth underneath to keep it steady.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the tough outer skin. If you have a microwave, you can put the whole squash in the microwave for 30 seconds before peeling. That will soften the peel just enough to make it easier to peel.

Then use a sharp chef's knife to cut it into pieces. Don't try to make do with a dull knife or a tiny paring knife -- you'll be more likely to injure yourself.

Ready to slice? Follow this step-by-step guide and you'll be just fine: How to Peel and Cut a Butternut Squash. (With a video, as well!)

More Butternut Squash Recipes

  • Butternut Squash Lasagna
  • Harvest Salad with Miso-Maple Roasted Butternut Squash
  • Butternut Squash Risotto
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Sauté

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time30 mins

Total Time40 mins

We're using butternut squash for this dish, but you could easily use kabocha squash instead, or any firm, easy-to-peel, winter squash.

You can either boil or roast the squash, directions are given for both methods.

Recipe can be easily doubled.


  • 1 butternut quash, about 2 pounds, peeled, seeds removed, flesh cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 3 bay leaves (if boiling the squash)

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (if roasting the squash)

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 heaping cup walnuts (can substitute pecans or pine nuts)

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger

  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Roast or boil the cubed squash:

    If roasting: Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat the cubed squash with a little olive oil and spread out onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with salt and roast until the cubes begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.

    Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (6)

    If boiling: Put 4 cups of water into a medium-sized pot and add the bay leaves. Bring to a simmer. Add the squash to the pot. Boil, covered for 10 minutes. Drain.

  2. Toast the walnuts:

    Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and toast the walnuts. Stir frequently or they will burn. Once they start to brown, and you can smell the aroma of toasted walnuts, remove from heat.

    How to Toast WalnutsREAD MORE:
  3. Melt the butter:

    Melt the butter in the pan with the walnuts over medium-high heat. Toss the walnuts to coat with butter, then add the squash. Toss them to coat with butter.

    Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (7)

    Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (8)

  4. Add the grated ginger, vanilla extract, black pepper, a little salt, and dried thyme:

    Toss once more. Turn off the heat and squeeze some lemon juice over everything. Taste for salt and lemon and add more to taste.

    If you want this to be a bit more luxurious, mix in another tablespoon of butter or two before serving.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
29g Fat
12g Carbs
5g Protein


Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g38%
Saturated Fat 8g38%
Cholesterol 23mg8%
Sodium 151mg7%
Total Carbohydrate 12g4%
Dietary Fiber 4g15%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 14mg68%
Calcium 67mg5%
Iron 2mg9%
Potassium 363mg8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.

Butternut Squash with Walnuts and Vanilla Recipe (2024)
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