Pickled Butternut Squash: A Game-Changer

Insanity, as the saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

And while I agree with Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, or whatever anonymous scholar coined the phrase, I’m finding a few exceptions to the rule when it comes to my ongoing experiments in finding ways to eat foods I hate.

pickled butternut squash
Photo: Casey Barber

I know, for example, that continuing to bake salmon, no matter what sauce or marinade I throw on top of it, is not going to magically change how I feel about the taste of that fish.

But earlier this month, I voluntarily included half a banana in a smoothie and still managed to enjoy the drink.

(Though admittedly at this point in the month, allergies had left me barely able to breathe, so the taste of pretty much everything I gulped down was muted.)

cod with pickled butternut squash
Photo: Casey Barber

And thanks to a recent meal at Zuni Cafe, I’ve been introduced to a new way to eat the dreaded butternut squash: pickle it!

(Yes, “pickle it” has already been turned into a Portlandia sketch, in case you’re wondering.)

Snappy and tart instead of mushy and sweet, I’m now convinced that pickled is the only way to go when eating members of the squash family.

I’ve been throwing handfuls into salads alongside pickled beets for a one-two sweet-and-sour punch, and using them as a topping for cold sesame noodles and pad Thai.

noodles with pickled butternut squash
Photo: Casey Barber

The pickled butternut squash cubes can be minced and stirred together with sour cream, herbs, and mayo for a quick vegetable dip or dressing.

The crunchy cubes of squash would also be a bright addition to a coconut milk curry, or folded into a whole grain pilaf with other cooked vegetables.

I love enlivening meals with a little pickled tang, so I’m thrilled to have these in my repertoire for the summer months.

The following recipe is a small-batch pickling recipe, since I find that a little goes a long way with condiments like this. And how many jars can a reasonably sane person keep in her fridge at once?

pickled butternut squash
Photo: Casey Barber

It’s also a refrigerator pickle, meaning you don’t have to go through the process of water bath canning.

Make one big jar or a few small jars and share the wealth.

And if you don’t want to break down an entire butternut squash to get a mere 1/2 cup of cubes for this recipe, try a honeynut squash!

It’s a miniature version of the butternut and is so easy to prep—barely any seeds or stringy bits. A half-pound honeynut will get you exactly what you need here.

Squash, consider yourself crossed off my list. On to the next.

pickled butternut squash
pickled butternut squash

Pickled Butternut Squash

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 7 days
Total Time: 7 days 25 minutes

Pickled butternut squash is a zippy, tangy way to enjoy one of fall's most popular vegetables. Try it in salads, dips, and noodle dishes.


  • 1/2 pound butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 whole dried chile pepper, roughly torn, or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds


    1. Add the butternut squash, chile, and bay leaf to a wide-mouth quart-size canning jar or divide between 3 1-cup jars.
    2. Add the vinegar, water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, and mustard seeds to a 1-quart high-sided saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the salt and sugar.
    3. Carefully pour the brine into the jar to cover the butternut squash.
    4. Let cool for 10 minutes, then close the jars and refrigerate for at least a week before eating.


Pickled butternut squash will keep in the fridge for at least a month. After that, it's your call, but I've had other refrigerator pickles last up to a year, even though they haven't been water bath-canned. Use your nose and your good judgment.

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  1. I’m not nearly as anti-squash as you, but I totally understand how the mushy texture can get overwhelming. I’m intrigued by this. Been trying to imagine how it tastes.. guess I’ll just have to try it!

  2. I’m not anti-squash at all (though most of my kids are), but this sounds fantastic. And that carmelized fennel . . . um yes!

  3. I must say I kinda love squash, especially pureed into soup (quick healthy way to thicken things up)! But I’d totally give this pickled version a go!

  4. I haven’t yet pickled butternut squash, but now it’s moved closer to the top of my list! Also, I’m proud of you for eating part of a banana, hehe! ;-)

  5. Pickled squash is a wonderful thing for sure and a good one for your repertoire when the doldrums of winter seem too long. But, a suggestion to make it better, in my experience, is a 10 hour soak in 10% brine prior to pickling yields an even more completely al dente texture.

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