This post will show you to cut kabocha squash the easy way. The trick is to soften the tough green skin on your Japanese pumpkin before slicing or chopping it. Starting a recipe with the right cut makes all the difference whether you're cutting dragon fruit, a spiral salad, or winter squash.
For example, you want to leave the edible green rind on kabocha for thin slices of tempura, but remove the peel to roast cubes for dishes like our favorite Pumpkin Red Curry.
🏆 Top tip
Knife sharpeners don't have to be expensive to make a big difference. My affordable Wusthof sharpener has lasted for years and is one of my favorite kitchen tools.
⭐ Why it works
- Simple method - softens rind in minutes for easy peeling.
- Eco-friendly - doesn't require tin foil, heating an oven, or a microwave.
- Six ways - to cut kabocha for different recipes.
The secret to easy peeling is to partially cook just the outermost layer of hard winter squash before cutting it up. Fortunately, there's a quick and simple way to do this and keep the remaining squash raw. Then it can be sliced, peeled, cubed, diced, julienned, or grated for any number of recipes.
- Large pot - Choose a pot large and deep enough to put your kabocha in and cover it with two inches of water.
- Oven mitts - To protect hands from boiling water.
- Strainer - A sturdy strainer with a handle helps lower and remove the kabocha from boiling water.
- Large fork - A two-prong fork like the kind sold in meat carving sets is used to keep the kabocha submerged under water.
- Cutting board - Any large, non-slip cutting board is fine.
- Large knife - Select a large knife or cleaver to section the squash in half or wedges. Make sure it's very sharp.
- Spoon - For scooping out seeds and pulp.
- Pairing knife - Use this smaller knife to peel away skin and make sure it's sharp like the larger knife.
Full instructions and tips are in the recipe card below. Here's a brief summary:
- Soften kabocha skin in a pot of boiling water.
- Trim the bottom of the kabocha to sit flat and cut it in half.
- Remove the seeds.
- Cut and peel the kabocha squash as desired.
🍛 Six ways to cut kabocha for recipes
Cut a large kabocha in halves or quarters and remove the seeds. Slice in thin pieces and leave the skin on. This cut is ideal for tempura batter-fried kabocha. The skin holds the pieces together and makes them easy to grasp with chopsticks.
Slice quartered and seeded kabocha into one-inch thick wedges. Peel the skin away with a pairing knife like you would for apple slices. Cut into even-sized cubes. Season with a little oil, spices, and maple syrup. Roasted cubes of kabocha squash are delicious in curries, tossed in risotto, or on top of grain bowls and salads.
Cut kabocha into manageable hunks. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or pairing knife. Dice into even-sized small squares. The smaller cubes cook quickly in stews and stir-frys. You can even boil diced kabocha in the same water as dried pasta.
Halve and remove the seeds from a kabocha squash. Cut it into manageable sections and remove the peel. Use a sharp knife to cut slabs ¼-inch thick and slice the slabs again into matchsticks. Steam the kabocha lightly and use it in wraps, spring rolls, or burritos. You can also cut thicker sticks for oven fries.
Peel manageable-sized hunks of kabocha and grate it on the large end of a box grater. You can eat kabocha squash raw. Toss it in a vinaigrette or marinade and let it sit for 10 minutes to soften. Then it's delicious as an addition to deli-style small plates. If you prefer to cook your Japanese pumpkin, grating kabocha is the best cut for making fritters.
Peeled wedges and hunks of kabocha can be steamed, boiled, or roasted. Then they can be seasoned for an awesome, creamy mash, used as filling in savory pastry-wrapped entrees, or blended in soups. Try drizzling a little oil and maple syrup on your kabocha before roasting to help it caramelize in the oven.
♨️ Other ways to soften kabocha skin
It's a breeze peeling a kabocha with a softened rind compared to tackling the slippery, brittle, hard skin of squash that hasn't been softened.
Parboiling hard winter squash is my favorite way to soften the skin of a kabocha pumpkin before cutting it up. However, if you prefer to use one of the other common methods, here are some guidelines.
- Microwave - The time varies with the appliance, but approximately two to four minutes on a high setting in a microwave will soften the rind of hard-skinned squash. Pierce the squash several times with a carving fork before cooking.
- Oven - Pierce the skin as in the instructions for using a microwave. Wrap whole kabocha in foil and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Again, the time varies depending on the size of the squash and individual ovens. You may need to experiment a little.
👩🏻🍳 Expert tips
- Use oven mitts when lowering a kabocha into boiling water, and while keeping it submerged.
- A carving fork with long tines is helpful for pressing it down in the pot of water.
- Use a long-handled strainer to remove the kabocha from the boiling water.
- Remove kabocha as soon as the skin can be pierced with a dinner fork. It only takes 5 to 8 minutes for most kabocha rinds to soften. You'll want the meat of the kabocha to remain raw to prepare it for a variety of recipes.
- Trim a thin slice from the bottom of the kabocha squash if necessary to keep it from rocking. You want it to sit flat for the next step.
- Poke the sharp end of your large knife into the squash at the top on one side of the stem. Then use a rocking motion to slice down. Repeat on the other side of the stem and cut the whole squash in half.
- Seeds can be removed with a large spoon and saved for roasting if desired.
Yes absolutely. Any pumpkin variety with hard skin, like kabocha, that will fit in your pot can be prepped this way. This method is also great for winter squash like butternut and Hubbard. They have skins that soften even more quickly in boiling water.
You can store cut squash for 3 days in the refrigerator before cooking. Squash can also be frozen for up to three months. Keep in mind, though, the texture will change. For this reason, squash that has previously been frozen is best blended into recipes like creamy squash soup.
Yes, it's perfectly safe to eat kabocha skin. It tastes like the rest of the squash but not as sweet. The texture of the skin isn't desirable in most recipes. However, leaving it on for tempura makes the thin, batter-fried pieces easier to grab with chopsticks and dip into sauces.
👩🏻🍳 More how-to posts
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How To Cut Kabocha Squash The Easy Way
- 1 whole kabocha squash
- Seasonings as desired for recipes
Soften kabocha skin
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and put on oven mitts. Lower squash carefully into the water. Pierce the top of the squash with a large carving fork and press down to keep it submerged underwater for 5-8 minutes.
- Remove the whole kabocha from the boiling water with a strainer and the carving fork. Rinse it under cold water until cool enough to handle.
- First, lay the pumpkin on its side and slice off a thin layer from the bottom. Now your squash should sit flat on a cutting board. It's really helpful not to have it rolling around for the next step.
- Poke the sharp end of a large knife into the squash at the top on one side of the stem. Then use a rocking motion to slice down. Repeat on the other side of the stem and cut the whole squash in half.
- Use a large spoon with a dull edge to remove the seeds and pith from inside the kabocha squash. Save the seeds if desired for roasting.
- You can leave the edible skin on kabocha squash for cutting tempura slices. Most other recipes benefit from removing the peel. Whether you use a vegetable peeler or a pairing knife to peel the kabocha depends on the size and shape of the pieces you want to cut for your recipe.
- Basically, smaller pieces can be peeled with a pairing knife like an apple and large wide pieces are easier to skin with a vegetable peeler.
Cut kabocha squash
- Thin slices - Soften the skin of a whole kabocha according to the instructions above. Cut the kabocha in halves or quarters and remove the seeds. Slice it into thin pieces and leave the skin on. This cut is ideal for tempura batter-fried squash. The edible skin holds the pieces together and makes them easy to grasp with chopsticks.
- Cubes - Slice quartered and seeded kabocha into one-inch thick wedges. Remove the skin with a pairing knife like you would for apple slices. Cut the wedges into even-sized cubes. Roasted cubes of squash are delicious in curries, tossed in risotto, or on top of grain bowls and salads. You can season the cubes with a little oil and maple syrup to help them caramelize while roasting.
- Dice - Cut kabocha squash into manageable hunks and remove the seeds. Remove the peel with a vegetable peeler or pairing knife. Dice into even-sized small squares. The smaller cubes cook quickly in stews and stir-frys. You can even boil diced kabocha in the same water as dried pasta.
- Match sticks - Halve and remove the seeds from a kabocha squash. Cut it into manageable sections and remove the peel. Use a sharp knife to cut slabs ¼-inch thick and slice the slabs again into matchsticks. Steam the squash lightly and use it in wraps, spring rolls, or burritos. You can also cut thicker sticks for oven fries.
- Grated - Soften the skin and section a kabocha squash. Remove the seeds and peel. Grate squash on the large end of a box grater. Yes, you can eat kabocha squash raw! Toss it in a vinaigrette or marinade and let it sit for 10 minutes to soften. Then it's delicious as an addition to deli-style small plates. Don't worry, though, if you still want to cook your pumpkin, grating kabocha squash is the best cut for making fritters.
- Wedges - Soften the skin of a whole kabocha according to the instructions above. Section the squash, remove the seeds and peel. Wedges and hunks of kabocha can be steamed, boiled, or roasted. Drizzle with oil and maple syrup, roast, and eat as is. Or, steam or boil and season for an awesome, creamy mash, use as filling in savory pastry-wrapped entrees or blended in soups.