Both acorn squash and butternut squash are popular winter squash varieties known for their sweet, nutty flavor. But when it comes to sweetness, which squash variety reigns supreme? Here’s a detailed comparison of acorn squash vs. butternut squash to help you determine which is sweeter.
Acorn Squash Overview
Acorn squash is a small, dark green winter squash that resembles an acorn in shape and size. It has distinct ridges along its exterior and sweet, yellow-orange flesh inside.
Some key facts about acorn squash:
- Native to North and Central America.
- In season from September through December.
- Weight ranges from 1-3 pounds.
- Has a tough outer rind but tender interior flesh.
- Sweet, nutty flavor.
- Higher moisture content than other winter squashes.
Acorn squash is a versatile ingredient that can be roasted, sautéed, stuffed, or puréed into soups. Its slightly sweet flavor pairs well with spices, herbs, honey, maple syrup, and nutty flavors.
Butternut Squash Overview
Butternut squash, sometimes called buttercup squash, is a type of winter squash with tan, thick skin and deep orange flesh. It has a distinct bell shape with a bulbous end and long, curved neck.
Some key facts about butternut squash:
- Believed to have originated in Mexico and Guatemala.
- In season from September through January.
- Weight ranges from 2-5 pounds.
- Has a tough outer rind but smooth, sweet flesh inside.
- Rich, nutty squash flavor.
- Lower moisture content compared to other winter squashes.
Butternut squash can be roasted, puréed for soups or ravioli filling, added to risottos or pastas, or used to make pies and breads. Its subtly sweet flavor pairs well with brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
Both acorn squash and butternut squash are nutritious, low-calorie squash options. Here is a nutritional comparison of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw, cubed squash:
|Nutrient||Acorn Squash||Butternut Squash|
|Carbs||9.5 g||11 g|
|Fiber||1.4 g||1.8 g|
|Sugar||3.4 g||2.2 g|
|Protein||1.1 g||1 g|
|Vitamin A||4% DV||457% DV|
|Vitamin C||13% DV||10% DV|
|Potassium||6% DV||10% DV|
As you can see, both squash varieties are low in calories and high in nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. Butternut squash contains slightly more natural sugars and carbohydrates per serving compared to acorn squash.
When it comes to sweetness, acorn squash often tastes sweeter than butternut squash. There are a few reasons for this:
- Higher sugar content – Acorn squash has nearly 1.5 grams more natural sugars per serving compared to butternut squash.
- Higher moisture content – Acorn squash has a higher moisture percentage, which enhances its sweet perception.
- Subtler flavor – Butternut squash has a stronger, earthier flavor that overpowers its subtle sweetness.
Additionally, acorn squash is less stringy than butternut squash when cooked, making its soft, tender flesh taste sweeter.
However, butternut squash tastes much sweeter when roasted or puréed compared to eating it raw. The cooking process helps concentrate its natural sugars and flavors.
You can make both acorn and butternut squash taste even sweeter by pairing them with:
- Brown sugar or maple syrup – Sprinkling brown sugar or maple syrup on roasted squash caramelizes it.
- Fresh or dried fruits – Cooking squash with apples, pears, cranberries, or raisins adds fruity sweetness.
- Warm spices – Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom complement and intensify squash’s sweetness.
- Sweet liquids – Roasting squash in apple cider, juice, or nectar injects extra sweet flavor.
- Sweet herbs – Rosemary contains a natural sweetener called triacetin that complements squash.
Coating squash in a sweet glaze or dressing is another great way to make it taste sweeter. Also, allowing roasted squash to sit overnight helps concentrate its sugars as it cools.
Thanks to its intense sweetness, acorn squash works great:
- Stuffed – Its sweet flavor and smooth texture make it perfect for stuffing.
- Roasted – Caramelizing it via roasting accentuates its sweetness.
- In baked goods – From muffins to quick breads, it adds moisture and sweetness.
- As a side dish – Its sweetness pairs well with savory proteins like pork or chicken.
Butternut squash is ideal for:
- Soups and purées – Blending it into bisques, soups, or ravioli filling.
- Adding to grain dishes – Its subtle sweetness complements farro, quinoa, etc.
- Roasted – This concentrates its flavor and sweetness.
- Making pancakes and breads – It adds great texture and sweetness.
Both squash varieties can be interchangeable in most recipes, so you can highlight their different levels of sweetness as desired.
Acorn squash and butternut squash have slightly different price points. On average:
- Acorn squash costs $1.00-$1.50 per pound.
- Butternut squash costs $1.25-$2.00 per pound.
So acorn squash tends to be more budget-friendly. However, its smaller size means you may need multiple squashes for recipes.
Here’s a cost comparison for 1 pound of usable squash flesh:
|Squash Variety||Total Cost|
|Acorn squash (2 x 1 lb squashes)||$2.00-$3.00|
|Butternut squash (1 x 2 lb squash)||$2.50-$4.00|
As you can see, acorn squash provides more edible flesh for a lower cost in most cases. But seasonal availability and sales can affect pricing.
You can find both acorn squash and butternut squash in grocery stores during the cooler fall and winter months.
- Acorn squash peak season: September – December
- Butternut squash peak season: September – January
Outside of peak season, squash is still available but may be imported and cost more. You can also find canned or frozen pre-cut squash year-round.
When shopping, look for:
- Heavy, unblemished squashes.
- Hard, tough rinds with no soft spots.
- Good color (dark green acorn, tan butternut).
- Intact stems if buying whole squash.
Store whole squashes in a cool, dry place up to 3 months. Cut squash should be refrigerated and used within 5 days.
When compared side by side, acorn squash is generally sweeter than butternut squash. Acorn squash has a higher natural sugar content, moist texture, and bright sweet flavor that tastes sweeter than the earthier, more muted sweetness of butternut squash.
However, both squash varieties can be used interchangeably in recipes depending on your sweetness preferences. Their nutrition profiles and costs are fairly comparable as well.
No matter which winter squash you choose, enhancing it with sweet ingredients, spices, and the right cooking methods can bring out its sugars and make it taste downright delicious. Both acorn and butternut squash are great additions to any fall or winter meal.