Skip to Content

What’s the difference between butternut squash and butternut pumpkin?

Quick Answer

Butternut squash and butternut pumpkin are two different cultivars of Cucurbita moschata. They belong to the same species and have a very similar appearance and taste. The main differences are:

  • Butternut squash tends to have a longer neck andbulbous bottom while butternut pumpkin is more oblong shaped.
  • Butternut squash has thicker, deeper orange, sweeter flesh while butternut pumpkin has a more stringy texture and milder flavor.
  • Butternut pumpkin is primarily grown for carving and ornamental use while butternut squash is grown mainly for consumption.
  • Butternut squash is more widely available year-round while butternut pumpkin is mostly available in the fall.
  • Butternut squash can be substituted for butternut pumpkin in cooking and recipes, but the reverse may not yield the best results.

Differences in Appearance

Butternut squash and butternut pumpkin look very similar at first glance. They both have tan, tear-dropped shaped rinds and deep orange flesh. However, there are some subtle differences in their shapes:

  • Butternut squash tends to have a longer, curved neck and a distinct bulging bell on the bottom.
  • Butternut pumpkin has a more uniform, oblong or pear-like shape without a bulging bottom.
  • Butternut squash is generally larger, with commercially grown varieties averaging 5-7 pounds.
  • Butternut pumpkins are smaller, averaging 3-5 pounds.
  • The rinds of butternut squash are slightly thinner and smoother compared to the ribbed, textured rinds of pumpkins.

So in summary, butternut squash has a longer neck that meets a wider, rounded base while butternut pumpkin has a smoother, more uniform shape from top to bottom. But there is certainly overlap in appearances. The most reliable way to tell them apart is by variety name.

Differences in Flesh

Cutting open a butternut squash and pumpkin reveals some variation in the color, texture, and taste of their inner flesh:

  • Butternut squash flesh is thick, deep orange, and dense.
  • Butternut pumpkin flesh is lighter orange, more stringy, and fibrous.
  • Butternut squash is sweeter with a richer, more intense squash flavor.
  • Butternut pumpkin has a milder, less sweet flavor.
  • When cooked, butternut squash flesh becomes very tender while pumpkin remains slightly firmer.

Nutritionally, the two are very similar, with butternut squash having slightly more vitamin A and butternut pumpkin having slightly more vitamin C per serving.

Nutrition per 1 cup cooked:

Nutrient Butternut Squash Butternut Pumpkin
Calories 82 82
Carbs 21 grams 21 grams
Fiber 3 grams 3 grams
Protein 1 gram 2 grams
Vitamin A 421% DV 384% DV
Vitamin C 10% DV 12% DV

So while fairly similar nutritionally, the differences in texture and flavor make butternut squash better for cooking applications where you want smooth, tender, sweet flesh.

Differences in Uses

Historically, butternut pumpkins were grown exclusively for ornamental use rather than eating. Butternut squash was developed as a separate cultivar for culinary utility. As a result, they differ in their common uses:

  • Butternut squash is most commonly used culinarily in recipes that call for roasted, pureed, or mashed winter squash.
  • Butternut pumpkin is most commonly carved for Halloween jack-o-lanterns or used as autumn decorations.

However, as the lines between squash and pumpkin have blurred over time, butternut pumpkin has gained more acceptance as an edible squash. It can be substituted for butternut squash in most recipes, though the texture and flavor differences should be considered.

Some common uses for each include:

Butternut Squash Uses:

  • Soup – Butternut squash soup is a classic fall and winter comfort food. Butternut squash makes it thick and creamy without the need for heavy cream.
  • Ravioli filling – Pureed butternut squash has the perfect smooth and creamy texture for stuffing into ravioli.
  • Risotto – Cubed butternut squash adds texture and color to a sage or Parmesan risotto.
  • Salad – Roasted butternut squash pairs well with bitter greens, toasted nuts, and tangy vinaigrettes.
  • Lasagna – Butternut squash is a popular alternative to ricotta in vegetable lasagna.
  • Roasted – Roast cubed butternut squash tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper for a simple side dish.
  • Puree – Mash cooked butternut squash with butter and herbs for an alternative to mashed potatoes.

Butternut Pumpkin Uses:

  • Jack-o-lanterns – Butternut pumpkins are one of the most popular types carved for Halloween due to their smooth texture and classic shape.
  • Decoration – Whole pumpkins are festive autumn decor for front porches, table centerpieces, and seasonal displays.
  • Pie filling – Cooked and pureed pumpkin makes a classic filling for pumpkin pie.
  • Soup – Pumpkins can be substituted for butternut squash in soup recipes, though the flavor will be slightly milder.
  • Baking – Pumpkin puree adds moisture, color, and flavor to baked goods like bread, muffins, and cakes.
  • Roasted seeds – Fresh pumpkin seeds can be roasted for a crunchy, salty snack.
  • Pet treats – Small pumpkins like mini and baby varieties can be fed to livestock.

So in summary, butternut squash sees more use in savory cooking applications while butternut pumpkin leans more into decorative territory, though both can be used for baking desserts and roasting seeds as well.

Differences in Availability

Due to their differing roles in cultivation, there are some key differences in the availability of butternut squash versus butternut pumpkin:

  • Butternut squash is more widely grown for commercial sale and available year-round in most grocery stores.
  • Butternut pumpkin is more seasonal, arriving in autumn around September/October when pumpkins ripen.
  • Butternut squash tends to have a longer shelf life of 2-3 months if kept in a cool, dry place.
  • Butternut pumpkins have a shorter shelf life of 1-2 months before quality declines.
  • Canned pumpkin puree is often made from larger pie pumpkin varieties rather than smaller butternut pumpkin.
  • Frozen butternut squash may be sold commercially while pumpkin is rarely found frozen.

So in general, butternut squash will be easier to find and store year-round compared to the shorter seasonal window for fresh butternut pumpkins. Canned or frozen squash and pumpkin options also differ in commercial availability.

Can They Be Substituted for Each Other?

Butternut squash and pumpkin are close enough botanically that they can be used interchangeably in some recipes, with a few considerations:

  • Butternut squash can substitute 1:1 for butternut pumpkin in most recipes.
  • Butternut pumpkin may not work as well substituted for butternut squash in recipes where a smooth puree or tender texture is key.
  • Adjust seasoning when swapping – butternut squash is sweeter so pumpkin-based dishes may need added sugar.
  • The flavor will be a little different but the swap will generally work in baked goods, soups, risottos, and roasted vegetable medleys.

So in summary, butternut squash can reliably stand in for butternut pumpkin, but pumpkin may not give ideal results when swapped into certain butternut squash recipes. Considering the flavor and texture differences will lead to the most successful substitutions.

Growing Conditions

Butternut squash and butternut pumpkin plants require similar growing conditions:

  • They thrive in full sun exposure and need at least 6 hours per day of direct sunlight.
  • They prefer warm weather and should be planted after the last frost of spring.
  • They require well-draining, nutrient rich soil and benefit from compost or fertilizer application before planting.
  • Both plants sprawl across the garden and require lots of space, up to several feet per plant.
  • Squash and pumpkin vines need consistent watering and rainfall throughout the growing season.
  • Harvest time arrives in early-mid fall when the rinds harden and their stems dry and brown.
  • Typical yield per plant is 3-5 squash/pumpkins under ideal growing conditions.

The main differences in their cultivation are seed spacing – pumpkins require more room between hills – and trellising techniques. Squash plants can be trellised upright while pumpkins vine along the ground. But overall soil prep, sunlight, watering needs, and harvest timing are quite similar.


While butternut squash and butternut pumpkin appear nearly identical at first glance, they have some notable differences when it comes to shape, texture, flavor, uses, availability, and substitutability in recipes. Butternut squash tends to be sweeter in flavor with a thicker, more tender flesh while butternut pumpkins have stringier flesh and milder “pumpkin” flavor. Butternut squash sees more usage in soups, risottos and purees while butternut pumpkin is primarily decorative or used for carving. Butternut squash also has a longer shelf life than the more seasonal butternut pumpkin. In terms of substituting, butternut squash can reliably stand in for butternut pumpkin in most recipes, but the reverse substitution may not provide ideal results. Both require similar growing conditions and care when raised in the home garden. Being aware of these differences allows cooks and gardeners to better select, store, and utilize both butternut squash and butternut pumpkin.