I used to turn up my nose at the mere mention of spaghetti squash. Mind, I’d never HAD spaghetti squash nor had I ever noticed one in the grocery store. I wouldn’t have known one if I’d tripped over it. But a vegetable that wants to pretend to be PASTA? My sister-in-law Barbara was doing the South Beach diet at the beginning of its rise to fame and she brought a spaghetti squash casserole to work one day. Did I touch it? Heck, no. It was a PRETENDER. She told me a few ways to cook spaghetti squash but I was still not a believer. Sad to say, I just shook my head and shut my ears.
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Why Should You Cook Spaghetti Squash on Your Keto or Low Carb Diet?
I like Zoodles – you know, those spirally zucchini noodles? I just don’t like to make them. Yes, I know they aren’t hard (now hear me whine) but they require me to get out the spiralizer and … you get it. High-pitched enough? It’s not really the ‘making’ of them that’s a problem. It’s my lack of ability to make them palatable in MY kitchen. I’m just Zoodle-challenged. I always end up with a mushy mess. (Tell me how to fix it!)
Enter stage left – the incredible Spaghetti Squash! (Dear Grammar Police – I realize I capitalized a noun as if it’s a name. For our purpose here, that’s its name.)
Here is the boring part where I tell you that spaghetti squash is a winter gourd but you can get it year-round in most areas. It’s got 42 calories per cup, cooked and 10 grams of carbs – 2 grams of fiber for a net of 8 carbs. <<< Here’s your WHY.
Using Spaghetti Squash in Your Diet
Spaghetti Squash fits in ANY diet program!
It’s low in calories, fat, and carbs so it’s great for Weight Watchers or similar programs.
If you do Keto or low carb, you can add fats, cheese – super easy!
If you do Trim Healthy Mama it’s a lovely neutral FP so you can use it with an E or S meal!
Spaghetti Squash Is Just Like Pasta?
I’ve seen a ton of recipes that act like it is a substitute for pasta and you’ll “never know the difference”. Let me debunk that.
Spaghetti squash is a vegetable (if you haven’t been following along). Pasta is not. Putting spaghetti sauce on spaghetti squash makes it taste like pasta like standing in the garage makes me a car. Yes, it RESEMBLES angel hair pasta in looks and texture but it doesn’t taste like it. So don’t get your taste buds in a tizzy by promising them pasta-tasting squash, K? It doesn’t have as sweet a taste as his other winter cousins but it *is* mildly sweet. It’s not going to overpower any of the ingredients you add to it – so it’s a great base for a lot of different dishes.
Once you realize it ISN’T pasta – even though it has a similar texture – you can judge it on its own merits. It tastes great, it’s good for you, and it fits into most low carb eating plans. 8 carbs per cup might sound a little steep for a vegetable but consider this: real pasta has about 220 calories with about 41 grams net carbs while spaghetti squash has about 42 calories per cup with 8 net grams of carbs. If you want to look at it by it’s Glycemic Load it’s low while the pasta is moderate.
That being said, pasta sauce on top of spaghetti squash is AWESOME, all on its own as a side dish or even a main course. Especially if you add ground beef to the sauce and beef it up with chunky vegetables (this is the point The Commodore quits reading). Want to supercharge it with a superfood? Take some of the sauce (prior to adding the meat) and put it in a blender with a cup or so of okra and blend it into oblivion before you add it back into the rest of the sauce. If you do it right nobody will ever know it’s there.
All The Ways (That I Know of) To Cook Spaghetti Squash
I’m not including obscure methods here like over a campfire in the wilderness and things like that. We are strictly in the kitchen – almost!
Oven: (My preferred method)
I’ve seen several ways to cook spaghetti squash in the oven:
1 – Preheat oven to 350, wash squash (about 3 lbs). Poke with a skewer or knife (deeply) 6 – 8 times and place in a shallow baking dish with sides. Bake for about 60 -90 minutes until fork tender. Let it cool for 10 – 15 minutes before cutting lengthwise and scooping out the seeds.
2 – Preheat oven to 350, wash squash (about 3 lbs). Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut side down in an oven-safe dish with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water. Bake until tender.
See what I mean?
I’ve perused a ton of recipes to find a consensus on oven temperature but there isn’t one. That’s great news because it means there is no ‘wrong’ temperature. It’s bad news because you can’t set it and forget it – you’ll need to poke it and babysit it. There is also no agreement on using liquid or no liquid.
3 – Preheat oven to 400, wash squash (about 3 lbs). Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Season with salt (or whatever you want to use) and place the halves cut side down in an oven-safe dish and bake until they are fork-tender – about 45 – 50 minutes.
4 – Now Martha Stewart does her Roasted Spaghetti Squash at 425 for an hour.
5 – And Chungah at DamnDelicious does hers in the oven at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes for a 2-3 lb one.
All of the oven recipes I looked at – until my eyeballs stuck wide open – called for either seasoning and adding olive oil or adding nothing and baking with the cut side down.
My point is this – don’t fear the squash. Choose a temperature, decide on whether to add water or not, and stick it in the oven. Stay close by and start checking it in half an hour or so. You cannot screw this up! (PS.: I don’t add water)
I know there are a ton of people who don’t like to use the microwave and if you’re one of them, skip this part. No need to send me emails or make comments about it below. We get it. We all make out own choices.
1 – Cut your squash lengthwise and lay cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish that has sides. Add 1 inch of water. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. Check for tenderness by piercing with a knife. Continue to cook, checking every two minutes, until done.
That’s pretty much it.
I’ve tried this way and felt like the finished product was wetter than I liked. Sure, it’s fast but if you want to freeze the leftovers they will thaw gloopy. Know what I mean?
Wash squash, cut in half and scoop out the seeds – cutting it either way is fine – you’re really just trying to fit it into your pot. You can stack the halves or place them side-by-side, or even facing each other like it wasn’t cut (but try to leave just a bit of space if you can). Add 1 cup of water and proceed on Manual for 8 minutes, natural pressure release.
Wash squash and poke several holes in it. Add it to the crock with 1 1/2 cups o water and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours. When it’s tender, remove it and let it cool down for at least 30 minutes. Carefully cut open length-wise and scoop out seeds. It’s ready for your recipe now.
I know I said “in the kitchen” but we usually consider the grill just an extension of the kitchen, right?
Heat the grill up to medium. Wash your squash and cut it length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and rub with olive oil and season it up. Place cut-side down and grill for about 15 – 20 minutes until you get the pretty char marks. Turn them cut-side UP and move them to a cooler part of the grill for about an hour or until the squash is fork-tender. Try to keep the lid closed as much as possible during the cooking. When done, shred the insides or add your desired toppings and shred.
The great thing about this method (and the oven method as well) is that you are only limited by the size of your grill. You could do several at a time and prep them for the freezer!
How to Freeze Spaghetti Squash
Cook by your preferred method. Scoop strands out into a colander that’s been set into a bowl. Cover and place overnight in the fridge to drain. You may still need to press on it some to squeeze out more liquid if you’ve cooked it using any method that adds water to the cooking process or keep it in the fridge another day. You don’t want a soggy mess.
I don’t like to use any method that adds water if I plan to freeze the strands. But that’s just me.
Package into freezer bags, label, flatten and freeze up to 3 months.
Quick Tips To Cook Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti Squash has a tough skin. Be sure to use a sharp knife, especially if you are cutting it before cooking it. I prefer cutting it after it’s cooked but you have to still be very careful because now that the squash is very soft.
Your squash may cut easier (uncooked) if you place it on high in the microwave for 3 -4 minutes just to soften the skin. Score it first – make a few shallow pokes in the pattern you plan to cut it and don’t leave it uncut in the microwave for more than 3 – 4 minutes – if steam builds up you could have an exploding squash. (I haven’t done that – yet. Although Danger still talks about the time when she was 3 and I had exploding potatoes in the oven.)
If you plan to freeze the cooked strands, remember that this veg has a high water content. If you cook it by a method that adds steam – instant pot, baking in a dish with water, slow cooker etc you will have even more liquid. The oven will remove more moisture than the microwave, so plan accordingly.
Be sure to roast cut-side down in the oven (unless your recipe says otherwise!) so moisture doesn’t pool in the bowl of the squash. When it’s done you can fluff up the strands and add sauces and toppings directly into the squash – a built-in bowl!
If you’re using the entire squash in your dish you can add a little water to the pan and cover with foil. Do I really need to mention that this direction is only for the oven?
Pay close attention to your squash in the oven. Depending on its size it may get done quicker than you expect.
The strands in the squash wrap around inside horizontally. You get the longest strands by using your fork in the same direction.
The Squash Police won’t come to get you if you decide to cut it around the middle (or even in rings) instead of lengthwise to get longer strands. Trust me. I’m still here. Cut it the way you want to make it fit your dish. There’s no rule about it. I checked.
You can save those seeds and roast them for a snack!
If you’re baking something else at the same time feel free to stick your gourd in the oven with it. They are very forgiving temperature-wise. Just pay attention.
Roasting in the oven will give a more flavorful squash. If you have the time to do it, the oven is the better way of the two to go.
I’ve seen recipes that say to roast in the oven with cut-sides UP. Apparently, this squash can do anything.
You’ll get about 1 1/4 cups of strands per pound of squash.
Favorite Spaghetti Squash Recipes:
Since I’m a late bloomer when it comes to spaghetti squash I’ve started to hoard recipes for it!
The day that made me a lover of this gourd was my anniversary (39th) – we went to Longhorn Steakhouse and they had a lovely cheese-topped spaghetti squash dish on the menu. Until that day I had never seen it on a restaurant menu anywhere and honestly, it was the only time – haven’t seen it anywhere since then – even at the same location. I ordered it and LOVED it! It was sweet (I love sweet!!) plus savory from the cheese. It was SO good. I gave The Commodore a very small bite – VERY small – and he liked it! Big shocker – this is a man who considers ketchup a vegetable. It’s taken me decades to get him to order a salad and, when he does, he asks them to take off everything but the lettuce and double the dressing. So it’s basically dressing.
My very favorite recipe for spaghetti squash isn’t a recipe at all. Once you’ve cooked your squash, fluff up the strands and add butter and cheese. It’s perfect!
I guess you want to see others, so here’s a list:
Spaghetti Squash “Pizza” Bowls from Cookie + Kate
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo from Chocolate Covered Katie
Breakfast Spaghetti Squash by Salu Salo
Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Basil Pesto by Minimalist Baker
Spaghetti Squash and Chard Gratin from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Lemon and Herb Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Shrimp from Eat Yourself Skinny
Spaghetti Squash Carbonara from Simple Healthy Kitchen
Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Stuffed Spaghetti Squash from Recipe Runner
Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns from Food With Feeling
That should get you started!
When your budget can handle it, here are a few cookbooks to make it more interesting: