Leaves crunching underfoot and crisp air could only mean one thing — the time has come to get excited about autumn and the treats that come around this time of year. All things pumpkin flavored continue to grow in popularity as more products are reimagined in a new pumpkin-y way. Pumpkin-flavored cocoa, anyone? But this orange fall symbol steals the spotlight from its equally yummy relatives as they lay overshadowed in the garden.
I’m talking about squash. Though these fruits — yes, squash and pumpkins are considered fruits — are versatile and nutritious, they haven’t reached the mainstream acceptance that their orange counterpart has, especially among kids. That’s why I’m going to share ten dessert recipes with you on how to turn these sweet little guys into treats your kids — and you! — can’t resist.
If you’re skeptical about recreating some of your favorite desserts using squash, maybe the health benefits of these fruits will change your mind. Squash is rich in Vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, and Vitamin C, a key component for a healthy immune system. In fact, cooking one cup of butternut squash yields 457 percent of the recommended daily value of Vitamin A!
See which of these recipes you might want to give a go.
Butternut Squash Pie
Butternut squash tastes like pumpkin, but a bit on the sweeter side. It’s also denser and easier to clean — all good reasons to try this variation of the classic fall dessert. Serve it with whipped cream and give it a spot on your Thanksgiving dinner menu.
Acorn Squash Cheesecake Bars
Cheesecake is a versatile dessert, and here I present yet another variation, although one that you probably haven’t tried! Acorn squash — its shape resembles a big acorn — is commonly used in desserts because of its sweetness.
You can use any winter squash you like for these cookies. They make an easy dish to bring to a holiday party, or you can turn them into a fun project for your kids to decorate with icing.
Butternut Squash Ice Cream
I bet you weren’t expecting to see ice cream on this list, right? Yet here it is. Try adding some chocolate sauce or mini marshmallows on top for a festive flair. This frozen treat is also Paleo diet friendly and sugar-free — about as healthy as a dessert can get!
Southern Summer Squash Pudding Bars
Yellow squash is a summer variety, so you can practice squash recipes all summer before impressing friends and family in the fall. These pudding bars include lemon extract, and the recipe recommends serving them chilled for a refreshing snack.
If you have picky eaters on your hands who might wrinkle their noses at the idea of a squash-based dessert, this one is sure to please. You don’t even have to tell them it has squash in it — the chocolate hides it! Zucchini is a squash variety that’s readily available year-round, unlike some others that mainly appear in the fall, so you can use this recipe in any season.
Yellow Squash Muffins
This recipe gives squash a sweet spot on the breakfast menu in the form of delicious muffins. Yellow squash is a good source of protein and dietary fiber, so having it for breakfast is a nutritious way to start the day. You can add raisins or walnuts into the mix for some added texture.
Acorn Squash Custard
This dessert not only tastes great, but it also caters to gluten-free or low-sugar diets. It’s a smart way to appease the kids without the inevitable sugar rush other desserts bring on. This custard is a dish especially helpful to introduce toddlers to squash because it’s soft and easy to eat.
Spaghetti Squash Pie
This isn’t another twist on pumpkin pie. Spaghetti squash’s unique texture makes it the perfect variation for coconut pie! In fact, the texture is so similar that many people wouldn’t guess it’s squash unless you told them. I’m not saying you should trick your family or guests, but if you know they don’t have any allergies to what’s in the pie, it can’t hurt to use the element of surprise in your baking.
Summer Squash Chocolate Cake
You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake, especially when it’s covered with chocolate icing, even if there is some squash hiding in it! You can use zucchini or whatever summer squash of your choice for this recipe, and like the zucchini brownies, even the pickiest eaters will fall for this one. Add this to the list of treats your family can enjoy year-round because of the squash variety it uses.
As you may have noticed, some of these recipes cater to common diet needs like gluten-free or low sugar. That’s because the texture and sweetness of squash make it a wholesome substitute for the mainly unhealthy ingredients usually found in desserts. Squash is a smart alternative for those sticking to a diet or trying to eat healthier, but still wanting to enjoy a treat without feeling guilty.
All of these recipes are worth a try, and I hope at least one of them wins a permanent spot in your recipe box. We know kids can be wary about trying something new, but after they have a taste of these desserts, they’ll probably squash any negative thoughts that came to mind!