It’s squash season! Nearly every grocery store has big bins of assorted squash on sale, like delicata, spaghetti, butternut, carnival, and hopefully kabocha. Kabocha squash is sometimes referred to as a Japanese pumpkin. It looks like a small to medium pumpkin, but it’s a deep forest green. And it has a much thinner skin that gets tender as it cooks and can be eaten. In fact, I always leave the skin on when making this easy 5-spice glazed kabocha squash.
I originally came up with this recipe a decade ago, and have enjoyed it many times since. But I finally got around to taking some new photos, and I have added some essential tips to ensure you have good results. Even though I’m slow in the kitchen, this glazed kabocha squash recipe takes me just 20 minutes, from whole squash to tender bites on the table.
Essential Recipe Tips: 5-Spice Glazed Kabocha Squash
This recipe uses a relatively small kabocha squash. Weigh your squash. If it is larger than 3/4-pound, be sure to adjust the seasonings upward. You can start with the same amount of water, but you might need to add more as it cooks. Or you can weigh out 3/4 pound of the cut squash, and freeze the rest (uncooked) to use later.
Do NOT substitute another squash and expect the same results. And definitely do NOT use a delicata squash – it will release too much liquid. All winter squashes are not created equal. If you use another squash and leave a negative review, I will delete your comment – just warning you! Peeled butternut squash might work well as a substitute, but I haven’t tested it yet.
You can add more Chinese Five-Spice Powder, but this is the amount that we like. It adds a mellow warm spice, but doesn’t overpower the natural flavor of the squash. You can find 5-Spice in the spice section of most grocers. It’s typically a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns. And I usually use ginger powder instead of fresh ginger, since Tony has an aversion to chunks of ginger.
The squash skin becomes very tender as it cooks, and it adds a nice layer of texture. So you don’t need to peel kabocha squash. But like most winter squash, it can be a bear to cut. If you have any trouble, you can prick the squash several times with a fork, and microwave it for a few minutes. This will help to soften the squash just enough.
Special Diet Notes: 5-Spice Glazed Kabocha Squash
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, vegan, plant-based, vegetarian, and oil-free.
For soy-free and paleo glazed kobocha squash, you can substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce. Coconut aminos are sweeter and less salty, so I recommend adding a little salt to help bring out the flavors.
- 1 (3/4-lb) kabocha squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks, skin on (see post above for tips)*
- ⅓ cup water, plus additional if needed
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or wheat-free tamari (for gluten-free)
- 1½ tablespoons brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced or ⅛ teaspoon ginger powder
- ⅜ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
- Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- Put the squash, water, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and 5-spice in a large skillet and stir to coat. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened into a glaze and the squash (and peel) is nice and tender, about 5 minutes. If the liquid evaporates and your squash isn’t tender enough, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to cook while stirring.
- Optionally sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to serve.