How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Learn how to make spaghetti squash two ways for a low carb, low-calorie dream!

Learn how to cook spaghetti squash in the microwave or oven for a fabulous alternative to pasta without any spiralizers or gadgets!  Simply cook the squash and watch the flesh pull out in long spaghetti-like strings.  You can use spaghetti squash as a grain-free or low-carb substitute for any pasta or create spaghetti squash boats topped with your favorite sauces/toppings. Any way you serve it, spaghetti squash is DELICIOUS! 

top view of baked spaghetti squash with a fork in the strands

Spaghetti Squash

The first time I served Patrick spaghetti squash, he was floored. He was fascinating that the squash naturally shredded into long strands and he was shocked about how much he loved it.

“I finally get the hype about spaghetti squash.”  And we’ve been making it almost every week ever since. So with a few spaghetti squash recipes coming your way, I wanted to make sure you “get the hype” about spaghetti squash as well as how to select it, cut it and cook it.

While spaghetti squash doesn’t exactly taste like silky spaghetti, spaghetti squash is hearty, twirlable and fabulous.   It can be baked, microwaved, and steamed for an easy hands-off nutritious alternative.  Roasted spaghetti squash offers a deep caramelized flavor and microwaved spaghetti squash can be on your table in minutes – so there is always a reason for spaghetti squash!

What is Spaghetti Squash?

So, what exactly is spaghetti squash?  Spaghetti squash is a big, yellow, oval shaped vegetable.  It contains large seeds at its core surrounded by solid flesh, much like other squash. 

What distinguishes spaghetti squash from other squash varieties is the flesh of cooked spaghetti squash comes out in long ribbons that look like spaghetti simply by pulling them with a fork.

showing how to cook spaghetti squash in oven cut in half

What does Spaghetti Squash Taste Like?

The strands of spaghetti squash are quite mild and neutral in taste unlike the sweet, earthy flavors of butternut and acorn squash which makes spaghetti squash the perfect blank canvas for anything your belly dreams up. 

The texture and size of spaghetti squash strands is similar to angel hair pasta.  The strands are tender and slightly chewy but not as silky as spaghetti, yet still delightfully satisfying in their own right.

Is eating spaghetti squash good for you?

You can consume spaghetti squash guilt free because it is a nutritious powerhouse!  It is low in fat, carbohydrates, and salt but high in beta-carotene, folate and more. 

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, every one cup serving of spaghetti squash contains: 42 calories, 0.4 grams of fat, 10 grams carbohydrates, and 2.2 grams of fiber as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K.

When is Spaghetti Squash in season?

Spaghetti Squash is a winter squash harvested in the early Fall.  It keeps well for several months, so it is readily available in the winter and Spring.

Summer is really the only time it is not “in season” and even then, some markets will carry it, just with a higher price tag.

showing how to cook spaghetti squash by removing two roasted spaghetti squash halves from the oven

How to Choose Spaghetti Squash

Not just any squash will magically transform into spaghetti-like strands when cooked, you need Spaghetti Squash! Spaghetti Squash is easy to find in the produce section of your grocery store. 

Look for medium sized spaghetti squash that feels firm and heavy for its size.  A few scratches are okay but avoid spaghetti squash with any soft spots or cracks. 

How long does raw spaghetti squash last?

I like to purchase a few spaghetti squashes at a time because they keep very well for an extended period of time. 

Whole raw spaghetti squash can be stored for up to two months in a cool (55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), dry location such as the pantry.

Whole raw spaghetti squash also keeps well in the refrigerator although it spoils more quickly than in a cool, dry place mentioned above. Refrigeration is ideal for warmer times of the year.  Spaghetti squash will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks.  Spaghetti squash without any blemishes will keep closer to two weeks.  Make sure you use your squash before any of the blemishes start to soften.

Does spaghetti squash go bad?

Although spaghetti squash stores well for a long period of time, it can go bad.  Once you slice open our spaghetti squash, it should be firm and brightly colored.  If it the color is extremely dull or if the flesh is spotty, mushy or dry to the point it is pulling away from the skin, then toss it.

a roasted spaghetti squash half on a baking sheet garnished with Parmesan and parsley

HOW TO CUT SPAGHETTI SQUASH

In both the Microwaved Spaghetti Squash recipe and the Roasted Spaghetti squash recipe, we are going to cut the spaghetti cross down the middle lengthwise – from stem to bottom.

Some recipes call for cutting spaghetti squash across the middle into rings, arguing this creates longer spaghetti squash strands. This may be true (I only notice a slight difference), but I prefer more manageable strands anyway that don’t have to be cut.

In addition, slicing the squash is by FAR the most time consuming, difficult part of the entire process, so I don’t think slicing multiple rings is worth the effort.  Instead – one nice long cut and you’re done!

Sharp knife:  To slice the spaghetti squash, make sure you use a sharp chef’s knife.  You will want to sharpen your knife just before slicing.

Stable surface:  Place your spaghetti squash on a stable surface.  You don’t want your surface moving while handle a sharp knife.

Hand placement:  NEVER place a hand in the path of your knife.  Instead, you can use a hand towel to stabilize the squash on the opposite side.

Cut on its side: Place the squash on its side. Slice from the center near the top stem (don’t try and cut through the stem) down through the bottom. Now just pull each part in half and the force will break the stem apart.  You don’t want to try and cut through the stem at this angle because you won’t have enough leverage and the knife is likely to slip.

How do you soften spaghetti squash?

I find some spaghetti squash slices easier than others.  If I’m having a hard time slicing my squash, then I will use the help of the microwave. A few minutes in the microwave softens the skin just enough so it is manageable to slice.

To soften squash in the microwave:

  1. First, poke the squash a few times all over with a fork otherwise it will explode.
  2. Next, use a sharp knife to cut slits all around the squash where you want to slice the squash in half later. 
  3. Microwave the squash for 3-5 minutes depending on the size of your squash.  Don’t microwave any longer or the steam will build up inside and it is likely to explode.
  4. Cool slightly before slicing.
  5. Now your spaghetti squash should be much easier to cut in half!
showing how to cook spaghetti squash with a top view of a roasted spaghetti squash

What is the easiest way to cut a spaghetti squash?

Now that you already know how to cut spaghetti squash, want to know the EASIEST way?  Ask the manager of the produce section to cut it in half for you! 

This option comes in handy if you are cooking your squash in the next couple of days.  Simply cover the cut sides with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator.

Should I cook my Spaghetti Squash in the Oven or Microwave?

My favorite way to cook spaghetti squash is in the oven.  You can’t beat the microwave for speed, but you can’t beat the oven for flavor.

Roasted spaghetti squash halves are first brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted until the strands are stringy tender and the edges are golden with sweet, nutty caramelization.  The microwave skips the seasonings, olive oil and caramelization.

Cooking spaghetti squash in the oven also reduces the amount of moisture in the squash instead of adding to it.  So, if you have the time, always go for roasted spaghetti squash!

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven

Cut Squash

Slice your squash in half lengthwise so you have a greater roasting surface area.  This is the most difficult part of making spaghetti squash, but with a sharp chef’s knife, a little elbow grease and some determination, you’ll emerge a winner every time. After a few times, you won’t even bat an eye. See post heading on how to cut spaghetti squash.

Remove Seeds

Use a large spoon to get the job done quickly.  I actually use an avocado scooper (thanks Becca!) because it is slightly sharper and larger than a spoon.

Once you’ve removed the seeds, don’t toss them!  You can roast them with any of your favorite seasonings for a crunchy snack. 

showing how to cook spaghetti squash by scooping out the seeds before cooking

Drizzle with oil

Drizzle the cut sides of the squash with olive oil.  You can either drizzle the olive oil on and brush on or just use your hands. 

showing how to cook spaghetti squash by brushing the squash with olive oil

Season

Season with freshly cracked salt and pepper or ANY seasonings of your choice!

showing how to cook spaghetti squash by seasoning with salt and pepper before roasting

ROAST

Flip the squash cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet.  I line my baking sheet first with parchment paper for easy cleanup but that is optional. 

If you are feeling fancy, sneak a few sprigs of fresh herbs into the cavity of each spaghetti squash.  You can use rosemary, thyme, sage, and mint, etc.

By baking the spaghetti squash halves cut-side-down, more surface area comes in contact with the hot baking sheet which promotes the caramelization of the edges and color = flavor.  It also makes any excess moisture fall down from the squash instead of pooling in the middle. 

showing how to cook spaghetti squish by placing squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet

How long to cook spaghetti squash?

The exact roasting time will depend on the size of your squash, the real temperature of your oven and how al-dente you like your spaghetti strands.

Roast the squash for 30 to 45 minutes at 400 degrees F.  A two-pound squash will take closer to 30 minutes while a three-pound squash will take closer to 45 minutes.  Regardless of the size, check the squash after 30 minutes to gauge cooking time.

top view of half of a roasted spaghetti squash

How to Tell When the Squash is Done

The spaghetti squash is done when you can easily insert a knife into the skin.  If you aren’t sure if the squash is done, pull it out of the oven, flip a half over and drag a fork across the center.  If the strands easily pull away, the squash is done.  If not, continue to roast, checking every 5-10 minutes. 

You don’t want to roast your squash too long because this can lead to soggy or mushy “spaghetti” instead of al dente.   

Shred Squash

Remove spaghetti squash from the oven and let it cool slightly.  Once it’s cool enough to handle (or use an oven mitt) use a fork to scrape the strands away from the shell.  I like to start from the outside and work my way in, scarping back and forth across the squash to separate the strands and create “spaghetti!”

showing how to cook spaghetti squash in oven cut in half by shredding the spaghetti squash

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Microwave

Although I love the nutty caramelization of roasted squash, microwaved squash halves can’t be beat for speed and convenience.  

Microwaved spaghetti squash halves are one of the quickest sided dishes because all you have to do is cut and cook – you don’t even have to peel them first and you can serve them right in their shell!

Microwaving the squash halves essentially steams the flesh, creating al-dente spaghetti strands.

To cook spaghetti squash halves in the microwave:

  • Slice the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds just like you did in the oven roasting method. 
  • Place spaghetti squash halves cut side down in a 9×13 baking dish.
  • Pour water into baking dish until it reaches 1-inch up the sides.
  • Microwave on high for 12 minutes, check for doneness, then continue to microwave at 2-minute increments, until the skin can be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Once cool enough to handle, pull squash away from the shell with a fork and serve as desired.
showing how to cook spaghetti squash in the microwave by placing two spaghetti squash halves cut side down in water in a pan
  • Pour water into baking dish until it reaches 1-inch up the sides.
  • Microwave on high for 12 minutes, check for doneness, then continue to microwave at 2-minute increments, until the skin can be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Once cool enough to handle, pull squash away from the shell with a fork and serve as desired.
showing how to cook spaghetti squash halves in the microwave by shredding the squash with a fork

What do you eat with spaghetti squash?

Spaghetti Squash is a delightful replacement for any dish served with pasta. 

You can either scoop out the strands of the spaghetti squash and serve them with various meats, vegetable and/or sauces much like you would spaghetti OR leave the squash in the shell and serve the halves as spaghetti squash boats topped various meats, vegetable and/or sauces.

Recipes to Substitute in Spaghetti Squash:

Spaghetti squash also pairs particularly beautifully with Parmesan, garlic and tomatoes.  I often just roast some tomatoes tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and pile them on top of the roasted spaghetti squash with a drizzle of balsamic.

Spaghetti squash also pairs well with basil, thyme (any Italian seasonings), carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms.  Here are a few more ideas:

showing how to cook spaghetti squash for spaghetti by shredding cooked spaghetti squash with a fork

Simple Spaghetti Squash pairings

How long does spaghetti squash last?

Cooked spaghetti squash should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When stored correctly, it is good for 5-7 days. 

Can I cook spaghetti squash ahead of time?

Absolutely!  You can cook the spaghetti squash according to your favorite method, shred, cool and store the strands in an airtight container for up to 7 days. 

Is spaghetti squash good reheated?

Yes!  Spaghetti squash reheats beautifully unlike spaghetti which can stick together.  You can reheat your spaghetti squash in either the microwave or on the stove.  The microwave makes for convenient meal-prep lunches or dinners.

Microwave:  add spaghetti squash to a microwave safe container along with a drizzle of olive oil or butter (optional), or your favorite topping.  Microwave for 60 seconds, stir then heat at 15 second intervals as needed.

Stove: add spaghetti squash to a saucepan with a splash of water and cook on medium-low until warmed through, about five minutes. 

up close of roasted spaghetti squash with a fork in the center

Can you freeze spaghetti squash after it’s cooked?

Yes!  Freezing cooked spaghetti squash is a great option 1) to ensure it doesn’t go bad, 2) so you can always have it on hand, and 3) to stock up for summer months.

To freeze cooked spaghetti squash:

  1. Place the strands of spaghetti squash in a colander.
  2. Set the colander on top of a large mixing bowl to catch any water.
  3. *Do NOT skip this step* Cover with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Draining the squash of any excess moisture is crucial otherwise it will be soggy and mushy when you defrost it. 
  4. Transfer strands to a freezer bag OR portion into several separate bags for individual portions.
  5. Press out excess air to prevent freezer burn, seal and label.
  6. Freeze for up to eight months.

How do you reheat frozen spaghetti squash?

You can either thaw your spaghetti squash and reheat it in the microwave or on the stove (see section on reheating) or you can heat the squash from frozen.  I prefer to reheat from thawed because the squash reheats more evenly, but if you are short on time or forget to thaw your squash, don’t let that stop you!

Can I Eat Spaghetti Squash Seeds?

Yes!  If you love pumpkin seeds, you will love spaghetti squash seeds!   They are delicious tossed with just olive oil, salt and pepper or you can season them with anything you can dream up from cinnamon to cayenne, to cumin, to curry, to coriander.

How to Roast Spaghetti Squash Seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. After you scoop out the seeds, remove as much pulp as you can then place the rest of the seeds in a bowl of water. Loosen any remaining pulp under water. The seeds will float, and the pulp will sink.
  3. Pat the seeds very dry and add to a lightly greased, foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Toss seeds with some olive oil, salt, pepper and/or seasonings of choice. Spread seeds out in a single layer.
  5. Roast at 300 degrees F for 15 minutes, stir and continue to roast an additional 10 tot 15 minutes.
up close of a bite of roasted spaghetti squash

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top view of baked spaghetti squash with a fork in the strands

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash

Learn how to cook spaghetti squash in the microwave or oven for a fabulous alternative to pasta without any spiralizers or gadgets! Simply cook the squash and watch the flesh pull out in long spaghetti-like strings. You can use spaghetti squash as a grain-free or low carb substitute for any pasta or create spaghetti squash boats topped with your favorite sauces/toppings. Any way you serve it, spaghetti squash is DELICIOUS!
Servings: 4 -6 servings
Total Time: 17 mins
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins

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Ingredients

Instructions

Prep

  • Place the squash on its side. Insert the knife in the middle of the squash near the top stem (don’t try and cut through the stem) and slice down through the bottom. Pull each part in half and the force will break the stem apart.
  • Alternatively, you can cut the very top and bottom ends off of the squash then stand the squash upright and slice it in half from top to bottom. In either scenario, NEVER place your hand in the path of the knife.
  • Scoop out all of the seeds using a large spoon. Flip squash halves over and pierce them several times with a fork.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash Halves

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy cleanup).
  • Brush the cut sides of the squash all over with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper and/or other seasonings.
  • Place squash cut-side down on the parchment paper.
  • Bake for 30 - 45 minutes (depending on size) or until the interiors easily shred with a fork.
  • Once cool enough to handle, pull squash away from the shell with a fork and serve as desired.

Microwaved Spaghetti Squash Halves

  • Place spaghetti squash halves cut side down in a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Pour water into baking dish until it reaches 1 inch up the sides.
  • Microwave on high for 12 minutes, check for doneness, then continue to microwave at 2 minute intervals, until the skin can be easily pierced with a knife.
  • Once cool enough to handle, pull squash away from the shell with a fork and serve as desired.

Notes

How to Tell When the Squash is Done

The spaghetti squash is done when you can easily insert a knife into the skin.  If you aren’t sure if the squash is done, pull it out of the oven, flip a half over and drag a fork across the center.  If the strands easily pull away, the squash is done.  If not, continue to roast, checking every 5-10 minutes.   You don’t want to roast your squash too long because this can lead to soggy or mushy “spaghetti” instead of al dente.   

How to Roast Spaghetti Squash Seeds

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. After you scoop out the seeds, remove as much pulp as you can then place the rest of the seeds in a bowl of water. Loosen any remaining pulp under water. The seeds will float, and the pulp will sink.
  3. Pat the seeds very dry and add to a lightly greased, foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Toss seeds with some olive oil, salt, pepper and/or seasonings of choice. Spread seeds out in a single layer.
  5. Roast at 300 degrees F for 15 minutes, stir and continue to roast an additional 10 tot 15 minutes.

How to freeze cooked spaghetti squash

  1. Place the strands of spaghetti squash in a colander.
  2. Set the colander on top of a large mixing bowl to catch any water.
  3. *Do NOT skip this step* Cover with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Draining the squash of any excess moisture is crucial otherwise it will be soggy and mushy when you defrost it. 
  4. Transfer strands to a freezer bag OR portion into several separate bags for individual portions.
  5. Press out excess air to prevent freezer burn, seal and label.
  6. Freeze for up to eight months.

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4 Comments

  1. Donna says

    This is a terrific blog. I love how you covered every one of my questions about Spaghetti Squash prep and cook. I ate it once in a pad thai recipe and had no idea is was squash.. therefore, I want to try it with spaghetti sauce. I haven’t eaten pasta in over a year and sort of miss my own home made spaghetti sauce.. so this blog has just given me the push to do it!! thank you so much

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your comment Donna! I’m honored you are enjoying my blog and find my posts helpful! I hope you loved this spaghetti squash and have found many new uses for it 😉

  2. Susan Stevens says

    Another way to re-heat is to coat a stick-free frypan with a bit of olive oil, heat to sizzle-point ( a few drops of water sizzle & disappear), over med-high, then add cooked spaghetti squash; turning & flipping until hot – adds a bit extra crispy – nicer texture than reheating in microwave oven

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