Does Butternut Squash Go Bad?

So you bought butternut squash for a soup or stew you wanted to try out this weekend. Unfortunately, your plans changed, and you need to postpone cooking that dish for a week. You now that butternut squash will eventually go bad but aren’t sure if it will still be fresh next weekend.

Or maybe you plan on making a casserole for supper on a weekday. You know that the day will be super busy, so you want to prepare as much as you can ahead of time. And that includes cutting the veggies, so you don’t have to bother with that. The thing is, you’re not certain what’s the best way to store sliced butternut squash, or how long you can refrigerate it before it starts to become slimy.

If either of the situations is at least slightly similar to yours, this article is for you. In it, we go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of this winter squash. If you’re interested in that, read on.

Butternut squash
Image used under Creative Commons from Simon Huntley

How To Store Butternut Squash

Once you get the butternut squash home, you should store it in a cool and dry place. Similarly to eggplant, it’s best if you store butternut squash at 50° to 60°F (or 10 to 15°C). Unfortunately, hardly anyone has access to a pantry or a cellar with the suggested temp. The second best option is the pantry with a slightly lower than room temperature and the kitchen. Refrigeration is not recommended as the texture of the veggie will suffer. If the squash is in any packaging, remove it. Also, make sure it doesn’t sit near any fruits that are about to ripen (e.g., bananas), as the ethylene they produce will shorten the shelf life of the squash.

Once you cut open the squash and slice or chop it, you should keep the pieces in the refrigerator. Wrap them in aluminum foil or put in a freezer bag. Remember to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. If you’ve already cooked the veggie, the fridge is the go-to place too. Transfer the cooked pieces in freezer bags or airtight containers. If needed, you can always add a label with the date to easily keep track of how long it sits refrigerated.

Can You Freeze Butternut Squash?

Butternut squash is a seasonal product, and it is only available during cooler months. If you’d like to enjoy it for some time when it’s not in season, freezing is an option. Same thing if you expect you won’t be able to finish the squash before it goes bad. Like with eggplant and pretty much all other veggies, it’s best if you cook the butternut squash and then freeze it. Make your favorite cooked squash recipe for dinner and freeze the leftovers. For freezing, use airtight containers and portion all the cooked squash, so you can easily thaw as much as you need for a single meal. When it comes to thawing, overnight in the refrigerator is the safest way, but if you’re short on time there are other options too.

Butternut squash on farmer's market
Image used under Creative Commons from Forest and Kim Starr

How Long Does Butternut Squash Last

In terms of shelf life, butternut squash belongs to the group of veggies that don’t go bad in quite a while, just like onions do. Whole fresh butternut squash should keep in the pantry or kitchen cabinet for a month, or even a bit more. If you have a cold pantry or cellar where the temperature is near the ideal temp mentioned earlier, it can last a month longer or even more.

Once you’ve sliced the fresh winter squash, it will stay fresh for about 2 to 4 days before its quality will start to degrade noticeably.

When it comes to cooked butternut squash, it should remain at peak quality for a day or two longer than the fresh sliced one. If the veggie is a part of a dish, it depends on other ingredients.

Pantry Fridge
Whole butternut squash 1 – 2 months
Sliced/chopped butternut squash 2 – 4 days
Cooked butternut squash 4 – 5 days

Please note that the periods above are estimates and for best quality.

How to Tell If Butternut Squash Is Bad?

You should start by checking the rind. It should be firm, of fairly even color, and without any mushy spots. Of course, if there are only a few small squishy spots, you can cut them out as you do with other veggies. However, if the whole thing has started leaking liquid, feels hollow or empty inside, or is mushy, just throw it out.

If the outer layer seems to be okay, it’s time to cut into the squash. Given that the flesh has the usual color and texture, it’s okay to use. If there are any small mushy spots, you can cut them out. If they are quite large, discard the whole thing whatsoever. Also, if the squash is stored for a long time, the part with the seeds can start to look somewhat stringy and generally gross. That’s normal, just cut it out and enjoy the test.

When it comes to cut butternut squash, if it sits in the fridge for more than a week, or its quality is no longer acceptable, it’s time to throw it out.

For cooked winter squash, look for any signs of mold or an off smell. Sometimes the veggie gets accidentally contaminated before you refrigerate it, and it will simply grow mold after a day or two in the fridge. If that’s the case, throw out the contents of the whole container.