Note: The original version of this post was shared in June 2014. In that time I’ve nerded out about spaghetti squash like I never would have imagined, learning a ton in the process, and many fantastic people have shared their knowledge in the comments. A major update was due, including a video (scroll to the end for 1 minute of spaghetti squash glory). If you want to see the original post, check it out here.
I have never been a big fan of spaghetti squash, because the “noodles” always came out really short and un-spaghetti-like. It seemed like a big sham. But every so often I would feel compelled to try again, and during one of those attempts I made a startling discovery. Here it is. We’ve been cutting spaghetti squash the wrong way.
Nearly every recipe for spaghetti squash that I’ve ever seen calls for cutting the squash lengthwise. It only makes sense, because most spaghetti squash are longer than they are wide. But this is plain wrong. Why? Because the strands run around the circumference of the squash, not down the length. Is your mind reeling yet? Hang in there, we’ll get through this together.
I stumbled across this revelation thanks to my pressure cooker. One night, I wanted spaghetti squash, but I didn’t want to wait an hour for it, so I decided to use my favorite speedy kitchen appliance. The problem was, in order to fit it into the pressure cooker I had to cut it across the middle, and at the time I thought that my long spaghetti squash noodle dreams were shattered. Imagine my surprise when I started to separate the strands and realized that they were as long as spaghetti noodles! How could this be? Upon further inspection, I realized that the strands spiraled around the width, not the length. And then I realized why the “noodles” had always been short in previous attempts. They were cut in half the moment the knife sliced through the length of the squash. Let’s take a moment to mourn every spaghetti squash noodle that was ever cut in half needlessly.
I realized I had to test this theory with two different squash, cutting one lengthwise, and one across the width. Rather than use the pressure cooker again, I baked the squash in the oven to confirm that the cooking method didn’t impact the outcome. Below, half of one squash cut vertically, and half of another squash cut horizontally. To further test my theory, I cut the shortest squash across the width.
Here’s a close-up of the squash cut length-wise. You can even see the cross-section of the strands that were cut down in their prime.
Here’s a close-up of one of the rings, where you can clearly see the individual strands separating. My sweet little hand model is doing a very good job of pointing this out, don’t you think?
Ok, fine, Beth, this is blowing my mind and everything, but how much longer are the noodles, really?
Seriously? You don’t believe me? Ok, fine. Let’s have a showdown.
Mic drop. Oh wait, that was your jaw hitting the floor. I’ll take my apology now, thanks.
Ok, let’s get into the nitty gritty. Here is everything I currently know about how to cook spaghetti squash to get the longest noodles and best texture. There’s a super cool trick to help reduce the wetness factor. I’ve also included four cooking methods because you need options. They are listed in order of my favorites, and I’ve made sure to include the pros and cons for each. You’re welcome. But first, a video!
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash – The Video!
If you want yet ANOTHER video, you can see me demonstrate this method on AM Northwest!
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash
Cut Spaghetti Squash
This is the hardest part. Spaghetti squash are basically taunting you with their hard exterior – daring you to find a way to break through their stubborn skin to get to the noodle-y goodness. But you can be the boss of the squash. You can prick the squash a couple of times and then stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes to soften the skin, if you like, or just pick up your blade of choice and tell that squash who’s in charge. That’s you, in case you needed a reminder.
Cut 1/2″ off each end, then cut in half across the width.
Use a sharp knife to cut around the inside of the each half to get out the seeds and other various innards.Cut further into rings if you’d like, but it’s not necessary. The cooking time is the same, and by leaving halves intact, you can use them as bowls. Nifty, huh?
Boning Knife – this is my current favorite. It’s sturdy, thin, and flexible, making it perfect for cutting through the squash as well was cutting away the seeds and the peel. It’s also super affordable and has tons of great reviews.
Serrated Bread Knife – you need one of these anyway, to cut crusty loaves of bread without smashing them into oblivion, but they also make quick work of squash butchery. That sounds weird.
Chef’s Knife – if you’ve seen the original version of this post, you’ll remember that this is the knife I formerly recommended. I still do recommend it for the majority of your slicing and dicing needs, but since I started using the boning knife I found that this knife was really only good for the initial cutting of the squash, but it’s awkward to use when it comes to getting out the seeds and removing the peel. Just want to be real with you. 🙂
Pumpkin carving kit knife – several people in the comments said that the little knife that you use to carve pumpkins at Halloween worked well, but I tried mine, and I was challenged. That’s true in general, but beside the point. You might have better luck than I, so I figured I’d mention it.
My preference is the boning knife so far. But the best knife for you is the one you have in your hand, so hack away! But please be careful.
Salting Spaghetti Squash
This is what took spaghetti squash to the next level for me. Reader Tracie left a comment that salting the squash first draws out a ton of moisture, which really helps reduce the mushy/wet texture that always turned me off in the past. Now, I always take the extra 15 minutes and salt the squash first. You can be really liberal with the salt, because you’ll wipe it away before cooking, along with all the water that the salt draws out. Thanks for the tip, Tracie! 🙂
Look at how much water comes out! It’s truly amazing how much of a difference this step makes in the final texture. It’s worth the time, trust me.
Pat the squash dry with a clean kitchen towel and brush away any excess salt. Then, apply heat to the squash with the cooking method of your choice. Here are four options, ranked from the best to um, you probably should just skip the last one.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven
The original and best! The heat from the oven really helps to get the best texture, by further evaporating much of the moisture. Plus, you can salt the squash on a rack fitted over a sheet pan, and then roast it on the same setup for 30 minutes at 400F. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Start to finish, including the salting and cooling times, you can have perfect spaghetti squash noodles in your belly in an hour, and less than 15 minutes of that time involves you doing anything at all. Once the squash has cooled enough to handle, peel the skin away with your fingers, or if it’s stubborn, use your knife to slice the peel off.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Microwave
My next favorite method! Cut the squash in halves or rings, and salt for 15 minutes. Wipe any excess salt away, but leave the moisture collected after salting in the dish. Cook on high for 8 minutes to start, and go up from there in 1-minute increments. You don’t need to add any additional water in the dish, or cover it. It’s best to let as much moisture evaporate as possible while cooking – there’s a lot of it! As you can see, it cooks up just fine without water. And, bonus, it’s already seasoned! You can also cook the squash whole, but then you don’t get the benefit of salting and getting the seeds out after cooking is a pain. It’s your call, of course. If you that route, make sure you poke a couple of holes in the squash so it doesn’t explode. Safety first. 🙂
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Slow Cooker
Ah, the wonderful slow cooker. Just as with the microwave method, you can salt the halves or rings and then cook while still salted. Use a little less salt in this case, since you won’t be wiping it away. The salt will draw out the moisture as it cooks, so you can start the cooking time immediately after salting. Go for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low. You can also cook the squash whole, for the same time, but I find it much messier to de-seed it after it is cooked, plus you don’t get to salt it. In my humble opinion, the benefits from salting are greater than the pain of cutting the squash in half. But remember, you’re the boss of the squash.
I love this method for the set it and forget it convenience. Works just as well as microwave, but I ranked it below because the lid prevents evaporation, and that can lead to a just slightly more wet squash in the end.
How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot
Yes, I ranked the pressure cooker last. By a long shot. Color me surprised, too. I mean, the pressure cooker is the reason I discovered this longer noodles hack in the first place. But after many, MANY attempts to achieve spaghetti squash nirvana using the pressure cooker, I have determined that it is too finicky to be recommended. In almost every case, the squash I have cooked in the pressure cooker have come out mushy (Michael would say “moo-shee”) and overcooked. It’s just too hard to monitor the cooking process, because you have to release the pressure, and then bring back up to pressure if it’s not cooked all the way, and then what if you set the timer for one minute too long? Gah….my testing memories are coming back to haunt me.
If you insist, though, here are the cooking times I would recommend as starting point for cooking spaghetti squash in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
Whole: Pour 1 cup of water into the pot, and place the squash whole on a metal trivet. Cook for 15-17 minutes at high pressure, with a quick release after the cooking time is up.
Halved: De-seed the squash, and salt it for 15 minutes on the metal trivet inside the pot. Add 1 cup water to the moisture that was released after salting, then cook for 5 minutes at high pressure, with a quick release after the time is up. If the squash is not cooked, cook for 1 more minute at high pressure, with a quick release. If it needs more time than that, you’re probably muttering “why didn’t I listen to Beth?” under your breath, and finding your biggest microwave-safe dish. But what do I know? Maybe you’ll be the pressure cooker whisperer and end up with perfectly cooked squash. Good for you. 🙂
This squash was cooked in the pressure cooker. For one minute too long. Mushy city. Like, I couldn’t eat it mushy. Don’t let this happen to you.
Fat Wallet Tips!
Spaghetti squash is typically priced by the pound, so keep that mind when choosing your specimens at the grocery store. An exception is Costco, where they typically sell a 2-pack of big, heavy spaghetti squash for about $6. Remember that longer isn’t better when it comes to spaghetti squash. The wider, the better. So pick a short, stubby squash, and you’ll likely pay a little less.
If you are the sort of person who likes to grow things in dirt, one great way to save money on spaghetti squash is to grow it yourself! Granted, the waiting time is just a tad longer than a trip to the grocery store, but wouldn’t it be so fun to just walk out in your own front yard and pick a spaghetti squash for dinner? That’s what happened when I planted spaghetti squashin our front yard garden box. As you’ll see from the bottom picture, there’s a reason we won’t grow them in the front yard again. But for the price of a packet of seeds and a bit of your time, you can get tons of squash to last you all winter!
You may be wondering, once you have these nifty noodles, what do you with them? Personally, I love to add them to actual spaghetti. The squash noodles mix in with the pasta nearly seamlessly. Eating the squash alone is low-carb, yes, but it can also be watery and I tend to focus on the fact that I’m not eating pasta. By mixing it in with the pasta, you get a medium-carb option. Here are a few recipes that will pair perfectly!
Spaghetti Squash Alfredo (the name kind of gave it away)
Vegetable Bolognese (drizzle some savory cashew cream on top, and thank me later)
Sweet Potato Peanut Sauce (chopped cilantro and peanuts for garnish, a drizzle of sriracha, heaven in a spaghetti squash bowl)
Wrapping It Up
In summary, if you want your spaghetti squash to actually look like spaghetti, defy convention and cut it across the middle. You will be rewarded with lovely long strands of deliciousness. Pretty cool, huh?
Will you be trying this method? Please let me know if you do! Share a comment here, or tag @eatwithinyourmeans and #eatwithinyourmeans on Instagram! You’re the best.
- 1 spaghetti squash, the fatter the better
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Slice ends off the squash, then cut widthwise into halves or rings. Run a knife around the interior of each piece to remove the seeds.
- Place squash on an oven-safe cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle both sides with salt. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the salt to draw moisture out. Wipe away excess salt and moisture, then bake for 30 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then peel the skin away and separate the strands into long "noodles".
- Enjoy topped with your favorite sauce or mix 50/50 with regular spaghetti pasta for a "medium-carb" option, such as in this Spaghetti Squash Alfredo.
- Slice ends off the squash, then cut widthwise into halves or rings. Run a knife around the interior of each piece to remove the seeds. Place the squash in a microwave-safe dish and salt each piece generously. Allow to sit for 15 minutes, then wipe away excess salt and moisture. Leave any moisture that collected in the dish. Cook on high for 8 minutes, increasing the time in 1-minute increments until the squash is cooked through. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before separating into "noodles."
- Slice ends off the squash, then cut widthwise into halves or rings. Run a knife around the interior of each piece to remove the seeds. Place the squash in the slow cooker and lightly salt each piece. Cook on high for 3 hours, or low for 5 hours. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before separating into "noodles."
- Whole: Pour 1 cup of water into the pot, and place the squash whole on a metal trivet. Cook for 15-17 minutes at high pressure, with a quick release after the cooking time is up.
- Halved: Slice ends off the squash, then cut widthwise into halves or rings. Run a knife around the interior of each piece to remove the seeds. Salt squash for 15 minutes on the metal trivet inside the pot. Add 1 cup water to the moisture that was released after salting, then cook for 5 minutes at high pressure, with a quick release after the time is up. If the squash is not cooked, cook for 1 more minute at high pressure, with a quick release.