This Butternut Squash With Cranberries is a delicious treat and a perfect holiday side dish. It is sweet and savory at the same time making it a great accompaniment for any main course. The squash is roasted with spices, and brown sugar together with tart cranberries and granny smith apples. All the favorite flavors in one dish, just like we love it.
So is it a dessert or a side dish? I am not sure at this point but I like how it looks, tastes, and smells on our beautiful holiday dinner table during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
It has the right amount of tartness from cranberries, and apples and sweet flavor from butternut squash and brown sugar. Spices like cinnamon, and nutmeg make this dish warm, cozy, and a delicious side dish to any holiday meal.
This dish is simple, budget-friendly, and made with simple ingredients that are easily available in any grocery store. Be sure to read the Variations paragraph for further customization of this butternut squash casserole. Making side dishes for your holiday table has never been easier!
- Squash - I used smaller ripe butternut squash and it was enough for a smaller casserole dish. Use fresh squash or substitute with sweet Pumpkin. Read below in the next paragraph on how to choose perfectly ripe butternut squash.
- Apples - granny smith apples add delicious tartness to the dish. Your next up are Pink Lady, Braeburn, Jonathan, Cortland, Gala. Any apple will work, it's just there is something about those tart apples making the dish taste like one great fall meal, tastes like Christmas!
- Fresh Cranberries - fresh is best but frozen works just fine. Alternatively, you can top up your casserole with some dried cranberries.
- Brown sugar or coconut sugar - I love the sugar in this recipe as it gives a unique sweet flavor rather than using honey or maple syrup which have a very specific aftertaste. That being said, it is still okay to use those or perhaps more neutral sweet syrup. You can also get away with just 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. 2 spoons help with thickening the sweet sauce but you can use as little as you'd like.
- Cornstarch - Helps to thicken up the mixture. You can also use some gluten-free or regular all-purpose flour or tapioca flour instead.
- Want to make it more festive? Add some chopped walnuts or pecans for a delicious crunch.
For the full list of ingredients, please scroll down where you'll find the recipe card.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, combine squash (or pumpkin), apples, and cranberries.
Mix brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon and toss to evenly distribute.
Place the squash mixture in an ungreased 1 ½ to 2 quart prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and toss lightly. Bake, covered, for an additional 30-35 minutes, or until squash and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. I'd usually check the squash during 20 or 30-minute mark.
Let the casserole cool for about 10-15 minutes to allow the liquid in the bottom of the dish to thicken slightly. Serve warm.
If you don't have a suitable baking dish, you can still make this recipe b wrapping the ingredients loosely in foil.
Wrap everything in foil and close it loosely leaving enough space on top for the air to circulate. The ''sauce'' may start leaking so be sure to have a baking sheet underneath.
- To make it taste more savory and aromatic, add 2-3 sprigs of thyme or fresh rosemary when baking.
- For easier cutting - when cutting the squash, start by cutting off the top and bottom parts first. This makes a significant difference later when you’ll be cutting it in half.
- Also, use a larger and thicker knife for this as the skin is very tough.
- Cranberries will become soft and open up during baking. If you like them to keep their shape more, add them only towards the end of cooking. Around 15-20 minute end mark.
- This dish will also release a lot of liquid after baking, so don’t worry it to be dry.
- Every oven is different and you may need to bake it for a shorter. The dish is ready when the apples and the squash are tender enough that you can easily pierce them with a fork. They should be softened but not mushy. So just keep an eye on this.
- I recommend baking it with foil so it doesn’t dry out. This is also important if you want to add nuts, and they need to be covered because will burn easily.
- The seasoning - use this recipe as a base with the spices I used. But do try after tossing all together. You may need to add more sugar or perhaps salt to make it to your liking.
- This dish is gluten free, vegan, nut free, and refined sugar free.
How To know if butternut squash is ripe?
There are a few things you should look for.
The length: It should be of a proper length which will indicate it has been harvested at the right time. Most butternut squash will reach a length of 8–12 inches (20–30 cm).
The stem: When a butternut squash ripens, the stem will turn color, from green to brown. Look for a firm deep brown stem. Avoid choosing a butternut squash from the store without a stem at all (it indicated the squash is overripe).
The color: Look for a uniform color of golden or dark beige. If you see green patches, lines, or shiny exterior on its exterior, it isn’t ripe yet.
Texture: Avoid choosing squash with cuts, soft spots, or brown marks. A few blemishes on the skin of the squash are fine. Ripe butternut squash should also feel hard like an unripe avocado.
Test with your fingernail, by pushing gently into the surface, it should feel hard and difficult to push through. Tap on it: Look for a hollow sound (just like with watermelon).
Weight: When you find the right squash, compare its weight to other squashes. It should feel relatively heavy and not light compared to others.
Freezing and Storing Instructions
Store any leftover casserole in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. For the best flavor consume it right away or the next day. Reheat in the oven at the same temperature.
To make ahead, you can add all squash, apples, and cranberries into the casserole dish but don’t add the rest ingredients. Store in the fridge for 24 hours. On the day of making add all the rest of the ingredients and follow the recipe instructions for baking.
Can you freeze butternut squash casserole?
Leftovers of butternut squash casserole can be easily stored in the fridge for up to 2 months. But I highly recommend eating it freshly made. Best flavor! Also if you do need to freeze it, freeze it unbaked for 2-3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge. On the day of serving, bake as usual following the recipe instructions.
- Tart Cranberries - are the main ingredient that adds lots of sourness and tartness to the dish. If you don’t like them you can simply add less or use tangy lingonberries instead. These berries have less tartness to them and are a tiny bit sweeter.
- For more sauce-y consistency - add more coconut oil, and sugar, or use honey or maple syrup instead. You may need to play around with spices and increase their amount as you go.
- Creamy Butternut Squash - most of the squash types will work such as butternut squash, acorn squash, or kabocha squash. Pumpkin is the perfect substitute as well. You could also try using sweet potatoes, these taste even sweeter!
- More spices - all the festive and cozy warming spices are very welcomed in this squash casserole. Think cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, pumpkin spice, cardamom, star anise, turmeric, and even cayenne.
- Crunchy texture - Nuts and seeds add some crunch and nutty flavor and balance the sweetness of the squash. Add these on top of the casserole 15-20 minutes towards the end of cooking and make sure to cover the bake with aluminum foil.
- Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and marjoram add a unique spin and balance of sweetness.
- Perfect addition - In this healthy butternut squash casserole is also common to add cornflakes, dried fruit, ritz crackers or oats, or granola. I would add these only if you intend to serve this dish as a dessert. Add dark chocolate shaving on top when serving, delicious!
- The spices combination in this recipe is something that I find works really well here. However, you are not limited to using more different options, just like you would for gingerbread cookies or a pumpkin pie. Choose your favorite spices but a hint of cinnamon is kind of essential.
For a complete meal, we like to serve this casserole as a side dish during the holiday season, with main dishes such as Pork Tenderloin, Glazed Ham, Turkey, or Roasted Whole Chicken.
This easy butternut squash bake also pairs well with other festive side dishes such as Brussels sprouts, baked potato recipes, baked camembert, well, anything that is in season, and what you like to serve during winter months.
But I will not judge if you just eat it like a dessert with some ice cream on the side. This dish is sure to become your family favorite and not only during holidays.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any leftovers, this butternut squash casserole with cranberries will last in the fridge for 3-4 days. Make sure to cover it with plastic wrap and transfer it to an airtight container.
Yes, for this butternut squash casserole you have to peel the squash. This can be done with a good sturdy vegetable peeler (if young squash, for older and larger squash will not work as the skin is thicker and tougher).
This casserole is still healthy. It has a small amount of brown sugar but you can easily substitute it with your favorite natural sweet syrup. Baking is still the most preferred way of cooking veggies and fruit (except steaming them, which is the best cooking method to preserve the vitamins and nutrients) thanks to the larger amount of nutrients still present in the dish after cooking. It is also naturally vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, low carb, and so on.
Thank you so much for reading about how to make this delicious brown sugar butternut squash with cranberries. Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have! I love reading your feedback.
Easy Holiday Recipes
We love this squash casserole for not only our Thanksgiving table but all other special occasions. Depending on the season, make it with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin. All of these taste great and provide a uniquely sweet flavor to balance the other two tart ingredients.
Make a meal plan with one or more of these festive-themed recipes. You are going to love these.
- Butternut Squash Sweet Potato Soup - roasted veggies, pureed until creamy and smooth and served with warm crusty bread. Makes a great Christmas lunch!
- Jalapeno Pimento Cheese Dip - I'd make it for any day of the week because every day there's something to celebrate!
- Breakfast Casserole With Potatoes And Ham - the best Christmas day breakfast casserole.
- Cranberry Orange Bread With Glaze - can't forget the dessert!
Did you make this recipe? Please be sure to leave a rating and a comment below. Thank you!
Brown Sugar Butternut Squash With Cranberries
- 3 cup butternut squash or pumpkin peeled and cut into 1" cubes
- 1 medium green apple peeled and cut
- ½ cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar or pure maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, combine squash (or pumpkin), apples, and cranberries.
- Mix brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon and toss to evenly distribute.
- Place the squash mixture in an ungreased 1 ½ to 2 quarts prepared baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and toss lightly. Bake, covered, for an additional 30-35 minutes, or until squash and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. I'd usually check the squash during the 20 or 30-minute mark.
- Let the casserole cool for about 10-15 minutes to allow the liquid in the bottom of the dish to thicken slightly. Serve warm.