Yellow squash. It’s hard to not think of this vegetable as the ugly stepchild of the zucchini. After all, they’re usually next to each other in the produce section, though the zucchini bin seems to be emptied far more often by demand. Plus how many recipes for yellow squash bread or yellow squash muffins or do you see on Pinterest? I’d wager to say not nearly as many as for zucchini, if any at all.
So where does that leave the poor, yellow guy? Well, with plenty of options, actually. Yellow squash (one of the summer squash varieties), is a great food to start including in your diet, if you don’t already. You may have noticed there are two kinds of yellow squash — the kind that is straight, and the kind that has a curved neck. In both cases, the bottom of the squash is larger than the top. While the skin can be smooth or bumpy, it’s always thin and when you cut into it, you’ll notice that the flesh is whiter and has bigger seeds than the inside of a zucchini.
Yellow squash can be eaten cooked or raw — either way provides you with lots of nutrition. (Although you’ll lose some of the water content when you cook the squash.) It’s low-calorie, low-sugar, and its fiber and water content can help you stay fuller, longer. These factors are important if you are watching what you eat.
Types of Yellow (or Summer) Squash
Although there are up to 10 kinds of summer squash, only about eight are (more) commonly available. In addition to yellow squash, zucchini, costata romanesco zucchini, and eight-ball zucchini, as well as tatuma, pattypan, cousa, and zephyr squash are all summer squash family members you should consider inviting to your next reunion.
Is Yellow Squash Good for You?
Yes! Full of vitamins A, B, and C, plus fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, and folate, this is one summer vegetable you’ll want to stop passing over. And, adding this yellow variety of the Cucurbita pepo family helps you to eat more of the rainbow.
Yellow squash is great on the grill, diced and added to salsa or a relish, or spiralized as a pasta substitution. The only limit to eating more squash is your imagination — now is the time to get creative. How many ways can you think of to include this veggie varietal in your diet?
The Nutritional Makeup of Yellow Squash
According to the USDA nutrient database, one medium yellow squash contains 39 calories, 2 grams of protein, zero grams of fat, 8 carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 4 grams of sugar. In addition, you’ll find ample amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamins C, A, and B, as well as beta-carotene and lutein. What you won’t find — cholesterol. That’s right, yellow squash is a cholesterol-free food.
The Health Benefits of Yellow Squash
- It is low-carb. Most of the calories in yellow squash comes from its carb content, which is to say, there really isn’t much of either. You can eat an entire medium-sized yellow squash and only consume 39 calories and 8 grams of carbs — not a bad deal at all. Spiralize a couple of those suckers and you have a nice bowl of faux pasta on your plate, ready to be topped with some crumbled or sliced chicken sausage, bell peppers, and fresh marinara sauce. When you consider one cup of pasta contains around 14 grams of carbs, you’ll be glad you filled your plate with a healthy helping of squash, instead.
- It is low-calorie. When you’re on a diet or watching what you eat, then every calorie counts. Yellow squash is low-calorie, so you can eat a lot of it and still meet your calorie requirements for the day. It’s also a great vegetable to mix in or add to pastas and other calorie-dense foods to fill you up while helping you slim down.
- It is is a good source of beta-carotene. A primary source of vitamin A, beta-carotene is also what gives yellow squash its vibrant hue. It’s also a carotenoid that acts as an antioxidant which protects the body from free radicals, can slow cognitive decline, and can keep your immune system, tissues, mucous membranes, hair, and skin healthy.
- It is fiber-full. We love fiber here at Slender Kitchen. Not only does it keep you feeling fuller, longer, it also aids in digestion and helps to regulate your digestive system. Every medium yellow squash provides four grams of fiber. When added as a side dish, combined with other veggies or carbs or eaten raw, sliced thin and dipped in hummus, you can bet you’re getting a good start on your fiber intake for the day.
- It’s cholesterol-free. If you are watching your cholesterol intake, then you needn’t worry about eating summer squash. You can eat squash to help lower your cholesterol as well, as studies have shown that a plant-based diet can lower your total cholesterol. This includes both HDL and LDL levels, compared to those who eat more of a meat-based diet.
How to Choose Yellow Squash
Keep in mind yellow squash, like all summer squash, are best in (and most plentiful in) the summer. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering it’s a summer squash, after all. That being said, when picking a squash, you want to make sure it has a nice, bright color. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a squash that doesn’t have a few nicks and scratches on it, so you can ignore those. However, if a squash looks soft, wet, wrinkled, or is turning brown, it’s best to turn it down.
How to Store Yellow Squash
Store whole squash dry and stored in a plastic bag or other container in your fridge’s vegetable drawer. There is no need to make sure the container or bag is air-tight. In fact, a little air circulation is a good thing. They should stay fresh for up to two weeks, though if you start to see them shriveling or turning brown, it’s best to cook them up asap.
If you want to freeze your yellow squash for later use, you should slice and blanch it first, then store it in tightly sealed freezer bags. You can similarly store grated or spiralized squash too. Simply drain off excess liquid when you thaw it before cooking. I would recommend against freezing squash and eating it thawed (without cooking). It’ll be rather mushy and pretty gross.
What’s the Difference Between Yellow Squash and Zucchini?
The main difference between yellow squash and zucchini is the color. (Zucchini is most often found green, although there are some yellow zucchini, but let’s save that discussion for another time.) Beyond that, zucchini are generally long and slender and the same shape throughout. Yellow squash are bigger at the bottom with a smaller neck that can be either straight or slightly crooked. Either can be swapped for the other in recipes, or cook both together for color variety when grilling vegetables, spiralizing vegetable noodles, or tossing into your vegetable ragu.
Are Yellow Squash and Butternut Squash the Same?
This time, the answer is “no.” These squash aren’t as interchangeable as zucchini and yellow squash. Butternut squash is a winter squash, and has a hard skin. It also is tan in color and much larger than a yellow squash. It’s heartier flesh is great for blending in soups and roasting with potatoes, as they have a similar, non-stringy consistency.
Is Yellow Squash Considered a Starch?
When thinking about yellow squash as a starch, most likely you’re comparing it to starchier vegetables such as potatoes and corn. Although there are some carbs in yellow squash, their value is pretty low. This kind of squash is generally considered a non-starchy vegetable, though.
Can You Eat Raw Yellow Squash?
Yes, you can eat raw yellow squash. It should be noted, however, that the smaller the squash, the less bitter and more sweet it will taste. It can be used it savory or sweet dishes, just cut it up and toss it in.
How to Cook Yellow Squash
There are several ways in which to cook squash. Before you cook it though, you’ll want to prepare it. I always wash my produce and pat it dry. From there, slice it however you need — small dice for salsa or relish, larger half-moons or discs for roasting, long, thick strips for grilling, or smaller sticks for a vegetable tray.
- Roasted. Roasting vegetables enhances their natural flavors. In the case of yellow squash, it gives the vegetable a sweet, nutty flavor. Make sure however you slice the squash that the pieces are of equal size so they all roast the same. Heat your oven to 400 degrees, mix the squash with some olive oil and your favorite spices and roast for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms are slightly browned.
- Spiralized. Much like making zucchini noodles, you can make yellow squash noodles and use them for all sorts of dishes. I like to add them to pasta (or as a substitute for pasta entirely), mix them into a salad, add a bit of texture to the top of a protein, or freeze them for later use.
- Grilled. Grilling yellow squash is easy-peasy. I do recommend keeping the slices thick though, so you end up with meatier chunks of vegetable, rather than thin ones that will either a) get too mushy or b) fall through the grill grates before you can eat them. Much like roasting, all you need for grilled squash is some oil and spices before tossing them on the grill for five minutes on each side.
- Raw. If your squash is nice and firm and fresh, you might enjoy it raw. I like to slice mine into carrot-sized sticks. They are great to dip into hummus, low-fat ranch, and other low-calorie yogurt dips.
How to Eat Yellow Squash: Recipes and Ideas
- As a side dish. This yellow squash side couldn’t be simpler. Slice the tops off the squash, slice them in half, layer them — skin side down — on a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and top with parmesan like I did in this Roasted Parmesan Summer Squash. Or use squash noodles in place of (or in addition to) zucchini in these Stir Fried Zucchini Noodles.
- As “fries” on the side. Anything can be a french fry, right? Even squash. Cut yellow squash into longer wedges (leave the skin on), and coat in garlic, panko, and parm. What you’ll be left with is a bowl full of Baked Garlic Parmesan Zucchini and Summer Squash Wedges that everyone will devour before they even hit the table.
- In a salad. Diced, sliced, noodled, ribboned, shredded — whatever your squash fancy, add it to your favorite salad for a dash of color and nutrients. This Chopped Mediterranean Zucchini Salad is perfect with any kind of summer squash.
- In baked goods. I know, I said it isn’t typically done — so I’m going to go head and do it myself. This Carrot and Zucchini Bread could just as easily have been made with yellow squash, as could these Zucchini, Feta, and Dill Muffins. For breakfast, try baking up a batch of these Bacon, Egg, Zucchini, and Cheese Muffins. They are not only savory, filling, and kid friendly but can easily be adapted by adding or subtracting any ingredients. Even — you guessed it — yellow squash.
What are your favorite yellow squash recipes?