butternut squash brown sugar vanilla

Roasted Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar and Vanilla

Sure this roasted butternut squash with brown sugar and vanilla looks like an ordinary vegetable side dish. But, it’s really a dessert wearing a clever vegetable disguise.  The first time I made it, I immediately wanted to eat it again.  Sometimes, single serving is a bummer!  Sadly, it was the last of the squash and the last of the nuts.

What made this recipe so good?  The vanilla and nuts add a touch of sweetness, without being overpowering. It was almost like eating a cookie or some sort of dessert rather than a vegetable. Yet, it has very little sugar.  Topping it with a mixture of nuts and craisins (dried, sweetened cranberries) added a bit of crunch and a sweet/tart tang.

The original version of this recipe (which I found on the Neilsen-Massey web site), called for vanilla sugar. Since I didn’t have any and had no interest in going out and searching for some in the stores, I simply added a bit of vanilla to some brown sugar instead. As far as I’m concerned it worked perfectly, and I didn’t have to buy an extra ingredient. Win win!

The nuts I used were an unsalted mixture from Trader Joe’s with hazelnuts, cashews and pecans.  Use whatever mix you like, although I think I would skip something with peanuts. The craisins were an unintentional bonus.  I had a few leftover from making the turkey chipotle enchilada recipe from a couple of weeks ago, and had thrown them in the bag of nuts.  I forgot that when I mixed them into the topping, but it turned out to be a good “accident.”

So, while this may look like a vegetable, it’s definitely a dessert in a clever vegetable disguise! In fact, I’m half-tempted to put it in the dessert category instead of as a side dish. Serve it with a simple piece of roast chicken or a pork chop. I baked a chicken thigh with some olive oil, oregano, a bit of garlic, and salt and pepper.

Butternut Squash with Brown Sugar and Vanilla Substitutions and Variations

  • Don’t have mixed nuts?  Try just plain walnuts or pecans instead
  • Use maple syrup instead of brown sugar
  • Toast the nuts first
  • Buy some puff pastry and spoon the squash into it—voilà butternut squash tart!

More Butternut Squash Recipes

curried butternut squash soup with applesCurried Butternut Squash Soup with Apples

Warm/spicy and sweet all at the same time. This soup is great for chilly days (or pantry cooking).


butternut squash cream sauce pastaButternut Squash Cream Sauce Recipe for One Person

Add sage and a touch of cream and you get a perfect pasta sauce. It’s rich, creamy and makes a nice change from the usual humdrum tomato sauce.


roasted cinnamon nutmeg squashRoasted Cinnamon Nutmeg Butternut Squash

A classic combination that’s great with a simple main dish, like roast chicken.



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