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
Warm/spicy and sweet all at the same time. This soup is great for chilly days (or pantry cooking).
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.
A classic combination that’s great with a simple main dish, like roast chicken.