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Sweet, nutty, and with minimal effort, this carnival squash recipe is all about simplicity meeting big flavor. Whether you’re a kitchen wizard or a first-timer, this simple side dish is about to become your go-to for a quick, tasty side that’ll have everyone asking for seconds. Learn how to cook carnival squash two ways: air fryer or oven!

Two roasted carnival squash halves on a baking tray.

❤️ Why You Will Love This Recipe

  • Ease of Preparation: With just a few simple steps, you can have this dish ready. It’s perfect for anyone looking for a hassle-free, delicious side dish.
  • Versatile Flavor: The nutty and sweet flavors of carnival squash make it a great companion to a variety of main courses.
  • Healthy Choice: Packed with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, carnival squash is not only delicious but also good for you.
  • Customizable: Whether you like it sweet with a drizzle of maple syrup or savory with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, this recipe can be tailored to suit your taste.
  • Minimal Ingredients Required: With just the squash and a few seasonings, you can create a simple dish that’s full of flavor.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Its vibrant colors and unique patterns make carnival squash a visually appealing addition to any table.

🗝️ Key Ingredients & Substitutions

  • Carnival Squash: Carnival squash has a sweet, nutty flavor similar to butternut or acorn squash. It’s a hybrid of the sweet dumpling squash, making it a great choice for roasting. You can usually find it in grocery stores during the fall when pumpkins are available. Note: this recipe works for any type of winter squash and even pumpkin!
  • Spray Oil: A light coating helps to crisp up the skin and enhances the roasting process. You can substitute it with bottled olive oil or melted butter for a richer flavor.
  • Salt: Brings out the natural sweetness of the squash. You can use regular table salt or sea salt.
  • Ground Black Pepper: Adds a slight kick. Freshly ground pepper is best for more robust flavor.
  • Other Seasoning of Choice: This is where you can get creative. Think about adding Italian seasoning for a herby touch, a sprinkle of brown sugar or maple syrup for extra sweetness, or even a dash of cinnamon for a warm spice note. Parmesan or feta cheese sprinkled on top after roasting adds a delicious savory note, while a drizzle of balsamic vinegar before serving can introduce a tangy contrast.

🥣 How to Cook Carnival Squash

In the Air Fryer:

  1. Preparation: Start by preheating your air fryer to 370°F (190°C). This ensures the squash will start cooking at the right temperature for optimal texture.
  2. Cut and Clean: Slice the whole squash in half from stem to bottom and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. You can save the squash seeds for roasting later if you like.
  1. Oil and Season: Spray the exposed flesh of the squash with your choice of oil. Then, using a knife, make a few piercings in the skin. This helps the heat penetrate the squash more evenly.
  2. Cook: Place the squash halves in the air fryer basket, cut side down, and cook for about 15-20 minutes. The exact time might vary depending on the size of your squash and your air fryer model.

In the Oven:

  1. Preheat: Set your oven to 425°F (220°C). A higher temperature is used in the oven to achieve a similar roasting effect to the air fryer.
  2. Prepare the Squash: Just like with the air fryer method, cut the squash in half and clean out the seeds. Coat the cut sides with oil and pierce the skin a few times.
  3. Roast: Place the squash halves on a parchment paper-lined baking tray (aluminum foil will work too), cut side down. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the flesh is tender and the edges start to brown.
Two roasted carnival squash halves on a baking tray.

🪄 Recipe Notes & Tips

  • Choosing the Right Squash: Look for carnival squash that feels heavy for its size and has a hard, deep-colored rind without any soft spots or cracks.
  • Other Squash: This recipe works for all kinds of winter squashes, so if you can’t find carnival choose what is available to you.
  • Cutting Safely: Cutting squash can be tricky due to its hard skin. Use a sharp, sturdy knife and maybe microwave the squash for a minute to soften it slightly for easier cutting.
  • Enhancing Flavor: Don’t be shy with seasonings. The natural sweetness of carnival squash pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. Experiment with herbs, spices, or even a little brown sugar to find your perfect combination. Taco seasoning, lemon pepper, and maple and cinnamon with a little butter are some of my favorites. Check out my Air Fryer Acon Squash recipe for 6 seasoning suggestions.
  • Crispier Edges: For extra crispy edges, broil the squash for a few minutes after it’s done cooking. Just keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
  • Serving Suggestion: A drizzle of high-quality olive oil or a pat of butter right before serving can add an extra layer of richness to this easy side dish.
  • Roasting Seeds: Don’t waste the seeds! Clean them, toss with a bit of oil and your favorite spices, then roast in the oven until crispy for a nutritious snack. Check out my roasted squash seeds recipe for the full instructions.

🫙 Storage Instructions

  • Cool Down: Allow the cooked carnival squash to cool to room temperature before storing.
  • Refrigerate: Place the squash in an airtight container and refrigerate. Properly stored, it will last for 3 to 5 days.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, you can freeze carnival squash. First, cut it into smaller pieces or mash it, then freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
  • Reheating: Warm it up in the microwave, oven, air fryer, or on the stovetop. If using the oven, cover it with foil to prevent drying out. A little splash of water or vegetable broth can help it stay moist.

🍽️ What To Serve With Roasted Carnival Squash

Main Courses

The natural sweetness of carnival squash complements the savory flavors of roasted chicken, turkey, pork, or beef. It’s especially great with herb-infused meats that echo the seasoning in the squash.

For veggie options, pair it with a hearty grain salad, quinoa pilaf, or a vegetable stew for a satisfying plant-based meal. The richness of the squash balances well with lighter, earthy dishes.

Side Dishes

A Pickled Beet Salad offers a refreshing contrast to the richness of the squash. Add some goat cheese and nuts for extra texture and flavor. Also, fluffy couscous, wild rice, or barley make great sides, especially when flavored with herbs and a squeeze of lemon. They absorb the flavors of the squash and any seasonings beautifully.

For a Complete Meal

Serve your carnival squash alongside some freshly baked bread or rolls. The bread is perfect for soaking up any extra seasoning or sauce from the squash. Start the meal with a lentil soup or Healthy Zuppa Toscana to precede the squash. It’s a great way to introduce a meal, leading up to the rich, sweet flavors of your roasted squash. You can also blend the carnival squash with vegetable broth and a little plant-based milk to make carnival squash soup!

❓ Frequently Asked Questions

Can I eat the skin of carnival squash?

Yes, the skin of carnival squash is edible, especially when roasted as it becomes softer and adds a nice texture to the dish. However, some people prefer to remove it with a vegetable peeler for a smoother experience.

Is carnival squash similar to butternut squash?

While they share a sweet, nutty flavor, carnival squash is a bit more firm and has a slightly different taste profile, often described as a mix between sweet dumpling and butternut squash. It’s also smaller and more decorative.

Can I make this dish ahead of time?

Absolutely! Roasted carnival squash reheats well, making it a great make-ahead side dish. Just store it properly in the fridge and reheat when you’re ready to serve.

How do I know when the squash is done cooking?

The flesh of the squash should be tender enough to easily pierce with a fork, and the edges might start to caramelize and turn golden brown. Cooking times can vary based on the size of the squash and your oven or air fryer, so it’s good to start checking a bit earlier than the recommended time.

What’s the best way to cut carnival squash?

First, stabilize the squash on a cutting board to prevent it from rolling. Using a sharp chef’s knife, carefully cut from the stem to the bottom, applying even pressure. If the squash is particularly hard, you can microwave it for a minute to soften it up, making it easier to cut through.

Two roasted carnival squash halves on a baking tray.

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📖 Recipe

A roasted carnival squash half on a baking tray.

How to Cook Carnival Squash (Oven & Air Fryer)

Bethany Galloway
Sweet, nutty, and with minimal effort, this carnival squash recipe is all about simplicity meeting big flavor. Learn how to cook carnival squash two ways: air fryer or oven!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Sides
Cuisine American
Servings 2 Servings
Calories 87 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 carnival squash
  • spray oil
  • 1-2 pinches salt to taste
  • 1-2 pinches ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon other seasoning of choice to taste

Instructions
 

For the Air Fryer

  • Begin by preheating the air fryer to 370°F/190°C.
  • Cut the carnival squash in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (see note 1 for roasting the seeds).
    1 carnival squash
    Two carnival squash halves with the seeds scooped out.
  • Spray the carnival squash halves with oil and pierce the skin a few times with a knife.
    spray oil
    A knife piercing a carnival squash.
  • Place them in the air fryer basket, cut side down, and air fry for 15-20 minutes. When it's fork-tender, it's ready.
    Carnival squash in an air fryer.
  • Open the air fryer basket and remove the carnival squash.
    Carnival squash in an air fryer.
  • Season with salt and pepper (or another seasoning) to taste and enjoy!
    1-2 pinches salt, 1-2 pinches ground black pepper

For the Oven

  • Begin by preheating the oven to 425°F/220°C.
  • Cut the carnival squash in half and scrape out the seeds with a spoon (see note 1 for roasting the seeds).
    1 carnival squash
    Two carnival squash halves with the seeds scooped out.
  • Spray the carnival squash halves with oil and pierce the skin a few times with a knife.
    spray oil
    A knife piercing a carnival squash.
  • Place them on a parchment paper lined baking tray, cut side down, and bake them for 25 minutes.
    Two roasted carnival squash halves on a baking tray.
  • Season with salt and pepper (or another seasoning) to taste and enjoy!
    1-2 pinches salt, 1-2 pinches ground black pepper

Notes

    1. Roasting Seeds: Don’t waste the seeds! Clean them, toss with a bit of oil and your favorite spices, then roast in the oven until crispy for a nutritious snack. Check out my roasted squash seeds recipe for the full instructions.
    2. Choosing the Right Squash: Look for carnival squash that feels heavy for its size and has a hard, deep-colored rind without any soft spots or cracks.
    3. Other Squash: This recipe works for all kinds of winter squashes, so if you can’t find carnival choose what is available to you.
    4. Cutting Safely: Cutting squash can be tricky due to its hard skin. Use a sharp, sturdy knife and maybe microwave the squash for a minute to soften it slightly for easier cutting.
    5. Enhancing Flavor: Don’t be shy with seasonings. The natural sweetness of carnival squash pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. Experiment with herbs, spices, or even a little brown sugar to find your perfect combination. Taco seasoning, lemon pepper, and maple and cinnamon with a little butter are some of my favorites. Check out my Air Fryer Acon Squash recipe for 6 seasoning suggestions.
    6. Crispier Edges: For extra crispy edges, broil the squash for a few minutes after it’s done cooking. Just keep a close eye on it to prevent burning.
    7. Serving Suggestion: A drizzle of high-quality olive oil or a pat of butter right before serving can add an extra layer of richness to this easy side dish.

Storage & Reheating Instructions

    • Cool Down: Allow the cooked carnival squash to cool to room temperature before storing.
    • Refrigerate: Place the squash in an airtight container and refrigerate. Properly stored, it will last for 3 to 5 days.
    • Freezing: For longer storage, you can freeze carnival squash. First, cut it into smaller pieces or mash it, then freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
    • Reheating: Warm it up in the microwave, oven, air fryer, or on the stovetop. If using the oven, cover it with foil to prevent drying out. A little splash of water or vegetable broth can help it stay moist.

Nutrition

Calories: 87kcalCarbohydrates: 23gProtein: 2gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.05gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.02gSodium: 200mgPotassium: 754mgFiber: 3gSugar: 0.01gVitamin A: 794IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 73mgIron: 2mg
Keyword air fryer, carnival squash, carnival squash recipe, easy, how to cook carnival squash, oven baked, quick, roasted carnival squash, vegan, vegetarian
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