Pumpkin is a winter squash and shares much in the way of interior look, feel and taste with fellow winter squashes such as acorn, butternut and buttercup squash. In fact, in savory recipes such as soups, stews, and casseroles, they are practically interchangeable. However, when it comes to desserts, such as pies, sweet bread, and cakes, you’ll want to stick to the traditional pumpkin or branch out into buttercup or butternut.
Buttercup squashButtercup squash is dark green, short and has a broad, stocky stem. It is also has a mild, honey-like flavor that works well with desserts. The average size is about 7 inches in diameter and the average weight is about 3 pounds, although some have been known to grow to be over 5 pounds. The flesh of buttercup squash is dense and dark yellow-orange, sometimes even approaching a deeper reddish color.
When you purchase a buttercup squash, look for one that feels heavy for its size, is free from blemishes and soft spots, and has a rind that is deeply colored. You definitely want to avoid any squash that has soft, wrinkled, or moldy spots!
Butternut squashAnother good substitution for pumpkin is the butternut squash, which you can find at most, if not all, grocery stores. It has a sweet, nutty taste that is similar to that of a pumpkin. The flesh is orange and fleshy, and the rind is tan-yellow. When ripe, this squash turns increasingly deep orange and becomes sweeter and richer.
One of the most common ways to prepare butternut squash is roasting, but soup is also quite popular.