Can butternut squash go bad?

It’s that time of year when squash is abundant, and butternut squash is in demand. This versatile squash can be cooked with sugar and a little cinnamon to make a sweet dessert or used as a regular vegetable in savory dishes. But how long does it take for butternut squash to go bad?

Did you know that butternut squash is native to North America? It is thought that it was first grown in Massachusetts. Now you can find butternut squash all around the world, with its unique nutty, sweet flavor being enjoyed by millions of people.

In this article, we uncover how long butternut squash lasts and what you can do to maximize the butternut squash’s shelf life. We answer many frequently asked questions providing you with factual information.

Let’s get into it.

Does butternut squash expire?

Yes, commonly considered to be a vegetable, butternut squash is actually a fruit!

The butternut squash’s shelf life depends on when it is harvested and how it is taken care of from that point forward.

Don’t let the tough exterior and weight of a butternut squash fool you. If this squash is not stored correctly, it can quickly go bad.

If you grow and harvest your own butternut squash or buy it from the store, there are certain things you should know. If it has green longitudinal stripes (from stem to flower), it’s not ripe but will ripen on a sunny window sill in approximately a week.

Your butternut should have a stem at least two inches long and longer if possible. When the stem dries, it seals the top of the butternut, preventing bacteria from entering the fruit.

The first thing you need to do to prolong the shelf life of the butternut is “cure” it. It’s a simple process but one that is important when it comes to the longevity of the butternut.

To cure the butternut, wash the squash throughout and dry it. Don’t leave water anywhere. With a clean paper towel, wipe a light coating of natural apple cider vinegar all over the butternut, paying particular attention to the base of the stem and the bottom of the squash where the flower would have been.

For clarification, any vinegar, such as white vinegar, will do the job. Even tea tree oil works perfectly. The idea is the vinegar is killing the bacteria in the butternut and any spores that may have settled.

Curing the butternut will extend the storage of the squash stirred in a cool, airy environment for months and possibly a year if the conditions for storage are perfect. Curing will also extend the shelf life of the butternut while it is in the fridge.

Does butternut squash have to be refrigerated?

No, if you are looking to store butternut long-term for months, it stores better in a cool, dry airy environment where the squash has an airflow around it.

Butternut-like fridges come in all different sizes. If you have a smaller fridge or a large busy fridge, the butternut will take up valuable space in the fridge.

A whole butternut that has been cured may last from 2 to 3 months stored in the fridge.

However, once the butternut has been cut open, the shelf life drops significantly to 3 to 4 days. Don’t forget the seeds are edible and should be saved.

Cooked butternut squash should be allowed to cool and placed in an airtight container. A Ziploc bag is perfect. In the fridge, cooked butternut will last for 4 to 5 days.

Does butternut need to be covered?

If the butternut is whole, it does not need to be covered. Covering butternut will encourage spores to grow, making the squash decay long before it should have expired.

If the butternut is cut and prepared for cooking, the butternut should be covered in the fridge. Place the butternut in an airtight container. The container will prevent bacteria from spreading in the fridge and will retain the moisture in the butternut.

Cover cooked butternut in an airtight container to extend its shelf life.

Can you put warm butternut squash in the fridge?

It is not advisable, but sometimes you may not have a choice.

If you read online, you can’t put warm butternut squash in the fridge because condensation coalesces into water droplets that will drip, making your butternut squash soggy and less appealing. This is not the reason why you can’t put warm butternut squash in the fridge.

Your fridge temperature will be 40℉ -18℃ or a little lower. Placing a warm butternut squash in the fridge will elevate its temperature while it radiates heat.

Your fridge may not be as efficient as you might have thought at removing heat. Most fridges take hours to come to 40℉ after being switched on after cleaning.

So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that food sitting at a temperature of 40-140℉ is in the food danger zone. It’s not just your butternut squash. It is the contents of the entire fridge.

Above 40℉-140℉ bacterial growth on perishable foods will accelerate exponentially. It should be discarded if the food remains at an elevated temperature above 40℉-140℉ for just two hours.

Seems harsh? According to the USDA, after two hours in the food danger zone, perishable foods contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning.

Furthermore, the butternut squash should be covered in the fridge so there will be no condensation!

What happens if you have no choice, you need to be out of your home for a few hours?  Separate the butternut squash into smaller portions. This will allow the heat to dissipate and the butternut squash cools faster. Place the butternut squash in an airtight container.

If you are out of time, wrap the butternut squash container in a towel to act as insulation to prevent the fridge from heating dramatically.

How long can warm cooked butternut squash sit out?

Two hours. Remember the food danger zone? According to the USDA, perishable goods sitting out for two hours should be discarded, and the bacteria growth on the food has multiplied rapidly, making the food unfit for consumption.

Eating food sitting out for two hours or more could cause food poisoning.

Does unopened butternut squash go bad?

You can expect a cured butternut squash to last six months if it’s not cut. If the storage conditions are perfect, the butternut may last longer.

The skin will become spotty and wrinkled if you store butternut at high temperatures. This is the indicator the butternut has indeed turned bad.

How long does butternut squash last in the fridge?

Butternut that is whole and complete can last for a few months in the fridge, but it is not the ideal place to store the whole butternut if you have a dry, cool pantry. The butternut would fair better in this type of environment.

Cut butternut has a short shelf life and will last from 3 to 4 days when stirred in an airtight container in the fridge.

Cooked butternut will sit in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days in the fridge.

Does frozen butternut go bad?

Technically butternut should last indefinitely stored at 0℉ and below. But it is a fruit/vegetable, and it will degrade.

The only time of year to find butternut squash is in the fall and early winter. This implies that freezing squash is an excellent alternative if you like eating it when it’s not in season. It’s better to cook butternut squash first and then freeze it because of its texture. If you know you won’t be able to consume the squash before it spoils, freeze it immediately.

Due to its texture, butternut squash is best prepared before freezing. You can freeze them separately or as a component of your preferred recipe for cooked squash.

But you can also freeze butternut squash in its uncooked state. Before freezing them, make sure they have been cut or sliced. Although the whole squash freezes nicely, it will get mushy when it is time to defrost it due to the water content.

Freezing butternut squash

  • Slice the butternut squash. The outer skin of butternut is edible and soft when cooked. There is no need to peel.
  • Blanch batches of the butternut for two to three minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the flesh.
  • Drain and cool. Then place pieces of butternut on a baking tray and place them in the freezer. After 90 minutes, remove the tray. The squash should not be touching during the flash-freezing process.
  • Place the frozen pieces of butternut into an airtight container, such as a freezer base.
  • Remove as much air from the freezer bag as possible and seal it.
  • Mark the bag with the contents, the freezer date, and the best-before date.

Freezing squash this way will preserve the butternut for six months.

How to defrost butternut?

Cook from frozen for best results.

Final thoughts

The butternut is versatile in recipes and storage. Cured, the butternut will last for six months or longer. In the fridge, the whole butternut will last three months. When cut and cooked, the butternut has a similar shelf life of 4 days when stored in an airtight container.

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