Gluten-Free Ingredient Crush: Spaghetti Squash

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with squash. I mean, yeah, I cook with members of the squash family all the time, but it’s not something I get all that excited about (roasted butternut squash soup being an exception). So when spaghetti squash became the darling of food bloggers, I was all “meh”.

However, due to our family’s decision to focus more on low-carb and low-glycemic foods — not to mention naturally gluten-free foods! — I gave spaghetti squash another look. By which I mean, I had to give it a first look. Reader, I won’t leave you in suspense: spaghetti squash is all that and more.

First off, prep. Basically, this involves cutting the squash in half (I do lengthwise), scooping out the seeds (which you can do before or after cooking, as I’ve learned), cooking the squash, scooping out the “spaghetti” (or squash flesh, and if you’ve never done this before, yes, the strands are like spaghetti), eating in a variety of ways. The cooking part takes about 45 minutes at 375 degrees, depending your oven.

Second, versatility. I’ve linked to a whole bunch of recipes below, but wanted to call out spaghetti squash for it’s neutral flavor. Yeah, weird, but helpful. My first dish with this vegetable was a simple chili boat — canned Amy’s chili (because finding really good gluten-free chili is harder than it should be), a bit of cheese, baked spaghetti squash to hold it all. Since then, I’ve tried lots of different approaches. This is the kind of vegetable you can work into any meal. Win!

Third, health. I mentioned spaghetti squash is a great low-carb and low-glycemic food, making it a perfect alternative to pasta or rice (or, though I haven’t totally gone there yet, potatoes). A cup of spaghetti squash has about 30 to 40 calories, depending on preparation, will give you about 6% of your daily fiber, and a little bit of protein. What I love about this food is I can get all the pleasure of pasta or rice without the bloating feeling.

Fourth, make it your own. The recipes below are just to give you a sampling of what you can make with spaghetti squash. I’ve done it a bunch of ways, but keep coming back to my Saturday night spaghetti squash chili boats…me, the husband, dinner, a bottle of wine. Just about perfect.

  • Spaghetti Squash Boats. As mentioned, I started my journey with a simple chili boat. Others have made spaghetti squash boats an art form. I salute those fine cooks! For example, spaghetti squash lasagna boats. I know! At the end of this post, I’ve linked to several spaghetti squash recipe roundups where you’ll find lots of other creative ideas for boats.
  • Very Veggie Spaghetti Squash. Yes, Virginia, spaghetti squash is a perfect substitute for spaghetti. I’ll skip the obvious preparations (marinara-style, meat-sauce style, Alfredo) in favor of this fresh, light, perfect-for-summer dinner squash recipe. This is how gluten-free dining should always be.
  • Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai. This recipe isn’t, um, authentic (or, it’s missing the all-important tamarind flavor), but it’s a great template for using spaghetti squash in Asian-style noodle dishes. It also shows how easy it is work with this squash. Prep all the other ingredients while the squash bakes, then throw it all together in minutes.
  • Spaghetti Squash Frittata. I found this recipe while searching for other unusual frittata ideas. It works really well as a template, though, as with other frittatas, I let it finish in the oven rather than on the stove. In my oven, it takes about 12 minutes to set fully. You can mix up the veggies and seasonings based on what you have (frittatas are still my go-to leftover veggies dish), and, yep, the leftovers are perfect any time of day.
  • Baked Eggs in Spaghetti Squash Nests. Because my eyes are ALWAYS bigger than my stomach, I tend to buy squash that are too big. This means extra spaghetti squash. This recipe helps solve that problem. Baking nests, then adding eggs and baking a bit longer? This is a perfect solution for leftovers, for breakfast-for-dinner, or even a genius “need something for brunch with friends” recipe.
  • Spaghetti Squash Fritters. This recipe should be considered a guideline, and you’ll need to substitute gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs (or skip the breadcrumbs entirely). However, I do love vegetable fritters, and am totally planning on preparing these sometime soon.
  • Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns. I’ve encountered a lot of recipes for “has browns” made with spaghetti squash, and most come with a warning about falling apart easily. Regular hash browns are, in my opinion, one of nature’s perfect foods, so I don’t like to mess with the concept too much. However, like the fritters above, sometimes playing with a classic is fun.

A few other spaghetti squash recipe round-ups…for even more inspiration:

What are your favorite spaghetti squash recipes?

Tip of the Week

Don’t have time to bake your squash? This is a great job for your microwave. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, place upside down in a baking dish with about an inch of water, and cook on high for approximately 10 minutes, or until soft.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

Well, yes, of course this week’s meal features spaghetti squash. It’s also the perfect way to throw in a plug for Meatless Monday (which, ahem, can be celebrated any night of the week).

Since going gluten-free, I’ve cut back on burritos…dramatically. Yeah, every now and then, I’ll enjoy one from Evol or splurge on a burrito bowl from Chipotle or my local fave, Burrito Express. Quite often though, I end feeling over-full when I indulge in these meals. Enter the great spaghetti squash!

There are certain things I always have on hand: two types of salsa, a dozen types of hot sauce, an avocado (plus a back-up avocado), cooked beans (plus some canned), fresh herbs like cilantro, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and, sometimes, shredded cheese (since getting my gall bladder removed, my overall dairy consumption has decreased, so cheese is sometimes forgotten).

Basically, I can make a burrito bowl any day of the week, no problem! This alone is pretty filling, so it doesn’t need much in the way of accompaniment, though fresh fruit is always good to end a meal!

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