A simple, great side dish for air fryer butternut squash. Make this recipe in 20 minutes or less and it will be your new favorite side for busy weeknights or even a holiday dinner.
Let’s be honest, side dishes are the glue that really puts a good meal together. My favorites, are recipes like this air fryer bacon wrapped asparagus, this cauliflower gnocchi with roasted fall vegetables or these crispy egg noodles.
While butternut squash is a seasonal winter squash, you can often find it year round at a grocery store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. This squash naturally has a sweet flavor and a velvety, buttery texture.
Additionally, it works really well as a filling for ravioli or you can even make a butternut squash soup (try my coconut curry butternut squash soup with Thai chicken meatballs).
One of the easiest ways to make this however, is to just simply cook it up all on it’s own!
I can definitely get down with a classic roasted butternut squash side, but the air fryer speeds up the process of cooking and caramelization.
This makes it an ideal vegetable side dish you can prepare even on the busiest weeknights.
Grab all the helpful tips and techniques below in this article to help guide you through this easy air fryer butternut squash recipe or get right to cooking by jumping to the recipe below.
Let’s dive in!
- Chef’s Knife & Cutting Board
- Vegetable Peeler (optional)
- Air fryer (I love this Ninja Foodi convection oven air fryer)
- Large Bowl
- Spatula or Tongs
Below are details to help you conquer this recipe with confidence! While it is a straight forward recipe with simple ingredients, there are some helpful culinary tips and techniques you can utilize.
Use the notes below or jump to the recipe card at the bottom of the page and get cooking!
How to peel and cut a butternut squash:
Peeling, cutting, and preparing a butternut squash is actually quite simple, but there are a few tips and steps you can take do this the easy way!
Here are a few tips for safely cutting and prepping a fresh butternut squash:
- Take a knife and poke a few holes into the rind of the squash (this helps release any steam).
- Microwave the whole squash to help soften the outside rind for 2-3 minutes.
- Cut the ends off with a chef’s knife to stabilize the squash for safer cutting and trimming off your rind.
Next you need to remove the butternut squash skin.
Some people prefer to peel the skin of with a vegetable peeler, but I like to trim it off with a knife like I cut the rind off a watermelon.
I find this method provides more control over the process and it makes it go much faster.
Once you trim the skin off, you can slice it in half, down the middle and scoop out the inside seeds.
Once the seeds are out, cut the butternut squash into 1-inch cubes and set the squash pieces into a bowl to be seasoned. Discard the rind and seeds.
Can you air fry frozen butternut squash?
Yes, you can but it can change the texture and total cook time of the recipe. You may need to adjust as necessary until the squash is cooked through and lightly golden brown.
Precut frozen squash is a great choice if you can’t find this veggie when it’s out of season or you need to save time with finding it already pre-chopped.
What flavors and seasonings pair well with butternut squash?
Because this squash is naturally a little sweeter, you can get creative with some of the different flavor variations and seasonings.
I love to use the book, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorenburg to reference when working with different foods.
Here are some general flavor profiles they mention you can use for butternut squash:
- Bacon + Maple Syrup + Sage
- Crème Fraiche + Nutmeg + Sage
- Cilantro + Coconut + Ginger
I like other savory spices like garlic powder, allspice, cayenne pepper or Aleppo pepper. You can get creative with sweeteners like brown sugar and honey too.
While soft cheeses like ricotta naturally pair well, my personal preference is some crumbled goat cheese and fresh basil!
- Butternut Squash: Find a nice medium sized squash for this recipe. I like to have about 3-4 cups total (chopped). Squash season will definitely be the best time for this recipe, but you can still make this year round.
- Oil: You can oil the squash with avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil. The benefit to air frying is you can use less oil (it acts more as a binder for your seasonings) overall, keeping it lower in fat.
- Seasonings: I like to use sage, salt, black pepper, and a little Aleppo pepper for some heat.
- Honey: I use this at the end to balance out the savory flavor of the spices. Adding any sugar during the cooking process however can cause it to burn or over caramelize so be cautious of this.
- Goat Cheese: This is a strong cheese, so a little goes a long way. I like to add this in at the end to balance out the sweetness in this dish.
- Fresh Basil: It adds a bright color and a pop of freshness to the dish.
This is one of my favorite recipes and is a great switch up from more classic fall flavors.
Cooking Instructions and Tips:
- Once your squash cubes are prepped, add them to a bowl with your seasonings and your oil of choice.
- Preheat your air fryer before cooking for the best results.
- Place your squash pieces in the air fryer basket in a single layer. Do not over crowd the pieces so they cook evenly (this also prevents steaming and encourages browning).
- Flip half way through your cooking process to allow it to brown on both sides and caramelize.
- Once the squash is tender (check it with a fork) you can remove it and place it into a serving bowl and add your other ingredients (goat cheese, honey drizzle, and fresh basil).
What temperature should I cook butternut squash at in the air fryer?
Air fryer recipes should be approached like you’re using the convection setting on a traditional oven.
This speeds up the cooking process, so you want to cook at a lower temperature than you would if you were baking.
I found that 370 degrees F. worked best in my Ninja air fryer.
The total cooking time was 20 minutes at this temperature and I flipped the squash cubes halfway through cooking for even browning.
How to serve this perfect side dish:
Here are some tips for serving this healthy side dish-
- Add your honey drizzle (or maple syrup) after it comes out of the air fryer to naturally use the heat of the cooked squash to help coat everything. Fold it in gently with a spatula.
- Use a crumbled goat cheese (the smaller pieces mix in easier).
- If you’re not serving right away, wait to add the basil until right before so it doesn’t brown and wilt. You can also garnish with fresh parsley as well.
Have leftovers after serving? Store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.
Reheat on half power in your microwave or on a lower temperature in the air fryer.
Love easy air fryer recipes? Here are some of other favorites:
Air Fryer Butternut Squash
- 1 Whole, Butternut Squash About 3-4 cups total
- 2 tsp Olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo Pepper or Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1/ 4 cup Crumbled Goat Cheese
- 1/4 cup Fresh Basil Chiffonade
- Start by removing the skin and seeds from your butternut squash. Read throug the article above for tips on prepping and cutting your squash.
- Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and place them in a mixing bowl.
- To the bowl, add the olive oil and dry seasonings (salt, pepper, and aleppo pepper)
- Preheat your air fryer to 370 degrees F. Place your squash cubes in a single layer in your air fryer basket. Do not overcrowd.
- Cook for a total of 20 minutes, but flip the squash pieces halfway through the cooking process for even browning and carmelization.
- Once they are fork tender, remove from the air fryer and toss in some honey in a serving bowl. Garnish with the goat cheese and fresh basil and serve!