Caramelized Butternut Squash with Cacao Butter and Coconut is sort-of a cross between a winter squash pie (like pumpkin pie) and a crisp or crumble…but without the added starch from the crust or crumble topping. You won’t even miss it!
No one bats an eye when you say pumpkin or sweet potato pie is for dessert…but tell them butternut squash crisp is on the menu and suddenly you’ll get raised eyebrows, quizzical looks, and you’ll hear a combination of skepticism and intrigue in people’s voices as they ask you exactly what it is.
It’s just naturally sweet caramelized squash that smells richly of cacao butter and vanilla, and is garnished with a sprinkling of coconut for texture and flavor. In a word, heaven.
My inspiration here was a cross between winter squash pie (like pumpkin or even sweet potato pie) and a crisp or crumble, but this dish is definitely its own thing. I left off the crust and streusel topping because I felt like this dish is rich enough and doesn’t need anything except a little sprinkling of coconut on top for textural contrast. But that being said, if coconut isn’t your thing or if you want to make this even more decadent (and if you do, I promise I’m not judging – I will probably grab a spoon and join you!), you can toast almond meal and/or oats on the stovetop until lightly golden (either in a dry skillet or with a little coconut oil, clarified butter, or cacao butter) and sprinkle that on top of the caramelized squash. Or instead you could go with toasted nuts, which are also a lovely pairing (I particularly like walnuts with butternut! Oooh, and if you go with walnuts, you might want to use maple instead of the honey as a sweetener because they’re such a delicious combo…I’m just thinking out loud though).
If you’re not familiar with cacao butter, let me just tell you what an indulgence it is. If you spring for the good stuff (personally, I adore Navitas Naturals Cacao Butter) it will smell like the deepest, richest chocolate you can imagine. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have a very strong taste though (it doesn’t have the chocolate-y flavor that we’re used to until cocoa powder is added in). Cacao butter is rich in antioxidants and beneficial for the skin and hair, as well as improving mood (read more about cacao butter on Navitas Naturals and Organic Facts).
It doesn’t need it, but if you really want to take this to the next level indulgence-wise, feel free to add a dollop of coconut “whipped cream” or a scoop of your favorite vanilla bean ice cream.
- 4 tablespoons (30 g) cacao butter
- 1 1/4 lbs (570 g) butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 cups cubed)
- 4 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 4 teaspoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- Add the cacao butter to a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the squash and water, cover the skillet, and cook until the squash is tender and starting to brown in spots, about 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the honey, vanilla bean paste, and salt.
- Transfer to 4 serving bowls, top each with 1 teaspoon coconut, and serve warm.