I wasn’t always a fan of spaghetti squash. Years ago, whenever my Atkins-Dieting pals extolled the virtues of this low-carb pasta substitute, I rolled my eyes and continued to shovel bowl after bowl of whole wheat pasta into my gaping maw.
It wasn’t ’til I went Paleo that I finally sampled a spaghetti squash—but I undercooked it and turned my nose up at the squeaky, bland vegetable strands. But hey—I’m open-minded. I gave spaghetti squash a second chance at a swanky vegetarian restaurant, and that’s when I finally had an epiphany—this gourd’s pretty awesome if it’s properly cooked and smothered in a delicious sauce. It’s not quite a pasta substitute, but this noodle-y veggie is a fabulous vehicle for an umami-packed sauce.
Determined to find the best method to cook spaghetti squash, I tested various methods for cooking spaghetti squash—from microwaving and slow cooking to baking and pressure cooking. After cooking (and eating) my weight in spaghetti squash, I can finally tell you that pressure cooking is the best and most effective way to cook this vegetable.
(I’ve extolled the virtues of pressure cooking before, and this is just more evidence of its awesomeness. My trusty stovetop pressure cookers have been workhorses in my kitchen for some time now, but these days, I’m almost exclusively turning to my electric programmable Instant Pot. )
Can you pressure-cook spaghetti squash whole? Yes and no. Although the idea of cooking a spaghetti squash whole sounds like a fantastic shortcut for lazy cooks like me, the final texture and the extra time needed to cook a whole squash turned me off. No bueno for me, but you may find the super-fast prep time worth the mushier texture.
So, are you ready to see my favorite way to cook a spaghetti squash?
Makes 2 servings
- 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds)
- 1 cup water
With a paring knife, cut the spaghetti squash in half, crosswise. (Trust me: a small, sharp paring knife will easily pierce the skin of the squash, and you won’t risk clumsily slicing off your fingers with a large kitchen knife.)
You’ll get longer strands of spaghetti squash if you cut it in half crosswise instead of lengthwise. See how the strands run in concentric circles around the core?
With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds in the center of the squash and discard the gunk.
Place the steamer insert/trivet into your pressure cooker.
Add 1 cup of water to the pot.
Place the squash halves on the steamer insert. I put them cut-side up, but it doesn’t really matter which way is up.
Place the lid on the pressure cooker…
…and cook under high pressure for 7 minutes. On an Instant Pot, press the “Manual” button and hold the “—” button until the “30” on the display changes to “7.”
(If you’re using a stove-top pressure cooker, you won’t have to worry about pressing all those fancy buttons. Just cook on high heat until high pressure is reached. Then, reduce the heat to low to maintain high pressure for about 6 minutes.)
When the squash is finished cooking, release the valve at the top of the pressure cooker to rapidly lower the pressure.
Remove the lid from the pot and tip the squash halves to pour out the collected liquid. Check on the doneness by poking the squash with a fork. I like my spaghetti squash to be tender, but still toothsome—never squeaky. (If you like your squash more tender, cook under high pressure for an additional 1-3 minutes.)
Take the squash out of the pot and shred with a fork.
Whee! Spaghetti (squash)!
Remember: spaghetti squash is bland until you add your favorite topping and sauce, so try topping it with the pork filling from my Vietnamese Lettuce Cups (p. 238-9 of our cookbook)!
Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index! You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my New York Times- bestselling cookbook, Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).