One Sunday a month throughout my childhood, my family would attend Family Night Supper at our church. It was a time of community, of fellowship…and of competition. Because Family Night Supper was a potluck dinner, the ladies of the church showed off their cooking skills by bringing their signature dishes–their congealed chicken salads, artichoke dips, and pecan pies–each platter or pan carefully monitored to see whose dish was being devoured and whose was left untouched.
There was one dish that I could never figure out, a homely, golden substance that everyone seemed to like, including me. I got up the courage one night to ask the lady who brought it what it was, and when she said “Cushaw,” I didn’t know whether to say “Thanks” or “Gesundheit.”
I think I eventually worked out for myself that a cushaw was similar to a pumpkin, but I didn’t really know exactly what it was until another lady at a roadside produce stand in Mississippi explained to me what the gourd-shaped, orange or green-striped squashes were. Thank goodness for the helpfulness of Southern ladies!
Since then, I’ve cooked with cushaw every fall, using it in everything from pumpkin pie to pumpkin-apple butter to apple-pumpkin delight. (As you can probably guess, cushaw is excellent in any pumpkin recipe–I would say even better than pumpkin because it’s sweeter and has more edible flesh than seeds and strings.) All these dishes were delicious, but none of them ever tasted like the church-lady’s cushaw, which I admit I remember only hazily, through the golden glow of nostalgia. So I set about looking for that cushaw recipe in my Louisiana cookbooks. And what I discovered revealed why I could never quite recreate that dish: 1/2 pound butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 eggs…. Those are the non-cushaw ingredients of all Louisiana Baked Cushaw recipes.
Maybe someday I’ll try my hand at creating a vegan version of that childhood memory, complete with vegan margarine and loads of sugar, just to see if it lives up to my recollections. In the meantime, I made something quite a bit less fat- and sugar-laden. In fact, the only sugar in my version comes from dates, though most people will want to sweeten it up a little more, either with maple syrup or with a natural sugar substitute such as stevia or xylitol. It doesn’t taste like the decadent dessert of my childhood, but it’s still satisfyingly homely. If you don’t have cushaw (and how many of you do?) you can use pumpkin or any winter squash.
Pumpkin, Squash, or Cushaw Bake
- 3-4 pounds pumpkin, cushaw, or other winter squash
- 1/2 cup chopped dates about 5 medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch or cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- sweetener of choice to taste
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 2 tablespoons walnuts toasted (optional)
- Use a 3-4 pound pumpkin or squash or cut off a 3-4 pound section of a larger squash. Cut in half and scrape out any strings and seeds from inside. Cut into pieces no bigger than 2 inches thick.
- Place in a steamer basket fitted into a large pan over about an inch of water. Cover and steam until squash is tender when poked with a knife, from 20-30 minutes depending on size. Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered, until cool enough to handle. (You can also steam it in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot; the time will depend on the thickness of the squash. Start with 5 minutes at high pressure and allow pressure to naturally release. If your pumpkin is very thick, cook under pressure for 8-10 minutes.)
- Once the pumpkin/squash is cool, peel each piece with a sharp knife.
- Preheat oven to 400F and prepare a medium-sized casserole dish by lining with parchment paper or rubbing with a couple of drops of oil.
- Place the dates in a food processor, and pulse until they are well-chopped. Add the peeled pumpkin, and blend well. Add all remaining ingredients except raisins and blend.
- Taste the mixture. If it is not sweet enough to your taste, add your choice of sweetener until it is to your liking. If you are not watching sugar intake, brown sugar or maple syrup are delicious. If you want a low-sugar version, stevia is a good natural sweetener. (I used three tiny scoops of stevia.) Once it is sweetened to taste, pour it into the prepared casserole, stir in the raisins, and smooth the top.
- Bake until water has evaporated and top is browned, about 40 minutes if you did not add a liquid sweetener. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts, if desired. Serve warm or chilled.
Nutritional info is approximate.
Other Blogs, Other Cushaw Recipes
- Kittee makes Kitchen Sink Lentil Soup with leftover cushaw
- The Novice Chef shows how to clean and use it
- …and that’s all I could find! If you’re a blogger and have a recipe with cushaw, please let me know. And if you haven’t cooked with cushaw, consider growing some in your garden next summer. Their seed is becoming very popular with heirloom seed companies.
DeeDeeOctober 22, 2010 at 9:16 am
Susan: ) I will be looking for this squash. November chills have set in here in RI, where my family and I are crazy for winter vegetables. I love roasting a variety of pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, onions, apples that have softened, and drizzled with organic coconut oil, agave or pure maple syrup and Krystal Salt. uummmm mmmmm good. Thanks.
moonwatcherOctober 22, 2010 at 10:10 am
This looks scrumptious! I don’t see cushaw up north here, but we do have a variety of winter squash available right now that would benefit from this yummy treatment. Something to look forward to! I also enjoyed the link to kittie’s kitchen sink lentil soup. 🙂
Valerie ReanneOctober 22, 2010 at 10:12 am
I have been tossing around many pumpkin ideas for a Halloween potluck at work, and this looks perfect! Considering how many cookies, cakes, and desserts will be there, it’ll be nice to have some veggies at the table as well. I can’t wait to try this! Thank you for sharing.
IsisOctober 22, 2010 at 10:35 am
I saw a bunch of cushaws at the Des Moines, Iowa farmers market last weekend. So they are making their way north!
JeanetteOctober 22, 2010 at 10:58 am
This looks like a great healthy alternative to pumpkin pie. What is the consistency like when you eat it? I’m thinking of making it for a friend of mine with cancer who really shouldn’t have any sugar (or at least limit it).
SusanVOctober 22, 2010 at 11:17 am
It’s more like pudding than pie. Here’s a link to a photo of it dished up: https://blog.fatfreevegan.com/images/cushaw-bake.jpg. Also, check into the Apple-Pumpkin Delight that I linked to in the post. There’s a sugar-free version of that recipe that I actually like better than this one.
Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary)October 22, 2010 at 11:31 am
Thanks for this recipe Susan! This sounds perfect to bring to my brother’s house on Thanksgiving!! ..and I def think I’ll be putting some candied ginger on top for some HEAT. -Mary
SusanVOctober 22, 2010 at 11:52 am
My husband and I both liked the kick the ginger gave, but my daughter was picking it out. I love biting into a little cube of heat!
Alexia @ Dimple SnatcherOctober 22, 2010 at 11:56 am
nope, i’d never heard of cushaw before.
and i wouldn’t know where to get it.
i’ll think may try this with pumpkin.
have a great weekend, susan!
Kristina @ spabettieOctober 22, 2010 at 12:29 pm
how inventive – this looks delicious !!
*starred in my reader* thanks for sharing 🙂
HAPPY WEEKEND !!
MishellOctober 22, 2010 at 1:37 pm
I used to get cushaw pie from an older woman who sold them at the Eastern Market in DC. Better than pumpkin. I’m sure they were terrible for me. I’ve never seen cushaw for sale, but this post has inspired me to keep my eyes peeled!
And, I’m not vegetarian (or even vegan), but I love your recipes. I made your vegan black eyed peas for new year’s (I have a friend who is vegan) and also made some with a hamhock. You know what? Yours were the better of the two. So much so that I sent the meaty ones home with other people and hogged yours for myself. 🙂
SusanVOctober 22, 2010 at 1:58 pm
Mishell, your comment just made my day! Thanks for that.
RachelOctober 22, 2010 at 2:38 pm
Sounds delicious! I don’t know if I’ve ever had a cushaw before, but I love any winter squash. I have a bunch around now since they keep well on the boat, where I live.
Recreating recipes from childhood is so much fun, especially when you decide you just can’t do the dish justice for now and come up with your own, possible better version!
TracyOctober 22, 2010 at 2:48 pm
Hey Susan! This recipe sounds wonderful! You also reminded me of something else I saw recently on another blog I read. You said really the only sweetness you put into it was dates, I was wondering if you have seen or used the new date syrup and what you thought of it if you had tried it! It looks reallllly delicious for stuff like this 🙂
TracyOctober 22, 2010 at 3:03 pm
After I posted this comment I realized that you used it in the chocolate blue berry cake! So it would seem I answered my own question hehe
KariOctober 23, 2010 at 8:39 am
Hi Susan. I just wanted to thank you for linking to me:) I saw some traffic coming from your site and clicked over to find out what was going on! Your pumpkin and cushaw bake looks delicious. I also clicked on the link to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for the cushaw seeds. I hadn’t found that company for heirloom seeds before but they have a great selection, especially of winter squash like you said. Have a great weekend!
SusanVOctober 23, 2010 at 3:22 pm
Kari, thank you for having one of the few cushaw recipes on the internet. Baker Creek is a wonderful seed company. Their seed catalog last year was a work of art. I can’t wait for spring to come to start planting again.
HannerOctober 12, 2013 at 11:01 pm
Kari & Susan: I’m intrigued by the “lady at the market” pie recipe, but it seems to be in a “must be invited” area of Blogger. Any chance of seeing the recipe? My cushaws are huge and I’d love to try more recipes!
Susan VoisinOctober 12, 2013 at 11:13 pm
Unfortunately, Kari seems to have made the blog private, and it’s been so long that I can’t remember any details of the pie. 🙁
DorisOctober 23, 2010 at 11:02 am
I recently bought a huge cushaw. I cut it in half and baked it cut side down in a pan with just a little water. When it was done I scooped the cushaw flesh out and mashed it with a potato masher. We ate some with a little cinnamon. So yummy. The rest was frozen. I have four 2 cup containers in my freezer to use. Thanks for recipe. I plan to try it soon.
SereneOctober 23, 2010 at 1:36 pm
I actually prefer my squash savory, so the not-very-sweet thing is a selling point for me.
Nikki J.October 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm
Susan, that looks absolutely scrumptious! And what a wonderful introduction. I love learning about new veggies. 🙂
ArchanaOctober 23, 2010 at 6:30 pm
Sounds good. I will be definitely trying it this Diwali!!
CSEOctober 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm
I am so excited to try your recipe — I love anything that combines the words pumpkin and pudding. I am a little confused, though, by your directions to “bake until water has evaporated.” Is the casserole pan supposed to sit inside a larger pan with an inch or so of water while it bakes? Thanks for clarifying!
SusanVOctober 23, 2010 at 9:08 pm
No, the squash itself is somewhat watery, not having been drained after being steamed. The baking evaporates the water, and the starch causes the pumpkin to form a more custard-like consistency.
Wendy WagnerOctober 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm
I read someplace that much of what is sold as canned pumpkin is actually canned cushaw!
SusanVOctober 23, 2010 at 9:43 pm
Hi Wendy, you probably read that on one of my earlier cushaw posts! I found that out a few years ago, but I wish I could get verification from someone in the canned pumpkin business.
Angela W.October 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm
Susan — What a great recipe, and I appreciate learning about the cushaw squash. I actually just made this recipe but replaced the cushaw with acorn squash. It was delicious! I had made it as a dessert after a lunch of salad and soup (https://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2008/12/butter-bean-soup-with-portabellas-and.html).
We were having a little birthday celebration and your cushaw/squash recipe was preferred OVER the birthday cake. I’m only disappointed that now I have birthday cake leftovers, and no squash bake! 🙂
Finally, I have to tell you that I am some kind of food hero to my family because the soup and squash bake were both outstanding.
As always, you’re the best.
P.S. – I didn’t have ground flax seed, so I just used Ener-G egg replacer instead.
DanielaOctober 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm
I made this today with sweet dumpling squash and I fell in love. It is so delicious! I didn’t put any extra sweeteners in it and it was still plenty sweet. Loved it!
TiffanyOctober 24, 2010 at 10:13 pm
Came across locally-grown cushaw today and remembered your mention of it here. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten cushaw and certainly haven’t cooked with it, but you’ve inspired me to give it a go! Thanks for sharing this recipe – the bake sounds quite tasty. 🙂
Kelly@rahraw.blog.comOctober 25, 2010 at 10:52 am
Yum – I’m a huge fan of anything sweet potato/pumpkin. Have never heard of cushaw before, but I don’t live in the South, so maybe that’s why.
RobinOctober 26, 2010 at 10:44 am
My question- approximately how many cups of mashed squash does 3-4 pounds of raw squash yield. There’s quite a bit of variation there and I’d love a ballpark figure.
The photo of the portion serving of this dish is beautiful.
I wonder if you’ve blogged recently about the recipe book you are contributing to.
Warmest Regards from Long Island, Robin
SusanVOctober 26, 2010 at 10:53 am
Hi Robin! I should have measured, but didn’t. My guess is there was somewhere between 4 and 5 cups of mashed pumpkin, including liquid which I did not drain off.
Thanks for the photo compliment. I probably should have used it, but my daughter told me it was ugly! 🙂
I’ve been waiting to blog about the book when it’s closer to publication–about a year from now. It’s a holiday cookbook and will come out just in time for next year’s holidays.
Lorene JohnsonOctober 24, 2013 at 11:07 am
Thanks for asking this question as it is easier to measure than weigh and I seldom weigh anything. I make a squash pie my hubby enjoys with Kabocha squash, whizzed cashew and date…will try reducing the date and cashew for this more healthful recipe
Hello VeggieOctober 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm
Congealed chicken salad? Susan, EW!
But your recipe looks fab! =)
SusanVNovember 1, 2010 at 12:51 pm
That was actually one of my mother’s specialties. It sounds terrible now, but back then I actually liked it! Ugh, 70’s food!
maikeOctober 27, 2010 at 5:50 am
I posted a receip of yours, that i tried and altered a little..THANK YOU! IT IS OOO TASTY!!!!! http://letslearntofeelfree.blogspot.com/2010/10/mini-crustless-quiche.html
LauraOctober 27, 2010 at 10:09 am
Do you have any advice about baking the left over seeds without using oil? Thank you!
MagdalenaNovember 2, 2010 at 11:15 pm
@Laura — If you’ll allow me to share… When baking leftover seeds, I get them all wet (if they have dried out after washing them off), and then sprinkle salt over them all, evenly. Or you can use a seasoning like Old Bay or something. Spread them evenly on a baking sheet that has had a drip or two of oil spread around with your fingers. They won’t stick, really, otherwise, but the tray is annoying to clean.
And then bake them at 325°F or something until they seem dried out inside (take one out of the oven, let it cool for a tad, then taste it). If they seem to be browning too much, lower the heat.
HannahNovember 9, 2010 at 4:44 pm
Yum! I made this with pumpkin and sweetened with stevia. I am trying to figure out a healthy shell to put this into instead of a pie for Thanksgiving…
April at Kitchen Blender ReviewsNovember 9, 2010 at 8:38 pm
This recipe reminds me of your Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie. It has been a favorite dessert for my family this fall. I am not worried at all how often it gets cooked/eaten. It is so much better than the traditional Pumpkin Pie.
Here is your Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe I posted http://www.kitchen-blender-reviews.com/recipes/vegan-pumpkin-pie/
I am looking forward to trying this Bake Recipe
Kerry ADecember 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm
Just wondering if a viable alternative to dates in this recipe exists… they’re pricy for their size. Could I add a bit more corn starch, flax seed, and/or sweetener to make up for them? Thanks so much for your input!
Susan VoisinDecember 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm
Dates are basically sugar, so just use sugar or any other sweetener to taste.