Squash vs Pumpkin: Is There a Difference?
Autumn has hit us, here in the US, and that can only mean one thing – lots and lots of Cucurbita! Or, as they’re more commonly known, the gourd. Whether it’s a pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin pie or squash spaghetti, these fruit are loved for their warming taste and association with the holiday season.
Yet, when asked, very few people know the differences between two of our favorites in the Cucurbita family – the squash and the pumpkin. Below, we get up close and personal with these autumnal fruits and give you the similarities and differences of these much-loved foods.
Let’s begin with the basics; getting to know the nutrition that your squash provides. One cup of cooked butternut squash provides:
- 82 calories
- 8 grams (g) of protein
- 18 g of fat
- 50 g of carbohydrate
- 4 g of sugar
- 6 grams of dietary fiber
- 84 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 23 mg of iron
- 582 mg of potassium
- 59 mg of magnesium
- 55 mg of phosphorus
- 31 milligrams of vitamin C
- 1144 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A
As you can see, this is a nutrient dense fruit that comes packed with multiple minerals and vitamins, the benefits of which we’ll discuss later in this article. It’s also quite high in calories for a fruit, which is due to the higher levels of carbs. This makes the squash similar in texture to the sweet potato – it also has a similar flavor, too.
Next, we’ll take a look at the nutritional information for pumpkins. One cup of cooked pumpkin holds:
- 76 g of protein
- 7 g of fiber
- 49 calories
- 17 g of fat
- 0 g of cholesterol
- 01 g of carbohydrate
- 200% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin A
- 19% of the RDA of vitamin C
- 10% more of the RDA of vitamin E, riboflavin, potassium, copper, and manganese
- 5% of thiamin, B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, niacin, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus
Again, this is a nutrient-dense food which is packed full of vitamins and minerals. However, we can already see quite a few differences between the two, which we will highlight for you in the next section.
While both of these options look very healthy when laid out like this, you should bear in mind that these statistics come from unprocessed, cooked Cucurbita. It’s very likely that canned, pre-cut or similar processed options will likely have added sugars and salts, changing the landscape of both the squash and pumpkin nutrients, and will have detrimental effects on the benefits of these fruit.
Similarities Between Pumpkin and Squash
- They come from the same family
As established earlier, we know that both the pumpkin and squash hail from the Cucurbita family – meaning that these gourds are grown on the ground. They’re harvested from vines and both have a similar taste – with many recipes calling for a squash or pumpkin substitution as appropriate, when you may lack one or the other.
- They are both packed with goodness
Both the pumpkin and squash are a great source of Vitamin A – which is important for producing the growth hormone and assisting in fighting infections or illnesses. It’s no wonder that they’re such a popular family favorite in the winter, when they can help fight off those colds – and can even assist the little ones in growing big and strong.
The Difference Between Squash and Pumpkin
- They look different
OK, we know this is a fairly obvious one but while they both look great when used as decorations over the holiday season, only one can really be used for Halloween. The humble pumpkin is thicker, stronger and generally more appealing to look at, due to their spherical nature. The key, however, is in the stem.
While the stem is more likely to snap and break on a squash – or simply be too short to work with from the get-go, a pumpkin will have a hard, firm stem that is handy to grip with. While you shouldn’t need to handle your carved pumpkin by the stem, they’re a good way of telling you when they’re ready for carving – simply wait for the stem to die and turn hard.
- There is a big difference in the nutrition they provide
You can often see recipes calling for a pumpkin or squash substitute when one or the other isn’t currently available. However, if you’re watching what you eat for medical or wellbeing reasons, you might want to double-check the nutritional information before chopping and changing your fruit.
Take the fiber, for example, while pumpkins play host to 2.7g per cup, you might notice that squash holds 6.6g of fiber per cup – and this can add up to quite a big difference over a longer period. Similarly, one cup of cooked squash will have over 20g of carbohydrates, whereas the same amount of pumpkin will only have around 12g. If you’re looking into keto diets or are simply watching what you eat via macro-nutritional information this one, small change can make a big difference.
- They have very different textures
More often than not, we see a lot of chefs requesting substitutes, as mentioned. However, the difference between the textures available in the US are actually very different if you go around the world. While many countries use pumpkins in their curry recipes or similar, it’s actually very difficult to get the texture required from pumpkins in the US.
In order to get the consistency required, these cooks will often replace the pumpkin with squash. Why? Because the texture of squash in America is actually very similar to the texture of pumpkin in other countries! While our pumpkins tend to be better for carving, decorating and extracting for their juices and gently spiced flavor, squash are often better suited to roasting, boiling and cooking in general.
Both the squash and pumpkin have their place at the table and in our hearts, it’s fair to say that there is a clear difference in which option is best for which use. If you’re looking to cook your fruit for a recipe, opt for a squash. However, if you’re willing to spend a little time and effort, pumpkins make for great decorations and can play host to great flavors when extracted.
- Difference between a Pumpkin and a Squash – Difference.Guru
- Differences Between Pumpkin And Squash – Difference Between
- Squash or Pumpkin? Is There a Difference? (incl. recipes) – Ask Florine