A new holiday dinner staple: Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin with Smoked Gouda & Herbed Breadcrumbs! Melt-in-your-mouth creamy & tender butternut squash is infused with onion & sage then topped with melty & smoky gouda & perfectly toasty breadcrumbs for the ultimate holiday dinner bite. This squash au gratin is easy to make, & it’s a show-stopping & indulgent side dish, perfect for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, or any comforting dinner this winter! Meal prep & make-ahead instructions provided.
Planning your Thanksgiving menu? Be sure to check out Sidesgiving! This year PWWB is doubling down on the BEST part of a Thanksgiving plate…the side dishes! Sidesgiving is a holiday side dish extravaganza, including traditional dishes you already know & love, as well as some new & fun takes on the classics.
If you were to come to a holiday dinner or a special meal at my family’s house, there’s a 99.9% chance that you’d spot some sort of cheesy gratin on the table. While we all love this kind of cheesy, crispy dishes (I mean, can you really blame us?), my older brother has been absolutely fanatical about them for as long as I can remember. It’s one of my most favorite things about the holiday season – looking in the kitchen to see Micah prepping his famous potatoes au gratin.
In the spirit of breathing a little bit of new life into treasured family dishes, I really wanted to make a fall-inspired gratin this holiday season. This gratin recipe is centered around my favorite fall ingredient: butternut squash.
Cubed butternut squash simmers in a creamy sauce infused with onion, garlic, hardy herbs & a little bit of nutmeg until it’s totally melt-in-your-mouth tender. (Heavenly!) This butternut squash gratin is also topped with smoked gouda, which melts down & oozes between the cubed squash as it bakes. Plus, there’s a crispy breadcrumb topping, which takes everything completely over the top, adding toasty flavor & texture.
It’s delicious, impressive, indulgent & special enough for even the most cherished holiday dinners. Best of all? It’s really easy to throw together. (& it’s even easier to eat!)
Cheesy, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Cheesy Butternut Squash Au Gratin recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Scalloped vs Au Gratin…What does any of it mean?
Au Gratin is a classic French culinary technique in which an ingredient is topped with grated cheese &/or breadcrumbs then baked or broiled until deeply browned. Most famous is probably potatoes au gratin, but you can make a gratin with a variety of ingredients such as cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, or, in this case, butternut squash.
FAQ – What is the difference between gratin & scalloped? While au gratin & scalloped dishes may seem pretty interchangeable (they’re both deliciously creamy, after all!), the difference lies in the presence or absence of cheese. Technically speaking, scalloped potatoes (or cauliflower, or butternut squash, etc.) doesn’t have any cheese. Since we’re all about the cheese here at PWWB – especially around the holidays! – butternut squash au gratin it is!
Key Ingredients – Butternut Squash Gratin
One of the best parts about any gratin is the fact that it’s a pretty simple dish, but the ingredients combine to create something extraordinarily rich & flavorful. The ingredients you need for this butternut squash au gratin recipe are a combination of pantry staples & seasonal staples.
Note: full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
The key ingredients include…
- Butternut squash – Of course, it’s butternut squash au gratin, after all! If you’d prefer to use a different or a combination of a couple of varieties of squash, any winter squash will work great in this recipe – acorn, sugar pumpkin, buttercup, etc. Be sure to dice up the squash uniformly into 1/2-inch cubes.
- Onion & garlic – Add plenty of aromatic, savory flavor to balance out the natural sweetness of the squash.
- Fresh herbs – I love using sage & thyme in this particular squash gratin, but any hardy herbs will work great.
- Nutmeg – A must-have ingredient for any creamy dish!
- Half & half – For the creamy base of this gratin.
- Panko breadcrumbs – Add addictive texture to this otherwise melt-in-your-mouth tender dish.
- Cheese – Shredded smoked gouda is melted over the top of the squash – its smokiness is the perfect match for sweet, earthy butternut squash, & parmesan cheese is folded into the breadcrumb topping – its nutty, salty flavor is the perfect pairing for butternut squash!
How to make this Butternut Squash au Gratin recipe
The thing I love most about this winter squash au gratin is the fact that it’s the kind of dish that feels incredibly special & indulgent, but it truly couldn’t be easier to throw together.
Note: full Recipe Directions with step-by-step photos provided in the Recipe Card, below.
This winter squash au gratin recipe is broken down into 3 main steps:
- Toast the breadcrumbs – Toast the panko in a little bit of butter until beautifully golden brown. Transfer it to a bowl, then toss with some parmesan & fresh herbs. Easy peasy!
- Par-cook the squash – To ensure the squash reaches the perfect melt-in-your-mouth tender consistency in the baked gratin, you’ll first par-cook it on the stovetop. The squash cooks with onion, garlic, & fresh herbs, which helps deepen the aromatic flavor (&, as a bonus, makes your kitchen smell absolutely heavenly!). No need to cook for a long time here – you just want to help the squash along by softening it a bit.
- Assemble & bake the gratin – Transfer the squash to a baking dish, douse it in half & half, cover it with shredded cheese, & finish with a sprinkling of the herbed parmesan panko. Pop it into the oven & bake until the breadcrumbs are toasty & browned & the gratin is bubbling around the edges.
Gratin FAQ: Can you assemble roasted butternut squash gratin and cook later? Yes! You can assemble this gratin up to 3 days in advance, storing in the refrigerator until you’d like to bake it off. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!
Thanksgiving 2020: Meal prep, make-ahead, & portions:
In the spirit of flexibility – especially since the 2020 holiday season is unlike any other holiday season we’ve experienced before – all of our Sidesgiving recipes include guidance for meal prep & for scaling up/down based on the size of your holiday gathering.
Here’s everything you need to know about this Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin:
- Meal prep: Between prepping the bread cubes, chopping the veggies & herbs, shredding the cheese, & browning up the sausage, many components of this winter squash au gratin can be prepped 3-5 days in advance. See Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance.
- Make-Ahead: Butternut squash gratin can be assembled up to 3 days in advance, stored covered in the refrigerator, & baked off just before your Thanksgiving dinner. See Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance.
- Portions: As written, this squash gratin recipe yields a medium batch, serving up to 6 generously as a side dish. For a different sized crowd…
- Scaled up: To serve up to 12 as a side dish, double the recipe. See Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance.
- Make it a mini: To serve a cozy crowd of up to 4, halve the recipe. See Recipe Notes, below, for step-by-step guidance.
This winter squash au gratin just might be the best butternut squash dish I’ve ever had. I can’t wait for you to give it a try this holiday season!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin with Smoked Gouda & Herbed Breadcrumbs! Melt-in-your-mouth creamy & tender butternut squash is infused with onion & sage then topped with melty & smoky gouda & perfectly toasty breadcrumbs for the ultimate holiday dinner bite. A show-stopping & indulgent side dish, perfect for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, or any comfort food dinner!
for the toasted breadcrumbs:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan
- 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g. thyme, rosemary, sage)
- kosher salt, to taste
for the Cheesy Butternut Gratin:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded & diced into ½-inch cubes (roughly 2 ½ pounds or 8 cups diced)
- 3–4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (e.g. thyme, rosemary, sage)
- pinch freshly ground nutmeg
- ¾ cups half & half
- 4 ounces smoked gouda, freshly grated (about ¾ cup)
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8 baking dish & set aside.
- Toast the breadcrumbs: Add the butter to a large pot over medium heat. Once melted, add the panko breadcrumbs, stirring to coat in the butter. Toast 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown & fragrant. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a medium bowl, adding in the parmesan & herbs. Stir to combine. Taste and season with salt as desired. Set aside.
- Saute the butternut: Carefully wipe the pot used to make the breadcrumbs with paper towel, wiping out any browned butter or breadcrumb residue. Place the pot back over medium heat & add the butter. Once melted, add in the onion & butternut squash. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper, stirring to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened slightly. Add the garlic, herbs & nutmeg, & cook another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant.
- Assemble the gratin: Transfer the squash mixture to the prepared baking dish. Pour the half & half over top, then finish with the smoked gouda & toasted breadcrumbs.
- Bake the butternut squash gratin for 50-55 minutes, until the gouda is melted & the gratin is bubbling around the edges. To avoid a mess in the event that the gratin bubbles over as it bakes, place the baking dish on a sheet pan.
- Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Storage: Leftover butternut squash au gratin will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave or oven, until warmed through. Due to the amount of cream used, I don’t suggest freezing this butternut squash au gratin.
- 20-Minute Meal Prep: A little meal prep goes a long way in getting this squash gratin pulled together on Thanksgiving Day! Between prepping the squash, chopping the veggies & herbs, shredding the cheese, & making the breadcrumb topping, there are many components of this butternut squash gratin that can be prepped up to 1 week ahead of time. Pick & choose from the below list, or do it all!
- Chop veggies & herbs (15 minutes active prep): Peel, deseed & dice 1 medium butternut squash into 1/2-inch cubes, dice 1 medium onion, & finely chop 3-4 cloves of garlic. Finely chop 2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice. Grate 4 ounces cheese. Store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Herbed sourdough bread cubes (<5 minutes active prep): Prep according to Step 2 of Recipe Directions, above. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Make-ahead Butternut Squash Gratin: This butternut squash gratin can also be assembled up to 3 days in advance & baked off just before your Thanksgiving dinner. To make ahead of time, complete Steps 2-4 of Recipe Directions, above. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bake as directed in Steps 1 & 5, above, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to baking time, until the squash gratin is heated through the center & bubbling around the edges.
- Portions: As written, this butternut squash au gratin recipe yields a medium batch, serving up to 6 generously as a side dish. For a different sized crowd…
- Scaled up: To serve up to 12 as a side dish, double the recipe. Assemble the gratin in a 9×13 baking dish. Bake as directed in Step 5, adding 10-15 minutes to baking time as needed, until the gratin is heated through with a browned top & bubbling edges.
- Make it a mini: To serve a cozy crowd of up to 4, halve the recipe. Assemble the gratin in a 9×6 baking dish. Bake as directed in Step 5, subtracting 5-10 minutes from the baking time as needed, until the gratin is heated through with a browned top & bubbling edges. Use your leftover butternut squash another Thanksgiving side dish, as a Thanksgiving Salad, or use honeynut squash instead – it’s like a baby butternut!
Keywords: butternut squash gratin casserole, butternut squash au gratin, winter squash, creamy, easy, fall recipe, winter recipe, vegetarian, baked, side dish, Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat
Prepping for Thanksgiving dinner? We’ve got you covered! More festive Thanksgiving recipes for your menu:
- Maple Glazed Spatchcock Turkey (a 90-minute turkey recipe!)
- How to Spatchcock a Turkey (+ step-by-step photos!)
- The BEST Herbed Sourdough Sausage Stuffing with Mushrooms
- Creamy Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
- Creamy Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
- Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta, Pine Nuts & Parmesan
- No-Stir Pumpkin Risotto
- Autumn Kale Salad with Honeycrisps, Goat Cheese & Pancetta-Pretzel Croutons
- All PWWB Side Dish Recipes
- All PWWB Thanksgiving Recipes
Ready for Thanksgiving?
Sidesgiving starts on Sunday, November 8th! Be sure to give @playswellwithbutter a follow on Instagram – I’ll be sharing step-by-step video demos & Q&As for each Sidesgiving recipe, so be sure to follow along!
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Hosting for the first time? No worries! If you’ve never hosted before, I encourage you to head over to our 3-Hour Thanksgiving, where we share all of our best recipes, tips & how to make this your EASIEST Thanksgiving yet!
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