There’s a 99.9% chance you’ll find some sort of cheesy gratin on my family’s holiday dinner menu. While we all love these kinds of cheesy, crispy dishes, my older brother is absolutely fanatical about them – and has been for as long as I can remember. Seeing Micah in the kitchen prepping his famous potatoes au gratin is one of my most favorite things about the holiday season!
In the spirit of adding a little PWWB twist to treasured family dishes (like my sourdough stuffing recipe), we’re trading potatoes for butternut squash in my version of a fall-inspired gratin. Butternut squash is my favorite fall ingredient and I love the texture and flavor it adds to this traditional side dish recipe.
Cubed butternut squash simmers in a creamy sauce infused with onion, garlic, herbs, & a little nutmeg until it’s totally melt-in-your-mouth tender – all topped with smoked gouda & crispy breadcrumbs. Between the creamy squash, melty cheese, & toasty breadcrumb topping, there’s incredible flavor & texture in each bite.
It’s delicious, impressive, and indulgent – special enough for the most cherished holiday dinners. Best of all? It’s really easy to throw together (& even easier to eat)!
Cheesy, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth goodness. ♡ Read on to learn more about this Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin recipe, or jump straight to the recipe & get cookin’!
Au Gratin: What Does 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. Potatoes au gratin is probably most famous, but you can make a gratin with a variety of ingredients such as cauliflower, spinach, asparagus, or, in this case, butternut squash.
FAQ: What’s the Difference Between Au 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, butternut squash, etc.) don’t have any cheese. Since we’re all about the cheese here at PWWB – especially around the holidays! – butternut squash au gratin it is!
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Key Ingredients – Butternut Squash Gratin
Gratin recipes are pretty simple to prepare, but the ingredients combine to create something extraordinarily rich & flavorful. You’ll need a combination of pantry & seasonal staples to make this butternut squash gratin.
The key ingredients include…
- Butternut squash – Of course, it’s butternut squash au gratin, after all! Instead of butternut squash, any winter squash variety (or a combination) works well in this recipe – acorn, sugar pumpkin, buttercup, etc. Be sure to dice up the squash you choose 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 are 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 – 2 types in this gratin! Shredded smoked gouda melts 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 pairs perfectly with butternut squash!
How to Make Butternut Squash Gratin
This winter squash au gratin feels incredibly special & indulgent, but it couldn’t be easier to throw together!
There are 3 main steps to this butternut squash gratin recipe:
- Toast the breadcrumbs – Toast the panko breadcrumbs in a little bit of butter until beautifully golden brown. Transfer to a bowl, then toss with some parmesan & fresh herbs.
- Par-cook the squash – Par-cook the squash on the stovetop first to ensure the squash reaches the perfect melt-in-your-mouth tender consistency once baked. 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 breadcrumbs. Pop it into the oven & bake until the breadcrumbs are toasty & browned & the gratin is bubbling around the edges.
FAQ: Can I Make Squash Gratin Ahead of Time?
Yes! You can assemble this gratin up to 3 days in advance, storing in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake. Check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance!
This winter squash gratin 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 make it, 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!
Love savory side dishes? Us too! Be sure to try these Roasted Garlic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, my Aunt Kari’s Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage & Mushrooms, or these Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts next. Happy cooking! ♡Print
Add Cheesy Butternut Squash Gratin with Smoked Gouda & Herbed Breadcrumbs to your holiday dinner menu! Creamy & tender butternut squash is infused with onion & sage – all topped with melty & smoky gouda & perfectly toasty breadcrumbs for the ultimate bite. This indulgent squash au gratin is an easy to make side dish, perfect for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas, or any comforting dinner this winter!
for the toasted breadcrumbs:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 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 1/2-inch cubes (roughly 2 and 1/2 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
- 3/4 cups half & half
- 4 ounces smoked gouda, freshly grated (about 3/4 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: Using a paper towel, carefully wipe out the pot used to make the breadcrumbs with, wiping out any browned butter or breadcrumb residue. Place the pot back over medium heat & add the butter. Once melted, add the onion & butternut squash. Season with 1/2 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 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 pulling this squash gratin 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 prepared 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 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 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 leftover butternut squash in another Thanksgiving side dish or as part of a Thanksgiving salad; or use honeynut squash instead – it’s like a baby butternut!
Keywords: butternut squash gratin, butternut squash gratin casserole, butternut squash au gratin, winter squash, cheesy, creamy, easy, fall recipe, winter recipe, vegetarian, baked, roasted, side dish, Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, Christmas
Recipe by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Eat Love Eat
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