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Kabocha vs Buttercup

January 19, 2010

I used to think that kabocha and buttercup squashes were one in the same, but in fact, they are not. My local Asian market confuses myself and other Nashvillians by sticking Kabocha sticker labeled squashes under a big sign that reads Buttercup. So, I went straight to the expert, reader Carolyn. The girl knows her squash and was kind enough to send me the following pictures and tips when seeking out my beloved kabocha.

top view (my favorite left).jpg

Above left is a kabocha squash, and the one on the right is a buttercup. Notice the difference in shape.

The kabocha stem shape is different as well…not squishy. It’s more like a tree trunk.


However, the single most important characteristic is that tiny button bottom.. no variation in it.. smooth, non issue.. If it’s bumpy or raised, or two levels, even if it is not a traditional buttercup cap, it still ain’t a kabocha butt...


There ya have it my friends – How To Distinguish Kabocha 101.

As far as the difference in taste goes, I know I’ve accidently bought buttercup squash before, but I couldn’t really remember what it tasted like. It was still good, but according to Carolyn, the buttercup is wet and kinda goes to goo no matter what you do to it…and didn’t make a good fry. Kabocha tastes more substantial. The texture of kabocha is denser to me and there is just a taste to it that is different. It stays in chunks easier.

So, to all of you who have asked me the difference, I hope this info. helps. πŸ™‚

I’ll be back with more in a just a bit.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 10:36 am

    AH THANK YOU!!! I swear, if i mistakenly buy one more buttercup i’m going to be very upset. I didn’t love it… off to the Asian market!

  2. January 19, 2010 10:37 am

    I don’t think I would have even known the difference in shape if you hadn’t posted them side by side. My store has buttercup, but no kobocha. They need to get with the program!!

  3. January 19, 2010 10:37 am

    Thank you for this- I always thought they were the same

  4. January 19, 2010 10:38 am

    great post, I’ve been meaning to look into the difference, thanks! I totally agree with the taste/texture difference as well.

  5. January 19, 2010 10:41 am

    Great info! There’s no way I would’ve been able to tell the difference πŸ™‚

  6. January 19, 2010 10:42 am

    lol– you must have read my bloggie mind! I was JUST wondering about this in my head last night πŸ™‚

    Thanks for clarifying!

  7. January 19, 2010 10:44 am

    I’ve been wondering about this too! Thanks for the info πŸ™‚

  8. January 19, 2010 10:49 am

    I still have yet to try a kabocha, but at leas I know now my first experience won’t be with a mistaken buttercup

  9. melissa @ the delicate place permalink
    January 19, 2010 10:58 am

    oh crap! i thought these were 1 in the same as well! my healthy grocer labels them that way as well 😦 good to know!

  10. January 19, 2010 10:59 am

    Very helpful! πŸ™‚

  11. claire permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:10 am

    Wow!!I was totally fooled.They do both taste good with ketchup.hehe… cc

  12. Kelly permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:11 am

    I’m really glad you made this post! I haven’t been able to find kabocha squash where I live which is annoying because I keep seeing how delicious it looks on all these food blogs! I’ve been having other kinds but I still want to try it. It’s strange though because when I buy buttercup squash it looks a lot more like the one in the picture on the left (1st picture). Maybe I’ll have to see if there are any asian food stores that I can find it in. Thanks for posting this!

  13. January 19, 2010 11:13 am

    Thanks so much for the primer, I can’t seem to find kabocha anywhere. Do you only find it at the specialty Asian food stores? -Katie

  14. Jenny R. permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:25 am

    wow best post ever. So you know those squashes with the ugly tops to them…they are also supposedly buttercup? I’m going to have to buy both and try them like one day after the other to compare. Seriously I thought I had a kabocha sitting in my cellar but its realy a buttercup. They’re both good’s true what you said about the wet thing though. Buttercup would make a good soup.

  15. January 19, 2010 11:40 am

    i love kabocha…i don’t think i’ll ever really want to try another kind until i wear myself out on that πŸ™‚ thanks for the awesome info!

  16. January 19, 2010 11:52 am

    Oh, I’m sure I’ve been duped before. I guess ignorance is bliss, eh??

    Thanks for clearing it up!

    Love you heabers!

  17. January 19, 2010 12:08 pm

    Katie, I’ve seen kabocha at Whole Foods during the Fall, but no where else besides my Asian Mkt.

  18. January 19, 2010 12:10 pm

    Jenny R, Yes, I figured the ugly topped squashes were buttercup. They’re often mixed in with the kabocha at my Asian Mkt.

  19. January 19, 2010 12:51 pm

    I knew the difference already, but just wanted to chime in about the taste issue. I like them both, but I agree that kabocha is denser and more substantial tasting. It holds up better in stir fries, too. Buttercup is similar in texture to butternut; creamy and gooey, and is great pureed and maybe a little but sweeter? I like that kabocha is good savory or sweet. Also, a kabocha will have more flesh than a buttercup of the same size (but it will weigh more because of that).

  20. January 19, 2010 12:56 pm

    A Kobocha is just a Butternut in spanx…

  21. Carolyn permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:12 pm

    Grocery stores can get kabocha in for no apparent reason, as a shipment of buttercup. Any grocery store… so never say never even if yours doesn’t carry them normally… Just today my podunk in town little grocery store is loaded with kabocha.. ..with a big buttercup sign above them..They never have this happen… It was all i could do NOT to buy them, just because i could… But, i MUST stop…still have three uncooked on the sideboard…

    And the chances are the people who work in produce will give you a blank stare as you try to explain all this to them……Love me some jarbocha…

  22. January 19, 2010 1:14 pm

    Allie, Very funny. πŸ™‚

  23. Nicole permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:15 pm

    Funny you posted this today, because I just cooked up some buttercup, thinking it was kabocha and I was so surprised when I tasted it.. definitely not kabocha! I just thought I bought a bad one, haha. My grocery store just labels all of them as buttercup, although I have found both kabocha and buttercup in there. Sneaky, sneaky!

  24. Danielle permalink
    January 19, 2010 1:16 pm

    I used to think they were the same thing until I saw at the store they were in 2 separate piles.
    I think the buttercup squash has more moisture and Kabocha is super dense. Either way, they’re delicious πŸ™‚

  25. January 19, 2010 2:09 pm

    Fun info, I guess I still need to try both still. I heart squash πŸ™‚

  26. January 19, 2010 2:26 pm

    I’m totally out of it when it comes to squash varities…but thank for the info!

  27. January 19, 2010 2:46 pm

    Very interesting! I guess I’ve still never had kabocha… only buttercup. Wasn’t a huge fan…

  28. Mae permalink
    January 19, 2010 5:10 pm

    Muchas Gracias for the tutorial!!!!! I hate that no supermarkets around me sell them, but I have a secret dealer at the farmer’s market πŸ˜‰ (he only brings a few each week so it’s on the down low.)
    It should also be noted kabocha squash can have orange skin.

  29. January 19, 2010 5:12 pm

    Yes Mae, forgot about the orange ones. Thanks!

  30. Kristy permalink
    January 19, 2010 5:45 pm

    Hmmm…based on the butts, I think I ended up with 2 kabocha and 1 buttercup. It’s still hard for me to tell!

  31. January 19, 2010 6:38 pm

    My local grocery store only has buttercup squashes! No Kabocha!
    I’m going to hit up the Asian grocery store this weekend!

  32. Lola permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:37 pm

    Thank goodness. That’s so annoying! I was upset my kabocha had gone all gross and watery and nasty tasting! Nope, it was just a buttercup tricking me!!

  33. January 19, 2010 8:50 pm

    You were reading my mind today. I bought a buttercup squash yesterday and baked it like normal. I noticed the middle was really mushy when I cracked it open (after baking it) and then I noticed a slightly funny flavor. I was really disappointed because it had been a while since I had one, and since I thought they were one in the same, I was expecting Kabocha love. I thought I was losing my taste for it. Thanks for this! XOXO

  34. January 19, 2010 9:55 pm

    wow! i definitely learned something!! Thanks so much, Heather!!

    p.s. the kabocha chips from your last post look amazingggggggggggggggg. drooooool


  35. January 20, 2010 1:16 am

    hehe I roasted my last kabocha on Sunday. (but I will be taking Deb’s advice that kabocha IS doable in the microwave- you wouldn’t know though.. πŸ˜‰ ) I’ve had it with roasted veggies, kabocha egg white pancakes, and kabocha protein powder puree. Love it all.

    And haha on my last post when you said you don’t mind waiting 2 hours for your kabocha to roast, I totally thought of you roasting kabochas when I wrote that post! πŸ™‚

  36. fitandfortysomething permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:54 am

    they both taste so good! i just wish i could find them more readily at the store.

  37. January 20, 2010 2:12 pm

    A ha!! My one and only try was with something labeled with both “Japenese Pumpkin” and “Buttercup Squash”. It tried to “fry”/ bake in slices and I thought it was terrible! I will have to keep my eye out for the real deal, kabocha, so I can see what I’ve been missing out on!

  38. January 22, 2010 7:22 am

    So glad you posted this–I always thought they were the same, but I actually notice a huge taste difference. Kabocha is much better-but without this post I probably wouldn’t have known. I would have just thought I got a bad kabocha again!

  39. Natnat permalink
    May 8, 2010 9:16 pm

    I made some roasted kabocha squash tonight, but even though I put it in the oven for 50 minutes at 425, it was still squishy and it just burnt on the edges!!

    Did I get a buttercup???

  40. May 9, 2010 6:51 am

    Natnat, Sorry, but I think you did. The buttercups always cook up more mushy. 😦


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