Recipe: Kabocha Squash Simmered with Lemon

Kabocha squash simmered with lemon
Kabocha squash simmered with lemon

One of my ‘go to’ recipes in Elizabeth Andoh’s marvelous Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen is a simple preparation of kabocha squash in a lemon-infused sauce. It can be prepared with little and made ahead of time because it is excellent when served at room temperature.

The method for cutting the squash is somewhat confusing, so I provide a graphical interpretation below. The upper drawings (1 and 2) show two ways of cutting the squash half.  Picture 3 shows how the wedges are cut to get pieces that are relatively flat on the bottom (this will help them cook more evenly). The fourth drawing shows how the edges of each wedge are cut off :  leaving a portion of skin in place helps to prevent the wedges from falling apart during cooking.


Kabocha Squash Simmered with Lemon

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1/2 kabocha squash, unpeeled
  • 1 cup stock (dashi)
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • grated lemon zest for garnish


  1. Wash the lemon, peel off a few strips of zest using a vegetable peeler, and juice it. If you want a more assertive flavor, save one or two of the lemon halves to add to the simmering liquid.
  2. Thoroughly wash the outside of the squash. Scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into wedges that are about 1-inch thick at their widest point. Using a paring knife, carefully cut off a portion of the skin-side edge of each wedge to convert the wedge from a four-sided object to a six-sided object.
  3. Bring the stock, mirin and lemon juice (and juiced lemon halves, if usinin a wide skillet to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the lemon halves.
  4. Add the squash in a single layer, skin side down. Reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered. (see note)
  5. After a few minutes (it’s hard to say how long it will take, as each squash is a little different), check the doneness by piercing it with a toothpick or skewer. At this point, you should feel some resistance.
  6. Turn the pieces over so that the skin side is facing up. Simmer for a few minutes more, until a toothpick or skewer easily pierces the flesh.
  7. Add the soy sauce and agitate the pan to distribute it. Cook for about 30 seconds more.
  8. Let the dish cool with the cover in place (this helps the flavors meld).
  9. Serve the squash pieces at room temperature or warm with some of the liquid remaining in the pan and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Recipe Notes

Adapted from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, by Elizabeth Andoh

Andoh recommends using a Japanese otoshi-buta, or a double thickness of parchment paper that is 1 inch smaller in diameter than the pan, or a pot lid that is smaller than the pan to cover the squash as it cooks and keep it submerged. I’m not sure why it is so important in this recipe because the sauce barely covers a third of the squash. A lid that covers the whole pot might do the job and help cook the squash more thoroughly.

Vegetarian Dashi Stock

A critical building block of vegetarian Japanese cooking, this stock is full of naturally-occurring flavor enhancers from kombu seaweed and shiitake mushrooms.  Ideally, the seaweed and mushrooms will soak for many hours, but that isn't essential. A decent stock can be made in a hurry.

Course Sauce
Cuisine Japanese
Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 9 minutes


  • 15-20 square inches kombu sea vegetable
  • 2-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 4 cups cool water


  1. Place a piece of kombu sea vegetable and several dried shiitake mushrooms into the water. For best results, use a glass or ceramic container.

  2. Let this mixture steep for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. A long soaking allows the natural glutamates (flavor enhancers) to develop and dissolve into the water.

  3. When ready to make the stock, put the mixture in a pan over medium heat.
  4. Bring it almost to a boil, then reduce the heat slightly to keep it at a low simmer. Keep it at this point for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  5. Let the mixture steep for 5 minutes more, and then strain into a saucepan.
  6. Save the shiitake mushrooms for another use (recipes that call for dashi also often use shiitake mushrooms).  The kombu is often discarded, though there are certainly recipes that use it (see notes).

Recipe Notes

Kombu is available in many Asian grocery stores (generalists like 99 Ranch Market, and specialists in Japanese or Korean foods). Sometimes packages simply read "Kombu", sometimes they say "Dashi Kombu." 

The kombu is often discarded, though there are certainly recipes that use it:  Washoku has a one for a flavorful kombu relish; the team at Salt Point Seaweed recommend putting pieces in a pot of beans for extra umami (store the pieces of kombu in your freezer).

Adapted from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, by Elizabeth Andoh


  1. This sounds really tasty (I’m all for recipes you can make ahead and serve at room temperature!).

    Love your diagram of how to cook the squash (it’s always so difficult to explain these things in words).

    I keep meaning to find out more about Japanese cooking but from a home cooking perspective so I’ll check out the Washoku book

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