Acorn squash belongs to the Cucurbitaceae (gourd) family, which includes all varieties of squashes, melons, and cucumbers (1).
Categorizing squash can get confusing because some varieties are considered fruits, while others are considered vegetables.
Scientifically (or botanically), acorn squash is a fruit. However, it is more commonly referred to as a starchy vegetable based on the way people cook with it and its savory flavors.
Let’s dive into the details of why this is the case!
How acorn squash is botanically classified
Scientifically (or botanically), acorn squash is a fruit.
In the world of botany, fruits are defined as mature, ripened ovaries that develop from the flowers of a plant. They include the flesh and the seed(s) inside the fruit (2).
Vegetables, on the other hand, don’t contain seeds inside and can come from any other edible part of a plant, including the roots, stems, leaves, and flowers.
Because acorn squash develops from a flower and contains seeds inside, it is technically considered a fruit (1).
How acorn squash is classified for cooking
Most people think of acorn squash as a starchy vegetable, because that’s how it is used in cooking.
Like other vegetables, acorn squash is typically prepared in savory dishes alongside meat, legumes, or grains.
Although acorn squash is mildly sweet, it’s less sweet than most fruits. Overall, it has more of the earthy, savory flavors that are common characteristics of other winter root vegetables.
Does acorn squash count as a carb or vegetable?
If you are following a diet that requires counting carbs, you should be aware that acorn squash is a starchy vegetable and contains a higher amount of carbohydrates than many other vegetables.
One cup of cooked acorn squash contains 30 grams of carbohydrates, which can take up more than half the daily carbohydrate limits on some low-carb diets.
It may be possible to include acorn squash in small portions on low-carbohydrate diets, but it typically cannot be eaten in large amounts.
If you are tracking your intake of each food group, acorn squash counts as a vegetable.
For the most well-rounded diet, try to eat a wide variety of vegetables, including non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, cucumber, zucchini, artichokes, broccoli, etc.
Scientifically, acorn squash is classified as a fruit because it contains seeds and develops from the flowers of a plant.
In the culinary world, acorn squash is typically considered a vegetable because of its savory flavors and how it is prepared.
Whether you refer to acorn squash as a vegetable or a fruit, one thing is certain: acorn squash is delicious, nutritious, and very versatile. Give it a try if you haven’t already!
Amy Richter is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Missouri. She is an experienced nutrition writer and medical advisor for Healthline and Medical News Today. Amy is passionate about all things food-related and enjoys translating complex science into easy-to-understand articles.