Want to Eat More Veggies in the New Year? Start With This Soy-Braised Kabocha Squash

If you’re looking for a healthy, vegetarian meal to start the year off right, you can’t go wrong with this soy-braised squash with seaweed butter from the Institute of Culinary Education.
In for 2024: kabocha squash with seaweed butter.
In for 2024: kabocha squash with seaweed butter. / The Institute of Culinary education

It’s normal for your regular eating routine to go out the window during the last week of the year. In that hazy space between Christmas and New Year’s, your diet might consist of leftover ham, cookies, and Chinese takeout with nary a vegetable in sight. That makes the first weeks of January the perfect time to try a new plant-based dish, regardless of whether it’s one of your resolutions. This recipe for soy sauce and mirin braised kabocha squash with pumpkin seed furikake and seaweed butter will get your 2024 off to a healthy start while helping your body recover from the holidays.

Shawn Matijevich, the lead chef of online culinary arts and food operations at the Institute of Culinary Education, developed this recipe to highlight kabocha squash, which he feels is an underrated member of the gourd family. “I watch people at the grocery store because I’m a chef, and everybody stops by it and they look at it and they just kind of move on,” he tells Mental Floss. “ I think a lot of people are intimidated by it, but it’s actually really easy to cook, and with very little extra work it’s actually really delicious.”

To prepare the kabocha squash, also known as Japanese pumpkin, cut it into quarters, scrape out the seeds, and slice it into wedges. Matijevich urges caution during this step, as the squash is tough on the outside and tender on the inside, making it easy for your knife to slip. 

Next, lay the squash on a sheet pan and cover with melted butter. Roast in a 350°F oven for 40 minutes, flipping the wedges and glazing them with a butter, soy sauce, and mirin mixture halfway through. Glaze them a second time when they’re fully cooked.

To add an elevated layer of decadence to the healthy dish, prepare a compound seaweed butter and a pumpkin seed furikake seasoning ahead of time. The butter can be made by mixing it with a powder of nori, kombu, and dried wakame and chilling it in the fridge. For the furikake, combine toasted pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and nori in a food processor before adding powdered miso and mushroom powder. Serve the braised squash with a slice of the chilled butter log and generous sprinkles of the furikake seasoning.

The instructors at ICE’s New York and Los Angeles campuses are experts in the science and art of cooking. You can view their full curricula, which covers subjects in the culinary arts and hospitality and hotel management, on their website here.

Soy Sauce & Mirin Braised Kobocha Squash with Pumpkin Seed Furikake and Seaweed Butter

Serves 6


1 Kabocha squash
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
8 oz butter, melted

Seaweed Butter
4-inch square of kombu
4 sheets of nori
2 table spoons dried wakame
Butter, softened

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
3 sheets nori
1 teaspoon powdered miso
2 teaspoons mushroom powder



  1. Quarter the kabocha squash, scrape out the seeds, and slice into wedges.
  2. Place the wedges on a large roasting pan in a single layer and generously spoon melted butter on top, reserving the remainder. Make sure the squash is completely coated.
  3. Roast the squash in a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes until tender.
  4. To the remaining melted butter, add soy sauce and mirin and stir to combine. When the squash is about halfway roasted, flip over and glaze with the soy sauce mixture.
  5. When the squash is finished roasting, glaze again.

Seaweed Butter

  1. Cut nori sheets into small strips.
  2. Reconstitute wakame and kombu by soaking in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out the excess moisture.
  3. Add the three types of seaweed to a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Add butter and blitz until well combined.
  4. Lay down large sheets of plastic wrap, and scoop butter onto plastic in a log shape. Tightly roll the plastic and twist off the sides to create a tight log. Store butter in the fridge.


  1. Toast black and white sesame seeds with pumpkin seeds in a dry pan. Once the sesame seeds start to brown, add nori and continue to toast until fragrant.
  2. Add the furikake mixture to a food processor and blitz until the pumpkin seeds are broken up.
  3. Add the powdered miso and mushroom powder to the mixture and combine.

To Serve

  1. Slice rounds of the seaweed butter.
  2. Sprinkle furikake onto the plate in mounds, lay roasted squash on top, and garnish with seaweed butter.