Kid-friendly Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas + DIY Tortillas + Iced Butternut Squash Licuado Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Family Meal Plan: Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas + Iced Butternut Squash Licuado

Family Meal Plan: Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas + DIY Tortillas + Iced Butternut Squash Licuado

Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas + Iced Butternut Squash Licuado

by Dylan Sabuco
Photo by Dylan Sabuco
prep time
25 minutes
cook time
20 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas

This recipe draws inspiration from the cozy corners of bustling markets and conjures up images of stalls piled high with pale orange, smooth-skinned butternut squash. I am fond of squash—not just because it’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And not only for its rich, earthy flavor. I also love its remarkable shelf life. Butternut squash remains one of the few vegetables that can maintain its freshness for 1 to 2 months if stored properly. For that reason, I almost always have it on hand. So, when the craving for Chili-rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas hits, I’m ready for it. 

Part of what makes this dish extra special is the homemade tortillas. If you’ve ever watched the process in action, you’ve seen the mesmerizing rhythmic dance of hands pressing and shaping the dough. While my family hasn’t yet mastered the art, we sure have fun trying! We laugh at our imperfect creations and marvel at how good they taste anyway, especially right off the skillet. Trust me, once you’ve made your own tortillas, it’s hard to go back to store-bought!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Shopping List

  • 1 small butternut squash, 2 1/2 C diced frozen butternut squash, or 1/2 15-oz can butternut squash purée
  • 1 C grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 2 tsp mild chili powder (use 4 tsp mild chili powder if not using garlic powder and cumin)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, optional
  • 1 tsp cumin, optional
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2/3 C vegetable oil
  • 3 C all-purpose flour **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 C water (if making DIY Tortillas)
  • 3 C milk **(see allergy subs below)**
  • 1 C diced frozen butternut squash or 1/2 15-oz can butternut squash purée
  • 1/3 C sugar (brown, white, honey, or molasses are all great)
  • 1 C ice

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • blend :

    to stir together two or more ingredients until just combined; blending is a gentler process than mixing.

  • knead :

    to work dough by pushing, pulling, and folding it by hand or with a stand mixer.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • measure :

    to calculate the specific amount of an ingredient required using a measuring tool (like measuring cups or spoons).

  • sauté :

    to cook or brown food in a pan containing a small quantity of butter, oil, or other fat.

  • shape :

    to form food into a specific shape by hand or with a cutting tool—examples are cutting cookie dough into shapes with cookie cutters, forming bread dough into a roll or crescent shape, and rolling ground meat into a meatball.

  • slice :

    to cut into thin pieces using a sawing motion with your knife.

Equipment Checklist

  • Blender (or pitcher + immersion blender)
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Large skillet
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring spoons
  • Heat-resistant spatula
  • Large mixing bowls (2)


Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas

  • Squash filling:
  • 1 small butternut squash, 2 1/2 C diced frozen butternut squash, or 1/2 15-oz can butternut squash purée
  • 2 tsp mild chili powder (use 4 tsp mild chili powder if not using garlic powder and cumin)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder, optional
  • 1 tsp cumin, optional
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1 C grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub your choice of dairy-free/nut-free cheese shreds, like Daiya brand)**
  • DIY Tortillas:
  • 3 C all-purpose flour **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub store-bought gluten-free corn tortillas for DIY Tortillas)**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 C water
  • 3 T vegetable oil

Iced Butternut Squash Licuado

  • 3 C milk **(for DAIRY ALLERGY sub 3 C dairy-free/nut-free milk)**
  • 1 C diced frozen butternut squash or 1/2 15-oz can butternut squash purée
  • 1/3 C sugar (brown, white, honey, or molasses are all great)
  • 1 C ice

Food Allergen Substitutions

Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas

  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute store-bought gluten-free corn tortillas instead of using all-purpose flour to make DIY Tortillas. 
  • Soy: Substitute canola oil or other nut-free high-smoking point oil for vegetable oil, which usually contains soy.
  • Dairy: Substitute your choice of dairy-free/nut-free cheese shreds, like Daiya brand, for grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese.

Iced Butternut Squash Licuado

  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free milk.


Chili-Rubbed Butternut Squash Quesadillas with DIY Tortillas


It’s quesadilla time! These tasty, tortilla-wrapped treats originated from Mexico. The beauty of quesadillas is that they can be stuffed with anything as long as you have some cheese to glue your tortillas together. Today, you will rub butternut squash with spices and fry until golden brown and soft, and use that to stuff your quesadillas to the brim with flavor. Eat and enjoy your toasty, chili-rubbed quesadillas on your next taco night.

slice + scoop

Consider your children’s ages when assigning tasks for this recipe (younger kids will have difficulty cutting the squash). Start by slicing into 1 butternut squash. (If using purée, see recipe note below.) The outer skin is tough to cut through. The easiest way to open the squash is to first cut off the root of the squash. You will reveal the orange flesh of the squash, which is much softer and easier to slice through. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, starting from the soft, orange side of the squash. Once it is sliced in half, use a spoon to scoop out the pulp and seeds (like carving pumpkins for Halloween). Finally, slice the butternut squash into large half moon shapes (keep the skin on) and place the slices into a large bowl.

measure + toss

Measure 2 teaspoons mild chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 2 teaspoon vegetable oil, then add them to the bowl with the butternut squash. Toss the squash and spices until thoroughly coated.

sauté + reserve

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add 1/4 cup vegetable oil. After a minute the pan will be hot and it is time to sauté the squash. In a single layer, add all the squash to the pan and cook for 4 minutes on each side without moving the squash around in the pan too much. If you move the food in the pan, then it won’t brown well. Make sure to leave the squash alone while you work on the tortillas.

recipe note

If you are using 1/2 can butternut squash purée instead of fresh or frozen squash, simply pour it into a bowl, season with the same amount of spices from the above step. Then, follow the instructions from here, replacing the whole squash with your purée mixture anytime it appears in the remaining steps.

measure + mix + knead

(If using corn tortillas due to a gluten allergy, skip Steps 6 to 7). Measure 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 cup water, and 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large mixing bowl. Then, mix with a wooden spoon until a smooth ball of dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead for 2 to 4 minutes. Go back to working on the squash and remove it from the skillet. Place it in a medium bowl to cool off slightly before you assemble the tortillas.

shape + toast

Cut the dough into at least 12 small pieces and start rolling them into balls. Flatten the balls as much as possible. Thinner tortillas will cook faster and get a better brown, toasty coating. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and place the tortillas in the skillet in a single layer. Toast on each side for 1 minute.

sprinkle + fold

Place a tortilla on your cutting board. Measure 1 cup of grated Monterey jack or cheddar cheese and sprinkle the tortilla with a thin layer of the cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Remove the skin from 1 piece of squash and place the soft squash (or 1 tablespoon purée) over the cheese. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Fold the tortillas in half, press down to seal as tightly as possible, and return the mini quesadillas to the skillet. Toast for 1 minute on each side to melt the cheese.


It's time to eat these tasty 100 percent handmade quesadillas! Serve them while they are still warm. "Buen provecho" or "Enjoy" in Spanish!

Iced Butternut Squash Licuado


A "licuado" (lee-KWAW-doh) is the Latin American version of a smoothie. Instead of fruit juices, yogurt, or ice cream, a "licuado" is made with milk. This Butternut Squash Licuado is a refreshing fall concoction that will leave you shocked that butternut squash can make a tasty drink.

measure + blend

Measure and add the following ingredients to your blender: 3 cups milk, 1 cup diced frozen butternut squash (or 1/2 can butternut squash purée), and 1/3 cup sugar. Blend until smooth.


Serve poured over ice or serve as is! Salud!

Surprise Ingredient: Butternut Squash!

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Photo by Sutipond Somnam/

Hi! I'm Butternut Squash!

"I've got a long neck with a rather bulbous end—like a bell or bottle! I'm related to the pumpkin, and in Australia, they call me a butternut pumpkin!

History & Etymology

  • Squash are one of the oldest known crops—10,000 years by some estimates of sites in Mexico. All squash is native to North America, but the butternut variety didn't exist until the 1940s, when Charles Leggett, a Massachusetts man, crossed a pumpkin with a gooseneck squash. 
  • "Squash" comes from the mid-17th century Narragansett word "askutasquash"), which means "eaten raw or uncooked." This squash is called "butternut" because of its nutty flavor.


  • Botanically, butternut squash is a fruit and belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family that includes cucumbers, honeydew melons, pumpkins, watermelons, and zucchini. However, as food, it is used as a vegetable.
  • Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that grows on a vine, and when ready for harvest, they have a hard tan skin that you can't pierce with a fingernail, yellow-orange flesh that gets more orange when ripe, and a hollow seed cavity with edible seeds.

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Winter squash are cured for the best flavor, as their natural sugars have a chance to concentrate. They are picked with part of their stem left on, then left in the sun, and kept dry for about 7 to 14 days. (Although, they can also be cured indoors.) Their skin hardens as they sit, allowing them to last longer in storage. 
  • Butternut squash is seasonal, and in the US, the best time to buy ripe local squash is September through October. 
  • Look for butternut squash with a solid beige color without deep cuts or bruises. A little surface scratching and marks from where it sat on the ground are acceptable. Select one that feels heavy for its size and leave any with brown spots or punctures, as bacteria and mold could develop. 
  • Store butternut squash in a cool, dark place in your kitchen, and it will keep for 2 to 3 months—it does not need to be refrigerated.
  • Its unique flavor can be used in both savory and sweet dishes. You can cook it in various ways: roasted, grilled, steamed, or puréed. It is a side dish or an ingredient for soup, pasta, dips, salads, desserts, and more. 
  • In South Africa, cooks use butternut squash to make soup, or they grill it whole, seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg or stuffed with spinach and feta and wrapped in foil. 
  • The skin is edible if softened during roasting. Roasted butternut squash seeds can be eaten as a nutritious snack, just like pumpkin seeds, or their oil can be pressed for cooking or salad dressings.


  • Butternut squash is a good source of soluble fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and E, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. It has more vitamin A than that of a pumpkin. It is high in water content and very low in calories: one serving is just 45 calories!
  • Butternut squash has natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and is good for your skin and eyesight.

History of Quesadillas!

Photo by Valente Romero/
  • Quesadillas are a blend of Old and New World food. They were developed when Spanish settlers arrived in Mexico in the 1500s. 
  • The Spanish word for "cheese" is "queso," and quesadillas consist of tortillas filled with cheese and other ingredients, like salsa, guacamole, and cooked veggies and meats. You can make a quesadilla with one tortilla covered with cheese and then folded over. Or you can use two tortillas and put the cheese and other fillings between them. Then you cook it until the tortilla browns, and the cheese fully melts. 
  • Quesadillas were originally made with corn tortillas, but you can also make them with flour tortillas. Traditionally, they are cooked on a flat, smooth griddle called a "comal." However, if you don't have a griddle, you can also heat them in a frying pan on your stove or in the oven, air fryer, or even a microwave!

Let's Learn About Mexico!

Photo by Alena Darmel
  • Officially, Mexico's name is "The United Mexican States." It is one of several countries and territories in North America, including Canada and the United States of America.
  • Spanish is Mexico's national language, and Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexican people didn't always speak Spanish, though. For thousands of years, Native Americans lived there and built great cities. The people had advanced language, education, and calendar systems, and they had very clever ways of raising food. Mexico is also the country with the largest number of native American speakers in North America. 
  • The capital of Mexico is Mexico City. Mexican legend says that Aztec leaders were told to build their great city of Tenochtitlan at the site where they saw an eagle sitting on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak. That image is in the center of Mexico's flag. The Aztecs built their city on an island in the middle of a lake. The ruins of Tenochtitlan are at the center of Mexico City and still sit on top of a lake! As water is pumped out to serve the needs of the city's growing population, the city has been sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches per year.  
  • Indigenous Mexican people included the Aztecs in the central interior of the country, the Mayans of the Yucatan peninsula, and the Zapotec of the south. Spanish explorers landed in Mexico in the early 1500s, and they ruled Mexico for over 300 years. During this time of colonization, Mexico's Mesoamerican civilizations mixed with European culture.
  • Before the arrival of Spaniards, native Mexican food primarily consisted of corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and herbs. Indigenous people occasionally hunted and added wild turkey, rabbit, deer, and quail to their largely vegetarian diets. Native royalty sipped chocolate drinks. Europeans introduced cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, sugarcane, and wheat to Mexico upon their arrival. 
  • Mexican cuisine uses chili peppers to give it its distinct flavor. Jalapeños, poblanos, and serrano peppers are commonly used in Mexican dishes. Dishes that include mole, a sauce made of dark chocolate, chili peppers, cinnamon, and other spices, may be served on special occasions, such as Día de los Muertos. 

What is it like to be a kid in Mexico?

  • Mexican children may live near the ocean or the gulf, in the desert, or in the mountains. 
  • Kids often live with extended family, including grandparents. Their full names include their father's and their mother's.
  • Most kids speak Spanish, but Mexico also recognizes 68 native languages. 
  • They attend school from September through June. Large schools have two shifts—one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students are usually required to wear uniforms. 
  • They may play soccer, baseball, and other sports. Jumping rope and other outdoor games are very popular. They might play a game similar to bingo called Lotería. It is played with picture cards and songs. 
  • Corn tortillas are a staple for kids, along with beans and rice. Dishes that include mole, a sauce often made of dark chocolate, chili peppers, cinnamon, and other spices, may be served on special occasions. 
  • A popular family holiday is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a celebration to remember and honor a family's ancestors. Family members decorate the graves of their relatives who have passed on. Typical foods served for this holiday include empanadas, tamales, pan de muertos (a sweet bread in which a ring with a tiny plastic skeleton is hidden), and calaveras de azucar (sugar candy skulls). 

That's Berry Funny

"Knock, knock!" 

"Who’s there?" 


"Butternut Who?" 

"Butternut lock me out!"

The Yolk's On You

What does a sad tortilla say? 

"I don’t want to taco bout it."

The Yolk's On You

What did the butternut say to the farmer? 

Don’t squash my enthusiasm!

Lettuce Joke Around

Have you heard the joke about the tortilla? 

It was corny.

THYME for a Laugh

What is the favorite sport of Butternuts? 


That's Berry Funny

What did the tortilla say to the avocado when the dip bowl was empty? 

“We’ve hit guac bottom!”

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