Hearty Bacon and Kabocha Salad

A hearty side dish, this dish uses Kabocha, also known as Japanese pumpkin. It’s a very simple recipe that uses bacon, kabocha, and hand softened onions – once you have tried it once you are going to make it over and over again!

Hearty Bacon and Kabocha Salad is made with sweet and chunky Kabocha, smokey bacon, and hand softened onion.  This delicious salad can be served anytime in place of potato salad – at a picnic or barbecue, on a sandwich, or as a side dish at a family meal.

Kabocha (南瓜) is a type of winter squash grown in Japan but also widely available in the US and in other countries. Also known as Japanese pumpkin, Kabocha has a green outer skin and orange flesh.  When cooked the skin and the flesh are completely edible with only the seeds and the stringy pulp are not used in this wonderful salad.  When you prepare kabocha, be sure it’s ripe.  The 2006 edition of Gochiso Web Magazine on Page 8 has a wonderful article on kabocha along with some great recipes if you want to learn more. Kabocha is used widely in Japanese cooking- in hot pots, salads, tempura, stir fries, etc. It tastes a bit like a mixture of a carrot and a sweet potato with the texture of a potato.

I first tried the Kabocha salad back about 30 years ago when I was living in the US.  My Japanese friends showed me how to make this dish using hand softened onions. Instead of cooking, the onions are kneaded in a plastic bag for 30-45 minutes until they are completely softened and they lost their bite.  The bag has to be opened occasionally to drain and to let the air out.  The onions and bacon go perfectly with the kabocha make a hearty and chunky salad.  Any mayonnaise will do, but Japanese mayonnaise gives it an authentic Japanese touch.  A,couple,of hard boiled eggs can also be mixed in if desired. The only additional spice that’s added in is a touch of salt and some paprika to taste.

This is a wonderful Japanese dish that your whole family can enjoy.  Try it as a side dish or an appetizer served over a bed of lettuce.  Let me know what you think in the comments section, below.

(originally posted in June 2021, updated on May 2023)

Hearty Bacon and Kabocha Salad

This hearty pumpkin salad uses Japanese pumpkins, bacon, and onions,  For this recipe you need to soften the onion by hand as opposed to cooking the onion.  The onion is softened by adding it to a plastic bag with salt and other spice.  The salt leeches out the water and the water will need to be drained several times.  It’s important to knead the bag for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the onion is not too spicy to add to the dish.

45 minutes Makes 4 servings
PREP 45 minutes
YIELD Makes 4 servings


  • 1/2 lb slab bacon (220g)
  • 1/4 Kabocha (300g)
  • 1/2 large onion (200g)
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise (150cc)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika


Prepare the Kaboucha

  • With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and the stringy pulp and dispose.
  • Cover the Kabocha with plastic wrap and microwave at 600W for 5 minutes.
  • Dice into 1 inch cubes, put a drop of water on the plate, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for another 3:30. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the hand-softened onion

  • Cut onion into thin slices
  • Put onion into a zippered clear bag and add the salt and paprika
  • Squeeze out as much air as possible. Knead the bag vigorously for at least 30 minutes until the onions are completely softened. As the onion softens, liquid will be released into the bag. Continue to squeeze out air and dump out liquid as often as needed
  • After the onion is softened, pour into a bowl and drain any remaining liquid

Prepare the bacon

  • Dice the bacon into small 1/4 inch pieces and fry over high heat about 5 minutes, until crispy

Final Preparation

  • Mash: Add the kabocha, including the skin, to a large mixing bowl and mash up with a fork
  • Mix: Add the remaining ingredients and fold in with a spoon. Mix thoroughly

  • Serve: Serve either chilled or at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers


  • Use Japanese mayonnaise for a more authentic taste.  Japanese mayonnaise is a little lighter than mayonnaise in the US.  You can find it at any asian grocery or online.


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