Looking for a hearty vegetarian main dish? Roast up these Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash filled with cranberry rice, pecans, and chickpeas. Serve as a main dish for Thanksgiving!
For over 14 years I’ve been blogging every Thanksgiving recipe I could think of. Ones I make every year and ones I rotate around.
And yet here I am coming up with more ideas. Especially since I find vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes very lacking on my end.
Since I’m often asked to post more vegetarian recipes, here’s my Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash filled with cranberry rice, pecans, and chickpeas.
I made it vegan mostly because it’s very easy to do. Swap olive oil for butter and vegetable stock instead of chicken.
That way there’s a main dish for everyone to eat and you’re not stuck cobbling all the side dishes together to try and make a fulfilling plate.
And honestly it’s so delicious, nobody will even notice. You don’t even have to mention it’s vegan unless someone asks for confirmation.
Of course this stuffed butternut squash recipe was planned with Thanksgiving in mind given it’s a huge food holiday, but you can absolutely make it any day winter squash is in season.
You can even make it for your Christmas dinner for two.
What is butternut squash?
Butternut squash is a type of winter squash with a sweet, nutty taste. It’s very similar to pumpkin but has a tan skin and is wider at one end.
How many servings is vegan stuffed butternut squash?
Serving sizes, especially when cooking dinner for two, is very subjective. I personally think 1 whole squash will feed 1 person along with a small salad. That would make it 2 servings.
However, if you’re making this as a Thanksgiving main dish, you can stretch it to be 4 servings. One half plus all the numerous side dishes and small pumpkin pie.
Ingredients For Vegan Stuffed Butternut Squash
The ingredients for roasted stuffed butternut squash are pantry-friendly. In fact, you may be able to make this for dinner right now:
- Butternut Squash: Of course you can’t have stuffed squash without the squash! They come in a variety of sizes, so it’s hard to tell you exactly which one to buy. Look for one large enough to stuff but not so large you run out of stuffing. Mine were about 2 pounds each.If your squash is on the smaller side, you can either buy 3 of them or eat the remaining rice on the side.
- Olive Oil: Part of what makes this recipe vegan is using oil instead of butter. Use a high-quality extra virgin olive oil suitable for sautéing and roasting (not a finishing oil). You can also use butter (vegan or not).
- Salt: Salt makes everything taste better because it enhances flavor. Kosher salt is preferred, but you can use table salt in a pinch.
- Onion and Garlic: Known as aromatics, onion and garlic help build flavor into your rice. Use white, yellow, or even Vidalia onion. I wouldn’t use red onion unless that’s all you have on hand.
- White Rice: Rice is a great way to bulk up your stuffed butternut squash recipe. You can use almost any type of grain – brown rice, quinoa, barley, even couscous (technically pasta but). Because the ratio of grain to liquid varies, follow the ratio on the back of your packaging.
- Vegetable Broth: Another ingredient making your squash vegan-friendly. Broth is needed to cook your rice.
- Dried cranberries and pecans: I wanted to add some Thanksgiving flavor, so I chose dried cranberries and pecans. By cooking the cranberries directly in the broth, they plump up quite nicely.
- Canned chickpeas: The hardest part about eating vegan (or even vegetarian) is making sure you have enough protein to fill you up. That’s why I added chickpeas so you aren’t still hungry.
- Fresh herbs: I used chopped parsley for color and freshness, but you can use almost any herb – basil, cilantro, sage, rosemary, thyme, whatever you have on hand.
Can you stuff other winter squash?
Yes, you can use other varieties of winter squash, such as acorn or delicata.
Cook time and serving size may vary due to size and weight. Roast until fork tender. Any leftover rice can be served alongside the stuffed squash on the plate.
How To Cut Butternut Squash
The key to cutting a butternut squash in half to use a really good, really sharp knife. Not a flimsy knife from IKEA but a sturdy one.
Throughout college I used an IKEA knife and always had trouble cutting squash. Later on I upgraded and now it cuts through squash like butter.
If you really can’t cut your squash, you can soften it a bit in the oven or microwave for a few minutes then try again.
You want to cut it lengthwise, from the narrow end to the wide end. Once cut in half, scoop out the seeds then place each half on a baking sheet.
Can you eat butternut squash seeds?
Yes, you can absolutely eat butternut squash seeds! They’re very similar to pumpkin seeds.
First, clean the seeds by removing as much of the squash pulp as you can then pat completely dry.
Next, toss in some olive oil, sea salt, and any seasonings you may want to use. I personally like to use garlic powder but you can also use my homemade fajita seasoning for a kick.
Bake at 350F until golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. You may want to check on them halfway and stir to ensure they are roasting evenly.
Let cool then snack away!
How To Roast Butternut Squash
To roast butternut squash, preheat your oven to 425F.
While that’s heating, brush each half with olive oil then sprinkle with salt (preferably kosher).
Once your oven is ready, bake for 45-60 minutes or until fork tender. The cook time will heavily depend on how large your squash is.
How To Make Stuffed Butternut Squash
While your winter squash is roasting, time to make the cranberry rice stuffing!
It’s almost identical to my Cranberry Rice Pilaf but I used olive oil and vegetable stock to make my stuffed butternut squash vegan.
First, heat your olive oil and cook your onion until softened, about 5 minutes.
Then you add your garlic and rice then cook until the rice is translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
Slowly stir in your broth, dried cranberries, and salt.
Once the broth is boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and cover your pan with a lid. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
Once the rice is done, stir in your pecans and chickpeas then let it rest for at least 10 minutes (which should be easy as you wait for the squash to roast). This helps achieve a fluffier texture as well as letting the flavors meld a little more.
When your squash is done roasting and cool enough to handle, scoop out the inside, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick border all around. If you scooped too much, you can mash the squash back in.
Transfer your rice to your squash bowls then bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes.
How To Cook Butternut Squash For Thanksgiving
If you’re making vegan stuffed butternut squash for Thanksgiving, chances are you’ll want to prep as much of the work ahead of time.
Luckily for you, you can! Roast your squash up to 3 days ahead of time and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
The cranberry rice stuffing is best made the day of serving, but you can make that up to 1 day ahead of time.
Can you eat the skin of butternut squash?
Although butternut squash skin is technically edible, it’s also really tough to eat.
The best way to eat your roasted butternut squash is to scoop the inside out with a spoon, like a baked potato but leaving the skin behind.
What To Serve With Stuffed Butternut Squash
Whether you’re making rice stuffed butternut squash for Thanksgiving or Meatless Monday, here are some side dishes to serve:
- 2 butternut squash large enough to stuff (roughly 2 pounds per squash)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for brushing
- Salt, preferably kosher
- 1/4 cup diced white or yellow onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup dry long white rice
- 1 cup vegetable broth/stock
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts such as pecans, walnuts, or pistachios
- 1/4 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped herb such as parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, thyme, or rosemary
- Preheat oven to 425F. Have a baking sheet ready.
- Cut each butternut squash in half lengthwise (from stem to bottom). Scoop out the seeds and save for another use or discard.
If you're having trouble cutting, soften your squash in the oven or microwave for a few minutes then try again.
- Place each squash half on the baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until fork tender. Once done, turn your oven down to 350F.
- Meanwhile, make the rice. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet. Once hot, add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and rice. Cook until rice is translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
- Slowly stir in the broth, cranberries, and 1/4 teaspoon salt then bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low then cover with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed and rice is tender. If needed, add more salt to taste.
- Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Stir in the nuts, chickpeas, and herb.
- Once the squash are done and cool enough to handle, scoop out the inside, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick border all around. If you scooped too much, you can mash it back in.
- Add 1/2 cup of the squash puree to your rice mixture then save the rest for another use.
- Fill each half with the rice. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until hot.
To roast squash seeds:
- Clean the seeds by removing as much of the squash pulp as you can then pat completely dry.
- Toss in some olive oil, sea salt, and any seasonings you may want to use.
- Bake at 350F until golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Check on them halfway and stir to ensure they are roasting evenly.
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