Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash is one of those all-in-one, simple, satisfying, feel-good meals that I can happily eat from October to March. It just happens to be vegan and therefore dairy free but makes exactly zero sacrifices on flavor or that hearty stick-to-your-ribs feeling we all start to crave when the temperature drops and the days are short.
You will of course, find a recipe for acorn squash stuffed with quinoa at the bottom of this post. But, this simple lunch or weeknight meal does not actually require a recipe at all.
Just follow this simple method for cooking quinoa, add some dried fruit, nuts, and anything else you might like, and scoop it into the hollow center of a tender, golden, roasted acorn squash.
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash is part of our No Recipe Required series, a collection of quick and easy dishes that are more of an idea than a recipe.
Ingredients Needed to Prepare This Recipe
7 ingredients are all you need to make this delicious, satisfying, nutritious, all-in-one vegan meal. The list of optional ingredients is nothing more than a list of ideas for other ingredients you can add if you like.
- Acorn Squash. Acorn squash can be found in most grocery stores year-round but the primary seasons for this winter squash are fall and winter.
- Extra virgin olive oil. No need to use the expensive stuff here. A good-quality but mid-to-low priced extra virgin olive oil is perfect fo this recipe.
- Salt and ground black pepper.
- Quinoa. Use whatever kind of quinoa you like to make stuffed acorn squash. White, red, black, or a mix all work equally well in this dish.
- Vegetable stock or water. I usually cook quinoa in vegetable stock because it adds flavor but water works just as well. Most of the time, I use Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base mixed into water. I LOVE Better Than Bouillon because it's more flavorful than regular vegetable stock and allows you to add as much or as little to a dish as you like without watering anything down.
- Chopped nuts. Use any kind of nuts you like, in any combination. I usually use roasted and salted nuts in the quinoa stuffing for roasted acorn squash. But, raw and unsalted nuts work just as well.
- Dried fruit. Use any kind of dried fruit you like in the quinoa stuffing. I usually use a combination of apricots, dried sour cherries, and dates.
This is one of those recipes to which you can add almost anything you like. Roasted acorn squash is a blank canvas that can be used to support and complement the flavors of a long list of ingredients. This list is just a few ideas to get you started.
- Mushrooms. Any kind of sautéed, roasted, grilled, or even raw mushrooms are a delicious addition to the quinoa filing.
- Sun dried tomatoes and/ or olives. The combination of sun dried tomatoes and olives is fabulous in the quinoa filling. I usually prefer to leave out the dried fruit when using tomatoes or anything briny like olives.
- Any kind of veggies, cooked or raw. Quinoa stuffed acorn squash is SUCH a great way to use up those odds and ends rolling around in your vegetable drawer! Chop them into small pieces and stir them into the quinoa raw or give them a quick sauté in a bit of olive oil over high heat.
- Greens. Stir in some chopped arugula, baby spinach or kale, cooked collard greens, chopped escarole, or any other kind of greens you like.
- Fresh herbs. I especially love to add a big handful of chopped Italian parsley to the quinoa filling.
- Meat: If a vegan main dish isn't your thing, stir in some cooked sausage, shredded chicken, or pulled pork. Stuffed acorn squash is a fantastic way to use up whatever leftover meat or poultry you have in your refrigerator!
- Parmesan. A sprinkle of shredded parmesan makes a delicious topping for stuffed acorn squash.
Step-by-Step Photos and Instructions
Cut an acorn squash in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for roasting if you like. They are delicious!
See below for tips on cutting an acorn squash and instructions on how to roast the seeds.
Brush the inside of both halves with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.
Place the acorn squash halves cut side down in a baking dish and add enough water to the dish so that it comes about ½ inch up the sides.
Roast the squash at 375 degrees F for 45 - 60 minutes, until it's tender.
Add quinoa, vegetable broth or water, and about a teaspoon of olive oil to a saucepan.
If using water, sprinkle in ¼ teaspoon of salt. If using vegetable broth, use your best judgment about whether or not to add salt depending on how much salt is already in the broth.
Bring the liquid to a boil then cover the pan and let the quinoa simmer for 12 minutes. Turn the burner off, leave the lid on the saucepan, and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes.
Roughly chop whatever nuts and dried you're using then stir it into the cooked quinoa.
Place the roasted acorn squash cut side up on a plate, fill the centers with the quinoa mixture, and serve.
How to Cut an Acorn Squash
The most important thing to know about cutting acorn squash is this: Use a very sharp knife, preferably a chef's knife.
The outside of a raw acorn squash is hard and can be very difficult to cut through with a dull knife. Two products I use in my kitchen almost every day are:
You can cut an acorn squash through the middle horizontally, separating the top of the squash from the bottom of the squash, or vertically, separating it into two twin halves.
I almost always cut acorn squash vertically from stem to base. The easiest way to cut an acorn squash is to insert the tip of your knife into the center of the squash, then use the knife's handle to press down, making a deeper cut. Turn the squash and continue to cut all the way around to separate it into two halves.
If you cut your acorn squash in half horizontally, cut a thin slice off the bottom and the top of the squash to create a flat surface on which to rest after roasting. Be careful not to cut too off the top and bottom or it will leave a hole.
Use a spoon to scoop the seeds and stringy membranes from the inside of the squash. You can discard the seeds or save them for roasting!
How to Roast Acorn Squash Seeds
Roasted acorn squash seeds are delicious and good for you! They are an easy-to-make nutrient-dense snack full of things like omega-3 fatty acids, protein, beta-carotene, and vitamin C.
So, don't throw those acorn squash seeds in the trash! Here's how to roast them!
- Put the seeds into a colander and rinse while you remove as much of the pulp as you can.
- Spread the seeds out onto a paper towel and blot with another paper towel to remove the excess water.
- Dump the seeds onto a baking sheet and drizzle some olive oil (about 2 teaspoons) over them. Sprinkle with table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, or garlic salt (my favorite is garlic salt) and stir them around to ensure they are all evenly coated. Spread them out into one layer.
- Roast the seeds at 375 degrees (f) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown. Stir them around on the baking sheet once or twice while they roast to ensure even browning.
- Taste one soon after removing them from the oven and sprinkle them with more salt if desired.
Vegan and Vegetarian Serving Suggestions
Quinoa stuffed acorn squash is a complete meal, but it can also make a great side dish. One of my favorite ways to serve stuffed acorn squash is with mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and dates. This combination makes a delicious vegan or vegetarian holiday meal!
Here are a few other vegan and vegetarian recipes that are a great complement to quinoa stuffed squash:
- Crispy Carrot Fries. Honestly, I think these are delicious with everything but there is something extra yummy about eating crunch panko-crusted carrot fries with creamy roasted acorn squash.
- Simple Roasted Beets. If the size of your oven will allow it, you can roast these beets right next to the acorn squash. And talk about a colorful meal! Bright red beets next to the greens skin and orange flesh of stuffed acorn squash is a gorgeous and delicious combination.
- Curried Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Fried Mushrooms. This is another holiday-worthy combination. But don't wait for the holidays to roll around to try it. Creamy cauliflower soup and stuffed acorn squash is a hearty meal that will warm you up on any cold evening.
If serving quinoa stuffed acorn squash as a side dish, it will easily serve 4 people.
Yes! Wild rice and farro are great options but you can use any grain instead of quinoa.
Acorn squash is available year-round in most supermarkets in the US but the "peak season" is from early October through December.
Yes! When acorn squash is roasted with the skin the skin gets soft and tender and is 100% edible.
The different varieties of quiona have a subtly different taste and texture. Red and black quinoa has a more earthy flavor than white quinoa. Black quinoa also has a subtle sweetness to it. White quiona is also a bit fluffier when cooked than red or black.
But the differences are subtle and all three varieties are delicious in this recipe. I usually use a blend of all three.
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ⅓ cup quinoa (red, white, black, or multi-colored)
- ⅔ cup vegetable broth or water
- ½ cup (2.5 ounces) chopped nuts or seeds, roasted and salted or raw
- ¾ cup (4 ounces) dried fruit, any kind or combination
- Heat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Cut an acorn squash in half vertically (See photos and tips for cutting an acorn squash above). Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds for roasting if you like. They are delicious! (Scroll up for instructions about how to roast the seeds.)
- Brush the flesh of the acorn squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay both halves cut side down in a 9x13 rectangle baking dish. Fill the dish with enough water so it comes about ½-inch up the sides of the pan.
- Put the pan in the oven and roast until the squash is fork-tender. This will take 45 - 60 minutes depending on the size and freshness of the squash.
- While the squash roasts, prepare the filling. Add the quinoa and water or broth to a small saucepan along with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. If using water or vegetable broth that's unseasoned or low in sodium, add about ¼ teaspoon of water. There's no need to add additional salt if using seasoned vegetable broth.
- Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. When the liquid starts to simmer, cover the pan and lower the heat. Let the quinoa cook at a gentle simmer for 12 minutes. Turn the burner off and let the quinoa rest, keeping the lid on the saucepan, for 5 minutes.
- Roughly chop the nuts and dried fruit and then stir them into the quinoa.
- When the squash is tender, remove it from the pan, and place it face-up up on a plate. Fill the center of each half with quinoa and serve.
- Note about the roasting time for the acorn squash: the amount of time your squash needs to roast will depend on its size and how fresh it is. Check it after it's been roasting for 45 minutes and then be flexible and let it roast as long as it needs to.
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Serving Size:1 stuffed acorn squash half
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 502Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 717mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 13gSugar: 32gProtein: 12g