These stuffed butternut squash bowls are a showstopper! Roasted butternut squash is stuffed with a mix of Israeli couscous, spinach and dried cherries for an earthy, sweet and savory main dish!
If you’ve ever agonized over what to serve in place of turkey to your vegan and vegetarian friends at Thanksgiving and Christmas, this healthy stuffed butternut squash recipe is for you!
Vegan and Vegetarian Stuffed Butternut Squash
Sometimes I get the strangest ideas and sometimes, they work out really, really well, like these roasted butternut squash bowls! Channeling my inner Yotam Ottolenghi, I roasted the squash and then stuffed them with a combination of spiced Israeli couscous, dried cherries, spinach, and pistachios.
With the holidays bearing down on us, I’ve been thinking about…. well what else? Holiday recipes!!! And I think this stuffed butternut squash qualifies as being “holiday worthy” – they’re colorful, easy to serve and can be made ahead!! You can stuff them with just about anything – a beef or chicken stew or chili, a mix of roasted vegetables, wild rice pilaf…. the possibilities really are endless!!!
Roasted and Stuffed Butternut Squash Ingredients:
- Butternut Squash – Look for ones that have a nice rounded shape at the bottom! I love the flavor and texture of butternut squash, but you could also use delicata squash. Although the skin isn’t edible, you could also use acorn or even hubbard squash.
- Israeli Couscous– I am a huge fan of Israeli couscous – it has a wonderful chewy texture and more “heft” than regular couscous. If you don’t have Israeli couscous, I would substitute orzo pasta. I’ve made this recipe with regular couscous and to be honest, it wasn’t nearly as good, but it does work!
- Olive oil – for coating the squash and sauteing the couscous and shallots.
- Vegetable stock – vegetable stocks really vary in terms of flavor! I use Better than Bouillon (which I reconstitute at about ¾ of the recommended ratio!). Use whatever vegetable stock you enjoy.
- Shallots – Shallots have a wonderfully mild flavor which I prefer in this recipe – they don’t overpower the other flavors. If you don’t have or can’t find shallots, you could substitute red onion or even a sweet onion.
- Fresh Spinach – although I’m a HUGE fan of frozen spinach, I like the flavor of fresh spinach and I think it looks prettier! But frozen spinach will definitely work!
- Dried Cherries – I experimented with a few different dried fruits – apricots, cranberries and raisins and dried cherries were the favorite. Their slightly sour flavor really works with the butternut squash and keep the recipe from being too sweet.
- Garam masala – I use this Indian spice blend ALL.THE.TIME and love it. A mix of coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg, it has a warm spiciness that goes really well with roasted butternut squash! If you don’t have it, you could substitute pumpkin pie spice and add a little coriander.
- Sherry wine vinegar – This vinegar has a mellow, nutty flavor and is one of my favorites! Vinegar adds some needed acid to the stuffing but don’t worry – the stuffing won’t taste like vinegar!
- Pepper– I used white pepper since it’s not as sharp as black pepper (and I don’t see all those little black specks in the dish!). But black pepper works as well so use that if you don’t have any white pepper!
- Pistachios – nuts provide wonderful texture and crunch and pistachios have a wonderful rich flavor (and they are pretty!!) Slivered and toasted almonds would make a great substitute if you don’t have pistachios.
How to Make Tasty Stuffed Butternut Squash!
- Prep the butternut squash! Peel the squash and then cut the squash just where it starts to flare out. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds (just like you do with a pumpkin!) TIP: Cut up the leftover butternut squash and freeze it to use in this Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash. This article has a great tutorial on how to roast frozen butternut squash!
- Brush the squash with olive oil and place on a sheet pan and roast until the squash is fork-tender. You can do this up to a day ahead of time and store in the refrigerator.
- Soak the cherries in warm water while you prep the other ingredients.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the dried Israeli couscous and cook for a few minutes until the couscous is golden brown. TIP: browning the couscous in oil not only keeps it from clumping together when cooked, but it also gives the couscous a nice, nutty flavor. It only takes a few minutes and makes a huge difference in the flavor!
- Add the garam masala and stir for a minute or two to “open up” the spices!
- Add the vegetable stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer. Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender but still firm – just like you would cook pasta.
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallot and cook until the shallots are tender – about 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach and cook just until wilted.
- Drain the cherries and add to the saucepan.
- Add the cooked couscous to the saute pan and stir to combine.
- Drizzle the vinegar on the couscous and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
- Stir in the pistachios if you will be baking the squash immediately. If you are making the stuffing in advance, stir the pistachios in just before stuffing the squash so they don’t become soft!
- Stuff the butternut squash, mounding the stuffing on top.
- Place on a sheet pan, sprayed with cooking spray and bake until the squash is heated through.
Love Winter Squash Recipes?
Here are some fabulous winter squash recipes I’m sure you’ll love!
- Butternut Squash Dip – This sweet and savory dip is a hit whenever it’s served!
- Roasted Butternut Squash Salad – a riff of the classic Panzanella, this fall salad is one I can’t stop eating!
- Roasted Delicata Squash Salad – arugula, Israeli couscous and figs flavor this autumn salad!
- Roasted Winter Squash Medley – a simple and scrumptious side dish!
Stuffed Butternut Squash Bowls
- 4 butternut squash
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil divided use
- 2 cups Israeli couscous
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup shallots sliced
- 4 cups fresh baby spinach stemmed
- 1 Tablespoon sherry wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ cup shelled toasted pistachios
- Pre heat the oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with foil.
- Peel the butternut squash and cut the butternut squash just above where the squash begins to flare out.
- Using a small spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulp as you would with a pumpkin.
- Using a pastry brush, brush 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil inside the squash and over the outside.
- Roast the squash in the 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until the squash is just fork tender but not mushy!
- Remove the squash from the oven and cool.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
- To make the couscous filling.
- Place the dried cherries in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside.
- In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add the couscous and stir for 5 minutes to toast the couscous.
- Add the garam masala and cook for another minute.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for 10 -15 minutes or until all the stock is absorbed and the couscous is all dente – tender but still firm.
- In a medium skillet over medium high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the shallots and cook for 5 minutes or until the shallots are tender and lightly browned. Add the spinach and cook for another 3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted.
- Drain the cherries and add them to the spinach mixture.
- Add the couscous and stir to combine.
- Add the pepper and sherry vinegar and stir to combine.
- If serving right away, add the pistachios and stir.
- Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed/desired.
- Fill each butternut squash with the couscous mixture.
- Place on the foil lined sheet pan and re heat in a 375 degree oven until the squash is heated through. Serve.
- If making ahead: Complete through adding the sherry vinegar and pepper. Refrigerate the bowls and couscous. Let come to room temperature before reheating and stir in the pistachios just before filling the bowls. Re heat filled bowls in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes until heated through.
- Butternut Squash: You will have extra butternut squash from the tops of the butternut squash. Cut up the leftover butternut squash and freeze it for other recipes like this Wild Rice Pilaf.
- Make Ahead: both the squash bowls and the stuffing can be made up to a day in advance. To make ahead, allow both the squash bowls and the stuffing to cool. Then place in covered containers in the refrigerator.
- Stuffing: You can stuff the butternut squash ahead of time. If stuffing ahead of time, don’t add the pistachios since they will get soggy! After baking the squash bowls, sprinkle the pistachios on top.
- Storage: the baked bowls can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
- Reheating:Remove the stuffed squash from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before re heating. Preheat the oven to 350. Place the bowls on a foil lined sheet pan and cover with foil. Bake for 20 -25 minutes or until heated through.