This stuffed acorn squash is the perfect vegetarian centerpiece for Thanksgiving, but it's also easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner! The roasted acorn squash is filled with seasonal and nutritious ingredients that you'll love like kale, apples, and leeks.
If you're looking for a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish, look no further! Not only is stuffed acorn squash a hearty and satisfying meal, it's also beautiful as a centerpiece on your holiday table.
I usually gravitate toward butternut squash in the winter, but acorn squash is just perfect as a main dish (so is stuffed spaghetti squash!). This recipe celebrates the sweet and savory flavors of fall by using a variety of in-season ingredients.
- Versatile: Stuffed acorn squash makes a colorful, healthy vegetarian Thanksgiving centerpiece or a balanced weeknight meal.
- Flavors: Features a mix of sweet and savory flavors thanks to the sweet acorn squash and apple with the savory Parmesan, leek, and kale filling.
- Perfect for fall: This stuffed acorn squash is loaded with seasonal fall and winter ingredients. Cooking with seasonal ingredients is more budget-friendly and in-season vegetables to tend to be more nutritious.
- Dietary-features: vegetarian, soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free optional, dairy-free optional
🥘 Main ingredients
- Acorn squash is a type of winter squash that is available in fall and winter. One squash usually makes enough for 2 servings.
- Quinoa: I prefer white quinoa for this recipe but red or multicolor will work.
- Kale: Thinly sliced lacinato kale adds a pop of color and plant-based iron.
- Diced apple balances out this savory dish with a touch of sweetness. Choose a sweet red apple like Fuji or Honeycrisp.
- Pecans provide depth and nuttiness that pairs well with the nutty flavors from quinoa. Feel free to omit pecans to make this dish nut-free.
- Leeks add a ton of flavor. If leeks aren't available, I recommend using shallots. Yellow onion will work in a pinch but definitely use leeks if you can.
- Sage is a classic Thanksgiving herb (think sourdough stuffing, vegan mushroom gravy, etc.) I recommend fresh sage but ½ teaspoon dry sage will work if needed.
- White beans provide protein. I prefer cannellini beans here, but navy beans or great northern beans also work. Chickpeas or even black beans also work.
🔪 How to roast acorn squash
This recipe makes 8 stuffed squash halves. You can cut the recipe in half for a smaller serving size or enjoy the leftover quinoa filling on its own or even as a side salad.
Using a very sharp knife, slice ¼ inch above the stem and the base of each acorn squash. Slice the squash in half to reveal the inside. Use a spoon to scrape out the inside (you can watch the process in my YouTube video). This process is similar to how you prep roasted butternut squash.
Place each squash cut side facing up on a full-sized baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Use a pastry brush to thoroughly coat the inside of each squash with oil.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until completely fork-tender on the inside. The orange flesh of the acorn squash should be buttery soft when pierced with a fork.
🥘How to make the filling
You can make the acorn squash filling while the squash roasts in the oven.
- Cook the quinoa: Heat a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the rinsed quinoa. Toast the quinoa for 1-2 minutes to enhance its natural nutty flavor. Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until fluffy, about 15 minutes.
- Cook the veggies: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, drizzle in olive oil. To the hot oil add the sliced leeks and kale.
- Sauté until the leeks are golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add in the pecans and toast another 2-3 minutes. Add in sage and sauté a minute more.
- Combine all stuffing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Squeeze with lemon juice.
Fill each acorn squash with about a cup of stuffing. Add extra Parmesan on top of each squash. Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to melt the Parmesan.
💭 Recipe tips and variations
- Want to add plant-based sausage? I feel like stuffed squash is often made with sausage. This recipe would go so well with an Italian-style veggie sausage or even just Beyond sausage (or you can appease the meat eaters in your family with their protein of choice). If you go this route, I recommend cooking the sausage at the same time as the leeks and kale.
- How to pick an acorn squash: Choose a squash with mostly green skin. It should have very little orange or white spots. The squash should be firm, not soft.
- Squash texture: Roasted acorn squash should be super tender and very easy to pierce with a fork. Because squash sizes vary, you may need to cook it anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.
- Other grains: If you don't like quinoa, you can use white or brown rice, wild rice, farro or any other grain you enjoy. Heartier grains with a nutty flavor like farro would be the best match with the other stuffing ingredients.
- To make vegan: Use vegan Parmesan in place of regular parmesan. Vegan feta would also be good here.
📖 Storage tips
- Leftovers: Best within 3-4 days. Cover before refrigerating.
- Reheating: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place each stuffed squash on a baking sheet and cover loosely with foil. Heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until entirely warmed through. I recommend adding extra cheese to each squash when reheating so that the quinoa filling doesn't try out.
- Freezing: Yes! Each acorn squash half can be stuffed and frozen for up to 3 months. For best quality, wrap in foil and freeze in an air tight container. Let thaw overnight in the fridge or reheat in the microwave on high until cooked through.
- To prep in advance: You can either slice and prep the squash or roast the squash up to 24 hours in advance. Prep the filling up to 1-2 days in advance. If prepping in advance, see instructions on how to reheat squash above.
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Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 4 medium acorn squash
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper more to taste
- ¾ cup dry quinoa
- 1 and ½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 large leek roughly chopped
- 2 lacinato kale leaves thinly sliced
- ½ cup raw pecans roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
- 15 ounce can cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 1 medium honeycrisp apple diced
- 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese divided
- 1 large lemon
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the yellow flesh of the acorn squash, using a pastry brush or clean hands to evenly coat. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and a few cracks of black pepper. Place cut side-up on a sheet pan. Roast for 45-50 minutes, or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
- Heat a medium sauce pot to medium-high heat. Add in the quinoa, toasting for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 and ½ cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes, or untli the quinoa is fluffy.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Once hot, add chopped leeks and sliced kale. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Saute until leeks are softened and golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add the roughly chopped pecans and toast for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the sage and bloom for 30 seconds to a minute.
- Combine cooked quinoa, drained cannellini beans, leeks, kale, pecans, sage, diced apple, and ½ cup shredded parmesan in a medium mixing bowl. Squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add ½ to 1 cup quinoa mixture to each roasted acorn squash. Sprinkle remaining ½ cup parmesan cheese evenly over each squash half.
- Return stuffed squash to oven and cook for 4-5 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven and enjoy! Leftovers are best stored in the fridge and enjoyed within 3-4 days.
- Parmesan cheese is often not vegetarian. You should be able to find vegetarian-labeled shredded Parmesan at Whole Foods or other major grocery stores. Check this list for recommendations. Asiago cheese or vegan Parmesan would also work well in this recipe.
- These squash boats can also be made with 2-3 butternut squash or delicata squash, depending on their size. The recipe instructions remain the same.
- Reheating: To reheat one serving of acorn squash: Cover the top of the squash with foil. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the center is warmed through. You can also reheat it in the microwave in just ~2 minutes.
- Extra quinoa stuffing can be enjoyed cold in a salad with leafy greens, or on its own.