Buttery Roasted Acorn Squash with Quinoa Stuffing

Thanksgiving is approximately 35 days away, and if you are like me and planning your meal way in advance, boy do I have a recipe for you. I have gone ahead and combined three of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes, roasted acorn squash, stuffing, and gravy. Normally, I just pile those three dishes onto my plate with a little mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts on the side, but instead, I thought I would create a more stylized and cohesive dish, something prettier to look at, rather than a mound of food with gravy on top.

Normally, I roast my acorn squash in quarters, wrapped in aluminum foil with a little brown sugar and butter. This year, I decided to cut the squash in eighths, rub in olive oil, and roast directly on the baking sheet - which was sort of inspired by this dish. It was a genius idea, so delicious that I probably won't go back to my previous preparation methods. The squash turned out perfectly soft on the inside and slightly charred and caramelized on the outside. The flavors that were released from the squash during roasting are incredible - which you don't quite get by baking in aluminum foil.

For the stuffing, I did a lighter version compared to the all-breed variety. I chose a light grain - quinoa, sautéed with onions, mushrooms, sage, and thyme. I added some dried cranberries and sprinkled chopped hazelnuts on top. Finally, I drizzled the dish with my homemade vegetarian gravy - which isn't necessary but definitely preferred.

There are a lot of wonderful nutty and earthy flavors coming out in this meal. Definitely high in the umami department. My mom is coming to town this year to celebrate Thanksgiving, and we are all heading to friend's house for a potluck. I'm definitely making this dish - and maybe for Christmas as well. Really, you can make this dish any time of year, regardless of the holiday. It's just that darn good.

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serves 4 - 8 (depending on the size of squash)

prep time: 30 minutes

cooking time: 35 minutes

1 acorn squash, washed

1 -2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup dry quinoa

1 cup broth

1/4 onion, diced

2 cups mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cups broth

1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Cut each half into quarters, so you are left with eight pieces. Rub the squash with olive oil and lay flesh side down onto the baking tray. Bake for 35 minutes, flipping the squash half-way.

While the squash cooking, place the quinoa and broth into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover. Simmer until the broth has dissolved - roughly 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes covered. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

In a frying pan set to medium, saute the onions and mushrooms in butter until translucent. Add the thyme and sage and continue to fry until caramelized. Add the quinoa and cranberries, and continue cooking for a few minutes.

In a small saucepan, set on low-medium heat, add the butter and flour. Cook for a few minutes until it becomes a paste and starts to pop and sizzle. Slowly whisk in 2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until thickened.

Place the squash onto a serving plate. Top with stuffing, chopped hazelnuts, and drizzle with gravy. Serve warm.