If you are looking for a vegetarian main that will really wow, then this whole stuffed butternut squash is it. Packed with protein and vegetables, easy to adapt and a vegan option too. Rice (or you could use quinoa or bulgur wheat), leafy greens and cheese, all stuffed in to a butternut squash half.
Vegetarian mains can be a little uninspiring, but like many stuffed butternut squash recipes this one is vibrant and full of flavour. It makes a delicious comforting Autumn/Winter meal, but also an amazing vegetarian Christmas dinner. You could add meat to it, or even make it vegan - there are lots of options for this hearty meal.
Why should you try it?
- A delicious vegetarian/vegan main
- Full of vegetables
- Easy to adapt
- Can be prepared in advance
- Healthy comfort food
- Butternut squash - we used a medium sized butternut squash and found that half of that was enough for one person for a light lunch. There is no need to peel it, as the skin is actually delicious when roasted, you just have to make sure to clean it really, really well.
- Rice - this is what makes the meal really filling. You don't have to use rice though, and it could be swapped for quinoa, pearl barley or bulgar wheat.
- Garlic - an easy and low calorie way to add lots of flavour to meals. You can either crush your own, or use half a teaspoon of ready chopped lazy garlic.
- Spinach - this is a great way to give the dish a green veggie boost. You could swap it for chopped kale or chard too.
- Beans - we used cannellini beans and this gives the dish a protein boost. You could use black beans or even chickpeas.
- Cherry tomatoes - this helps keep it all moist. You could swap it for sundried tomatoes, or use both of them.
- Red onion - you can swap this with brown onion or shallots.
- Feta - everything is better with cheese on top, right? Feta adds some creaminess and a little bit of saltiness to this dish. You could add grated cheddar or parmesan instead though.
- Breadcrumbs - this adds some crispiness to the finished dish. You can leave it out, but we love it for a finishing touch.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/ Gas 6. Put the butternut squash halves skin side down and score the flesh in a diamond pattern. Roast for 30 minutes, until it has softened. While the squash is roasting, cook the rice according to package instructions.
Two: Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion and gently cook for 2 minutes.
Three: Wilt the spinach in the pan.
Four: Take the squash out of the oven and scoop out the flesh and leave a 1cm boarder. Chop the flesh.
Five: Add the chopped squash, rice, tomatoes, beans and chopped parsley to the pan. Mix well.
Six: Put the rice mixture into the squash.
Seven: Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and feta and roast for 15 minutes.
Health benefits of butternut squash
Butternut Squash is very low in calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It is a good source of dietary fibre and it is often recommended by dietitians to help in the control of cholesterol. It is high in Vitamins A and B and has plenty of natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds. They are also high in minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.
What to stuff it with
The great thing about these butternut squash stuffed shells, is that it is so easy to adapt. You can stuff a butternut squash with almost anything, so you never have to eat it the same way twice. Whilst we kept this vegetarian, there is no reason why you couldn't add meat to it. Why not try some chopped ham or sausage, or even leftovers of our Slow Cooker Whole Chicken.
When it comes to vegetables, the options are almost endless. You could keep it simple and just do a mushroom filling, with a few different types of mushroom for different textures. A creamy spinach and artichoke mixture is really good for something a bit more luxurious.
You could add some extra protein with cooked lentils or chickpeas, which would still keep it vegetarian.
We love topping this with cheese to make it feel a little more indulgent. A little cheddar and Parmesan go along way, but you could use feta, goats cheese or even stilton.
If you wanted to add a festive twist to this stuffed butternut squash, then some dried cranberries and chopped pecans would be a good addition. Speaking of Christmas, you could just stuff it with leftovers like turkey and stuffing with cranberry sauce.
How to pick the perfect butternut squash
There are a few things to look for when buying a butternut squash:
- Colour. The darker the better - this shows how ripe it is. Also, make sure there are no green patches.
- Skin. The skin should not be shiny - make sure it is matte.
- Weight. The squash should feel quite weighty in your hands.
- Tap test. Give the squash a tap with your knuckles and it should sound hollow.
Read some tips on how to peel and cut a butternut squash.
What to serve it with
This is quite a filling meal on its own, but there are a few side dishes you could serve it with. Some of our Roasted Mushrooms would go well, as would a nice Beetroot and Goats Cheese Salad. You could add a bit of extra protein by adding some of our Garlic and Herb Prawns (Shrimp) or some Paprika Chicken Skewers.
How to use butternut squash seeds
Butternut squash seeds are an excellent source of fibre and mono-unsaturated acids that are great for a healthy heart. They are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. The seeds also contain the amino acid Tryptophan, which converts to the GABA neurochemical in the human brain - which is a good thing!
To cook the seeds, first pinch away any of the squash flesh that is attached and then rinse under cold water. Pat them dry with kitchen towel. Toss them in a bowl with a little oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread them on a baking tray in one layer and roast at 150°C/300°F/Gas 2 for 20-25 minutes.
Yes, you can make up all of the filling in advance and keep it in the fridge until it is ready to stuff. You can even stuff it and keep it in the fridge until it is ready to bake.
This stuffed butternut squash can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 days. To reheat, put it in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until heated throughout.
No, we wouldn't recommend freezing a stuffed butternut squash. Depending on what filling you use, you could freeze the stuffing to add at a later date.
Yes, it certainly is! But first you need to clean the skin. We mean REALLY clean it! Read that again: REALLY CLEAN THE SKIN!! Use an apple cider vinegar and scrub the skin well. You need to do this as the skin can hold pollutants, but by using an acid like vinegar, all toxins should be removed. Then, simply toss in oil and salt and bake until the skin dries out and becomes crispy.
• Add a touch of sweetness with either a drizzle of honey at the end of mixing some raisins in to the stuffing mixture before baking.
• You can make this vegan by leaving out the cheese or using your favourite vegan alternative.
• Add some extra flavour by using something like pesto or sun-dried tomato paste.
• You could add different flavours by using different seasonings on the vegetables like fajita, Cajun or Italian.
More butternut squash recipes
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Stuffed Butternut Squash
- 650 g butternut squash
- 50 g rice - cooked
- 2 garlic cloves - crushed
- 30 g spinach
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 0.5 red onion - finely diced
- 100 g cannellini beans
- 10 g parsley - finely chopped
- 20 g feta - crumbled
- 5 g Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/ Gas 6. Put the butternut squash halves skin side down and score the flesh in a diamond pattern. Roast for 30 minutes, until it has softened.650 g butternut squash
- While the squash is roasting, cook the rice according to package instructions.50 g rice
- Heat oil in a pan and add the garlic and onion and gently cook for 2 minutes.2 garlic cloves, 0.5 red onion
- Wilt the spinach in the pan.30 g spinach
- Take the squash out of the oven and scoop out the flesh and leave a 1cm boarder. Chop the flesh.
- Add the chopped squash, rice, tomatoes, beans and chopped parsley to the pan. Mix well.8 cherry tomatoes, 100 g cannellini beans, 10 g parsley
- Put the rice mixture in to the squash.
- Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and feta and roast for 15 minutes.5 g Panko breadcrumbs, 20 g feta
- Add a touch of sweetness with either a drizzle of honey at the end of mixing some raisins in to the stuffing mixture before baking.
- You can make this vegan by leaving out the cheese or using your favourite vegan alternative.
- Add some extra flavour by using something like pesto or sun-dried tomato paste.
- You could add different flavours by using different seasonings on the vegetables like fajita, Cajun or Italian.