Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Thanksgiving is getting close and I’ve had so much fun sharing some brand new, festive recipes, plus old favorites like this one from back in 2017.

To me, Thanksgiving is about pairing your Grandmother’s classic recipes with new recipes that help you create your own traditions. Since coming into Tony’s family, I’ve introduced both my homemade naturally sweetened cranberry sauce and healthy sweet potato casserole to the table and now each year we’re sure not to miss it.

This incredible cranberry pecan quinoa stuffed acorn squash recipe in particular is inspired by my love affair with acorn squash. I’ve been obsessed with it since my mom and I started cooking it during college. If you’ve never had acorn squash before, then get excited because it can be both savory and sweet and a wonderful introductory squash. It’s tender and full of smoooooooth flava. Basically the Beyonce of all squash…in my opinion anyway.

Today’s recipe was one that I made up on a whim 6 years ago and it turned out to be one of the most creative meals I’ve made in some time. I’m super excited for you to try it!

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stuffed acorn squash on a baking sheet

How to cut acorn squash

To cut your acorn squash, you’ll need a sharp chef’s knife and a sturdy cutting board. To cut your acorn squash in half:

  1. Cut off the end of the acorn squash with the stem on it. You really don’t need to cut much off, but probably 1/4 inch.
  2. Stand your acorn squash vertically on the end that you just cut off. This provides a stable base for you to make a cut without cutting your fingers or hand. Make a vertical cut down the middle of the acorn squash.
  3. Finally, scoop out the seeds. Now you’ve successfully cut your acorn squash in half!

Everything you’ll need to make this quinoa stuffed acorn squash

We’re packing each acorn squash half with beautiful, sweet and savory flavors from orange-infused quinoa, toasted pecans, cranberries, goat cheese, and more. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Acorn squash: the one and only! If you haven’t tried making this type of squash before be prepared to fall in love.
  • Coconut oil: you’ll need a little coconut oil for both the squash and the quinoa to give them the right amount of moisture and fat.
  • Brown sugar: we’re sweetening the acorn squash halves with brown sugar! You can also use coconut sugar.
  • Orange juice: oh yeah, we’re stirring freshly squeezed OJ right into the quinoa and into the sauce for a lovely citrus-infused flavor.
  • Spices: you’ll need some cinnamon and salt for the squash, plus ground turmeric, salt, and pepper for the quinoa.
  • Toppings: I LOVE the extra flavor and texture that dried cranberries and toasted pecans add to every bite.
  • For the sauce: because sauce = life, we’re drizzling the squash halves with a lovely sauce made from goat cheese, orange juice and zest, and a little salt and pepper. It’s SO GOOD.
  • To garnish: take the stuffed acorn squash to the next level with fresh thyme and a drizzle of honey (or hot honey!)

quinoa stuffed acorn squash on a baking sheet

Customize your stuffed acorn squash

I have a few easy ways to make this vegetarian stuffed acorn squash your own:

  • Choose your grain. Not into quinoa? I think pearl couscous would be delicious in here!
  • Go nut free. You can easily swap the coconut oil for butter and simply omit the pecans.
  • Pick your cheese. I’ve tried this recipe with both goat cheese and feta crumbles and they’re both delicious! If you like a tangy sauce, opt for goat cheese, and if you like saltier flavors, use feta cheese.

How do you make stuffed acorn squash?

  1. Prep the squash. Start by cutting your acorn squash according to the directions above so that they’re halved and seedless. Add coconut oil, brown sugar (or coconut sugar) and cinnamon to the flesh of the acorn squash and bake until tender.
  2. Cook the quinoa. While the acorn squash roasts to sweet perfection, you’ll cook your quinoa and infuse it with orange juice and spices. Learn how to cook perfect quinoa here! Then stir in the cranberries.
  3. Stuff the squash. Add the quinoa to your acorn squash halves, top with pecans, and bake again for a few minutes.
  4. Make the sauce. While the squash bakes again, make the goat cheese or feta crumble by blending all of the ingredients together until it’s creamy.
  5. Top & devour. Drizzle the sauce all over the top of the roasted squash, and garnish with thyme leaves and a drizzle of honey (or hot honey) if you’d like. Season with extra salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

vegetarian stuffed acorn squash on a baking sheet

Make it ahead of time

Save time over the holidays and start prepping the squash early! Here are a few steps you can do ahead of time:

  • Prep the squash by halving it and scooping the seeds out. Store the halves in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to make the full recipe.
  • Cook the quinoa, let it cool, and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Make the recipe up until you bake the squash for the second time (i.e. roast the squash, cook the quinoa, and stuff the squash halves). Then cover the squash and store it in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to enjoy, simply heat it up in the oven and top with the sauce and garnishes!
  • Finally, one day ahead of time you can make the full recipe minus the sauce and garnishes. Store the squash in the fridge, then once ready to serve, simply reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warm. Then make the sauce, drizzle it on top, and add the garnishes.

More Thanksgiving recipes you’ll love

Get all of my Thanksgiving recipes here!

If you make this cranberry pecan quinoa stuffed acorn squash recipe, please rate it below and leave a comment. You can also snap a photo and tag #ambitiouskitchen on Instagram! xo.

Cranberry Pecan Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

stuffed acorn squash on a baking sheet

Prep Time 20 minutes

Cook Time 1 hour

Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Serves4 servings

Beautiful stuffed acorn squash with orange-infused quinoa, sweet dried cranberries, pecans, and a simple goat cheese or feta sauce. The perfect vegetarian side dish or main to serve at Thanksgiving, or anytime you’re looking for a unique, delicious meatless meal!

Ingredients

  • For the acorn squash:
  • 2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
  • 4 teaspoons virgin melted coconut oil (or sub melted butter)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • cinnamon, for sprinkling
  • For the quinoa:
  • ½ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup toasted pecan halves, chopped
  • For the sauce:
  • 2 ounces goat cheese or feta crumbles
  • 1 teaspoon orange or lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange or lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • For garnish:
  • 2 teaspoons Fresh thyme leaves
  • Honey or hot honey

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, 1/2 tablespoon brown or coconut sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to each squash half; use your hands to rub into the flesh of the squash, even on the top (but not on the skin). Sprinkle each squash half with a little bit of cinnamon. Place flesh side down on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just fork tender.

  • While the squash roasts, you can make the quinoa. Add quinoa and water to a large pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork.

  • Next stir in coconut oil, orange juice, turmeric and salt and stir to combine. Fold in dried cranberries. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

  • Once acorn squash is done roasting, flip squash over and evenly stuff each squash with quinoa. Top the filling with pecans. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

  • While the squash is baking again, make the goat cheese or feta drizzle: Add feta or goat cheese crumbles, orange zest and orange juice to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Drizzle evenly over each squash half. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves, a drizzle of honey (or hot honey) and extra salt and pepper. Serves 4, 1 squash half each.

Recipe Notes

If you want to save time, you can make the squash and quinoa a day ahead of time. Once ready to serve, simply reheat in oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warm and then make the sauce and drizzle on top.
See the full post for more tips, tricks, and ways to customize this squash!

Nutrition

Serving: 1squash halfCalories: 393calCarbohydrates: 58.7gProtein: 7.8gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7.4gFiber: 9.8gSugar: 17.5g

This post was originally published on November 9, 2017, republished on October 28th, 2019, and republished on November 8th, 2023.



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