This stuffed delicata squash makes for the perfect transitional side. And by transitional I mean it can be a side for the meat-eaters but easily transition into a main dish for the vegan and vegetarian folks. (I also call these substantial sides or meal-worthy sides because apparently it is in my nature to be wildly inconsistent. Either way: Super-handy for multi-vore households.)
After all, they say Thanksgiving is all about the sides. And as someone who doesn’t partake in turkey, it’s safe to say that I agree. This stuffed delicata squash side dish is one that I’m pretty excited about, too; with wild rice, lentils, and cranberries, it hits all the right marks.
This stuffed delicata squash recipe uses one of my favorite winter squashes to cook with, delicata squash. I’ve had these things in bowls, baskets, rolling around on my kitchen counter, and roasting in my oven all season long. Love the things, just love ’em.
This stuffed delicata squash might be my application so far.
What is Delicata Squash?
Delicata squash is a delicious winter squash that has really exploded in popularity over the past decade or so.
Pale to bright yellow in hue with green or orange vertical stripes, delicata squash’s small, oblong shape is similar to that of a chubby zucchini. Delicata, though, is a winter squash (zucchini is a summer squash).
Inside, delicata squash is a pale orange. The squash is creamy, light, and, well, delicate in taste – if Sweet Potato Lite was such a thing, delicata would taste a lot like that.
One of the best things about delicata squash is that the skin is great for eating – it’s thin and a bit chewy when cooked. Being able to leave the skin on makes for a prettier presentation – and whole a lot less preparation. Win!
How to Make Wild Rice & Lentil Stuffed Delicata Squash
Half and de-seed your delicata squash, brush with olive oil, and place the oven to roast. While that’s happening? Whip up a your hearty wild rice pilaf, amped up with French green lentils, flavored with curry powder and cumin, and dotted with dried cranberries and pecans. Yess.
Once your pilaf is done and your squash is roasted, just fill in your little squash boats, sprinkle with parsley, and away you go.
Can’t you just see this on your Thanksgiving table?
Oh and did I mention these bad boys are vegan AND gluten-free? Perfect for when you have guests with special diets – just cover ’em all in one swoop. Well, and if you have anyone with nut allergies coming to the table, you could totally leave those out too – this dish is still plenty delicious without.
Wild Rice & Lentil Stuffed Delicata Squash with Cranberries & Pecans
For the pilaf (filling):
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 3/4 cup wild rice blend (rinsed well)
- 2 medium cloves garlic (minced)
- 1-2 teaspoons curry powder (to taste*)
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/3 cup French green lentils (rinsed)
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar (packed)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
For the squash:
- 3 delicata squash (stems cut off, halved vertically, seeds removed)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the garnish:
- A few leaves of fresh parsley (chopped, for garnish)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the pilaf. Set a large saute pan with lid (or a medium dutch oven) over low heat. Add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until a few pieces of the rice start to get golden on the ends, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon curry powder, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for one more minute.
- Add 3 cups of the vegetable broth, the brown sugar, and the lentils. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer, stir, and cover. Set the timer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture begins to get too dry before being cooked all of the way, add additional broth. If the mixture seems too wet after cooking for awhile, vent the pan to help some of the liquid evaporate. I’ve found making the pilaf is not an exact science as each pan is different, so just monitor your pilaf as it cooks. Pilaf is done when it’s relatively dry and the lentils and rice are tender, about 40 minutes.
- Remove pilaf from heat and stir the dried cranberries and chopped pecans. Taste and add the remaining teaspoon of curry powder and more salt and pepper if you wish.
- Meanwhile, while the pilaf cooks, prepare the delicata squash. Cut the stems off the ends, half lengthwise, scrape the seeds out with a spoon, and brush the inside of each half with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut side down on a large baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, until fork-tender and golden around the edges. Remove from oven.
- When ready to serve, flip over the delicata squash and spoon pilaf into the squash halves. I like to mound it just a bit but not too much or serving will become interesting (as in messy). You may have some pilaf left over. Transfer to serving plate and sprinkle chopped parsley over the top. Serve.