Full of the goodness of fall, stuffed butternut squash is a noteworthy meal and super nutritious!
Why you’ll love it: With quinoa, bacon, cheddar and kale, this recipe is so satisfying and tasty.
How long it takes: a couple hours but mostly hands off
Equipment you’ll need: Sharp knife, baking pan, skillet, mixing bowl
Golden butternut squash with its tender sweet flesh, is filled to overflowing with a savory mix of salty smoked bacon, protein-packed red quinoa, dark green leafy kale, and extra sharp cheddar cheese. Nutritious, gorgeous, and so, so delicious!
You just have to try this! I can’t say enough good about it. Make it tonight, you know your mouth is watering already. I know mine is. This is good eating, folks!
And just in case you need more convincing, squash is so good for you. It’s packed with nutrients and is low in calories. Antioxidants? Yup. Fiber? Yup. Vitamins and minerals? Yup. It has it all. Check it out at Healthline if you don’t believe me.
We all know kale is like a superfood and quinoa is no slouch either. So you can feel really good eating this dish and your body will thank you. So you’re welcome!
About this stuffed Squash
For this recipe, I use butternut squash, quinoa, kale, and scallions. And I throw in bacon and extra sharp white cheddar cheese for good measure. This is ultimate comfort food, you guys.
It takes a little time to make. Butternut squash just needs a fair amount of time to roast, there’s no getting around that. Well, I guess there is, if you peel it and cut it into little pieces, squash doesn’t take too long at all. We love spicy sweet roasted butternut squash (bakes in only 15 minutes if you cut it small). It does take a lot longer to prep squash for that recipe, so it kind of evens out.
Anyway, we digress. I’ll get you started on the recipe here and give you lots of extra tips.
Jump to the end of the post if you’d rather go right to the printable recipe card with full instructions and nutrition information.
What You’ll Need
- Butternut Squash: You’ll need approximately a four pound squash, more or less. A butternut squash is a winter squash, tan in color and bell-shaped. It has sweet orange flesh.
- Thick Cut Bacon: I like thick cut bacon because it provides meatier bites of bacon. You’ll need half a package (8 oz.).
- Kale: Dark green leafy kale is a nutrition powerhouse. Remove the tough stems by grasping the stem with one hand and running your other hand down the stem, pulling off the leafy part. Chop it pretty finely.
- Quinoa: Red quinoa contrasts nicely with the orange squash but any color is fine. Make a big batch of quinoa and store it in the freezer to make recipes like this or these quinoa pancakes.
- Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese: This cheese has lots of flavor and works well with the bacon. Any type of cheese can be used though.
- Nutmeg, Thyme, Salt, and Pepper: Simple seasonings from your spice cupboard to flavor this fall dish.
- Scallions (Green Onions): For a fresh garnish!
How To Make This Recipe
First of all, the squash has to be prepped. Wash it thoroughly and use a heavy sharp knife to cut it in half vertically, from stem to blossom end. Scrape out the seeds and pulp. There’s no need to peel the squash for this recipe. Yaaay!
Rub a little oil on the cut side and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on a parchment lined baking pan. Roast it until it’s fork tender, about an hour.
While the squash is roasting, you’ll have time to make the stuffing. Hopefully, you have some cooked quinoa on hand but don’t worry if you don’t. It’s so easy to make and only takes about 15 minutes. Just follow the package directions.
Next, dice the bacon. Cut it into about 1 inch squares, nothing fancy. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until it’s crisp. Remove it from the pan, reserving a little of the grease. Put the bacon on a paper towel lined plate to drain off some of the grease.
Throw the kale in the frying pan next. Sauté it just until it softens and turns a really dark green. Set that aside for now.
Shred the cheese if it isn’t shredded already.
Is your squash tender yet? Remove it from the oven and carefully flip the halves over. If it’s just too hot for you to handle, go ahead and let it cool a few minutes.
Gently scrape the cooked squash out, leaving about a half inch stuck to the shell.
Put the squash flesh (doesn’t that sound gross?) into a large bowl and mash it slightly.
Add all the other ingredients and mix everything up.
Scoop the mixture into the squash shells. There will be a lot so go ahead and mound it up. Make little hills of stuffing in the squash.
Put the squash halves back into the oven (you can use the same pan and parchment paper!). Bake them until the filling is piping hot. It will take a half hour or so. Don’t worry if gets a little brown and toasted on top, that’s really good! It’s crispy on top and so gooey and satisfying on the inside.
If you’re serving it as a main dish, cut each squash half into half again so everyone gets a quarter of the squash. For a side dish, you’ll want to slice it into smaller-sized pieces. It won’t be quite as pretty but if you’re careful and have a good sharp knife, you should be able to get attractive slices with the stuffing still attached.
If you love the idea of stuffed squash, you have to try this amazing stuffed acorn squash, it’s one of my favorites! Really, this stuffing could be used in any type of squash.
Butternut squash is so versatile and goes with a variety of both sweet and savory flavors. Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking but these lists are by no means exhaustive.
Sweet: Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, maple syrup, dried cranberries, apples, walnuts, raisins.
Savory: Thyme, sage, oregano, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, dark leafy greens, smoked paprika, cumin, peppers.
It depends on how you’re preparing it. If you’re roasting squash halves, you can leave it unpeeled. Simply scoop the cooked squash out of the skins when it’s roasted. The cooked squash can be used for recipes like butternut squash mash with smoked paprika or shortcut squash soup (make it in less than 20 minutes).
If you prefer, butternut squash can be peeled, cut into squares, and roasted for a delicious side dish or added to a hearty salad like farro salad with butternut squash, bacon and cranberries.
Sure! Wrap it well and freeze it up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Make It Your Own
This is one of those recipes that can be fiddled with and tweaked to your heart’s content. Make it the way you like or use what you happen to have.
- Stuff another type of squash. Anything that can be stuffed will work whether it’s a big squash or a bunch of small ones.
- Instead of bacon, make it with sausage (Italian, breakfast, chorizo, chicken sausage links cut into circles), ham, or even ground beef. Make sure to cook it before adding it to the filling.
- Make it vegetarian and leave out the meat. Substitute great northern or black beans if you want. Make it vegan and leave out the meat and the cheese or use vegan substitutes. Make it dairy-free by leaving out the cheese.
- Speaking of cheese, choose whatever cheese you like best. Most any type of cheese will taste great here. Try it with feta!
- Not a fan of quinoa? Use a different cooked grain such as farro, rice, brown rice, barley, bulgur, whatever you like.
- Seasonings: I chose a couple I really like but you can go in pretty much any direction you like. Try a little smoked paprika for a smoky flavor.
- Substitute any other leafy green for the kale. Or if you’re not into green, substitute another vegetable. Maybe corn is the only vegetable you like (besides squash, I guess). Corn will work! So will almost anything else. If you choose a firmer vegetable like onions or peppers, sauté them a little longer to soften them.
To get head start on this recipe, prep the squash and get it ready to roast up to a day ahead. Quinoa can be made ahead and frozen. Same with the bacon.
The squash can be roasted and filled a day ahead of time. Refrigerate in a baking dish, covered tightly. Bake squash when ready to serve. It will take about 10 minutes longer since it’s cold.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Leftover stuffed squash can be covered and refrigerated for up to three days. It can be frozen up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat, microwave in one minute increments until heated through. Or heat in the oven at 350°F until heated through.
- 1 large butternut squash, scrubbed (about 4 pounds)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- ½ lb. (8 oz.) thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups tightly packed chopped kale
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (⅔ cup dry, cooked according to package directions)
- 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme ( or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves)
- Garnish: thinly sliced green onions (1-2), optional
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line medium sized baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Rub cut sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet cut side down. Roast for 50-60 minutes or until the flesh is tender.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, cook bacon until crispy over medium-high heat. Remove and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the bacon grease and sauté kale in bacon grease over medium heat until wilted, about 5 minutes.
- When squash is cooked through, remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Let squash cool slightly so it is cool enough to handle and then scoop out flesh, leaving a half-inch border around the edges.
- Place flesh of squash in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add quinoa, bacon, kale, nutmeg, cheese, and thyme. Mix until well combined. Stuff hollowed out squash with the mixture, mounding slightly.
- Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Cut into quarters (4 servings total) and serve, garnished with sliced green onions, if desired.
- If desired, substitute spinach or another leafy green for kale.
- Omit bacon for a vegetarian dish and use a non-dairy cheese substitute or omit cheese for a vegan dish.
- Any color quinoa can be used. If desired, substitute cooked rice, brown rice, bulgur, farro, or any cooked grain of your choice.
- Other types of cheese can be substituted for the cheddar. Try feta, parmesan, or gorgonzola.
- Instead of bacon, try cooked sausage, chicken sausage links (sliced), or ham.
- Store leftovers covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or freeze for up to one month. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
- To reheat, microwave in one minute increments until heated through. Or heat in the oven at 350°F until heated through.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.