Stuffed acorn squash filled with brown rice, lean ground beef, tomatoes and warming spices is a comforting and splendidly colorful dish loaded with earthy and delicious flavors.
Stuffed Acorn Squash, a Savory, Seasonal Stunner
For me, part of the fun and excitement over entering into this beautiful time of year—this colorful and soulful season—is the abundance of gorgeous looking produce, ready and available to be used for delicious, comforting and cozy recipes.
And little speaks of this lovely season more than acorn squash, that delicate, delectable and versatile sort of beautiful “antique” looking gourd with the sweet and bright orange flesh.
It's so stunning and so very perfect for creating mouthwatering recipes with!
I get excited when I begin to see acorn squash making its appearance in the produce departments of the markets I shop at, as I'm always reminded of one of my favorite savory recipes perfect for this time of year: stuffed acorn squash.
In my mind, a stuffed acorn squash recipe is one that not only tastes like this time of year, but looks every bit the part of something one would (and should) prepare during these cooler, cozier months, when healthy-yet-beautiful nourishment is what the body desires.
It's most certainly a wonderful and flavorful treat that invigorates the senses in all the best ways possible!
How to Cut Acorn Squash
Because acorn squash is a bit hard to cut through, it can seem a bit intimidating to work with. But never fear, I'll share a few tips with you on how I personally prefer to tackle it.
After that, you should find that it's smooth sailing when it comes to cooking it!
Here's how I prep acorn squash for cooking:
- First, I hold the squash horizontally on a cutting board so that the stem end is on my left, and the slightly pointy end is on my right.
- I take a large (sharp!) knife, and cut just enough of that pointy tip off to create more of a flat bottom; then, I flip the squash around and cut off just the stem portion (taking care not to cut too far as to get into the hollow part of the squash) to create another flat surface.
- Still holding the acorn squash horizontally, I place my knife in the center, and using a kitchen towel for extra leverage, I place the towel over my knife and push down quite hard until my knife makes its way through.
- If it doesn't go completely through, I give the squash a firm thud against the cutting board with my knife still in it (as you would with a coconut), and this always cuts/splits it the rest of the way for me.
- I then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits inside.
How to Cook Acorn Squash
For this recipe, I like to roast the acorn squash.
Roasted acorn squash has a natural sweetness, and it's incredibly tender and flavorful—ready to receive a wonderfully tasty and savory filling!
Here's how I roast acorn squash:
- I preheat my oven to 400°, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- After I've cut my acorn squash in half and scooped out the seeds and stringy bits, I rub the inside with olive oil, and season it with salt and pepper.
- Then, I place the squash cut-side down on my prepared baking sheet, and roast until tender, about 30-35 minutes.
- Next, I proceed with my stuffed acorn squash recipe below.
Tips & Tidbits for Stuffed Acorn Squash:
- Medium-large acorn squash: Because each squash is meant to feed two people, I like to use larger acorn squash; plus, it has a larger cavity to hold the filling.
- Roast cut-side down: I typically always roast my acorn squash cut-side down on the baking sheet—this creates some steam in the cavity as the squash roasts, which helps it stay moist and become tender. Simply rub some oil and sprinkle some salt/pepper into each cavity and place it cut-side down onto your baking sheet to roast.
- Brown rice, white rice, or quinoa: This recipe calls for brown rice, but you can certainly substitute white rice (jasmine or basmati are delicious!), or even quinoa, barley, or couscous—your choice!
- Ground beef, or your preferred protein: Lean ground beef is my pick for this stuffed acorn squash recipe, but you can use turkey, chicken, or even spicy sausage.
- Go vegetarian: This recipe is super easy to make vegetarian, or even vegan! Just leave out the meat altogether, or substitute ground soy, tofu, tempeh, or any other vegetarian option. You can even omit the cheese to make it vegan.
Feast your eyes on these, or just jump to the recipe:
Stuffed Acorn Squash
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 327 calories
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
• 2 acorn squash
• Olive oil
• Fresh cracked black pepper
• 1/4 onion, finely diced
• 1/4 lb extra lean ground beef (96/4)
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• Pinch cayenne pepper
• Pinch cinnamon
• 3/4 cup cooked brown rice
• 1/2 cup black beans
• 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
• 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped, divided use
• 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
• 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
• 1/4 cup finely shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
• 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
-Prepare the acorn squash by cutting off the bottom “point” to create a flat surface (don't take too much off), and also cut the stem part off to create another flat surface, again taking care to not cut too much off; next, cut the squash in half width-wise, in the center, creating 4 halves; scoop the seeds and stringy bits out, drizzle a little bit of olive oil into each of the 4 halves, and add a couple of pinches of salt and pepper to each half.
-Place each squash half onto the baking sheet with the cavity facing down, and roast for roughly 35 minutes, or until the flesh is fork tender; remove from the oven, and allow the squash to cool slightly until they can be handled; leave the oven on.
-While the squash roasts, cook the ground beef by placing a medium-size non-stick pan over medium-high heat, and drizzling in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil; once the oil is hot, add in the onion, and saute for about 2 minutes; next, add in the ground beef and break it up with a spoon/spatula into small crumble; once the beef has slightly browned, add in a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the garlic, the cumin, the cayenne and the cinnamon, and stir to combine.
-Allow the beef to finish browning, then turn the heat off, and turn the seasoned beef mixture out into a bowl.
-Next, add to the beef the cooked brown rice, the black beans, the quartered cherry tomatoes, the chopped cilantro, the sunflower seeds and the orange zest, and combine the ingredients very well; add another pinch of salt if needed, and set the mixture aside for a moment, keeping warm.
-Once the squash is cool enough to handle, spoon equal portions of the beef/rice mixture into the cavity of each squash half, sprinkle over the top about 1 tablespoon of the sharp cheddar cheese, and place the halves back onto the baking sheet and into the oven to bake for an additional few minutes just until the cheese melts.
-Serve with this nice avocado salad, a tomato salad, or a green salad on the side!
Interested in another “stuffed” recipe? Check out this scrumptious Stuffed Eggplant!
Cook's Note: This post was originally published in 2013, and has been updated with even more love!