A Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash, split in half and stuffed, is the perfect weeknight dinner for two. It’s full of those fall flavors you love—maple syrup, apples, onion, sage, and dried cranberries. This hearty dinner comes together superfast since we soften the squash in the microwave and fully cook the stuffing on the stovetop.
As you can see from the photo, I really stuff this thing. That’s because when it’s all said and done, I take a half, put it on a plate, and eat it for a special dinner or serve it on a relaxed weeknight at home. No extra sides or anything—it’s perfectly filling on its own. And quite honestly, it’s a great meal to have with a glass of wine.
JUMP TO THE SECTION TO LEARN:
- WHAT IS A WINTER SQUASH?
- WHAT TO LOOK FOR
- HOW TO STORE
- HOW TO CUT
- INGREDIENTS IN THIS STUFFED SQUASH RECIPE
- TIPS FOR MAKING THIS A SUPERFAST WEEKNIGHT DINNER FOR TWO
- RATE THE RECIPE
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WHAT IS A WINTER SQUASH?
Winter squash is the name given to those cucurbits that develop tough skins, which allow them to be stored and kept over the winter. Once limited to a few varieties, there is now a plethora of squashes including some stunningly rich-tasting ones. While they differ in size, shape, color and density, nearly all winter squash have a sweet yellow or orange flesh.
Acorn squash is the one winter squash most Americans know – acorn shaped with smooth skin that’s dark green, orange, or splashy mixture of the two. The flavor can be a little bland, which is one of the reasons, I like to sweeten it when baked and then stuff the cavity with flavorful ingredients.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Winter squash should be firm and hefty for their size. The heavier they are, the denser and moister the flesh. There may be rough patches on the skin, but the only real problem is soft, spongy spots. Avoid them if you can or cut them out if you can’t.
For this recipe I like to buy an Acorn squash that is the size of a large grapefruit.
HOW TO STORE
Keep whole squash in a cool, dry place that has plenty of ventilation—a back porch would be ideal. If you like to keep them out where they can be seen, try to use them within a week or two, before they dry out. Cut squash can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to a few days.
HOW TO CUT
Cutting squash can be difficult. A heavy knife or cleaver and a rubber mallet are useful tools. Whack the knife into the squash, then bear down or tap it with the mallet to open the squash. Cut next to the stem rather than through it – it’ll be easier on your knife.
INGREDIENTS IN THIS QUINOA STUFFED SQUASH RECIPE FOR TWO
When it comes to winter squash, we all have favorite flavors and ingredient combinations. Roasted Squash rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper? Yup. Roasted Squash with Maple Syrup? Yum!
After picking up my latest CSA (community supported agriculture) farm fall vegetable share, I like to think about what spices and flavors might pair well with acorn squash. Often, the best pairings can be a bit unexpected, and to me, that's what makes cooking and baking so exciting!
All that said, to help you out with stuffing your winter squash, I've created this winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart.
This quinoa stuffed acorn squash is one of our favorite combinations. Finish it off in the oven for an irresistible crispy top. Here’s what’s in this:
- 1 Acorn squash
- Apple – A granny smith or honey crisp work well
- Toasted pine nuts – you could substitute raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
- Dried Cranberries
- Green onions or scallions
- Apple cider
- Parmesan and Goat Cheese – if you are not a fan of goat cheese you could swap for feta.
- Chives for garnish this is optional
Butter, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper are rubbed inside the cavity and on the cut sides before microwaving to enhance the flavor of the squash.
TIPS TO MAKE THIS SUPERFAST WEEKNIGHT DINNER FOR TWO
This hearty autumnal dinner comes together superfast since we use the microwave to soften the squash. Then we turn to the stovetop to fully cook the stuffing.
The squash can be made ahead if you prefer: Before brushing the stuffed squash with melted butter, wrap the stuffed squash in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To serve, bake in a 350-degree oven until heated through, about 30 minutes, then brush with the melted butter and broil to toast the bread cubes.
More Stuffed Squash Recipes
Are you looking to try making some new stuffed squash recipes when cooking for two? Check out this winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart to discover some unique and amazing flavor and ingredient combinations.
You can adapt to whatever you have on hand and pull together a hearty and healthy-ish meal.
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash For Two
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For the squash:
- 1 Acorn Squash unpeeled, halved through the stem and seeded.
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter diced
- 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Good olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the filling:
- ¼ cup quinoa rinsed – you can substitute for another grain found in the winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart
- ½ cup water
- 2 Tablespoons dried cranberries
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts toasted – you can substitute pepitas or another nut found in the winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart
- ½ Granny Smith apple cored and chopped
- 2 Tablespoons green onions chopped
- ¼ cup spinach
- 2 Teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta – Use the winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart for cheese substitutions. Use the winter squash flavor stuffing pairing chart for cheese substitutions.
- Chives for garnish optional
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat for easy clean-up.
For the squash:
- Place the squash, in a large microwave safe dish. Place butter and maple syrup in the cavity of each squash. Brush the sides with olive oil and sprinkle the squash with salt and pepper. Microwave covered, until tender, about 15 minutes.
For the filling
- Meanwhile, cook the quinoa: In a small saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a gently simmer. Simmer uncovered until all the water is absorbed, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cranberries, spinach and apples. Cover, and let mixture steam. After about 5 minutes, uncover and fluff the quinoa using a fork.
- Now let’s toast the pine nuts over medium heat in a small skillet, shaking the pan frequently, until the pine nuts are turning golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine quinoa mixture, toasted pine nuts, green onion, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Taste and season with salt as needed.
- Mix in parmesan and goat cheese to the quinoa mixture, gently stirring to combine. Place the softened squash on the lined baking sheet so that the cut sides are facing up. Divide the mixture evenly between the cooked squash halves, packing lightly with back of spoon.
- Bake until cheesy quinoa is lightly brown, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives, and serve warm.
Your Notes, Tips and Tricks
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