Looking for a mouthwateringly memorable holiday recipe that will thrill the vegans in your family while giving your meat-eating loved ones a delicious side dish to enjoy? Put our festive butternut roast, inspired by The Veg Space, on the table, and everyone at the holiday table will be happy!
Festive enough for a satisfying side dish but filling enough for a vegetarian main course, this lentil-stuffed butternut squash recipe will be your go-to meal when you’ve got meat-free friends and family coming to dinner.
Gorgeous halves of tender roasted butternut squash become edible serving bowls for a healthy, hearty filling of green lentils, fresh cranberries, herbs, wilted spinach, and crunchy pistachios. Red wine and vegetable stock add distinctive flavors to the mix, making the filling even more irresistibly delicious. The sweetness of the winter squash and the savory complexity of the lentil filling come together to make this holiday dish one of the best vegetable-based meals you’ll ever hungrily fork into your mouth.
What’s the difference between green, red, and brown lentils? All lentils are packed with protein, fiber, and other phytonutrients, but they vary in color, taste, and cooking times. We call for green lentils in this recipe because of their bold, somewhat peppery flavor and their ability to hold their shape during the cooking process. They also take the longest to cook. Red lentils are the prettiest of the bunch, and they deliver a nuttier, sweeter flavor than the green or brown varieties. Brown lentils cook quickly, about 20 minutes, and boast a deep, earthy flavor. Lentils can be used interchangeably, but you’ll have to adjust cooking times depending on your choice.
Cook’s note: Butternut squash can be daunting to cut in half because of its rock-hard skin and roly-poly shape. One false move and your sharp knife can slice through your finger rather than the squash. To make butternut squash more manageable to cut, prick a few holes in it with the tip of your knife and microwave it for three minutes to slightly soften the tough skin. You’ll find the squash skin much easier to penetrate and slice.
Place the butternut squash halves cut-side up on a baking sheet and brush the flesh all over with olive oil. Bake the squash at 350°F for 1 hour or until the flesh is fork-tender. Set the squash aside until cool to the touch. While the squash is baking, make the lentil mixture.
Cook the lentil mixture
This tasty protein- and fiber-packed mixture becomes a delicious filling for the butternut squash. In a large skillet over low heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Stir in the lentils, cranberries, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg, red wine, and vegetable stock. Bring this mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. The lentils should be tender but firm enough to hold their shape.
Add spinach and pistachios to the lentil mixture
Stir the spinach and pistachios into the lentil mixture until the ingredients are well-combined. Transfer the lentil mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
Scoop out the butternut squash
The halves of butternut squash become edible serving bowls for this holiday dish. Carefully scoop out the tender squash flesh, leaving a small amount around the edges so the squash halves keep their shape. Transfer the flesh to a large bowl.
Make the squash filling
Use a potato masher to mash the squash. Add the lentil mixture and stir until combined. Do not overmix.
Fill the butternut squash halves and return to the oven
Spoon the squash and lentil filling into the butternut squash halves until the filling is level. This dish is best served hot. Place the filled squash in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until heated through. Serve hot and dig in.
1 large butternut squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the squash
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1/2 cup dry green lentils
1/2 cup fresh cranberries
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup red wine
2/3 cup vegetable stock
3 ounces baby spinach, finely chopped
2 ounces pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Brush olive oil all over the flesh of the butternut squash halves.
Bake for up to 1 hour, depending upon size, or until the flesh is tender when pierced with a fork.
Remove the squash from the oven and set it aside until cool to the touch.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over low heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened.
Add the lentils, cranberries, rosemary, thyme leaves, nutmeg, red wine, and vegetable stock. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
Cover the skillet with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer the lentil mixture for about 30 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. The lentils should be tender but not mushy.
Stir the spinach and pistachios into the lentil mixture until well-combined. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Carefully scoop most of the flesh out of each of the halves of butternut squash, leaving a small amount of flesh all the way around the skin so the squash holds its shape. Be careful not to tear the skin.
Transfer the squash to a large bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the squash. Add the lentil mixture and stir together.
Spoon the lentil mixture into each of the halves of the butternut squash until level.
Return the squash to the oven for 10 minutes to heat through.