This concept started out as a Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. It took a few twists and turns through the development process.
Here’s what we ended up with:
- Wild rice, tossed in a gingery dressing, plus some kale for extra green stuff and health bonus points
- Roasted butternut squash
- Red pomegranate, green onion, and crumbled goat cheese, which yield a festive color combination
- Pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), toasted with a little cinnamon for warming spice
I’m not sure what to call this situation. Can we call it a stuffing? Or is it a dressing? As a vegetarian, the distinctions are lost on me. Maybe it’s just a salad?
Here’s what I know for certain. This dish is a…
- Christmas-worthy, wildly colored main dish for vegetarians
- Healthy holiday side dish for all
- Special diet-friendly option, since it’s gluten free, nut free and easily dairy free/vegan
Before You Get Started
This dish is not quick or particularly easy. It requires a good amount of prep work and cook time. The components will take up space in the oven and on the stove. The holidays are a busy time, and I have some time-saving tips for you below.
This dish is, however, a gorgeous option that tastes wonderful. It will convince your friends that meatless mains can indeed be filling and delicious.
If you’ll be a guest at a holiday feast, this would be a beautiful option to bring with you in fully assembled form.
You can make this recipe a day in advance. Carefully cover it before refrigerating, and let it warm to room temperature before serving.
How to Save Time
If you’re looking for shortcuts, here are some options:
- Buy pre-cut butternut squash
- Buy pomegranate arils that have already been removed from the fruit, or substitute dried cranberries
- Skip the kale—it’s not integral to the recipe, but I think it’s nice
- Cook the wild rice in an Instant Pot to save 10-20 minutes cooking time
You might also be surprised to see that I didn’t peel the butternut squash. That’s right—you don’t have to! Once cooked, the skin becomes almost as tender as the flesh. I don’t think anyone will notice it.
Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments! I hope you love this one.
Looking for more holiday-worthy recipes? This roundup features main dishes and side dishes that would be worthy of any fall/winter feast. This roundup features wholesome sweets, snacks and appetizers.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate and Wild Rice “Stuffing”
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 50 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 to 12 servings 1x
- Category: Main dish or side
- Method: Various
- Cuisine: American
This vibrant vegetarian stuffing recipe features roasted butternut squash, kale, pomegranate and wild rice. It’s a beautiful dish for your holiday table! This recipe yields 6 to 12 servings (a lot!). You can cut this recipe in half, if desired.
Wild Rice* and Toppings
- 2 cups wild rice, rinsed
- 4 ounces kale, ribs removed and chopped small (preferably the Tuscan variety, about ½ bunch or 2 cups)
- ¾ cup chopped green onion (from 1 large or 2 medium bunches), divided
- 4 ounces goat cheese (about ⅔ cup crumbled)
- Arils from 1 medium pomegranate, or ½ cup chopped dried cranberries
- ½ cup raw pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Roasted Butternut Squash
- 1 small-to-medium (2 to 2 ½ pounds) butternut squash, cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up, if desired.
- Cook the wild rice: Bring a large pot of water to boil (or see Instant Pot option provided in notes). Add the rinsed rice and continue cooking, reducing heat as necessary to maintain a lively simmer, for 40 minutes to 55 minutes. It’s done when the rice is pleasantly tender but still offers a light resistance to the bite. Remove from heat, drain the rice and return the rice to the pot.
- Meanwhile, roast the butternut: Place the cubed butternut squash on your rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle it with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt. Toss until the cubes are lightly and evenly coated in oil. Arrange them in a single layer and roast for 35 to 50 minutes, tossing after 20 minutes, until they are starting to turn golden on the edges and tender when pierced through with a fork.
- While the wild rice and butternut cook, prepare all of the remaining components. Chop the kale and green onion, remove the arils from the pomegranate, and whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
- To toast the pepitas, combine the pepitas, 1 teaspoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon each salt and cinnamon in a small skillet. Stir to combine, and cook over medium heat until the pepitas are starting to turn golden on the edges and making little popping noises, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
- When the wild rice is finished cooking and still warm, stir in the kale, half of the green onions, and all of the ginger dressing. Spread the mixture over a large serving platter (or use a large serving bowl, if need be).
- Arrange the butternut squash over the wild rice mixture. Crumble the goat cheese on top with a fork. Top with the pomegranate arils, toasted pepitas, and the remaining green onions. Serve.
- This salad is good warm or at room temperature. It will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Gently reheat leftover servings in the microwave, if desired.
*Wild rice note: You’ll see a wild rice blend in my photos, but after further testing I recommend using regular wild rice instead. If you would like to go ahead and use wild rice blend anyway, cook it according to the package directions.
Make it quick: Instead of preparing the butternut squash and pomegranate yourself, buy pre-cut options instead. Use two 12-ounce bags of pre-sliced butternut and 1 cup pomegranate arils. Or, use dried cranberries instead of pomegranate. You can cook the wild rice more quickly if you have an Instant Pot (see below).
Instant Pot option: Add the wild rice and 2 ½ cups water to the Instant Pot. Secure the lid and move the steam release valve to Sealing. Select the Manual/Pressure Cook option and cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. When the cooking cycle is complete, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes, then move the steam release valve to Venting to release any remaining pressure. When the floating valve drops, remove the lid and give the rice a stir. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the ginger dressing, kale, and half of the green onion while the rice is still warm.
Change it up: Substitute sweet potato for the butternut, or 1 to 2 cloves garlic for the ginger. Any whole grain will work in place of the wild rice—farro would be good, or maybe quinoa. If you don’t like goat cheese, try feta. Don’t love kale? Omit it altogether or substitute a few handfuls of arugula instead. Love kale? I think you could use the full bunch, no problem. Instead of pepitas, you could use pistachios or pecans (toasted then chopped).
Make it dairy free/vegan: Simply omit the goat cheese (or serve it on the side if accommodating guests with different dietary restrictions/preferences). You might like to serve individual servings with a dollop of vegan sour cream to make up for goat cheese’s creamy, tangy qualities.