Savory Butternut Squash Quinoa

Winter squash is an enigma. It’s grown in the summer, harvested in the fall, yet gets it name from its ability to last on the shelf through our most bitter season. In terms of storage, the vegetable is a bit like Goldilocks—the refrigerator is too cold, a heated house too warm. A cool pantry or unheated garage or basement is just right.

When buying winter squash, look for ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid those with damaged stems or rinds, punctures or gouges. Don’t worry about a few surface scratches; you’ll be peeling those off anyway. Hearty winter squash often finds itself pureed into a starter soup or roasted alone as a side dish. This recipe gives it the company of other ingredients and elevates it to main dish status.

Remember those “choose-your-own-adventure” books that rose to popularity in the ’80s? You were the central character—maybe a race-car driver, doctor, or spy—and you had big decisions, like whether you should fight a ninja or go back in time. After the frantic flipping of pages back and forth, your story would end. Then you’d start and do it all over again.

Well, this recipe is like that. You choose the specific ingredients you want to try each time. Grocery store out of fresh pumpkin? Use butternut squash. Kids balk at quinoa? Choose rice. And like the adventure books, each leads to a slightly different, yet still tasty, ending.

Savory Butternut Squash Quinoa

Serves 4-6

  • 1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups winter squash, peeled and diced (CHOOSE: Indian pumpkin, butternut squash or acorn squash)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups rice or quinoa
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped greens (CHOOSE: kale or spinach leaves)
  • One 15-ounce can beans (CHOOSE: chickpeas, pigeon peas, black beans, or frozen edamame)


1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion is soft.

2. Stir in the squash and seasonings and cook for one minute more. Add three cups of water and rice or quinoa, cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes (check towards the end of cooking to test texture and avoid sticking to the pan).

3. Stir in the greens and beans and cook for about 5 minutes more.

4. Fluff the dish with a fork and turn off the heat. Let sit in pan for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Suggestion: For a taste of island heat, add a whole scotch bonnet pepper (pierced with a fork) to the rice while it simmers then remove it before serving.

Steps for Preparing Winter Squash:

1. Slice off stems and end of squash.

2. Half squash lengthwise then horizontally to make 4 sections; cut each section in half to form 8 wedges.

3. Scoop out seeds with a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works especially well).

4. Peel outer skin from wedges with paring knife or vegetable peeler.

5. Chop each wedge into 1-1/2-inch pieces.


If you create any of your own delicious ingredient combinations, please comment and share!