Lean ground turkey, quinoa, apples, and cranberries come together in this delicious stuffed acorn squash recipe! A hearty, healthy, soul-warming meal the whole family will love.
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This recipe is one of those go-to dinner recipes for Fall and Winter! It is bright and cheery, but also rich in flavor, easy to make, and looks stunning. Just like our chicken and feta stuffed bell peppers, it is everything you need in its own bowl!
📖Why This Recipe Works
- This recipe is a complete meal. Sure you can pair it with a salad. But on its own it is perfection. The texture of the filling is lovely with crunchy apples and fluffy quinoa.
- The flavors are well-balanced and the addition of a few dried cranberries adds sweetness and color.
- This recipe is also naturally gluten-free and dairy-free!
The most common type of acorn squash found is small, round, and has a dark-green rind with orange markings. Too much orange means the squash isn't ripe. The greener the better.
You may notice that in my photos the squash isn't green. I used a golden variety of acorn squash, while not as common I found it at my local grocery store. It cooks up the same as the common green variety.
You can also make this recipe with butternut squash (roast for longer) or delicata squash (roast for less time).
Ground Turkey- You can also use leftover turkey chopped up, ground chicken, or ground pork.
Quinoa- We are using dried quinoa but if you have premade by all means use them! You can also use short-grain rice, but it will extend the cooking time.
Apple- Just one apple in this recipe. I prefer a Honeycrisp or Fuji for cooking.
Dried Cranberries- I prefer the ones that are reduced sugar. If you are feeling tart, try using chopped fresh cranberries.
Aromatics- This recipe uses celery, white onion, fresh sage, and thyme. You can also use dried herbs but add them in when cooking the quinoa, so the flavor has time to develop.
Water- To keep things simple, and budget-friendly, I used water to cook the quinoa. I tested with chicken broth and turkey stock. Surprisingly, it didn't make a significant difference in the final flavor of the dish.
⏲️How to Make Stuffed Acorn Squash
This recipe starts with prepping the acorn squash by cutting them into bowl shapes. While the squash is roasting we will make the turkey stuffing.
Step 1- Roast
To prep the squash, you need to cut a sliver of each half just so it lays flat. I cut the squash in half horizontally so you see the flowered ring shape from above.
However, you can cut the squash in half lengthwise to form a tear drop shape if you prefer. Be sure to use a solid sharp knife, or you can use a bread knife.
Scrape out the seeds with a spoon, but save them. You can roast them just like pumpkin seeds.
The squash is roasted upside down, meaning with the flesh touching the pan. But first, brush the inside with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle the insides with salt and pepper. Flip, and brush the outside with oil. This will prevent the squash from drying out.
The squash will roast for about 30 minutes at 400 F degrees. You want the squash to easily pierce with a fork. Once done remove it from the oven and flip it over to allow the excess steam to escape.
Step 2- Saute
While the squash is roasting you are going to tackle the turkey mixture. Start by browning the turkey in a large skillet. Once it is no longer pink you will move it to a plate and set it aside.
Step 3- Simmer
In the same pan saute the onion and celery until they begin to soften. You might need to add more oil if your turkey was especially lean.
Add your garlic and cook for about 30 to 60 seconds. Add the quinoa and salt, stirring to combine. Then add the water and scrape up any brown bits stuck to the pan. That is flavor!
Bring the quinoa to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Most types of quinoa will need to cook for 15 to 20 minutes to absorb all the liquid and cook through.
Step 4- Fill
Once the quinoa is cooked fluff it with a fork. Add the turkey back to the pan along with your diced apples, cranberries, and fresh herbs. Cook on low until the mixture is warmed through.
Evenly divide the turkey filling between each of the squash bowls.
Step 5- Roast and Serve
Bake the filled squash for 10 to 12 minutes until the tops begin to brown. Serve immediately.
You can garnish the tops with chopped pecans and minced parsley.
🥗What to Serve with Stuffed Squash
Do not discard the seeds of your acorn squash. You can roast them up just like pumpkin seeds.
One of the great advantages of acorn squash is its long shelf life. Store the squash in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated space that’s between 45 and 50 degrees. And grab it as needed.
Leftovers should be stored in an airtight container. Or you can leave it on the baking sheet and cover it with foil. I prefer reheating in the oven at 350 F degrees over microwaving.
More Squash Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Once roasted the skin of acorn squash is edible. Although some people might find the texture unappealing.
Cranberry sauce may be too sweet when mixed into the recipe. Instead, omit the dried cranberries from the stuffing mixture and serve the sauce as a condiment when serving.
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📖 Printable Recipe Card
Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 3 medium acorn squash
- 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 teaspoon black pepper divided
- 1 pound ground turkey
- ½ cup onion finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk chopped
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 1 honeycrisp apple peeled and diced
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- 1 teaspoon fresh sage
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush squash with 1 teaspoon oil and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Roast cut side down on a large baking sheet until tender, about 30 minutes. Flip and set aside.3 medium acorn squash, 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, 3 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper
- In a large sauté pan heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cook until no longer pink, breaking it into small pieces, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.1 pound ground turkey
- Add onion and celery, and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining teaspoon salt and the quinoa and stir to combine. Add water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until light and fluffy.½ cup onion, 1 celery stalk, 4 garlic cloves, 1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water
- Add the turkey back to the pan along with the apple, cranberries, sage, and thyme. Cook on low heat to warm through. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.1 honeycrisp apple, ¼ cup dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon fresh sage, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- Divide the mixture evenly between the squash halves. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes to brown the tops. Serve warm.
- You can cut the squash horizontally or vertically. The instructions and results are the same.
- If you prefer a less crispy apple add to the quinoa with 5 to 7 minutes of cooking time left.