Enjoy this lovely vegetarian Moroccan Pilaf and Vegetable Stuffed Squash for Thanksgiving, during the holidays, or all winter long! You can also use the pilaf as a side dish on its own any time of the year. Plus, I’ve included info on wine pairings & how much food to make for large parties to make this the easiest holiday season for you!
When I have vegetarian friends attending my parties, especially at the holidays, I want to create foods that are substantial enough for them to not feel that they are regulated to only eating side dishes. I want them to feel just as special as everyone else at the table.
Creating a vegetable laden Moroccan rice pilaf and serving it in a hollowed out baked squash, makes a very filling dish that is delicious, healthy, and flexible. This can be a two-for-one recipe. I like to make extra pilaf. Once you’ve filled the squashes, any leftover rice and vegetables can be added to your buffet as a side dish or stored in the refrigerator for meals the next day. If you want, you can add chopped turkey or ham to it when you reheat it, making a single dish main course and a great way to help use up the leftover meat.
Another benefit of this recipe is that you can make the components a day in advance and then reheat them before serving, melting the cheese over the top (if your guests care for it) just before serving. This gets some of your work done ahead, reducing your load on the big day. I always love anything I can get done a day or two ahead (or even more) so that I can actually enjoy Thanksgiving and not spend the entire day in the kitchen.
Food and wine pairing can be intimidating if you don’t serve wines often. Vegetarian dishes and poultry traditionally are served with white wines or lighter reds. I like to serve a chilled chardonnay or sauvignon blanc so that there is something for everyone. And if you have guests who prefer a red wine, a Pinot Noir is a delightful choice.
Typically, you will get about 6 (4-oz) servings out of each 750ml bottle of wine. Expect your guests to consume about 2 to 3 glasses per hour, helping you estimate how many bottles you will need. I always buy a couple extras so we don’t run out! And don’t forget to have non-alcoholic options for the younger folks and designated drivers.
While we’re talking about holiday parties, I thought it would be helpful to have some guidelines on how much to serve to help you with planning! (Thanks to Dummies.com) Remember that people will want to have small portions of everything, so dishes will stretch farther when you have a large buffet or many options.
How Much Food to Plan On Serving for Holiday Meals
- Appetizers before a large meal 6 to 8 pieces per person
- Appetizers without a meal 12 to 15 piece per person
- Turkey, Chicken, or Duck 1 lb per person (bone-in)
- Roasts (with bones) 14 to 16 oz per person
- Roasts (boneless) 1/2 lb per person
- Vegetables as side dishes 3 to 4 oz per person
- Pastas as side dishes 2 to 3 oz per person
- Potatoes/Yams as side dishes 1 medium per person
- Rice & Grains (cooked) 1-1/2 oz per person
- Pies 3-inch wedge per person
- Sheet Cake 2×2-inch piece per person
- Cheesecake 2-inch wedge per person
- Cobbler 1 cup per person
- Brownies or bar cookies 1 to 2 per person
This month’s theme is A Vegetarian Thanksgiving hosted by Susan Pridmore of The Wimpy Vegetarian. You’ll love all the recipes that this amazing team has come up. From a delightful dip to serve before dinner, to main courses, side dishes and desserts, there is something for everyone at your holiday table! Make sure you check out the links below the recipe.
Now get out there and have a fabulous Thanksgiving and joyous holiday season!!
How to make Moroccan Rice Pilaf and Vegetable Stuffed Squash:
- Cut the squash in half lengthwise and clean out the center
- Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, then season and finish baking
- Make the pilaf and vegetable filling
- Stuff the squash halves, top with cheese if using, and bake until the rice is hot and the cheese is melted
- Serve hot to your appreciative audience!
What is the best way to clean out a squash?
Use a heavy-duty metal kitchen spoon to scrape out the squash. It will help cut through the strings, making this part of the job much easier. If you have one, a grapefruit spoon with a serrated edge is perfect and will make short work of this task.
If you have ever struggled with trying to cut a hard, large squash, like butternut, spaghetti or acorn, I have found that if I microwave it for just a minute or two, it softens the skin enough to make it much easier to cut. You still need a very sharp long knife (preferably a heavy duty one like this one from Wusthoff that I have) to give you enough leverage to get through it. If the knife is long enough, you can carefully press on both ends, maximizing your strength.
What is Ras el Hanout seasoning?
Ras el Hanout is a wonderful blend of seasonings that often contains cinnamon, cumin, coriander, allspice, salt, pepper, and ginger. Some versions have many more ingredients, helping to create a bold, aromatic spice blend that is delicious. I offer you the option to leave it out if you don’t have it, but it adds depth of flavor and interest that is intriguing. If you want to make your own, here is a recipe from Epicurious for you to try.
Be sure to ask what your vegetarian guests about their dietary restrictions. Some vegetarians will eat dairy and/or eggs, others will not and a few will eat some seafood. It would be a shame to create a special dish and have them unable to eat it because you used an ingredient they don’t eat.
Key Ingredients for this Recipe
- Acorn squash, or something similar
- Vegetable stock
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
- Turmeric, Ras el Hanout (optional), cardamom, cumin, and chile flakes
- Onion, garlic, ginger, and bay leaf
- Red bell pepper, carrot, corn kernels, zucchini
- Long grain white rice
- Saffron threads, minced fresh cilantro or parsley
- Shredded cheese
Kitchen Tools I Use to Make This Recipe
- Large heavy-duty sharp knife
- Large spoon
- Baking half sheet
- Large saucepan or Dutch oven
- Large skillet with a tight lid
This recipe is naturally gluten-free! The only place gluten may hide is in the stock. If you have any doubts, make your own from vegetable scraps, cooking them down to make a beautifully flavored broth. Just avoid using cauliflower or broccoli – they will make your broth taste too strong of a single vegetable.
Moroccan Pilaf and Vegetable Stuffed Squash (Gluten-Free)
Enjoy this lovely vegetarian Moroccan Pilaf & Vegetable Stuffed Squash dish for Thanksgiving, the holidays, or all winter long!
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 acorn squash or other similar squash variety
Moroccan Rice Pilaf
- 4-1/2 cups vegetable stock*
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp Ras El Hanout (optional)
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- Pinch chile flakes, optional
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds discarded, finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 2 cups raw long grain white rice, such as Lundberg Farms brand
- 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, optional
- A large pinch of saffron threads, crushed
- Finely minced fresh cilantro or parsley
- 2 zucchini, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise then into thick slices
- Shredded Monterey Jack or Parmesan cheese (leave off for vegan)
- Minced parsley or cilantro, for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- To Prepare Squash: Pierce the rind a few times and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Using a very sharp large knife, trim the ends off, then split the squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. Rub oil all over each squash half; lay them cut side down in a rectangular baking pan.
- Bake, uncovered, in the hot oven for 25 minutes. Flip them cut side up; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and bake until tender when pierced, about 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can hold them in your hand. Note: If you cut too deep and one of your squash halves has a hole in the bottom, you can plug it with a slice of zucchini or bell pepper. Place the "plug" in the bottom when you flip the squash over.
- Make the Rice Pilaf: While the squash is baking, in a saucepan, heat the stock until steaming. Keep hot over low heat until needed.
- Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the seasonings, chile flakes, onions, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, chopped peppers, and carrots. Cook, stirring often, until onions are softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring often until it begins to color, about 5 minutes; make sure all the grains of rice get coated with the oil. Stir in the corn, saffron and cilantro.
- Pour in the hot stock and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer without lifting the lid for 15 to 20 minutes, add the zucchini, replace the lid and continue cooking until liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 5 more minutes (or according to package directions*).
- Remove from the heat, with the lid on, and leave untouched for about 10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff the rice with a fork. The zucchini will cook as the rice steams and finishes cooking. If using this pilaf as a stuffing, let it cool slightly so it holds together better. If serving it as a side dish, use immediately.
- Stuff Squash: When the squashes are cool enough to handle, fill the center with the pilaf, mounding the top of each one slightly. Place back in the baking pan. You may make the recipe to this point up to 1 day ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Return to room temperature before continuing.
- Sprinkle each stuffed pepper with some cheese (if using) and herbs. Bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted, the rice is hot all the way through, and the squash is fork tender. Serve immediately or keep warm in a low oven.
* If you are using a type of rice that requires more liquid, add enough water to equal the total amount of liquid required on the package directions and cook as suggested by the manufacturer.
This filling can also be used as a stuffing for other foods like bell peppers, or as a side dish on its own.
This recipe is part of our monthly progressive dinner party, Progressive Eats. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
A Vegetarian Thanksgiving
- Caramelized French Onion Dip with Homemade Potato Chips from Creative Culinary
- Spiced Acorn Squash with Charred Poblano-Chickpea-Cornbread Stuffing from The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Moroccan Pilaf and Vegetable Stuffed Squash from The Heritage Cook
- Mushroom Leek Cornbread Stuffing from Mother Would Know
- Celery Root Mash from Stetted
- Stovetop Green Bean Casserole from All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
- Carrot Puff from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Broccoli Casserole from Never Enough Thyme
- Potato Gratin from Miss in the Kitchen
- Maple Pumpkin Bread Pudding from Whole Food Real Families
- Caramel Pumpkin Mousse with Cocoa Nib Streusel from Pastry Chef Online
To see our upcoming themes , please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.
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First Published: 24 Nov 2015
Last Updated: 22 Nov 2019
Heather | All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
That rice is so gorgeous, and this is a meal that I’d claim to be a vegetarian just so I could have it on my plate! That is a handy list to keep around during the holidays.
Thank you so much Heather – I loved making and photographing it. Bright colors are always so fun! And I agree, this is one heck of a vegetarian feast that we all would stumble over each other to get to the head of the line, LOL.
Jane, This dish is such a lovely combination of flavors and colors. With or without the squash, the rice pilaf is a perfect way to incorporate Middle Eastern flavor into an all-American Thanksgiving.
Thanks Laura – I know it may be sacrilege, but I like throwing a surprise into every party and this flavor combination certainly does that, LOL. Happy Thanksgiving!
Yum! I love the spice combination here. What a great addition to the table!
Thanks Megan – a different flavor combo definitely wakes up our taste buds, LOL! Happy Thanksgiving!
Oh, Jane, your rice filling sounds amazing. What a perfect option for vegetarian company, but I’d be happy with this for dinner anytime! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!
Thank you so much Liz. This is a wonderful side dish – or my favorite snack or lunch main course! Hope your Thanksgiving is fabulous, I know the food definitely will be! 🙂
Oh I love Moroccan flavors and this is a beautiful side dish for the holidays! A great side dish with a roasted bird or as a main… for lunch! Beautiful!
Thanks Jamie!! I wanted something fun and different that would be special as a main course for the vegetarians coming to our holiday table. I think they will love this – I know I do! 🙂 Hugs to you!!
What a beautiful dish, Jane! And I like the add turkey the next day option, too. That’s a lovely, creative way to use leftover turkey! Thanks for the serving guide too. I am the worst at that, so it’s always good to have a guide to go by. I hope you and your family have a lovely Thanksgiving!
Thank you so much Jenni! As I was making this is occurred to me that adding leftover turkey would create a whole new dish. I love it when that happens! 🙂 Have a fabulous Thanksgiving with The Beloved and all your wonderful fur babies!