Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner

Family-FriendlyVegetarianButternut SquashQuinoa

Looking for dinner that’s healthy in a hurry? The whole family will love this vegetarian skillet dinner! It’s loaded with the sweet and earthy flavors of roasted butternut squash, black beans, and quinoa, seasoned with cumin and chili powder. The best part? It’s ready, start to finish, in about 45 minutes.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Skillet dinners are your stovetop’s answer to casseroles. In both cases, you prep it and (more or less) forget it—not too many pans to wash, not too many steps involved. And it’s ready in less than 45 minutes!

Roasting the squash in the oven and then adding it to the skillet gives it those roasty, toasty virtues I love. Quinoa, an earthy, tiny red, black or white seed is packed with protein and serves as the palette for the squash, beans, tomatoes, and spinach. When it all comes together with chili powder, cumin, and oregano in the skillet, I’m (virtually) jumping up and down with glee.

My prep is done in record time, and I’m not skimping on taste!

While dinner bakes and simmers, you have time to putter in the kitchen or take a minute to enjoy a cup of tea. Who doesn’t like a meal with built-in down time? Once your tea is done, you’ll have a filling, tasty vegetarian or vegan meal (if you skip the cheese). Now that’s a plan I can live with!

A side view of easy vegetarian skillet dinner on a grey plate with a fork on the upper right. A glass of white wine is above the plate.

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WHOLE, HALF, OR PRE-CUT BUTTERNUT SQUASH

You can buy whole, half, or pre-cubed frozen or fresh butternut squash. Whether you are a pre-cut or a whole food all the way kind of person, it’s important to know you need a pound of squash for this recipe.

  • If you buy pre-cut bags or containers of squash, try to opt for fresh over frozen. The frozen squash can get kind of mushy.
  • At my market, I can buy half a butternut squash. It saves time, and for my household of two, it’s perfect. I usually get about a pound of squash.
  • If you can only find a large, whole butternut squash, don’t worry. The extra won’t go to waste. Use any extra squash to make one of these Top 10 Butternut Squash Recipes.

HOW TO CUT AND ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH

To tackle cutting the squash into small chunks, cut the round, bulbous end from the neck so you can work with one of two pieces at a time. Peel it if necessary, then cube it. Repeat with the bulbous end.

For detailed step-by-step instructions, check out our post on How to Cut a Butternut Squash.

To roast the cubes, douse them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and bake at a high heat. This high-heat method gives you just enough time (15 to 20 minutes) to get going on the skillet ingredients.

Horizontal view of a large cast iron skillet filled with a butternut squash skillet dinner. Cilantro, quinoa, butternut squash and cotija cheese are visible in the pan. To the left is a yellow napkin with three forks on it. Above the forks are three small bowls. One small bowl of rice, a ramiken of roasted pumpkin seeds and a small platter of cilantro.

WHAT’S THE BEST QUINOA?

While we think of it as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed from a flowering plant in the amaranth family. It is therefore gluten-free, packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

There are three main kinds of quinoa: red, white, or black. They can be used interchangeably in the recipe.

While some brands say ‘pre-rinsed’ on the label, it’s best to stay on the safe side and take a few minutes to place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and run it under cool water for a minute or two. This removes the outer coating of saponin. While not harmful, this coating can impart a bitter taste.

SUGGESTIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

There are plenty of ways to vary this recipe. I’ve provided a few easy and simple swaps below.

  • Don’t have red quinoa? Use whichever color you have on hand.
  • Kidney beans or chickpeas could stand in for the black beans.
  • If you want to make the beans from scratch, check out this post on How to Cook Dried Beans.
  • You could use almonds or cashews to replace pepitas.
  • Cotija is a salty, dry, and crumbly cheese. The best substitute to mimic its flavor and texture would be feta, but why limit yourself? Top the skillet with grated Monterey jack, cheddar, or Manchego, and pop the skillet in the oven for a few minutes to melt it.
  • Vegans would, of course, skip the cheese, or use a vegan cheese alternative, but don’t worry, there’s plenty of flavor here with or without cheese!

A blue bowl with mexican-style black bean skillet dinner and a spoon resting in it.

MORE GREAT SKILLET DINNERS

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peeled and seeded butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, or chili powder of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 cups water or low-salt vegetable stock
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled cotija cheese (optional)

To garnish:

  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

2 Roast the squash: On a rimmed baking sheet, mound the squash in the center. Sprinkle it with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat the squash, massaging the oil into the cubes to coat them.

Spread into a single layer and roast for about 20 minutes, turning it once after 15 minutes, until tender and browned in places. Remove from oven and let cool.

3 Rinse the quinoa: Place the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse it with cold running water for 1-2 minutes, shaking the strainer and stirring with your hands to remove the bitter coating (saponin) from the seeds.

Red quinoa in a colander sitting over a metal bowl on a marble background.

4 Cook the onion and spices: In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the garlic, oregano, chili powder, and cumin, and stir for 1 minute.

Diced onion and spices in a saute pan on a marble background. Caramalized chopped onions in a saute pan on a marble background.

4 Cook the quinoa: Add the quinoa, water or broth, diced tomatoes (including the juices), drained beans, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the spinach and cook for another minute, or until the spinach wilts.

Black beans, tomatoes, butternut squash and spices mixed together in a saute pan for easy vegetarian skillet dinner. Saute pan with mexican-style black bean skillet dinner in it and spinach on the top.

5 Toast the pumpkin seeds while the quinoa cooks: In a small skillet over medium heat, add the pumpkin seeds and stir for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they begin to crackle and turn golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool. (If you leave them in the hot pan, they may burn.)

Silver saute pan on a marble background with raw pumpkin seeds inside. Silver saute pan on a marble background with toasted pumpkin seeds inside.

6 Finish and serve the quinoa: Fold the squash into the skillet. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds, cheese, and cilantro, and serve.

Filling for easy vegetarian skillet dinner in a saute pan on a marble background. Vegetarian Skillet Dinner in a saute pan with a small bowl of pumpkin seeds to the right.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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6 Comments / Reviews

No ImageButternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sonya

    This is a keeper! Both delicious and nutritious! I doubled the recipe for my family of five. The only thing I changed was the roasting temperature( for the butternut squash)to 425 degrees for 20 minutes. It only took the quinoa about a couple of extra minutes just to absorb the liquid. Thanks for the recipe!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Chris

    Hi! I’d like to start by saying this recipe is very delicious, the seasoning and overall taste. The only issue I had was the time it took to cook was much longer than expected. I’m not sure if it was me or not but the quinoa took forever to soak and soften. I used black quinoa, but the cook time on those are about 20 minutes.

    Thank you for this recipe!

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  3. Rachel

    Love this meal! Perfect for meal prep. I left off the cheese and I went ahead and used the whole squash plus an extra can of black beans to bulk it up. Thank you!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. rebecca

    I think 45 minutes is very optimistic. I started peeling the squash at 4:15 and it is 6:00 and the quinoa is still simmering in liquid. Every step has taken longer than expected. The squash needed more time, seeds more time, and now the simmering is more time.

    Show Replies (1)
Horizontal view of a large cast iron skillet filled with a butternut squash skillet dinner. Cilantro, quinoa, butternut squash and cotija cheese are visible in the pan. To the left is a yellow napkin with three forks on it. Above the forks are three small bowls. One small bowl of rice, a ramiken of roasted pumpkin seeds and a small platter of cilantro.Butternut Squash and Black Bean Skillet Dinner