Mild and buttery acorn squash filled with sage, rosemary, wild rice, apples, and ground turkey makes a satisfying complete meal for two.
I love how tart apples and dried cranberries amplify the hint of sweetness in the squash. Wild rice is so pretty and has an earthy flavor and chewy texture. Combine all of those tasty bits with ground turkey, celery, and herbs and it adds up to supper in one nice package. I’ll take it!
Tips for Preparing Acorn Squash
Acorn squash is one of fall and winter’s treasures, so take advantage, and use it in as many ways as possible during chilly weather.
It grows on a vine and has a hard, thin skin. It’s next to impossible to peel acorn squash, so it makes sense to roast it in the oven. The skin actually is edible when well cooked, so eating it (or not eating it) is simply a matter of taste.
To roast an acorn squash, do the following:
- Cut in half, brush the flesh with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake it with the cut side down on a baking sheet until it is soft and can be pierced with a fork. It usually takes about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. When finished, the edges will caramelize a little.
Once cooked, all that’s left is to fill it and reheat it. You have plenty of time to make the filling while the squash roasts.
How to Make the Filling for Stuffed Squash
There’s nothing complicated here. After you’ve roasted the squash, turn it over on the baking sheet so the hollow center faces up.
While the rice for the filling cooks, sauté the ground turkey, and add shallots, celery, and apples. Stir in the herbs and cranberries. Once the rice is cooked, stir it into the skillet, and it’s ready to spoon onto the squash halves.
Finally, sprinkle with breadcrumbs for a little extra crunch, and return it to the oven to bake until it’s hot all the way through and browned on top.
TIP! If the squash is uneven on the bottom (tippy) use a large chef’s knife to cut off a sliver from the underside. This will help keep it from tipping to the side during baking.
For more information on which apple varieties are best for baking, check out our Guide to Apples.
What Is Wild Rice?
Wild rice is an annual water-grass seed that grows in marshlands, wetlands, and naturally slow-moving watery areas where it was originally found growing wild. It has been hybridized to make it compatible with commercial cultivation. Its texture is chewier than other varieties of rice.
Since the seeds absorb water slowly, the best way to prepare it is to cook it in abundant water, like pasta. For a step by step of this technique, checkout our recipe for Easy Boiled Rice.
Feel free to substitute a different kind of rice and use what you have on hand. Any of the varieties below would taste great with this dish:
- Brown rice
- Jasmine rice
- Basmati rice
- Wild rice mix
Ways to Adapt This Recipe
Everyone has different tastes and contents in their freezers. The recipe is easy to adapt.
- Make it vegetarian! This recipe is tasty enough to leave out the turkey entirely.
- You don’t have ground turkey handy? Just replace it with pork or chicken sausage.
- The only sausage you have is in links? Remove the casings and cook as you would a tube of ground turkey.
Tips to Make This Recipe Ahead
If you want to get a head start, you could roast the squash two to three days ahead of time—maybe while you are cooking or eating dinner one night. When cool, wrap it in plastic and store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it.
You could do the same with the filling, especially if you prep a few meals at once for the week. Store the components separately, or stuff the squash and store it, ready to go, in the fridge for up to two to three days.
When you’re ready to eat, assemble it, but plan on adding an extra 20 minutes to the cook time to heat it all the way through at 375oF.
Need More Squash in Your Life?
- Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Casserole
- Butternut Squash Enchiladas
- Stuffed Delicata Squash with Pancetta and Goat Cheese
- Baked Acorn Squash with Butter and Brown Sugar
- Vegan Stuffed Squash with Brown Rice and Mushrooms
Stuffed Squash with Turkey and Apples
While the squash roasts, you can do almost all of the prep work for this dish.
This recipe is easily doubled to create 4 servings.
- 1 medium (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound) acorn squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
- 6 ounces ground turkey or ground breakfast sausage
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 1/2 large apple (Honeycrisp, Jonagold, or Braeburn), unpeeled, cored, and cut into small dice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon fine, dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 425oF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Roast the squash:
Brush the squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. With the cut sides down, place the squash on the baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove and cool briefly.
While the squash roasts, cook the rice:
In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Add the rice and adjust the heat to a simmer. Set a lid on top, slightly askew, and cook for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the rice “grains” are tender (some grains may begin to separate or burst). Drain in a sieve or fine-mesh colander.
Cook the turkey and vegetables:
In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the turkey and break it up into tablespoon-sized clumps using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often to further break up the meat, until it begins to brown.
Add the shallot, celery, apple, sage, rosemary, cranberries, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook and stir for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
If the pan seems dry, add up to 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and stir to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet until the water evaporates. Stir in the cooked rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.
Stuff the squash:
Turn the squash on the baking sheet so the cut side is up. Divide the filling between the halves.
Bake the squash:
In a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon of oil. Sprinkle on top of the squash halves.
Bake for 10 minutes, or until hot all the way through and the breadcrumbs are browned.