Try this hearty and filling roasted carnival squash stuffed with a savory blend of mushrooms, leek, garlic, apple, chestnuts, and wild rice. It's a delicious main course for fall, winter, and the holidays.
In addition to being an incredible weeknight main, this vegan and gluten-free roasted stuffed squash is perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner!
When autumn is around the corner, so does the bounty of winter squashes arrive. One particular variety that shouldn't be missed is the carnival squash, with its beautiful mottled green and orange skin.
This nutritious winter squash contains vitamins and fiber, making it a great addition to any meal. Roasting and filling it with stuffing is one of my favorite ways to enjoy this sweet squash.
I love nothing more for a chilly fall or winter evening than a baking pan full of stuffed squash—the sweet flesh provides the perfect hearty base to showcase a blend of savory and satisfying stuffing.
I've been experimenting with carnival squash this fall and winter, with its bright orange, green, and yellow stripes. When halved and roasted, it makes a pretty presentation.
I highlighted seasonal flavors for the filling by combining chopped cremini mushrooms with leeks, garlic, and apple—fresh flavors that celebrate the harvest. Wild rice adds a nutty flavor and substantial chew, allowing the other ingredients to shine.
The result is a vegan stuffed squash roast that is as satisfying as it is beautiful, perfect for welcoming family and friends as the temperature cools, and we all start dreaming of days spent snuggling inside with good food and company.
I hope you'll try this Stuffed Carnival Squash recipe—I promise it will become a new family favorite for your fall, winter, and holiday table.
To round out the meal, this stuffed squash pairs well with these vegan Cranberry Cheese Bites, Roasted Beet and Kale Salad, and healthy Vegan Meatloaf as part of a holiday spread. Try these easy Poached Pears in Red Wine or vegan Quince Tarte Tatin with Mulled Wine to finish the meal.
This tart Pomegranate Gimlet pairs wonderfully with this stuffed squash recipe!
What is carnival squash?
Carnival squash is a type of squash that is part of the Cucurbita family, including pumpkins, gourds, and other winter squash varieties. It's a hybrid of sweet dumpling squash and acorn squash, typically available in the late summer, fall, and winter.
Carnival squash is easy to spot as it has distinct patterned skin shades of green, orange, and sometimes yellow. Its flesh is dense, smooth, and rich in flavor. The flavor of the squash is sweet and slightly nutty.
The colors of the squash depend on the temperatures during growth, which gives it its distinct coloration.
This recipe serves four people as the main dish or eight as a side dish.
Here are the simple ingredients to make this stuffed carnival squash recipe:
For full information on ingredients and quantities, please see the recipe card.
- Carnival squash - I adore the sweetness of this squash. After scrubbing it clean, cut it vertically like I did or horizontally; it's up to you. Be sure to use a sharp Chef's knife. Then, I scoop out the seeds and remove the stringy portions with an ice cream scoop. A spoon works as well.
- Wild rice - a seed of a semi-aquatic grass native to North America. It's not rice; it cooks like rice, although it takes a little longer. It has a beautiful, firm texture and nutty flavor, which makes it suitable for stuffing.
- Sweet apple - to add a balance of sweetness with the savory. I used an Opal apple (non-GMO certified), a crisp and sweet blend of Golden Delicious and Topaz. I noticed that they have a natural resistance to browning after being cut!
- Leek - the flavor enhances the stuffing. Look for cleaning tips in the instructions below.
- Mushrooms - I used cremini mushrooms. Feel free to use chopped portobello mushrooms or wild mushrooms.
- Chestnuts - I came across roasted and peeled chestnuts and had to buy them! They provide a delicious nutty flavor in the stuffing with a softened texture.
- Dried cranberries - use dried cranberries. If the cranberries aren't plump, soak them in hot water, apple juice, or apple cider for 15-30 minutes.
- Olive oil - I used extra virgin olive oil from Spain. I love the flavor.
- Vegan butter - I used Earth Balance plant-based buttery sticks for a buttery flavor.
- Poultry seasoning - I like this poultry seasoning for its flavorful blend of dried sage, thyme, dehydrated onion, marjoram, black pepper, celery seed, and cayenne pepper. You can make a poultry seasoning blend if you don't have any.
- Vegetable broth (not pictured) - to add a layer of flavor when cooking the wild rice. You can use water instead. If so, add a pinch or two of salt.
How to select carnival squash
Carnival squash is a winter vegetable, so it is typically harvested between late summer and early fall and is in season from September to December. It can be found at farmer's markets or grocery stores during this time.
When shopping for carnival squash, look for a squash that is firm, heavy for its size, with unblemished skin. A ripe carnival squash should have an orange, yellow, and green spotted, dull exterior. Avoid squash with soft spots or moldy patches, which could indicate spoilage.
To store acorn squash, keep it in a cool, dry place like your pantry or refrigerator for up to three months.
Benefits of carnival squash
One of the top reasons to add carnival squash to your meal repertoire is its impressive nutrient profile. Carnival squash is an excellent source of fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, and vitamins A and C, making it beneficial for maintaining healthy vision, a strong immune system, and healthy digestion.
Here are substitutions you can try:
- Carnival squash - use acorn squash, butternut squash, honeynut, or delicata squash. Delicata squash will take less time to cook because it has thin skin.
- Wild rice - use brown rice or a mix of brown and wild rice, quinoa, or kamut, wheat berries, or farro.
- Chestnuts - if you can't find chestnuts, try pecans.
- Cranberries - try dried cherries, golden raisins, chopped dates, or dried figs.
Here are some variations you can try
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes while cooking to imbue heat into the dish, or add chopped serrano or jalapeno pepper.
- Deluxe - top with grated vegan Parmesan cheese, shredded vegan cheese, or a decadent drizzle of truffle oil. Or top with bread crumbs.
- Flavor - instead of poultry seasoning, try an Italian seasoning blend, Herbes de Provence, or use a mixture of fresh herbs.
- Vegetables - add chopped bell peppers, kale, or spinach when making the stuffing mix.
How to make Stuffed Carnival Squash
It's easy to make this stuffed carnival squash. These are the simple steps:
- Roast the squash
- Cook the wild rice
- Prepare the stuffing
- Assemble and serve
Roast the Carnival Squash
Step 1: Preheat the oven; set the oven temperature according to the recipe.
Step 2: Place the carnival squash halves on a prepared baking tray (I recommend parchment paper). Rub the squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Step 3: Place the squash cut side down and bake until fork tender. The cooking time will vary depending on your oven and the size of the squash. Remove from the oven, turn the squash over with tongs, and set aside to be filled.
Cook the Wild Rice
Step 4: While the squash is roasting, bring the vegetable broth to boil in a small saucepan with high sides. Add the rice, cover it, reduce the heat to low, and cook it for 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the broth for another use (add to soup, or let cool and freeze for later).
Make the stuffing
Step 5: Prepare the leeks. Wash the leeks thoroughly because they are muddy or sandy, then trim the ends, leaving the white and light green parts. Make one lengthwise cut, leaving two long halves. Then, fan each leek half under cold running water to rinse between the layers thoroughly. Then chop into ½-inch pieces.
Step 6: Add the olive oil and vegan butter to a large skillet and heat over medium to low-medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the leek, celery, and salt; sauté for a few minutes until it starts to brown.
Step 7: Stir in the garlic, chopped mushrooms, and poultry seasoning, and cook for another few minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown. Stir in the chopped apples and cook over low-medium heat for another few minutes until the apples soften slightly.
Step 8: Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chestnuts, dried cranberries, freshly ground pepper, cooked rice, and half of the chopped fresh herbs. Mix, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.
Step 9: Fill each roasted carnival squash half with a rounded heap of the rice mixture. Garnish with the rest of the fresh chopped herbs and serve. Enjoy!
Hint: Some squash skin may be tender enough to eat; others may not. In that case, a knife is handy to pull off the squash flesh.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Reheat in a preheated oven at 375°F and bake for 20-30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, until warmed.
To save time, cook the wild rice and stuffing the day before and combine. Refrigerate in an airtight container until needed for up to 3 days. Let it rest on the counter to warm for 20-30 minutes, and bake it in an oven-safe baking dish covered with aluminum foil while the squash roasts for 30 minutes.
Since the bright apple flavors are less pronounced when making ahead, I recommend topping the stuffed squash with fresh pomegranate arils for tartness.
Carnival squash is an under-appreciated vegetable that is delicious and packed with nutrients. It's easy to find at your local farmer's market or grocery store during its peak season, so go ahead and give it a try in this Stuffed Carnival Squash recipe!
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
Stuffed Carnival Squash
For the Carnival Squash
For the Wild Rice
For the Filling
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter or olive oil
- 1 small leek cleaned and chopped
- 1 stalk celery chopped
- ¾ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 8 oz mushrooms chopped
- ¾ teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 1 sweet apple diced, I used an Opal apple
- ¼ cup roasted chestnuts, chopped or pecans
- ¼ cup dried cranberries or chopped dried figs, dates, dried currants
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup mixed chopped fresh herbs parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
For the Carnival Squash
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and place parchment paper on 2 large-rimmed baking sheets.
- Place the carnival squash halves on the baking tray and season with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Turn over the squash so it is cut side down and bake for 40-45 minutes until cooked through.4 carnival squashes, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Remove from the oven, turn the squash over with tongs and set aside to be filled.
For the Wild Rice
- While the squash is roasting, bring the vegetable broth to boil in a small saucepan with high sides. Stir in the rice, cover, and then reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes. Drain the rice and reserve the stock for another use.½ cup uncooked wild rice, 1½ cups vegetable broth
For the Filling
- While the rice is cooking, add olive oil and vegan butter to a large pan and heat over medium to low-medium heat.1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon vegan butter
- Once the oil is shimmering and the butter has melted, add the leek, celery, and salt; sauté for 3-5 minutes until beginning to brown. Stir in the garlic, chopped mushrooms, and poultry seasoning, and cook for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to brown.1 small leek, 1 stalk celery, ¾ teaspoon pink Himalayan salt, 2 large garlic cloves, 8 oz mushrooms, ¾ teaspoon poultry seasoning
- Stir in the chopped apple and cook over low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes until slightly softened.1 sweet apple
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chestnuts, dried cranberries, freshly ground pepper, cooked wild rice, and half of the chopped fresh herbs. Mix, taste, and adjust seasoning as needed.¼ cup roasted chestnuts, chopped, ¼ cup dried cranberries, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ cup mixed chopped fresh herbs
- Fill each roasted carnival squash half with the wild rice mixture. Garnish with the rest of the fresh chopped herbs and serve. Enjoy!
Reheat in a preheated oven at 350F and bake for 20 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, until warmed through.
Resplendent Kitchen offers nutritional information for recipes contained on this site as a courtesy. Although resplendentkitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information from online calculators, these figures are estimates.