Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

February 28, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4 as Veggie meal
Author Notes

A restaurant experience of bland-looking quinoa challenged me to try to come up with something more appealing. The rinsing step gets rid of the bitter taste from the seed coating and the steaming (resting) at the end of cooking makes it fluffy. You could roast the squash separately or cook it in the pot, both are good. The roasted squash has great flavor, but for ease of preparation, the 'squash in the pot' wins. - Sally —Sally

Test Kitchen Notes

For a very clean and healthy dish with butternut squash, you should make this recipe. If you have never made quinoa before, Sally provides great instructions. I would cook the squash in the same pot, as Sally suggests, not just to save on pan washing, but also to infuse the squash flavor directly to the quinoa. I think the stock is a very important part of making this dish, so I would be leery of using plain water. I used black quinoa for my test, thinking that it would be more dramatic in color with the orange squash; I think Sally's red quinoa is more beautiful though! I love the addition of cranberry and the finish of baby spinach and toasted pumpkin seeds adds a great contrast of textures. Thanks, Sally, for this recipe. – Sagegreen —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 2-pound butternut squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 3/4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. Put the quinoa in a bowl and cover it with cool water. Rub it between your hands and pour off most of the water. Add fresh water and repeat two or three times, until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly in a fine-meshed strainer. Set the strainer over a bowl until you are ready to cook the quinoa.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large (4 to 5-quart) pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until it begins to soften. Stir in the chili powder and the squash and cook, stirring every so often, for 3 more minutes. Add the drained quinoa, water or stock and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, set a small plate next to the stove. Pour a few drops (about 1/2 teaspoon) of olive oil into a small skillet. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Stir and shake the pan until the pumpkin seeds turn from green to olive to slightly golden brown. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and immediately scrape them onto the awaiting plate.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and add the spinach and cranberries. Cover the pot and let rest in a warm place for 10 minutes. Mix and fluff up the grains with a fork. Serve sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • thebreukelenlife
  • MplsCitified
  • Sally
  • cheese1227
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
I am a home cook,author of a couple of cookbooks and mother. I write for the Boston Globe from time to time. My "kid" just left for college and comes home for cooking lessons. Too bad he was completely uninterested in the process (except when he was little and gingerbread was involved) until now. Without Mom to cook, he's very, very hungry. But it's fun to keep bonding over the stove. I blog about food and life at www.sallypasleyvargas.com

19 Reviews

renee789 October 22, 2013
I made this for dinner tonight, and love it! I was out of spinach, so used kale. I also replaced the cranberries with a little andouille sausage. Delicious! Thank you!
lynn7555 March 23, 2012
Tried this recipe today with fresh parsnips instead of the squash, delish! Cooked mine for about 20 mins since after 15 the quinoa was still a little firm for my taste.
SqueakyChu August 28, 2011
This was a wonderful recipe. My husband liked it so much that he didn't even complain about my putting dried cranberries in it. I didn't have spinach this time, but I'll be sure to use spinach next time I make this dish.
CarolS July 15, 2011
this looks good! cant wait to try it! any idea where to get nutrition info? im protein/carb/fiber ratio conscious. fat too, but as long as im using a good fat im not as worried about the fat grams. thanks
candicecanandwill March 25, 2011
Just a heads up to anyone who wants to try with brown quinoa-- mine as a bit brothy so 1.5 cups liquid would work well. Maybe water absorbs more effectively into quinoa than thicker veggie broth.

Also, I dropped the cranberries [OD'd a few months back] and added chopped mint. Really bright and still delicious this way!

Excellent vegan dish (:

Thanks, Sally!
Paulskiogorki January 30, 2011
Delish. I'll definitely be making this again.
spaetzlegirl January 27, 2011
great dish, and simply gorgeous on the plate with all those colors. i liked it even more the next day as a cold 'salad'.
thebreukelenlife December 1, 2010
This was delicious! My friend was worried that it looked too healthy to be delicious but was willing to give it a try! She is now a believer and so am I! The contrast of colors, flavors and textures was incredible. This is def. a make again dish.
Sally December 17, 2010
Emily, thanks! I am going to have to make this again--it is sometimes hard to sell a new "healthy" grain to cynical family members!
MplsCitified November 12, 2010
Congrats on the EP! A truly delicious recipe.
Sally November 15, 2010
Thanks so much, I'm happy you are enjoying it
Sally November 6, 2010
I had sort of forgotten about this until the contest and made it again today to take to a friend's. I used red quinoa this time and it was a little watery--so not sure if there is a difference with the red vs. brown variety. I changed the amount of water to 1 3/4 cups (from 2) as an adjustment to the soaking water. That should fix it.
Sagegreen November 8, 2010
Thanks, Sally. I enjoyed making your recipe and used black quinoa. Your photos are really beautiful. My photo did not turn out anywhere near as well, so I won't upload it!
cheese1227 October 24, 2010
Great recipe. Nutty and sweet.
TheWimpyVegetarian October 24, 2010
This looks really great! I've saved it to make very soon!!
MplsCitified October 24, 2010
Just made this for dinner. It is indeed delicious. The sweetness of the cranberries and the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds are perfect complements to the squash and quinoa. Strong work, Sally.
MplsCitified October 24, 2010
This looks delicious. What a great way to use quinoa. Beautiful photograph, too.
katstreet April 13, 2010
Since going gluten-free, have experimented with quinoa, but couldn't get over the bland taste. Thankfully this recipe offered the healthy quinoa with flavor!!! Was perfect as a main dish, but also served it up as leftovers with roasted chicken.

Made some adjustments though. Since I live in Sweden, unfortunately, butternut squash isn't so plentiful here. So I substituted sweet potato instead, and I have to admit, the sweet potato with the chili flavoring was quite a nice, unexpected contrast.

Great mish-mosh of vegetables and spice! Tack!

Sally October 26, 2010
Thank you all for your comments, I am so glad to hear you tried it! I think it is challenging to make quinoa taste good if you are not used to it, but it is a really good gluten free alternative.