This Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash features a healthy Indian-inspired vegetarian "meatball," and an avocado raita topping. The meatball combines chickpeas, pumpkin purée, poha (par-cooked flattened rice) or oatmeal, fresh cilantro, chaat masala, almonds, and spices. With plenty of protein, this stuffed acorn squash recipe is perfect for #MeatlessMonday or any day of the week!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - About Vegetarian Cooking
Beyond Mere Sustenance is clearly not a vegetarian blog; however, my husband and I do practice #MeatlessMonday, and a couple of my vegetarian recipes are consistently in my top posts: High Protein Vegan Breakfast Burritos and Curried Okra and Eggplant. Eating mindfully continues to be an important factor in my food choices at Andersen casa.
Considering where food comes from and the impact its production has on our planet is only one component of eating mindfully, but it's so important. I want Beyond Mere Sustenance to be a reflection of the way my husband and I eat at home...
Since you are reading a recipe for a vegetarian main dish, I am interested in hearing your stories. If you are a vegetarian, did you become a vegetarian out of concern for the environment/carbon footprint, or was it for health reasons? If you're like Mark and me, have you (or would you like to) practice #MeatlessMonday? It doesn't have to be all or nothing! I'd love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below...
🧆 How to Make the Best Meatballs
I have discovered over years of "meatball" making, the flavor and texture benefits of puréed onion. I think this technique (for me) goes back more than 30 years to the first time I made Persian koobideh (kebabs). Pressing the liquid from the onion results in a finer texture, and the flavor is amazing. I incorporate a puréed onion in my Super Healthy Turkey Burgers, and my baked Peruvian meatballs. It's definitely worth the extra step, especially with a vegetarian "meatball" as you have to work a little harder at getting it to all hold together...
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- acorn squash
- olive oil
- good sea salt and fresh ground pepper
- slivered almonds - I always have slivered almonds in my pantry. Sliced almonds are fine as well. If you need to use whole almonds, process them separately to coarse crumbs.
- chickpeas - Use rinsed and drained chickpeas or cooked from dried. They should not be mushy, but you start with cooked chickpeas. While the chickpeas do get processed, they do not get puréed. You want to pulse until they resemble bread crumbs.
- pumpkin purée - I have used both canned and fresh pumpkin purée in this recipe. Either is fine. If the pumpkin purée is really loose (watery), you may want to strain some of the liquid out with a fine mesh siever lined with cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
- poha - Poha or beaten rice is rice that has been parboiled, rolled, flattened and then dried to produce flakes. The flakes come in different thicknesses depending on the pressure used in the flattening process. If you are unable to find it, you can substitute quick oats.
- chickpea flour - Chickpea flour (aka gram flour) is a gluten free flour that is a traditional ingredient in Indian cuisine, but one that is gaining popularity in the West as an alternative to wheat flour.
- chaat masala - You can often find chaat masala in the international foods section of large markets. You can buy chaat masala on Amazon, or you can make homemade chaat masala. See this post on Indian masala powders for ideas for substitutions.
- ground turmeric
- plain yogurt
- cumin seeds
- chaat masala - Chaat masala is a unique masala (spice blend). There really isn't a good substitute. See this simple homemade chaat masala recipe if you want to make your own spice blend.
- jalapeño - I use 1 jalapeño, and I don't feel it's "hot" at all. Adjust or omit to your preferences.
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Obviously, a food processor is important with this recipe. I process ingredients individually, and add them to a large prep bowl, then mix with MY HANDS. You just have to get your hands messy on this one! 😆
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Break down the acorn squash - I am cooking for 2, and I look for small acorn squash. I cut a little off the stem and blossom ends (if necessary) to allow them to sit flat, then carefully cut them in half crosswise. Using a spoon or a melon baller, remove the seeds and fibers.
- Prep the acorn squash - Brush the prepared acorn squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place them in the preheated oven to roast for 15 minutes while you prepare the meatball stuffing.
- Purée the cilantro and onion - Add the cilantro and onion to the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely minced. Add to a fine mesh sieve, and press liquid out.
- Process the chickpeas and the almonds - Add the chickpeas and the slivered almonds to the food process. Pulse until you have coarse crumbs.
- Combine ingredients - Add the remaining ingredients to a mixing bowl. Use your hands to combine! Add chickpea (or other flour) to make a formable meatball.
- Mix thoroughly - Your vegetarian meatball mixture should be quite thick (not wet) so that you can form appropriately sized meatballs. You will probably need ½ to 1 cup of gram flour to achieve this.
- Bake the vegetarian stuffed acorn squash - After forming appropriately sized meatballs, place them into the par-cooked acorn squash. Bake them until the squash is tender, and the meatball is firm when a toothpick (or similar) is inserted. This step will take 25-30 minutes.
- Make the avocado raitta - While the stuffed acorn squash bakes, add all raitta ingredients to a food process. Puls until very smooth. Taste for seasoning. Set aside until ready to serve. If not serving immediately, store in the refrigerator.
- Remove the baked stuffed acorn squash - The meatball needs to be firm. The squash must be tender. Both should show a little browning.
- Serve - Serve 1 or 2 Indian-inspired stuffed acorn squash halves topped generously with avocado raitta. Garnish with chopped cilantro as desired. Enjoy!
Chaat masala is a spice blend - one of many common in Indian cuisine. Chaat Masala has a very distinct and easily recognizable taste. I think of it as a complex blend of savory, spicy, salty, and tangy (tart), with a subtle hint of sweetness. The main ingredients are black salt, cumin, dried mango powder, dried pomegranate seeds, and black peppercorns. We love it, and I keep it in my well-stocked pantry. If you're interested in knowing more about masalas, see Top 15 Important Masala Powders of Indian Cuisine.
Chickpea flour (aka gram flour) is a gluten free flour that is a traditional ingredient in Indian cuisine, but one that is gaining popularity in the West as an alternative to wheat flour. You can substitute another flour. It serves as a binder to hold the meatball ingredients together.
This vegetarian meatball is very versatile. You can make smaller ones, and pan-fry or bake, and then serve with the raitta. Serve them with toothpicks and sauce on the side as an appetizer, or use the mixture as a stuffing for other veggies.
When I'm processing a large quantity of cilantro, I give it a good rinse, press it dry between towels, and then cut at the base of the leaves. Having some stems in the processor is fine.
I strongly recommend doubling this recipe and freezing half for another meal. You can save it to fill squash again, or use it in another dish (patties for a sandwich, meatballs for a soup, etc.).
I think you'll find you won't miss the "meat." 😀 Pour a glass of wine, sit down at the table with your loved one(s), put your fork down between bites, converse. Eat. Mindfully.
Indian-Inspired Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash
- food processor
- 2 acorn squash
- olive oil
- sea salt/fresh ground pepper
- 1 small onion - cut in chunks
- 1 cup cilantro leaves - cut at the base of the leaves
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoon ginger - minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
- 1 cup pumpkin - puree (see notes)
- 2 eggs - beaten
- 1 tablespoon chaat masala
- 1 cup thick poha - substitute quick oats
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 cup chickpea flour (aka gram flour) - as needed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground pepper
- 1 avocado - skin and seed removed
- 1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds - toasted
- ¼ teaspoon chaat masala
- ¼ cup cilantro - chopped
- sea salt and fresh ground pepper - to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Carefully slice off both stem and blossom ends of your squash. Slice the remaining piece into rounds from 1 ½" to 3" - that may be 2 or 3 pieces. (see notes)
- Place on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the center of your preheated oven for 15 minutes while you make the meatball filling.
- Pulse the cilantro leaves and onion to a mince (not a paste). Add to the prep bowl.
- Pulse the chickpeas and slivered almonds to a coarse crumb texture.
- Add the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl, then get your hands in there, and mix well! The chickpea flour is a binder, and the amount used will depend on the moisture content of your mixture. You'll probably need ½-1 cup to achieve a meatball that keeps its shape.
- Form a generous meatball for each squash piece, and place in the center of each one. Brush lightly with olive oil, and return pan to the oven. Roast them for 25-30 additional minutes until the squash is tender, and the stuffing resists when pierced. While the stuffed squash roast, make the avocado raitta.
- Add raitta ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and adjust.
- Plate a stuffed squash. Top with a generous amount of avocado raitta over the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired. Enjoy!
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
Jacky Smith says
I would like to try this recipe- are the chickpeas cooked or uncooked?
Regards, Jacky Smith
Hi Jacky! You definitely want pre-cooked chick peas. I often cook them in my pressure-cooker, but I have also used canned. Good luck, and I hope you like it!