Sometimes buying a butternut can be a little intimidating. They tend to be rather large most of the time, But right now, you can get these smaller butternut ~ perfect for one to two portions.  I’ve seen them in Trader Joe’s, Fred Meyer, New Seasons and Sheridan’s.  We just so happened to have 20 or so little butternut from our fall harvest that have patiently waited for me.  The recipe I’m sharing is easy, gorgeous on the plate and inspired by Persian flavors ~ delicious!

Makes 6 sides or 3 entree plates


  • 3 small butternut (approximately 1 lb each) cut in half lengthwise and seeded
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for quinoa
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 C red quinoa (or white), cook according to directions with two bay leaves
  • 1/2 C of chopped onion
  • 1 large shallot, chopped (about 3 T)
  • 2 T minced fresh garlic
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp toasted coriander seed, ground
  • 1/4 tsp of cardamom, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp fresh orange zest (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 C dried yellow raisins (or dried cherries), soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
  • 2 T chopped organic chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped organic mint (or organic Italian parsley)
  • 1 C organic apple, diced with skin (we used a yellow apple. So pretty with the red quinoa)
  • 1 T extra olive oil for drizzle on quinoa
  • 1/3 C toasted walnuts, rough chopped (or toasted slivered almonds or pistachios)
  • Cucumber and Herb Yogurt Sauce (optional – see recipe link below)


Preheat oven to 400.  Carefully cut your butternut into halves (lengthwise).  Scoop out seeds.  Place flesh-side up on sheet pan lined with parchment.  Rub 2 T olive oil over the flesh and season with salt.  Roast in oven for approximately 20 min or until slightly fork tender.  Set aside.

Sauté onion, shallot and garlic in 1 T olive oil and butter on medium low heat for 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with sugar and continue cooking for another 3 min until onions are soft.  Careful not to burn when you add sugar.  Set aside to cool

Reduce oven temperature to 350.

For the quinoa mixture.  Cook according to directions.  Cool slightly.  Remove raisins from water and add to cooled quinoa along with all spices, lemon juice, zests, salt, chives, mint, and diced apple.  If your butternut squash cavity is not very deep, you can scoop out just a little to give more room for the quinoa mixture.  Stuff each cavity of the butternut with a heaping amount of the spiced quinoa mixture ~ should be about 1/3 C each. Top each quinoa mound with equal amounts walnuts.   Lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Place back in oven for 10 minutes until warmed through and butternut is completely cooked – very fork tender.

Serve as a side (1 half per person) or an entree (2 halves per person) and top with extra mint OR even better top with Mast-O Khiar ~ Persian Cucumber and Herb Yogurt Sauce.  Click here for the recipe:

Cook’s Notes:

  • The quinoa can be easily substituted with basmati rice ~ makes for an even more aromatic stuffing.  Just cook according to directions.
  • Typically this Persian influenced dish does not have aromatics such as shallot, onion or garlic.  But we felt it needed a little more flavor to hold up to the butternut. And the addition of butter and olive oil sautéed aromatics was just the perfect flavor boost.