These vegan stuffed pumpkins are just right for a holiday dinner anytime from September right through until about February, when pumpkins are in season or winter storage. With a flavourful rice and mushroom filling, they look beautiful for serving and make a lovely centrepiece meal for a gathering.
There’s a noticeable stuffing flavour here. I’m not a fan of stuffing – it’s not a feature at German Christmas dinners – but Graham loves it and the flavours are nice. This is a bit like rice stuffing and it’s fab.
This recipe is adapted from the Show-Stopping Moroccan Stuffed Pumpkin in my cookbook (pg. 147) but with more typical Christmas flavours. I’ve added mushrooms here to make the filling a little meatier and used rice for an easy gluten-free option, but the idea is similar. I like the look of the smaller pumpkins once served, too.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
A vegetarian holiday meal doesn’t have to be bland and boring, and it should be a centrepiece in its own right (without pretending to be turkey). These stuffed pumpkins are so pretty and delicious, they stand up to any main dish on a festive table, and go over well with non-veg people, too.
- The filling can be made in advance: the rice filling can be cooked a day or two in advance and refrigerated until needed, so all that’s needed the day of is to cook and fill the pumpkins.
- It’s already gluten-free: no need to adapt anything in the filling, as it uses GF rice. No breadcrumbs required.
- It makes a good side, too: if you’re planning on making a different main but having veg guests, this doubles as a nice side dish for everyone coming for dinner. Just serve a quarter of a pumpkin as a side – think stuffing replacement.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Pumpkin types: any winter squash with an edible skin will work well. Sweet dumpling, hokkaido, and black futsu are all perfect options if you can get some that are quite small. Delicata is okay but you have to make boats rather than stuffed pumpkins. I don’t recommend acorn as the skin is too thick.
- Rice: you can sub another grain like bulgur or quinoa. Adjust the cooking time and liquid needed but follow the other steps (cooking the onion and spices, etc.) as written in the recipe.
- Herbs: thyme, rosemary, and parsley are all excellent here. Use any herbs or herb blend you like but think about how it’ll taste with the mushrooms.
- Wine: if you don’t want to use wine, simply substitute vegetable broth and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Step by Step
1. Cook the mushrooms in a hot pot with the olive oil, searing until browned.
2. Add the onions, leek, garlic, and herbs, and cook a few minutes more.
3. Deglaze with the wine, then stir in the broth. Bring to a boil.
4. Add the rice and reduce to a simmer. Cover to cook the rice.
5. Cut the tops from the pumpkins, then brush the insides with the oil and spices.
6. Cook the pumpkins for about 20 minutes, or until just fork soft (this will vary based on size).
7. Taste the filling and add any extra seasoning if needed.
8. Fill the pumpkins and bake again to heat through before serving.
This is a slightly involved recipe as it’s meant to be a holiday dish, but it doesn’t take too long if you multitask. Prep and cook the pumpkins while the rice is cooking, for example. If you can do this, it cuts the time down significantly and you’re looking at about 20 minutes of hands-on work.
I do find that using brown rice for the filling takes ages to cook properly, but this might be due to the bulk-store rice I get being old. To mitigate that – since it should only take 40 minutes – I cook it for the allotted time, then set aside with the lid on to steam for another half hour or so.
Topping with some pomegranate and/or parsley makes it look much more festive, but it’s an optional step. You could use some extra dried cranberries and a different fresh herb.
As much as I’d like to say the whole thing can be made in advance, the pumpkins don’t really like to be cooked far ahead of time. The filling can be refrigerated beforehand but the pumpkins really should be made fresh or they will shrivel and collapse a bit (not to say it’s not impossible, just not as pretty).
This might make more filling than you need depending on the size of the pumpkins. It tastes good served as is, so keep it (or freeze) to have later if you do end up with extra.
How to Store
Storage: as mentioned above, the filling can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Leftovers can also be refrigerated for a day or two and reheated in the oven.
Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing this dish once assembled, but the filling alone can be frozen for up to a month in an airtight container.
What to Serve with Stuffed Pumpkins
For a full holiday dinner, a good salad is ideal: try a festive lentil, orange, and pomegranate salad, seasonal autumn crunch apple salad, or go for Ottolenghi’s roasted cauliflower salad if you’re not big on green salads.
- Season well: don’t skip the oiling and seasoning step for the pumpkins. This adds a lot of flavour and takes it from okay to a showstopper dish.
- Taste the filling: don’t forget to taste and season as needed before stuffing the pumpkins! It’s much harder to do this after the fact.
- Sear those mushrooms: there’s nothing worse than a rubbery mushroom (I thought I didn’t like mushrooms until I learned how to cook them properly!) and searing makes for the best meaty texture and flavour.
More Vegetarian Holiday Mains
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Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkins
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 300 grams mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 leek cut into rounds
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 50 ml dry white wine
- 550 ml vegetable broth
- 220 grams brown rice
- 50 grams dried cranberries
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 small pumpkins with edible skin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Once heated, add the olive oil and mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms, stirring as infrequently as possible, until browned and any water has evaporated, 5-6 minutes.1 teaspoon olive oil, 300 grams mushrooms
- Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the onion and leek, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.1 small onion, 1 leek
- Add the garlic, herbs, and salt. Cook for another minute before deglazing with the white wine. Add the vegetable broth.2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 50 ml dry white wine, 550 ml vegetable broth
- Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Add the rice, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, covered, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed*.220 grams brown rice
- Stir in the cranberries and black pepper and taste, adding more salt to your preference. This can be made in advance and refrigerated.1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pumpkins and Assembly
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
- Wash the pumpkins, then cut the tops off on an angle to create a small lid. Trim the bases if needed so that the pumpkins can sit flat.4 small pumpkins
- Divide the olive oil between interior of all the pumpkins, then season with salt and pepper. Use a pastry brush or similar to spread this over the interior surface of the pumpkins.1 tablespoon olive oil, Sea salt, Black pepper
- Place the lids back on, then place the pumpkins into a baking dish. Cook for about 25 minutes, or until just fork-soft. This will depend on pumpkin variety and how thick the walls are.
- Remove from the oven. Take the lids off, then fill with the rice filling, packing lightly with a spoon.
- Once filled, add the lids and bake again to heat through, about ten minutes. Serve immediately, topped with pomegranate or herbs if desired.