These stuffed delicata squash boats are perfect for a delicious vegan Thanksgiving or holiday main dish. The squash is filled with brown rice, mushrooms and chickpeas and flavored with a tart apple cider reduction, fresh thyme & sage, this dish screams holiday! This dish is also gluten-free & dairy-free.
People often ask, can you eat the skin of delicata squash? Unlike butternut squash and other winter squashes, the skin of delicata is much more tender and is completely edible. It is also filled with nutrients and adds beautiful color to the dish.
Delicata squash is the perfect size for a vegan main dish or cut into slices for a lovely side dish. It cooks more quickly than larger squashes like butternut and spaghetti squashes and makes for a beautiful presentation with its bright orange and yellow. Honey boat delicata squash is a variety that has green stripes and is super sweet. This one will work too.
Brown rice provides a nice base for the herbs and other flavors in the filling. You’ll use the cooking method described in How to Cook Brown Rice for a super easy, foolproof method for cooking brown rice. It takes the guess work out of cooking rice and comes out perfectly every time.
Mushrooms provide wonderful umami and an almost meaty flavor to the dish. I am partial to crimini mushrooms, aka baby bellas, but white button mushrooms or portabellas can be used in this recipe too.
Chickpeas add a little protein to the dish. No need to cook your own chickpeas, unless you’re highly motivated! Canned chickpeas are perfectly fine.
An apple cider reduction combined with a little apple cider vinegar lends this dish a lovely sweet and tart flavor. You will simmer apple cider until it is reduced by 1/4 and is almost a syrup.
Sage and thyme are traditional flavors you’ll find in many winter holiday dishes. Thyme for me is like the perfect combination of mint and rosemary and adds a bright fresh flavor to the filling.
Bread crumbs, just like in meatballs, help to hold the filling together and give it a thick creamy texture. Use gluten-free bread crumbs if needed. Kinnikinnick gluten-free panko style bread crumbs work well in this recipe.
Presentation and Garnishes
The filling in these squash boats is a little monotone brown, so adding a pop of color and texture will help with the presentation. Set aside some fresh thyme, already in the recipe, or some fresh chopped parsley to add a fresh pop of green.
Some bright red dried cranberries or tart cherries add a festive red and a lovely sweet, acidic flavor. I prefer cherries because they usually have much less added sugar than dried cranberries.
Top it all off with some crunchy texture. Slivered toasted almonds or chopped walnuts are my favorite. For nut-free alternatives, use toasted sunflower seeds or toasted pumpkin seeds.
Vegan Delicata Squash Boats with Apple Cider Reduction
- 2 3/4-1 lb delicata squashes
- 3/4 c short grain brown rice (1 1/4 cooked)
- 2 c apple cider
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 small shallot bulb or 2 stalks green onon
- 6 oz crimini (aka baby bellas) or white button mushrooms
- 3/4 c cooked chickpeas (canned is ok)
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
- 3-4 fresh sage leaves
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 c dried cranberries or dried tart cherries (optional garnish)
- 1/4 c chopped walnuts or toasted slivered almonds (optional garnish)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- Steps 3-7: simmering the apple cider, cooking the rice and prepping and roasting the squash can be done simultaneously. You'll be multi-tasking and jumping back and forth to different elements of the recipe. They each take around 30 minutes, so set timers for each one to keep yourself organized.
- Fill a 2-3 quart pot 3/4 full with water. Add 2 tsp salt. Place the pot on the stove over high heat to bring to a boil (this is for the rice). Meanwhile . . .
- Place the apple cider, 1 sprig of thyme and 2 sage leaves in a small pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to keep it bubbling without boiling over. Meanwhile . . .
- Cut the squashes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle a light coating of salt on the cut sides.
- Place cut side down on a sheet pan (parchment optional) and roast 25-30 minutes or until the skin side gives to a little pressure. Meanwhile . . .
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds. When the water in the 3-4 quart pot is boiling, add the rice and boil, uncovered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile . . .
- Check on the apple cider. It is ready when it has reduced by 1/4. To check, pour the liquid into a glass measuring cup. It should be about 1/2 cup. If it's more than that, return it to the pot and keep simmering. If it's done, pull out the thyme and sage, add the apple cider vinegar and set aside.
- Finely chop the shallot/onion. It should be about 2 Tbsp chopped.
- Dice the mushrooms. You should have about 2 cups chopped.
- Remove the leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme and finely chop 2-3 leaves of sage.
- When the rice has cooked for 30 minutes, drain it into a fine mesh strainer, return it to the pot and cover for 10 minutes.
- Heat a large skillet on the stove over medium high heat for 1 minute. Add a light coating of olive oil and heat another 30 seconds.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms, thyme leaves and sage and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the mushrooms turn translucent. Turn off the heat.
- If using canned chickpeas, drain out the liquid and rinse them thoroughly.
- When the squash is done, pull the pan from the oven and flip them over.
- Place the skillet with the mushrooms back on the stove over medium high heat.
- Add 1¼ cup of the cooked rice, the chickpeas, the apple cider reduction, 1 Tbsp olive oil, the bread crumbs and salt to the pan with the mushroom mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and comes together.
- Fill the squash halves and place back in the oven for 10 minutes if needed.
- Top with fresh thyme, parsley, walnuts, dried cranberries or cherries and or toasted almonds.
- These squash boats keep very well in the refrigerator for at least 5 days.