You don’t need a whole turkey or ham to present as the centerpiece of your holiday meal. This sausage-stuffed Kabocha squash recipe is as, if not more, impressive than a traditional turkey.
I recommend it as a vegan main course for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It is beautiful, rich in flavor and satisfying without being heavy. And trust me, you don’t need to be a vegetarian to appreciate it.
A vegan squash recipe for everyone
I hate the whole idea of an “extra dish” for vegetarians. The extra dish is usually an afterthought. But it also represents extra work for the cook.
This beautiful, roasted kabocha squash doesn’t have to be the extra dish you make for the vegetarians at your table while everyone else eats meat. My vegan stuffed squash dish is hearty enough to satisfy meat lovers.
So make it the centerpiece of your next dinner party. A meatless special occasion meal will do the planet good. (Note that I do offer variations for meat lovers below. But I recommend that everyone try the meatless version at least once.)
What is Kabocha squash?
You might be thinking, “Wait, what is a Kabocha squash?” If that’s the case, prepare to be delighted! Kabocha is a Japanese winter squash. And technically, it is a variety of pumpkin although it doesn’t really resemble most pumpkins we know.
The fruit is fairly squat with a pretty, dark green skin that’s speckled with white flecks. It’s a very attractive pumpkin, which is part of the appeal of stuffing kabocha.
In terms of flavor, those who are familiar with this orange-fleshed squash love it for its firm texture and almost velvety consistency with sweetness and a slightly nutty note. Roasting brings out the brown sugar sweetness of this squash variety and gives it a roasted chestnut-like note.
Kabocha squash is recognized as a nutrient-rich food. And, since we’re all about ways to improve sexual health, I should add that this winter squash contains many nutrients to support sexual health including vitamins A & C as well as potassium, magnesium and iron.
Incidentally, did you know that all pumpkins are considered aphrodisiacs?
Where can you buy this Japanese pumpkin?
This type of pumpkin is fairly common in Japanese cuisine, so you may try looking in an Asian foods market if you have trouble finding Kabocha at the supermarket or farmer’s market. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Kabocha squash is one of those ingredients worth a little extra effort to find.
How to pick a good Kabocha
Make sure the squash is free of soft spots and check for mold around the stem before you buy your squash. Bumpy spots on the skin are fine but soft spots are to be avoided.
If you can’t find Kabocha squash, the stuffed squash recipe works well with a pumpkin. I recommend using a Fairy Tale or New England Pie variety of pumpkins as a good substitution for kabocha squash.
How to make this stuffed kabocha squash recipe
Because the Kabocha is shaped like a squat medium-sized pumpkin, you’re going to start by treating it exactly as you would a jack-o’-lantern by making a “lid” from the stem end.
Then, as you would your Halloween pumpkin, you’re going to scoop the seeds and strings from the inside of the Kabocha pumpkin using your hands or a large spoon, whatever you prefer. Because you’re making this as a whole roasted stuffed Kabocha squash, you want to make sure the cavity is cleaned out as well as you possibly can before you start stuffing.
The stuffing recipe is very straightforward. It’s just a basic sausage stuffing only made with vegan sausage, fresh herbs and flavorful sprouted rye bread. Just follow the instructions below for an easy and incredibly tasty vegan sausage stuffing.
Once the pumpkin is cleaned, you’ll want to preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees before you start stuffing the squash. (See my notes below for cooking in a conventional oven.)
While your oven is preheating, stuff the cavity of the squash or pumpkin exactly as you would a Thanksgiving turkey, only with less mess! Just be careful not to overstuff. If you have any leftover filling, you can store it in the refrigerator and eat it as a snack.
As I mentioned, I recommend cooking this stuffed squash in a convection oven. If you don’t have a convection oven, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Also keep in mind that the cooking time below is for a convection oven. For a conventional oven, increase the cooking time to 1 hour and 35 minutes before removing the cap. Then you’ll cook it for an additional 18-35 minutes. You’ll remove it from the oven when the flesh of the squash is soft and cooked through.
Recipe variation for meat lovers
You don’t have to make this stuffed pumpkin vegan. If you’re looking for an alternative to my plant-based stuffing, you can make this sausage-stuffed Kabocha squash with traditional Italian sausage.
I recommend using sweet Italian sausage. Just use it exactly as you would the vegan sausage in the recipe below. I’ve tried it both ways and definitely prefer the vegan recipe. But let me know what you think.
Vegetarian Roasted, Stuffed Kabocha Squash
- 4-5 lb (medium size) Kabocha squash substitute with a pumpkin of similar weight
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 celery rib finely chopped
- 8 oz kabocha or butternut squash cut into 1/2-inch cubes (this is in addition to the whole squash)
- 2 vegan Italian-style sausages halved lengthwise then sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small Granny Smith apple cored and diced
- 2/3 cup shredded kale (about 3 large leaves ribs removed)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 slices sprouted rye bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 leaves fresh sage finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
- pinch smoked salt
- Preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees.*
- Line a sturdy baking sheet with parchment.
- Using a strong knife, cut the cap off of the squash (as you would a Jack-o-Lantern).
- Clean the kabocha squash or pumpkin of seeds and string.
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the onions and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the celery, kale, cubes of squash and a pinch of salt. Saute for 6 minutes or until the squash begins to soften.
- Add the apple and sausage continue to sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the white wine and cook for an additional minute.
- Remove from heat and toss in bread, thyme, sage and rosemary. Season with additional salt to taste. (Keep in mind that you will want the mixture fairly salty to help season the flesh of the squash or pumpkin.)
- Stuff the kabocha squash with the stuffing mixture, being careful not to overstuff. (You may have some stuffing left over.) Top stuffed squash with the cap.
- Transfer squash to parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for 1 1/4 hour. Remove the cap and continue to cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, until flesh of the kabocha squash is soft and easily pierced with the tip of a knife.
- To serve, either slice wedges from the squash like a pie or scoop out servings, being careful to scoop out the kabocha or pumpkin’s fresh with the stuffing. The kabocha squash should have a creamy texture when it is fully cooked.
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