Is it too early to start planning your vegan Thanksgiving? We don’t think so! Plus, this vegan cheesy baked butternut squash recipe will do great at any holiday dinner table, regardless of the occasion. It’s rich in flavors and textures, packed with herbs and spices, and is absolutely comforting and delicious!
- 3 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds or 1.1 kg each)
- Olive oil or avocado oil (optional)
- Kosher salt or sea salt (optional but recommended)
- A few sprigs each of rosemary, sage, and thyme
- 1 cup farro (semi-pearled or pearled)
- 2 ⅔ cups vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
Cheesy Alfredo Sauce:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk (can substitute unsweetened oat milk, cashew milk, or soy milk)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup grated vegan cheese (optional)
- 4 cups baby spinach
- Bake the butternut squash. Preheat the oven to 400°F/205°C. Slice each butternut squash in half, lengthwise. If your squash is too tough to slice, put it in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften.
- Place the butternut squash halves on a half sheet pan or large baking tray. Very lightly brush the squash flesh with the olive oil or avocado oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. You can roast the squash plain (without salt or oil, but it bakes better and adds more flavor with the oil and salt). Bake the squash halves for 45-55 minutes or until fork-tender but not too soft, depending on the size of your squash. A 2 1/2 pound squash takes about 50 minutes.
- Once the squash is done baking and cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and sticky gunk. Then scoop out a good amount of the flesh but don’t scoop too deep or you might pierce the skin. Transfer the squash flesh in a large bowl and set aside. Leave the hollowed out squash halves on the baking sheet.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F/175°C or turn off until ready to assemble the stuffed squash.
- While the squash is baking, make the farro. Using kitchen twine, tie together the stalks of fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme into a bundle.
- Place the farro, 2 2/3 cups broth or water, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and the bundle of herbs in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender but still chewy, about 25 minutes. Drain well. If you taste the farro before draining, it will taste very salty but it will lose some saltiness after you drain it. Fold the cooked farro into the reserved squash flesh.
- While the farro is cooking and squash is baking, make the Cheesy Alfredo Sauce. Heat a large deep sauté pan or saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 6-7 minutes until the onion is softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the flour, whisking constantly for a minute until well incorporated and you have almost a paste-like texture. Gradually pour in the lite coconut milk or other plant-based milk in stages, whisking after each addition to prevent clumps, and then cook for 2 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season with the 1 teaspoon kosher salt, black pepper to taste, a pinch or two of nutmeg, and then add the nutritional yeast and shredded vegan cheese (if using). Whisk the sauce until thick and the cheese is melted. Use an immersion blender to blend until the sauce is relatively smooth (or transfer to a stand blender). Taste the sauce for seasonings, adding more salt, pepper or nutmeg as desired.
- Steam the spinach: heat a sauté pan over medium. Add the baby spinach and gently toss and turn with tongs. Add a few tablespoons of water, then cover the pan, and allow the spinach to wilt and cook down and turn bright green. It should take just 1-2 minutes.
- Assemble the stuffed squash. Spoon the squash and farro mixture into the scooped out butternut squash halves. Top each squash with some of the cooked spinach. Then pour the cheesy alfredo sauce on top, completely covering the filling. Add a little freshly cracked black pepper on top, if desired. Bake at 350°F/175°C for 15-20 minutes until warmed through. Turn on the oven broiler and broil the stuffed squash for a minute or two until the cheesy alfredo sauce is browned in some spots.
Find more of Nisha’s recipes on Rainbow Plant Life.