Butternut Squash Pilaf

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Butternut squash pilaf is a family-friendly side or main dish that comes together easily in one pan. 

We’re very much into routine at my house. Family dinner is our main constant, and no matter what we’re eating, it’s together around the table.

While there are some standard dishes I know I can serve, I’m always foisting new recipes upon them in an attempt to broaden their taste buds. 

I’m happy to report this butternut squash pilaf was a winner for everyone at the table.

butternut squash pilaf on holiday table

Butternut squash is a favorite in our house, always making appearances in dishes from butternut squash tacos with black beans to butternut cheddar frittata, but I’m still pleasantly surprised whenever any dish is gobbled up.

Made of both grated and cubed squash, this dish is a wonderful vegetarian side dish or even main. 

I love how easy it is to make, and the rest of the family loves the sweet, mild squash flavor.

How to prepare butternut squash

You’ll need a small to medium butternut squash for this recipe. Look for one that has a longer neck rather than larger bulb end, and you’ll get plenty to use.

Because the squash gets cooked in the pan rather than on its own, you’ll need to peel it first.

I like to use a Y-peeler. I cut off the top stem first and then peel from the cut edge down.

peeling butternut squash

Sometimes you’ll need to go over the squash more than once to get past the thick rind, but the peeler makes quick work of it.

If you are confident with the knife, you can also use a large sharp knife to cut away the skin. Be sure to first cut the bottom so you can rest the squash flat on your cutting board!

Once peeled, scoop out the seeds. I like to use a melon baller for this, which grabs the stringy flesh as well.

Chop half the squash into small cubes. 

Peel the other half using the large holes of a box grater. It’s easiest to use the neck parts of the squash for grating.

Making butternut squash pilaf

You’ll need a large pan for this dish; don’t skimp!

I have used a large, deep skillet for this recipe, but it quickly becomes difficult to stir once all the ingredients are added.

If you have one, use a Dutch oven, or any pot you’d normally use for soup.

You can also halve the recipe if needed. Save the rest of your squash for another dish like kale and butternut squash saute. 

I recommend tasting the dish as it cooks to ensure the rice is cooked. Stir it often for even cooking and to prevent sticking, and add extra liquid as needed.

butternut squash pilaf on a platter

Recipe substitutions

I’ve made this recipe with both brown rice and basmati rice, and both are delicious. 

If you use brown rice, keep in mind that the cooking time is longer, and you might need to add additional broth for it to be cooked fully.

Don’t skip the fresh herbs. Fennel fronds are excellent and the mild anise flavor works well against the sweet squash.

You can also use chopped chives. They’re perfect for those of you who love a more allium-based burst.

Other options include oregano, thyme, or even rosemary or sage. Increase or reduce the amount of herbs according to your own preferences.

thanksgiving side dishes on a plate

Storage tips

This butternut squash rice pilaf will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

For longer storage, freeze it!

Let the pilaf cool completely, then portion into freezer-safe containers. 

If using bags, remove as much air as possible before sealing, then seal and press pilaf down to lay flat. 

Label and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator. Heat a pan with olive oil and warm pilaf through.

This is such a great family-friendly dish for the season! Make it a part of your holiday menu or for your next dinner.

butternut squash pilaf on a platter

Butternut Squash Pilaf

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

This pilaf makes for an interesting side dish during the holidays, or even a weeknight meatless main.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup white or brown rice
  • 2 to 3 cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives or fennel fronds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel and seed the butternut squash. Grate half of the squash using a box grater. Cut the other half of the squash into small cubes.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic and cook 10 minutes, until soft and lightly browned.
  3. Combine water and tomato paste and stir into the pan. Add rice and stir to coat.
  4. Add the squash and stir until it has reduced enough to cover the pan.
  5. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in 2 cups broth, and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook stirring occassionally, until the rice has absorbed most of the liquid and the squash and rice are tender. Depending on the rice used, this should take 25 to 30 minutes. Add more broth if needed to prevent sticking and ensure rice is cooked.
  7. Stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

Adapted from Eating Well

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 102Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 768mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 2g

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