This Butternut Squash Baked Rice is the ultimate comfort meal, with fluffy basmati rice, sweet fall squash, chickpeas and warming spices. All served with a homemade pumpkin seed sage pesto. Vegan, easy to make, and full of healthy ingredients!
How to Make Butternut Squash Baked Rice
Baked rice is one of my favorite dinners because it’s not only delicious, but also easy to pull together and pretty hard to mess up. The squash and rice mixture comes together over the stove and then goes in the oven to finish cooking, giving you time to make a quick pesto.
To make this healthy butternut squash baked rice, start by chopping up your vegetable and getting your ingredients prepped so they’re all ready to go. Cut a fresh squash into small uniform pieces, chop an onion, strip some thyme and drain a can of chickpeas.
In a Dutch oven or other large pot over the stove, cook the squash in some olive oil until it just begins to brown. It’s important to keep the heat up pretty high for this step to allow the squash to brown but not cook through and become mushy. If any bits get stuck on the bottom, that’s ok! It adds flavor. Once the squash has softened slightly, transfer it to a plate and set aside.
Lower the heat and add another splash of oil to the pan to sauté the onion. Once translucent, add the spices and use the balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Pour in the rice and let that toast for a few minutes until it turns golden brown and becomes fragrant. Finally, stir in the chickpeas and turn off the heat.
To make sure the rice cooks evenly, we’re going to bake everything in a large baking dish covered by foil. This makes the rice fluffy. I’ve found it can get cakey when baked directly in the pot. So go ahead and dump the rice mixture into a your oven safe baking dish along with the squash and some boiling water. Adding hot water jump-starts the cooking process and speeds up the baking time.
Tightly cover the dish with tin foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the butternut squash baked rice is in the oven, make the sage pesto. This is not a traditional pesto, it’s made with pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts and uses arugula and sage in place of basil. Also, there’s no parmesan, so a generous pinch of salt and good fruity olive oil really go a long way here.
Start by toasting the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet until they turn a nice golden brown and begin to pop. (At this point, I recommend toasting a few extra for a crunchy topping). Add those to the bowl of a food processor along with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until the pesto is just combined. I like mine to still have some texture and crunch from the pumpkin seeds. If it seems to thick, stir in a few tablespoons of water until it’s smooth.
By now, the baked rice should be ready to come out of the oven. It’s important to let it sit covered for about 10 minutes before removing the foil. This allows the rice to finish cooking and the flavors to absorb. After that, go forth and enjoy with sage pesto and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds. Maybe a pinch of flaky sea salt too.
Tips for Making Butternut Squash Baked Rice
- I would not recommend substituting brown rice for white basmati rice. Brown rice has a much longer cook time than white rice, so the squash would get over cooked.
- If you have time and want an extra crunch, top this butternut squash baked rice with crunchy chickpeas instead of baking them with the rice. Learn how to make crunchy chickpeas within this recipe.
- This baked rice recipe is best day of, but also tastes great as leftovers. Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days and reheat in the microwave or over the stove with some chicken or vegetable broth.
More Recipes to Try:
- Lemon risotto with herb roasted chickpeas
- Fluffy baked rice with chickpeas and crispy tofu feta
- Italian stuffed peppers with sun dried tomatoes
- One skillet pesto chicken and orzo
- Wild mushroom and white bean Tagliatelle