Recipe: Vegan Tempeh Stuffed Acorn Squash with Kale, Quinoa, Pecans and Cranberries from Naturally Delicious


Photo: Kim Daniels

After years of serving a traditional Thanksgiving catering menu, Loren Michelle of Naturally Delicious in Carroll Gardens saw that her vegan clients only had a few options for their feast.

“We chose to go with the stuffed acorn squash as a vegan option to meet the demands of our clients seeking out a healthy alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving,” she said. An earlier version they prepared used feta, brown rice, cherries and chickpeas; to make this one dairy-free they swapped in tempeh and a few other in-season ingredients. “It’s a great dish that offers a taste of fall with aromatic vegetables, curry, pecans and cranberries.”

The presentation is equally eye-catching, and will easily be the most beautiful dish on the table.

Serves 4Prep time: 20 minutesCook time: 60 minutesTotal time: 1 hour 20 minutes


2 medium acorn squash (2 to 2 1/4 pounds each)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups chopped raw kale
8oz tempeh, cubed
2 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 cup roasted, shelled pecans, coarsely chopped


Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven; preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds. Arrange the halves in a large baking dish, flesh-side up.

Whisk together the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the oil and maple syrup in a cup. Brush the flesh side of the squash halves with some of the maple mixture and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the squash flesh-side down in the baking dish, then brush the skin side with maple mixture and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Roast until the squash is fork-tender, 50 to 60 minutes. Poke the inside of the squash halves with a fork and brush generously with more of the maple mixture.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and crushed garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add the quinoa, curry powder, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt and stir until the spices are toasted, about 1 minute. Add the cubed tempeh and cook for another 2 minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to a simmer.

Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the quinoa is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 15  to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chopped kale. Let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the cranberries, remaining maple mixture, half of the parsley and half of the pecans.

Stuff the squash halves with the quinoa mixture and sprinkle with the remaining parsley and pecans.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s Note

The squash may be baked and stuffed the day before and refrigerated. To reheat, cover the baking dish loosely with foil and reheat in a 350°F oven, checking the squash every 5 minutes until it is hot.