Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing

Fall Recipes, Healthy Eating, Holiday Recipes, Seasonal Recipes, Side Dish, Thanksgiving Recipes, Winter Recipes | 15 comments

This year I wanted to do something a little different with my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. Eric isn’t really a big fan of traditional stuffing anyway, so that gave me a good excuse to work on a new recipe.

I still kept some of the favorite flavors of many Thanksgiving recipes in this new recipe – leeks, cranberries, butternut squash, sage, and thyme – but significantly lighted up the recipe for a healthy makeover.

butternut squash and quinoa stuffing

In addition to those favorite Thanksgiving flavors, I also added chopped kale. I’m obsessed as I mentioned when I shared the recipe for Baked Mac n Cheese with Kale.

And if we’re trying to give stuffing a healthy makeover, I thought that including the health benefits of kale would be a great way to start.

Since Thanksgiving is always a huge stuff-your-face-carb-overload-fest I thought substituting protein rich quinoa for the usual dried bread in stuffing would be a great way to balance the menu out.

One cup of the grain has 9 grams of protein, and contains all 8 of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein.

butternut squash and kale stuffingAdditionally, quinoa is rich in fiber and has a low glycemic index, which means it will help balance out any post-meal blood-sugar spike after you’ve indulged in everything else on your Thanksgiving menu.

So, now that we’ve completely lightened up our stuffing recipe I bet you are wondering how it tasted. We all thought it was a great dish and it is officially added to our Thanksgiving menu for 2013. I loved the variety of colors, tastes, and textures in this stuffing.

If you have someone at your table who insists on being a traditionalist, check out my recipe for Herbed Stuffing with Bacon and Leeks.

What is your favorite way to prepare stuffing?

Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing

Yield: serves 6

Prep Time: 5 - 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 - 35 minutes

Total Time: 35 - 45 minutes

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1 1/2 cups quinoa (I like a mixture of red and white quinoa for color)
1 bay leaf
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ribs celery, diced
2 medium leeks, washed and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
3 ounces curly kale, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 - 2 teaspoons fresh sage or thyme, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, optional


Prepare the quinoa according to package instructions, substituting chicken or vegetable broth for the liquid called for in the instructions and adding the bay leaf to the pot with the liquid prior to cooking. Discard the bay leaf after cooking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and adjust rack to middle position.

Toss squash with coconut oil, whole cane sugar, and salt. Spread the pieces evenly in a baking dish and cover with foil. Roast for 15 minutes, remove foil and then roast for an additional 20 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a medium to large cast iron skillet or saute pan add the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the celery and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, until slightly tender. Add the leeks and saute an additional 2 - 3 minutes, until the leeks and celery are tender and fragrant. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the chopped kale and saute over low heat just until the kale has wilted.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, vegetables from the saute pan, cranberries, fresh parsley and your choice of thyme or sage. Stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, top with 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts, if desired.


If assembling in advance, heat just until hot prior to serving - make sure to use an oven safe dish and cover the stuffing with foil to preserve moisture.

Substitution or addition ideas include sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash, swiss chard or spinach instead of kale, yellow onion instead of leeks, and dried cherries, apricot, or diced apples (dried or fresh) instead of cranberries, wild rice blend instead of quinoa. The options are limitless!

Squash roasting method adapted from Butternut Squash, Pomegranate + Roquefort Salad

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Allison - November 14, 2012 @ 10:25 pm

    I normally don’t think of healthy when I think of stuffing. This looks healthy and delicious – great flavor combination!


  • 2
    Alyssa | Queen of Quinoa - November 15, 2012 @ 5:32 am

    I made a very similar dish for my Thanksgiving last year and it was gobbled up! I was thrilled to see how much my family enjoyed a healthier (and gluten-free) version of stuffing. I’ve never been the biggest fan of traditional stuffing, but once you throw quinoa into the mix, I’m sold. I love your addition of chopped kale as well, it only makes the dish that much healthier!


  • 3
    thejewishhostess - November 15, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

    Just found your beautiful site! Thanks for this great recipe! I will be trying it out for tomorrow night’s dinner!


  • 4
    Vicky - November 16, 2012 @ 12:04 am

    This sounds absolutely delicious! I am missing out on Thankgiving with the family this year as just in Sept my boyfriend and I left the US for a 2 year backpacking trip through Europe and Asia, but am definitely sending this to my mom who is recently gluten free. Just reading about this makes me miss quinoa so much! No sight of it so far in Japan, South Korea or China! Hoping to find it somewhere in South East Asia perhaps!


  • 5
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking - November 19, 2012 @ 5:27 pm

    I really like the sound of this healthy quinoa stuffing!


  • 6
    Meagan Marion - November 21, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

    A little late to the table, but it sounds like a must-try for next year! I’d love to add more quinoa to my meals, any recipe suggestions?


  • 7
    Elizabeth - November 21, 2012 @ 2:20 pm

    I just finished making this. Incredible! Delicious is an understatement! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. It’s a keeper!


  • 8
    Marina - November 22, 2012 @ 9:30 pm

    Soooo delicious. Everybody loved this quinoa recipe. Thanks for sharing.


  • 9
    Adrienne - December 18, 2012 @ 11:00 am

    Made this for Thanksgiving and now I will be making this for Christmas. Delicious, filling and healthy, can’t beat that!


  • 10
    Karen M - December 25, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

    This is fantastic!! We added sautéed mushrooms. Makes a TON and is very filling.


  • 11
    Cheryl - October 25, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    Love this recipe I’m Gluten Free. In out family we make homemade cheese sauce for Broccoli and cheese then add Quinoa to the cheese sauce : )


  • 12
    Sonia - December 04, 2013 @ 11:14 am

    I made this on Thanksgiving and must say was a side dish that was gone first. People who are familiar with quinoa loved it and people who have never tried quinoa said they did not know this was how it tasted. Def a keeper recipe not just for TG but also anytime I need a healthy side dish. I was also pleasantly surprised how great butternut squash tasted when roasted with coconut oil.
    Thanks again


  • 13
    Bonny - November 22, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

    Considering this for Thanksgiving this year– fits the bill for a gluten free guest and also offers some protein for a vegetarian guest. Can it be made a day ahead and reheated on the day of?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie Goodman replied: — November 25th, 2014 @ 9:36 AM

      Yes. I often make this the day before.

  • 14
    Robert - November 22, 2015 @ 4:01 pm

    My whole family loves this recipe! We use sage in the fall and winter and thyme in spring and summer.


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