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Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing (The BEST Gluten-Free Stuffing!)

Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing is a fantastic vegetarian and gluten-free stuffing recipe loaded with tons of veggies. This butternut squash stuffing can be made ahead of time, making your Thanksgiving day a little simpler. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good this healthy stuffing recipe tastes!

white casserole dish of gluten-free stuffing for this quinoa stuffing recipe

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Gluten-Free Stuffing Recipe

A few years ago I wanted to do something a little different with my Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.

My sister was living with me at the time and is super health conscious, so that gave me a good excuse to work on a new recipe, this time something healthy.

I still kept some of the favorite flavors of many Thanksgiving recipes in this new gluten-free stuffing recipe — leeks, cranberries, butternut squash, sage, and thyme. But, I significantly lighted up the recipe for a healthy makeover.

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

What I Love About this Gluten Free Butternut Squash Stuffing

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 it contains all 8 of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein.

Additionally, quinoa is rich in fiber and has a low glycemic index. That 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 that this Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing was a great side dish and it has officially been added to our Thanksgiving menu this year.

Tools Needed to Make this Quinoa Stuffing

You’ll need a few different kitchen tools to prepare this Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. Here’s what I recommend having on hand before beginning this stuffing:

  • Measuring Cups and Spoons – to measure the ingredients to make this recipe.
  • Vegetable Peeler – to peel the butternut squash.
  • Sharp Knife and Cutting Board – to cut the vegetables.
  • Large Skillet – to sauté the celery, leeks, and garlic.
  • Baking Sheet – to make the roasted butternut squash.
  • Aluminum Foil or Parchment Paper – to line the baking sheet with.
  • Large Pot with Lid or Instant Pot – to cook the quinoa for the stuffing mixture.
  • Large Mixing Bowl – to stir all the homemade stuffing ingredients together
  • Casserole Dish – to serve the stuffing in for your holiday dinner.
photo of ingredients (butternut squash, dried cranberries, leeks, walnuts, quinoa, garlic) to make this quinoa stuffing (recipe for butternut squash stuffing with quinoa)

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Quinoa Stuffing Ingredients

To make this vegetarian and gluten-free stuffing recipe, you’ll need:

  • Quinoa
  • Vegetable Stock (or Chicken stock if not vegetarian)
  • Bay leaf
  • Butternut squash
  • Coconut oil
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Curly kale
  • Cranberries
  • Fresh parsley and sage or thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped walnuts

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

How to Make Gluten-Free Stuffing

This really is the best Thanksgiving stuffing, gluten-free or not. Here’s how I like to make this quinoa stuffing recipe:

  1. First, make the quinoa according to package directions. Cook the quinoa in broth (either chicken broth or vegetable broth) and add a bay leaf to the pot as well.
  2. Toss the cubed butternut squash in cane sugar, coconut oil, and salt. Roast until fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile, sauté the celery, leeks, kale, and garlic in a skillet until softened.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the cooked quinoa, roasted squash, sautéed vegetables, cranberries, and fresh herbs.
  5. Garnish the quinoa mixture with with chopped walnuts just before serving.

Tips for Making the Best Thanksgiving Stuffing

Did you know you can quickly cook quinoa in an Instant Pot when you’re preparing this Gluten-Free Quinoa Stuffing? Head over to my post: How to Make Quinoa in the Instant Pot for all the details!

Ingredient Substitutes in this Butternut Squash Stuffing

This gluten-free stuffing recipe is extremely flexible. You’re welcome to switch up the produce used in this easy stuffing recipe to suit whatever you have on hand. A few substitutions you could make are:

  • Sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash
  • Swiss chard or spinach instead of kale
  • Yellow or red onion instead of leeks 
  • Dried cherries, golden raisins, apricot, or diced apples (dried or fresh) instead of cranberries
  • Wild rice blend or couscous instead of quinoa
  • Chopped pecans instead of walnuts
photo of a casserole dish of quinoa stuffing (gluten free stuffing recipe) on a wooden table with a serving spoon

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Quinoa and Butternut Squash Stuffing FAQ

Got questions about how to make this butternut squash stuffing recipe? Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions. Feel free to leave any other questions in the comments on this post and I’ll respond with answers.

Can I Prep This Quinoa Stuffing in Advance?

Yes, this gluten-free stuffing recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance and then reheated the day you’re going to serve it. Reheat the Thanksgiving stuffing in a covered baking dish to preserve moisture.

Can this Quinoa Stuffing Be Cooked in a Turkey

Yes, but I don’t recommend stuffing a turkey with this quinoa stuffing recipe. The risk of bacteria makes me nervous and I don’t like the end result in the consistency.

Here’s why I don’t stuff a roasted turkey:

  • This quinoa stuffing may not reach a high enough temperature to kill any bacteria.
  • An unstuffed turkey cooks faster.

What is the Best Way to Store Leftover Stuffing?

Leftover quinoa stuffing should be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the refrigerator within about 2 hours of serving.

Can I Prep This Quinoa Stuffing in Advance?

Yes, this gluten-free stuffing recipe can be made up to 3 days in advance and then reheated the day you’re going to serve it. Reheat the Thanksgiving stuffing in a covered baking dish to preserve moisture.

Try this Quinoa Stuffing!

Next time you’re looking for a a fresh take on traditional stuffing for your Thanksgiving meal, give this Quinoa and Butternut Squash Stuffing a try!

Did you think combination of dried cranberries, roasted squash, and quinoa was perfect for the holiday season? Leave a comment below and give it a review for others to see what you thought of this healthy stuffing recipe.

On Instagram? Share your photo and tag me with @goodlifeeats and #goodlifeeatsrecipes. I’d love to see your photo of this savory quinoa stuffing!

overhead photo of a bowl of butternut squash stuffing (a healthy stuffing recipe) set on a dark table with a white table cloth and serving spoon

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More Easy Thanksgiving Sides:

If you’re looking for additional inspiration for your Thanksgiving Menu this year along with this recipe, be sure to check out the whole Thanksgiving Recipes Archive right here if you need help building the rest of your menu.

If you have someone at your table who insists on being a traditionalist when it comes this classic Thanksgiving side dish, check out Herbed Stuffing with Bacon and Leeks.

Garlic Bacon Sautéed Green Beans with Roasted Mushrooms make a great Thanksgiving side dish, loaded with flavor, and a lot more fresh tasting than the traditional green bean casserole.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Balsamic are a fantastic side dish that is full of delicious flavor – caramelized, roasted brussels sprouts, savory bacon, and tangy balsamic vinegar.

Classic buttery russet potato mashed potatoes are elevated thanks to the addition of plenty of browned butter and fresh grated parmesan in this Browned Butter Parmesan Mashed Potatoes.

In this recipe for Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranate, sliced Sweet Potatoes are baked in a spiced orange maple glaze and sprinkled with juicy, bright pomegranate arils.

Take your traditional side dish of roasted broccoli to the next level with this recipe of Lemon Roasted Broccolini with Pancetta and Breadcrumbs. Roasted Broccoli is sprinkled with a delicious and crunchy lemon, thyme, and pancetta breadcrumb mixture.

If you like cranberry sauce better than gravy, try my recipe for  Cranberry Orange Walnut Relish or Red Wine Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce.

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Have you ever made quinoa stuffing?

bowl of gluten free stuffing

Butternut Squash and Kale Quinoa Stuffing

Yield: serves 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This butternut squash and kale quinoa stuffing is a fantastic vegetarian and gluten-free stuffing recipe loaded with tons of veggies and flavors.


  • 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


  1. 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.
  2. Discard the bay leaf after cooking.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and adjust rack to middle position.
  4. Toss squash with coconut oil, whole cane sugar, and salt.
  5. Spread the pieces evenly in a baking dish and cover with foil.
  6. Roast for 15 minutes, remove foil and then roast for an additional 20 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and set aside.
  8. Meanwhile, in a medium to large cast iron skillet or saute pan add the olive oil and heat over medium heat.
  9. Add the celery and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, until slightly tender.
  10. Add the leeks and saute an additional 2 - 3 minutes, until the leeks and celery are tender and fragrant.
  11. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.
  12. Reduce the heat to low.
  13. Add the chopped kale and saute over low heat just until the kale has wilted.
  14. In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, roasted squash, vegetables from the saute pan, cranberries, fresh parsley and your choice of thyme or sage.
  15. Stir until combined.
  16. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  17. Just before serving, top with 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts, if desired.


If assembling in advance:

  1. 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 or red onion instead of leeks
  • dried cherries, apricot, or diced apples (dried or fresh) instead of cranberries
  • wild rice blend or couscous instead of quinoa

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 198Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 0mgSodium 57mgCarbohydrates 33gFiber 4gSugar 18gProtein 3g offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

Did you make this recipe?

I’d love it if you let me know what you think! Snap a photo and tag me on Instagram at @goodlifeeats with the hashtag #goodlifeeatsrecipes so I can see what you’re cooking up in YOUR kitchen!


Sunday 24th of November 2019

Can you clarify how you reheat this if I make in advance? Say, I make it and then bring to family's house on Thanksgiving. Thanks!


Monday 25th of November 2019

Place it in an oven safe baking dish with a lid or covered with foil. If cold straight from fridge, let it come to room temp first. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees until hot throughout. You might want to keep the squash separate so it doesn’t become overcooked when reheating. Bring it to room temp, then stir it in after the quinoa finished reheating and it will warm from the quinoa’s heat.


Sunday 22nd of November 2015

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


Saturday 22nd of November 2014

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

Tuesday 25th of November 2014

Yes. I often make this the day before.


Wednesday 4th of December 2013

Katie, 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 Sonia


Friday 25th of October 2013

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 : )

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