Turkey stuffed acorn squash, winter squash stuffed with seasoned ground turkey and topped with cheese. Easy, delicious and a healthy weeknight dinner for fall.
When the weather turns cooler, especially after a long hot summer, I welcome and crave all the fall produce. Especially winter squash. I love it every which way ~ in soup, baked with butter and brown sugar, and stuffed with this hearty but lightened up meat mixture for the dinner main.
Turkey stuffed acorn squash is so easy to make. Several squash varieties will work here, and the turkey filling cooks up quickly while the squash bakes. Top with some homemade red chile sauce (totally optional but oh so good!) and shredded cheddar cheese and dinner is done, in under an hour.
WHAT TYPE OF WINTER SQUASH TO USE?
I highly recommend acorn squash for stuffing. But I also love delicata, carnival and sweet dumpling. They all have roughly the same shape and I choose smaller round ones for this recipe, so I get the perfect serving size per person.
I have made it several times with carnival squash which is a cross between acorn and sweet dumpling and has a striped and speckled skin. I love the sweet and firm flesh when cooked. Use what looks good and is available at the market.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
- While the squash is baking, make the turkey mixture.
- Start by browning the turkey, let it brown well, undisturbed, on both sides.
- Then start breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Browning this way is good for flavor and color.
- Add some onion and garlic and cook to soften.
- Add tomatoes with chilis and some seasonings.
- Cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Stuff baked squash halves with chili turkey mixture.
- Top with a heaping tablespoon or two of grated cheddar cheese. Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes to melt cheese.
RECIPE NOTES AND TIPS
- Use a small winter squash variety like acorn, sweet dumpling, carnival or delicata. Butternut squash is too big.
- I used a jar of homemade tomato and chiles that I canned this summer, similar to Ro-Tel. Use about 12 ounces of canned diced tomatoes and chiles, any spice level or type you like. If interested, here's how I made and canned Ro-Tel style tomatoes and chiles.
- I love adding a little homemade red enchilada sauce to the top before the cheese, but this is totally optional. I would forego the canned stuff here. But if you have homemade red chile sauce or want to try it, I highly recommend it.
- You can definitely use ground beef instead of turkey, I just like lightening things up sometimes with ground turkey, or even ground chicken. Properly browned and seasoned, it's just as good.
- Use a mix of light and dark ground turkey, I always do. All white meat tends to really dry out and taste a little bland.
I hope you are enjoying the fall weather that took forever to get here this year. Go apple picking, visit the pumpkin patch and pick up some local winter squash and make this cozy and comforting turkey stuffed squash for dinner. Kelly🍴🐦
Need more ideas for all the winter squash available this time of year?
- Make soup like this Autumn Squash Purée
- Baked Acorn Squash is easy and so good with just butter and brown sugar.
Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 2 small acorn squash, cut in half, cavity scooped out
- 1 pound ground turkey use mix of light and dark
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1½ cups (12-oz.) diced tomatoes and green chilies like Ro-Tel
- ¾ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder or more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- OPTIONAL: homemade red enchilada sauce, about 4 tablespoons
- Preheat oven to 400º. Place squash cut side down in baking dish and add a little water to dish. (Alternately, can use a lightly sprayed baking sheet and skip the water.) Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
- While squash bakes, make turkey mixture. Pat turkey dry, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in skillet and when hot, add turkey in one piece. Do not move or break up, let brown for several minutes. Flip and brown other side for a few minutes, then start breaking up with wooden spoon until crumbled and cooked through.
- Add onion, garlic and a little salt and pepper. Cook and stir until onions start to soften, 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes and chilies, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika and bay leaf. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste for salt.
- Turn over baked squash and generously fill cavity with turkey mixture. If using, top with a spoonful of homemade red enchilada sauce. Top each with a heaping tablespoon or two of shredded cheese. Return to oven and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Enjoy!
- Use any variety of acorn squash, including carnival, sweet dumpling and delicata.
- Here's how to make homemade red chile sauce if you'd like to add a little before the cheese.
- Brown the turkey really well and undisturbed for the best flavor and color.
- Any leftover turkey mixture is good with eggs for breakfast or extra filling for the squash on the side.