Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin

A Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner - or for Halloween!

It’s the last week of October. Most of us are in full Halloween mode (as far as holidays go, at any rate) or wrapped up in the World Series (Is this the year the Cubs finally win, after more than a century?) or cheering football. But some of us are looking ahead to Thanksgiving.

Especially those facing a challenge at the table.

Thanksgiving is about abundance, about the fruits of the earth, about people coming together to acknowledge the miracle that plentiful food really is.Which makes it particularly hard to plan a meal that suddenly does not include old favorites. Thanksgiving without Grandma’s Stuffing, or Mom’s dinner rolls? But, gluten… Without pumpkin pie? But, dairy and eggs… Without…

Without a turkey?

Well, sure. First of all, this is a harvest festival, not a hunting festival – no matter how traditional it has become, the logic doesn’t actually require meat. And I’ve been at Thanksgiving dinners where a vegetarian or vegan simply feasted on side dishes and ignored the meat and gravy their families were eating. (Most Thanksgiving tables certainly have enough  “side dishes” to make a meal. Most of them are already vegetarian, or could be easily, and could be vegan with perhaps a minor tweak.)

But, if you’re the vegan host – I mean, I’m sure you have many party dishes. But isn’t something supposed to be on that platter you impressively carry in and set in the middle of the table? That Pièce de Résistance, as my mother’s cookbooks called it?

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

First of all, there’s no reason on earth that you can’t serve a platter of adorable little tarts, or crunchy croquettes, or anything else you want. But I’m rather fond of a stuffed pumpkin when I want an impressive meal at this time of year. As any regular reader knows, I am not vegetarian, but I’ve never seen any reason that every meal needs to feature or even include meat… and even for meat eaters, I’ve had stuffed pumpkin overshadow the meat at parties I’ve given. It was the centerpiece for a milestone birthday celebration some years ago – I don’t even remember what else I served, because no one paid much attention to anything else.

I’ve roasted stuffed pumpkins for years, and probably make it a little differently each time. I always use brown rice – sometimes some wild rice. (I tried a bread stuffing once, and prefer the rice.)  I do sometimes add sausage, as I did two years ago in this recipe, but more often not. I almost always add lentils or chickpeas, as they taste delicious with winter squash. I even used a commercial rice mix once, in a pinch… cooking in someone else’s house. Not wonderful but it worked.


I almost always cook the rice as a pilaf – the browning adds flavor that complements the rich sweet pumpkin. In this case, I started with the mirepoix base. I had, and therefore used, fresh celery, carrot and onion, but if you have frozen mirepoix, use a cup of that. Since I made this fresh, I cooked it first, just until it softened and started to brown a little, then removed and reserved it. Skip that step if you use premade.

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Then I added the rice to the heated pan, and stirred it to toast it. Keep it over fairly high heat, stirring frequently, until the rice itself starts to brown. Then add two teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice, and a quarter teaspoon of salt.  Now, that’s too much spice if you were just eating the pilaf, but remember this will season the pumpkin as well. You can use ginger by itself, too, if you’d rather – if you don’t want to resemble the pie you will serve for dessert, perhaps (though I found enough difference with the other flavors…) Stir that around in the hot pan to release flavor, return the vegetables to the pan (or now add the prepared mirepoix from your freezer) then add water, and cook the rice until done. (About 45 minutes.)

Once the rice is cooked, stir in the walnuts, cooked chickpeas, and cranberries. And if it makes sense for you, do everything up to here the day before, or in the morning, and refrigerate until ready to stuff the pumpkin. The spice will permeate the food, you have less fuss the day of, and we all need dishes like that.

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Now – either the next day before roasting, or while the rice is cooking, depending on your own preferred schedule, prepare the pumpkin. (And thank you to Rich my hand model, who did this for me.) Hold your knife at an angle to cut the top, so that it will rest lightly on (and not fall through) the hole you make. Then scrape out all the seeds and pulp. You can do this part an hour or so ahead, but not much longer, or the pumpkin will dry out.

This was a four pound pie pumpkin. (You do know to use a smallish pie pumpkin, not a big mealy jack o’lantern pumpkin? The big ones have little flesh and less flavor.) About two thirds of my rice mixture fit in it. You can pile the rest around it in the baking dish, or bake it in a separate dish to reheat (I’d cover that to keep it moist) or just reserve it for another time. If you have a larger pumpkin, you’ll want all of it. A smaller one, you might halve the rice mixture. (Or perhaps make two pumpkins?) I use whatever pumpkin came from the CSA – you may have more choice about size!

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Anyway, fill the pumpkin with the rice mixture, and roast at 400° for 45 minutes to an hour, until the pumpkin is fully cooked.. (Longer if the pumpkin is large and the stuffing is cold to begin with – shorter if the pumpkin is small and the stuffing is still hot.)

This colored very evenly, and looks almost shellacked! Other times, I’ve had the skin char slightly… It is always attractive.

And it always looks impressive.

Serve scooping out spoons full of pumpkin along with the rice. The soft sweet pumpkin blends beautifully with the flavors of spice, fruit, and nuts, for a complex flavor. I’m going to say this serves six, but depending how much else is going on at your table, it may go a lot further…

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Another holiday, another idea!

Oh, and… as long as I was making this, I also took a suggestion a reader had made on the earlier recipe. If you want a Halloween, rather than Thanksgiving dish, use a sharp knife to incise a jack o’lantern face on the side, and carefully remove the skin. (Don’t make it elaborate, do leave plenty of skin to keep the pumpkin together.) And then you get this! And serve it at your next Halloween party.

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner - or for Halloween!

Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin

Anne Murphy
A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner - or for Halloween!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Cuisine Vegan
Servings 6 servings


  • 1 rib celery
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • oil for pan
  • 1 c brown rice
  • 2 t pumpkin pie spice blend
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c roughly chopped or broken walnuts
  • 1 c raw cranberries
  • 3 c 2 cans cooked chickpeas


  • Chop the first three vegetables. Heat oil in pan, and saute them lightly, until they start to brown. Remove and reserve.
  • Put rice in the hot pan, and stir. Continue cooking and stirring over medium high heat, until rice toasts lightly.
  • Add the spice and salt, and stir. Add the reserved vegetables. Add water, and cook until done, about 45 minutes.
  • Prepare the pumpkin - cut a hole in the top, making a lid, and scrape out all the seeds and pulp.
  • Fill pumpkin with the stuffing mix.
  • Roast at 400 for 45 min - 1 hour, until the pumpkin is fully cooked.


If desired, use ginger instead of pumpkin pie spice.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

A vegan Stuffed Pumpkin gives everyone an impressive dish to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner.



32 thoughts on “Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin”

    • Thank you!

      It’s a wonderful side dish even with a meat main course, as well – which is the way I’ve usually served it. I just wanted to highlight it as a centerpiece option.

    • Thank you!

      Well, I’d be rooting for the Indians if they were playing anyone other than the Cubs. (Or my Mets, of course.) I went to college in Cleveland, and the first baseball game I ever went to was in the old ballpark. But as long as Cleveland’s drought has been, the Cubs fans have waited even longer…

      It does mean that I won’t be unhappy with any outcome. It’s all good.

  • This is a very attractive presentation for a side dish. Not only is it vegan, but it is gluten free as well! It could be served at any fall meal.

    • Thank you.

      Everything on the blog in the last two years is gluten free – but since that’s not where I started…

      I prefer recipes like this, though, which stand on their own. I ate it before I was gluten free, people I serve it to won’t be skeptical about it, when I have guests I want gluten to be a non-issue. It answers the people who wonder what on earth I eat! LOL Well… food… Very good food, in fact. 😉

    • Thank you!

      A friend just told me that she’d made the original stuffed pumpkin recipe with the jack o’lantern face last year, and it was such a hit that she’s doing this one this year (Meatless Monday, she’d wondered what she would do about the sausage in the first recipe) – and the kids are so excited that she thinks she’ll do it every year! Yes, it is fun.

    • I made variations of the stuffed pumpkin for years – it’s always so much fun to serve! Guests are always impressed (and it’s really pretty easy… LOL)

      Thank you!

  • I hate to say it, but I tried this recipe, and it didn’t taste very good. The raw cranberries added bursts of sour bitterness; I’d just serve (sweetened) cranberry sauce on the side if I did it again. Also, the recipe doesn’t call for salt, and you can really tell. The whole thing was bland except for the fresh cranberries.

    The recipe has healthy ingredients and looks nice, but those are the only qualities going for it.

    • Oh, I’m so sorry…

      I’m afraid the cranberries are a matter of taste. We enjoy the sour balancing sweet rich winter squash, and I’ve used them in squash recipes (including variations of this one) for years. I’m sorry you didn’t care for them. Cranberry sauce on the side sounds like a good solution!

      The salt, though – that’s an Oops. I really learned to cook right when my mom was put on a super low sodium diet, so I tend to cook with very little – and (looking at the recipe) the salt in the chickpeas would have been enough for us. And a few of the variations I have made over the years (including the one with sausage) include very salty ingredients, so I usually haven’t needed any, and didn’t even have a note on my base recipe card. But I do try to remember that most people need at least a little more, so I try to remember to include it in the recipes… I am sorry I forgot to, this time. (I will go back and edit…)

      Thank you for your comment – hearing from readers is the only way for me to know what people think!

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