It’s an undeniable truth that quinoa is one of my favorite things to eat when it comes to grains.
(Okay, I know, quinoa is technically a seed rather than a grain. But it’s consumed in the same way that we like to enjoy grains, so I say it counts!)
I used to be all about rice, rice, rice… but then quinoa came into the picture and blew my mind with a whole new texture. It’s so much more than the grain that you grew up, with and it brings something truly delicious to the party.
The way the little pieces of cooked quinoa pop in your mouth is one of those textural delights that pairs well with so many different ingredients and flavor profiles. You can use it in dishes for every single season, no matter what you are in the mood for.
If you are looking for a new fall side dish to bring out the feeling of falling leaves, cooler weather, and all the warm spices you know and love, this is the recipe to embrace.
There are so many different elements in this dish, so it really stands out among other side dishes like potatoes, roasted squash, and other typical standbys.
Honestly, you can easily turn this side into a full-blown vegan or vegetarian main dish if you feel so inclined. With all the butternut squash, cranberries, and spices, you will get nice and full on this recipe if you enjoy it as a meal, and the quinoa contributes healthy plant-based protein and dietary fiber.
So how does this particular quinoa recipe stand out from the rest? Why is this dish so absolutely phenomenal, and elegant too?
Let’s start with one of the star ingredients: roasted butternut squash.
The soft and supple roasted squash is full of flavor, and cutting the squash into larger pieces gives it a truly excellent mouthfeel. When paired with the little dots of quinoa, it’s just the right textural variation to get you excited about seasonal vegetables in a whole new way.
Next up are homemade Easy Roasted Cranberries. This is by far the easiest cranberry dish you will ever make (from scratch, that is – opening a can of jellied sauce doesn’t count!).
Finally, you get a blend of ground cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest to tie it all together. It’s just the right amount of warming spices so you still get the true flavors of the cranberries and the squash, without overpowering them.
The result is a dish that tastes like fall, with little reminders of Thanksgiving as well, in every spoonful. And this recipe can be served warm, or at room temperature.
In addition, you can easily make this ahead of time. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator after you’ve allowed everything to cool. You can warm it up in the microwave or oven a day or two later, or serve it as is, straight out of the fridge.
This is a fantastic dish to serve up at Thanksgiving if you are looking for something a little different, to satisfy gluten-free guests or those who are after at least a few bites (or a bowlful!) of something healthy, flavorful, and satisfying. Not to mention, it works as a nice vegetarian entree option for guests who don’t eat meat.Print
Whether you are making this as a side or a main dish, Quinoa with Roasted Butternut Squash and Cranberries is pure perfection. Vegan, gluten free, and absolutely delicious, it’s a must on your holiday table.
- Cook quinoa according to package directions and set aside.
- While quinoa cooks, preheat oven to 350˚F. Add butternut squash to a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread squash on the baking sheet in an even layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through, until fork tender.
- Place quinoa, cooked squash, roasted cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Keywords: side dish, vegan, vegetarian, quinoa, cranberry, squash
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep Squash and Measure All Remaining Ingredients
Peel the butternut squash, and cut it in half. Remove the seeds and cut ½ to ⅔ of the squash into 1 ½-inch cubes, until you get about 2 cups. Save the remaining squash in the refrigerator for another use, or freeze it in an airtight container.
Measure all remaining ingredients as listed. If you haven’t made the Easy Roasted Cranberries yet, make them now.
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Step 2 – Cook Quinoa
Rinse the quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer, and drain off the excess water.
Cook according to package directions.
Once cooked, set it aside.
Step 3 – Roast Squash
While the quinoa is cooking, add the butternut squash to a bowl with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat.
Spread the squash out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Roast for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the squash is fork tender.
Step 4 – Combine All Ingredients
In a large bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, cooked squash, roasted cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, and orange zest. Stir until well combined.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until you’re ready.
Can I Use Dried Cranberries?
I know that it may seem like there are a lot of elements in this dish, but I promise you that each of the components comes together to make something truly delicious.
Most of the time spent cooking the various elements, either on the stove or in the oven, allows you to get something else started while you wait – or it offers a chance to to pour yourself a glass of wine and kick back for a bit.
Of course, the natural shortcut-related question for this recipe would be: Can I just use dried cranberries instead?
While you can use dried cranberries in lieu of our easy roasted version, I recommend that you give this recipe a shot as it is written, at least once.
With dried fruit, you lose the tang and burst of freshness that you get from the whole roasted cranberries. And the majority of dried cranberries available at the grocery store are sweetened, resulting in an overly sweet final product.
Here’s a better idea:
If sweetness is what you’re after, hold on to that dried fruit. When you’re finished with this recipe, give our Chocolate Chip Cranberry Scones a try!
Or some these fall favorites should tickle your tummy:
- Stuffed Acorn Squash With Apples, Nuts and Cranberries
- Baked Apples With Dried Fruit and Nuts
- Brown Rice Salad With Apples, Dried Cranberries, and Peas
Would you serve this recipe as a side, or a main dish? Tell us in the comments below. And once you try the recipe, be sure to come back and rate it!
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 25, 2013. Last updated: November 18, 2018 at 13:16 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Meghan Yager
Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.