Winter Squash with Rice & Caramelized Onions

Like most vegetables, winter squash is lovely roasted with a bit of olive oil and salt. A winter squash dish has been on my list for some time now because we grew a large crop this year and, until today, hadn’t used a single one. We didn’t mean to grow so much. We planted all of our starts back in March or so. On the squash front, I wanted a large variety, so we planted delicata, patty pan, kabocha, butternut, summer squash, and zucchini. (A hint, for those of you who are chomping at the bit each spring to start your garden: Wait until you’re fairly close to planting time to start your seedlings. If you’r too anxious, like us, you’ll find yourself transplanting them half-a-dozen times, pilfering two-liter soda bottles out of recycling bins and setting up makeshift greenhouses in your yard with plastic shower curtains).

In any case, we started early, and once we had several trays of cups, each filled with soil and the possibility of life, Ryan carted them off to school to place under the science teacher’s florescent grow lights. Somehow, all of our carefully labeled cups got jumbled up, and we couldn’t tell what was what, other than that a large majority were in the squash family. Mysteriously, we never did get any delicata or patty pans, yet I ended up with a bounty of acorn squash, which I swear I never planted at all. Hmmm.

In any case, the kabocha squash did fabulously. These Japanese green globes are huge, like pumpkins, with super-hard shells. Their insides are tender and extra sweet, or so I have always been promised by the recipe books I check out from the library in droves. So this morning when I decided that today was the day to cook my first kabocha, it was with excited anticipation that I headed down the basement stairs and picked a lovely, round, medium-sized prize from the stack of squashes stored away down there.

I headed upstairs, got out my butcher knife, and preheated the oven. Well, I could have waited on the preheating for a long time. This thing was like a rock.

About an hour later, I had finally reduced it to a pile of bite-size cubes, and, although it was as delicious as promised,  I don’t think I’ll be roasting another one of these unless I acquire a chainsaw. I’m not sure what to do with the rest of the pile downstairs, so any suggestions would be appreciated. When I first invented this recipe, I made it with butternut squash, and I have to say that I don’t think there’s a major taste difference. So, if you want to know what it feels like to hack a bowling ball to pieces, I would recommend the kabocha; otherwise, I’d go for a butternut.

But whatever you do, please try this recipe, and do it soon, while fall is still in the air. The combination of flavors is miraculous. The dressing is sweet and tangy, with the nutty crunch of roasted walnuts. The caramelized onions and squash are tender with a touch of crispness. And the colors–purple, cranberry, and dark green against vibrant orange–make this a delight for the eyes, too.

Speed it Up: You a can make all or some of the ingredients ahead of time. However, I think it’s best served warm, so I would store the ingredients separately, heat some or all of them up, and then combine just before serving, adding the dressing last.

Meat Option: Ryan likes this served with diced, cooked bacon. You could also serve this as a side dish with pork chops.

Special Diets and Allergies: Vegan (if you use agave or maple syrup instead of the honey); vegetarian; dairy free; wheat free

Winter Squash with Rice & Caramelized Onions

Serves 6 to 8

I love the smell of roasting squash in the fall. Here, I combined little toasty squash squares with caramelized onions, sweet dried cranberries, a nutty lemony dressing and tender greens. You can serve this as a main dish with a green salad or a side, which would go equally well with pork chops or a baked tofu recipe. I think it would also be nice with soup and a crisp romaine salad.


2 C short-grain brown rice
4 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1 t salt
2 t olive oil
4 C water
1 large butternut squash, sugar pumpkin, or small kabocha squash peeled, seeded and chopped into 1″ squares (5-7 C)
2 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried sage (opt.)
2 C kale or chard, washed, stems removed, and chopped
1-2 large onions, sliced (red or yellow will work)
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C chopped, toasted walnuts


2/3 C olive oil
2/3 C toasted walnuts
3 1/2 T lemon juice
2 T honey (maple syrup or agave for vegans)
Dash salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Place the rice, garlic, 1 t salt, and 2 t of olive oil in a saucepan. Cook on medium-high, stirring, for two minutes, or until the garlic begins to give off its aroma. Add the water, cover, and raise heat to high. Bring to boil, then lower the heat to low, and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until he water is completely absorbed.
  3. While the rice is cooking, toss the squash with 2 T olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and sage. Toss to coat.
  4. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet (or two, if they don’t fit in a single layer on one) and roast, stirring once, for 15-20 minutes, or until soft and browned on the sides.
  5. Remove from oven.
  6. While the squash is cooking, get the other salad ingredients ready:
  7. Heat 2 T of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring once in awhile, until the onions are browned, about 15 minutes. Add the kale or chard and 1/2 t salt and stir until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  8. Now make the dressing: puree all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
  9. Assemble the salad: Spoon the rice into a large bowl. Mix in the greens and onions, tumble the squash on top, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and chopped walnuts.
  10. To serve, ladle a generous portion onto each dish, then drizzle with the dressing. You can also toss the entire salad with the dressing for potluck-style serving.

Please do leave suggestions on what to do with the rest of this kabocha in my basement! I have some ideas, but am curious to hear yours.

12 responses to “Winter Squash with Rice & Caramelized Onions

  1. I’ve always just chopped my squash in half and roasted them whole. Even with the seeds in. After roasting, you scoop out the seeds (easily and without mess) and then you can cut cubes and peel it out with a spoon (like you do with an avocado). This recipe looks beautiful!

    • Ingenious!! I can’t believe I never thought of leaving the seeds in and then cubing it. I’ve roasted them in halves, but never like that. Thanks for saving me from hours of manual labor at my kitchen table.

      • Ha, you’re welcome! I remember having an old vegetable peeler and trying to peel a butternut. I ended up cutting myself and bleeding everywhere. I’ve baked squash whole ever since. No more gucky hands while removing seeds either. It’s awesome.

  2. I was kind of thinking the same thing as Somer. I would just poke a hole in it to keep it from exploding and bake it whole. M-M-M.The recipe looks great!

  3. I am excited about finding this blog. Will try this recipe tonight — on a similar color coordinating plate. What fun!

  4. What a perfect fall dish! I made this recipe for friends this past week. I had to work that day so I made the ingredients the night before and stored them seperately as you suggested. Just before dinner I heated the rice and squash and then mixed everything together. I served it as a side dish to grilled pork loin chops along with a romaine salad, but I could certainly be satisfied with this dish as a main meal. Yum! It got lots of compliments which I pass on to you chef Rosalie!

    • I bet the dressing would be great with pork too. Good idea. I’m glad it turned out well. And good for you experimenting with people coming over. I’m always scared to try a new recipe when I have guests, as it seems like I always have a disaster happen right before people come to eat. This happens even if I have made the dish a thousand times, but is even more likely if I’m trying something new. Usually it’s my fault, like I go on a walk and whatever is cooking gets burnt, or I bump something and it crashes to the floor, or I realize I’m missing an essential ingredient. Does this happen to anyone else?

  5. making this soon! it looks even better than one of my favorites, which has rice/wild blend, roasted sweet potato cubes, apples, dry cranberries, and walnuts with an orange zesty dressing. the sage and chard sound like really tasty additions.

    and kabocha! it’s my favorite. brave/ambitious you for cubing it! i roast it in halves or whole (and if i’m feeling crazy i roast thin wedges with oil and salt. and i just found out that the skin is edible) and eat it many ways. a favorite is kabocha mashed with caramelized onions, s+p and oil/butter then mixed with spinach and cooked pasta or rice (and maybe white beans would be good?), then baked at 350 for an hour-ish with bread crumbs or cheese added atop near the end.

    yep, ben just saw the kabocha picture and asked if your post says “my sister-in-law eats kabocha three times a day and sometimes at 3 a.m.”

    • Ha ha, that’s hilarious! Speaking of strange things to eat at 3am: after my last baby I had cravings for black beans all the time, and I would often stand in my kitchen after his 4am feeding eating cold beans by the spoonful. Ryan thought this was very odd; I thought it was delicious. I love roasted squash too, and have been eating the skins for years, but I figured that was just one of those weird things only I do. Mmmm, more fiber.

      I love the pasta dish idea–I’ll be making that this week for sure. And the apple cranberry dish with orange. Yum! Thanks for the ideas. You always inspire me.

  6. Pingback: Savory Bread Pudding with Squash & Sage | The Joyful Pantry·

Leave a Reply to The Joyful Pantry Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s