My holiday relationship with my refrigerator is complicated. Fortunately, this Instant Pot Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice, Cranberries, and Chickpeas is here to ease the tension.
This recipe is sponsored by USA Pulses and Pulse Canada.
On the one hand, during the months of November and December, I want to be on super saintly eating behavior in my own kitchen. The holidays are peppered with a higher-than-usual amount of indulgent occasions from holiday parties to cookie exchanges to big meals like Thanksgiving (and next-day Thanksgiving leftovers). It makes sense to temper these fun but over-the-top events with healthy meals at home.
On the other hand, it’s the HOLIDAYS. It’s a special time of year, and we both know that last slice of Pumpkin Sheet Cake is not going to eat itself.
This Stuffed Instant Pot Acorn Squash meets me halfway. It’s packed with cozy holiday flavors and ingredients such as cranberries, nutty wild rice, and thyme but is restoratively wholesome.
Like many of my favorite recipes this time of year, this stuffed acorn squash tastes unique enough to serve as a side at a special holiday meal but is healthy and hearty enough to stand on its own for a light lunch or dinner.
The key ingredient that makes this stuffed acorn squash healthy and filling is chickpeas. Canned chickpeas are one of my pantry staples. They are inexpensive, rich in fiber and protein, and incredibly versatile. In fact, I have an entire section of my recipe index dedicated to chickpeas. I love these little beans!
To name but a few ways I put the cans of chickpeas I stockpile in my pantry to good use, you’ll find chickpeas roasted, crouton style, on top of my Caesar Brussels Sprouts Salad, in the filling of these crispy Cauliflower Tacos, mixed into Mediterranean Chickpea Salad, and even secretly baked into this giant Healthy Peanut Butter Cookie.
What are Chickpeas?
Chickpeas belong to a family called “pulses,” a group that includes other superstar ingredients such as dry peas, lentils, and other kinds of beans. Adding pulses to your diet is an easy, inexpensive way to boost your nutrient intake.
In fact, right now, North American Pulses is sharing a campaign they call the “Half-Cup Habit,” where participants pledge to add ½ cup of pulses to their diet three days a week. I love this idea for staying on track during the holidays and for building good habits to carry with us into the new year too. (You can sign up here.)
Plus, pledging to eat more pulses gives us another good reason to eat this splendidly stuffed acorn squash. Count me in!
For max ease of prep, I “baked” the acorn squash in my Instant Pot. I’ve owned an Instant Pot for a little more than a month and have become a wee bit obsessed with how easily and quickly it cooks many of my favorite foods, from Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes to Instant Pot Chili to Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. (See a roundup of my favorite 15 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes here!)
Instant pot acorn squash is my latest pressure cooker fixation. Instead of roasting the squash for an hour plus in the oven, I crammed the squash halves inside, sealed the lid, then set the time for four minutes.
Walk away. Return to perfectly tender, sweet acorn squash. I am all about this.
If you don’t own an Instant Pot, you can easily make the acorn squash in the oven instead. It will take a bit longer, but the results will still be delicious.
How to Store and Reheat Instant Pot Squash
- To Store. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Reheat gently in the microwave or cover and reheat in the oven.
For a holiday reset that doesn’t feel like one, give this wild rice, cranberry, and chickpea stuffed acorn squash a try. It will give you the feeling of cozy holiday comfort that makes this a wonderful time of year and leave you extra wiggle room for that one last cream cheese sugar cookie too.
Other Delicious Stuffed Squash Recipes
- Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Stuffed Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Cranberries, and Kale
- Taco Spaghetti Squash Boats
- Spaghetti Squash Boats with Chicken and Bacon
Instant Pot Acorn Squash Stuffed with Cranberries, Wild Rice, and Chickpeas
- 1/2 cup uncooked wild rice you can also use a brown and wild rice blend like this one
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 3 small 1 pound each acorn squashes, halved lengthwise, stems trimmed, and seeded
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium shallot finely chopped, or 1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 8 ounces baby bella cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 can reduced-sodium chickpeas (15 ounces) rinsed and drained
- 1/3 cup reduced-sugar dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup toasted pepitas or chopped pecans
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves chopped
- Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rice and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer until the rice is tender, about 55 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid. Set aside.
- Pour 1/2 cup water into the bottom of an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker. Place the steamer basket in the pot, then add the squash, cut sides up (they will overlap). Be sure not to exceed the max fill line. If your squash are larger and you exceed the line, cook the squash in two batches. Seal the lid, set pressure valve to sealing, and cook on HIGH (manual) for 4 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally for 5 minutes, then immediately vent to release any remaining pressure. Drain and arrange on a large serving plate or baking sheet.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium low. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant, then add the mushrooms, black pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Increase heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms are softened and browned, about 5 to 7 additional minutes. Add the chickpeas, cranberries, pepitas, thyme, and cooked rice and stir to heat through, about 2 additional minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
- Spoon the hot filling into the squash halves. Serve immediately or keep warm in a 350 degree F oven.
- To cook the squash in the oven instead of the Instant Pot: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with extra-virgin olive oil. Slice a small piece off the bottom of each squash half so level it will sit level. Set the squash on the baking sheet, scooped sides down, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully turn the squash halves over. Lightly brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Return to the oven and continue baking until tender, 20 to 25 additional minutes. Stuff with wild rice–chickpea filling and enjoy.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat gently in the microwave or cover and reheat in the oven.
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I am sharing this post in partnership with USA Pulses and Pulse Canada. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands and companies that make it possible for me to continue to create quality content for you!