As soon as fall hits, I love to turn up the volume of Thanksgiving flavors in my kitchen with this Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash! Perfectly seasoned turkey with fresh herbs sauteed with sweet craisins, tart green apple, and celery. All served up in a roasted acorn squash with fresh parmesan on top.
There’s no better way to support your immune system and gut health this season than a nourishing and tasty meal loaded with lean protein, fiber, and lots of antioxidants and Vit C! Don't miss my notes on how to pick a ripe acorn squash and how I prefer to cut it.
Why you’ll love this Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
This is a great recipe to make when you have company because it’s so unique. A lot of people either haven’t tried acorn squash or have only had it roasted with butter and brown sugar. So level up the squash by serving it stuffed with a savory filling. Plus, the presentation is impressive and fun– the acorn squash half literally serves as the bowl! It’s like a fall inspired bread bowl or stuffed pepper situation. So next time you’re looking to make something a little fancy (but simple!), try this one on for size.
What You'll Love About This Recipe:
PRESENTATION: This is really the winning factor. An easy recipe that makes it look like you spent a ton of time in the kitchen (even though you didn't) is a win!
DELICIOUS: A recipe that tastes great consistently every time I make it is a must-share. No exceptions!
MINIMAL EFFORT: Aside from cutting the acorn squash and chopping a few other veggies, there's really not a lot of prep for this one.
NUTRITIOUS: I'd be remiss if as a Registered Dietitian I didn't touch on all the amazing nutrition this one packs in! Lean protein from the turkey, fiber + antioxidants + Vitamin C from the acorn squash, pectin from the apple, and heart-healthy fats from the olive oil just to name a few.
SMELLS: Ok so this might be a strange reason to love a recipe. But I just love the way my whole home smells like fall when I make this because of the combination of sage and rosemary.
Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash Ingredients
*Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list in the recipe card below.
The featured ingredient and star of the show here is really the acorn squash...one of my absolute favorites in the squash family.
Nutrition 101: Acorn squash is relatively low in calories, fat free and cholesterol free. It’s high in fiber and a great source of several nutrients including antioxidants, Vitamin C, and Vitamin A. What does this mean? It’s a tasty and filling way to support your immune health and gut health. All while being heart-healthy and good for balanced blood sugar levels.
Why wait until Thanksgiving to have turkey?! Add the lean protein to this dish to keep you full for a long time after you leave the table. Using 97% or even 99% lean ground turkey is one of my favorite ways to get animal protein with less saturated fat.
Nutrition 101: A little pro tip about choosing ground meats that are lower in fat: when you see a percent ratio (like 93%, 97%, or 99% on ground turkey), the percent refers to the amount of lean meat vs. fat in the ground meat. So, if you choose 93%, you get 93% lean meat + 7% fat, if you choose 97%, you get 97% lean meat + 3% fat, and with 99%, you get 99% lean meat + 1% fat.
Keep in mind that fat is what adds tenderness and flavor, so a little bit might be worth it depending on what’s most important to you! I personally go with either 97% of 99% fat free.
Half a chopped apple adds a some tart and sweetness that compliments the flavorful fresh herbs in this ground turkey stuffed acorn squash. I used a green Granny Smith apple, but feel free to use whatever apple variety you prefer!
Nutrition 101: Apples are loaded with a soluble fiber called pectin. Pectin not only keeps you full longer, it also acts as a prebiotic and helps with gut health!
Just 1 stalk for some texture and heartiness
Nutrition 101: Celery is super low calorie and high in fiber and it’s 95% water!
A little bit goes a long way!
Nutrition 101: dried cranberries do have some sugar. I don’t find it to be too much since it’s just a small amount in this whole recipe. But if you are looking to totally eliminate added sugars, just leave them out! It’ll still taste amazing. I wouldn’t recommend replacing dried cranberries with fresh cranberries because fresh cranberries have a more bitter taste and would alter the taste of this Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash.
Be sure to get shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano for the best results! Grated Parmesan works, but it doesn’t have the same melting factor as shredded.
Nutrition 101: Parmigiano-Reggiano provides some calcium and it’s also a complete protein!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Y’all already know I’m a huge fan of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil, aka EVOO. The robust flavor of EVOO in this recipe is perfect for bringing all the flavors of the dish together.
Nutrition 101: Extra Virgin Olive Oil is loaded with amazing anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fatty acids which lower the risk of heart disease. In summer of 2023, a new study was released showing that regular olive oil consumption has been found to be associated with a 28% lower risk of fatal dementia.
Yellow Onion & Garlic
These aromatics are a staple in my kitchen! They add flavor and depth to the dish.
Fresh Sage and Rosemary
I realize the fresh herbs might not be something you have on hand and if you are looking to save a little money and already have dried herbs, those are perfectly fine to use instead! If you are replacing fresh herbs with dried, as a general rule use ⅓ the amount.
Variations and Substitutions for Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
There are endless ways to customize this recipe, but below are just a few ideas!
- Meat: instead of ground turkey, you could also use ground beef or pork or a plant protein like chickpeas or quinoa if you want. See below for how to make it vegan.
- Oil: feel free to use avocado oil in place of extra virgin olive oil if you prefer! Both are heart healthy oils.
- Herbs: instead of sage and rosemary, you can sub either one of these for Thyme. If you using dried herbs instead of fresh, cut the amount by ⅓. So for 1 tablespoon of fresh sage, rosemary, or Thyme, you will use about 1 teaspoon of dried.
Substitutions based on dietary preferences:
- Gluten free: no need to worry if you’re living a GF life…this recipe is already gluten free as it is.
- Dairy free: simply remove the parmesan cheese!
- No added sugar: skip the dried cranberries if you want to go with no added sugars. However, since there’s only a small amount in the recipe, it amounts to about 3.5g added sugars per serving so it’s not much! I personally love the sweet tangy touch they add, but whether you add them is dependent on your preference and health goals.
- Vegetarian or Vegan: if you are looking for a plant based option, swap out ground turkey for quinoa or chickpeas and skip the parmesan!
- Heart-healthy: this recipe is already very healthy for your heart. But to make it even more heart-healthy, use a lower fat ground turkey (97% or 99% fat free) and cut the parmesan cheese in ½ or remove it.
Ground Turkey Acorn Squash Step-by-Step Directions:
Don’t get to check out the full printable recipe below for ingredient amounts and notes!
Step 1: Prep your acorn squash by cutting it in half from tip to stem, removing the seeds, and coating it with olive oil. Bake it in the oven at 400℉ for 40-60 minutes.
Step 2: while your squash is roasting, cook your filling in a skillet on the stovetop by heating olive oil, cooking onion and turkey until it’s browned and then adding garlic, sage and thyme until it’s fragrant. Add n the apple, celery, and dried cranberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
Step 3: Remove the acorn squash from the oven and stuff the squash with the filling. Top with cheese.
Step 4: Throw the stuffed squash back in the oven at 350℉ for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted!
Prep ahead: Are you looking to prep ahead? You can dice the apple, celery and sage + mince the garlic ahead of time. You can also roast the acorn squash ahead of time.
Expert Tips for Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
- When choosing an acorn squash, go for the one that's mostly dark green with just a little orange or yellow. Also look for dull skin instead of shiny skin.
- To cut the acorn squash, go from tip to stem to avoid having to cut off the ends.
- The acorn squash is done roasting when it can be easily pierced by a fork!
- You may have extra filling. No worries at all! I just serve it along with my stuffed squash. 🙂
Frequently Asked Questions, Answered!
Q: Should you cook squash cut side up or down?
A: Cook acorn squash with cut side down on the prepared baking sheet.
Q: Are acorn squash healthy?
A: Absolutely! They are a source of complex carbs which means they are high in fiber. They are also relatively low in calories and nutrient dense with antioxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, and Magnesium (just to name a few).
Q: Can acorn squash skin be eaten?
A: You can eat acorn squash skin and it is high in fiber. However, it does have a tough consistency and I prefer not to eat it.
How to store your Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
Refrigerator: for 3-4 days (use your judgment).
Freeze: I wouldn’t suggest freezing this one.
How to Serve Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
I love serving this just as it is in a shallow bowl! That way you can mix together the yummy interior of the squash and allow some of the filling to overflow into your bowl. It’s also great with a side salad or a soup! Serve up Air Fryer Apples with some vanilla greek yogurt for dessert to round out the meal!
More Fall Inspired Recipes
If you enjoy this Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash, you may also like some of my other fall recipes!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! I would love to hear from you! If you made this recipe, please leave me a review below or tag me in a photo or story on Instagram....I LOVE knowing there’s people out there trying out my recipes! 🙂 IG: @mallorythedietitian
Ground Turkey Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 2 whole acorn squash cut in half lengthwise
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil divided, you’ll use half for roasting the squash and half for the filling
- 1 lb lean ground turkey I use 97% or 99% fat free. Nutrition is based on 99% fat free.
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ apple, diced I use a Granny Smith but any variety will work
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 2 tablespoon dried cranberries
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- ½ teaspoon salt
- pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400℉.
- Line a baking sheet with either parchment paper or foil and spray to prevent squash from sticking.
- Cut the acorn squash in half from tip to stem. Remove the seeds with a spoon. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the squash.
- Place the squash on the baking sheet, cut side down and roast in the oven for 40 minutes-1 hour, until it is tender and easily pierced with a fork.
- While the squash is baking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan or skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onions and ground turkey to the pan and cook until the meat is brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add garlic, fresh sage and fresh rosemary. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Then add the chopped apple, celery, and dried cranberries and cook for another 3-5 minutes or until turkey is cooked through.
- When the acorn squash is done, remove it from the oven and turn the temperature down to 350 ℉.
- Fill the squash with the filling, top with the parmesan cheese and put it back in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
- Cut your acorn squash from tip to stem and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
- Acorn squash is done roasting when it is easily pierced with a fork.
- You may have some extra filling. I usually just serve it alongside the stuffed squash!
- Meat: sub out turkey for ground beef or make it vegetarian by using a plant-protein like quinoa or chickpeas.
- Oil: feel free to sub avocado oil instead of extra virgin olive oil.
- Cheese: you can really use any kind of cheese you like or have on hand. Or skip the cheese altogether if you prefer.
- Skip the dried cranberries to make this recipe free of added sugars. *as a note, there is only 3.5 g added sugar per serving with the amount of dried cranberries the recipe calls for.