Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe with Venison, Cherries & Squash

Last Updated on November 5, 2021 by Anne-Marie

This quinoa stuffed pumpkin with venison is baked with cherries, and squash. It’s a Thanksgiving recipe for stuffed pumpkin that aims to impress.

A Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin with Venison, Cherries & Squash with lid on a wooden tray.

Why this recipe works

This Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe with Venison, Cherries & Squash will be a show stopping recipe on your holiday table this Thanksgiving.

This stuffed pumpkin recipe was inspired by a recipe I saw in the Spirit of the Harvest: North American Indian Cooking cookbook – Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin.

I loved the idea of stuffed pumpkin with meat, rice, and vegetables with some salt and pepper.

However, instead of wild rice, I decided to use quinoa stuffed inside the pumpkin. (My kids aren’t crazy about wild rice for some reason.)

Then I decided to go all out and make this a baked stuffed pumpkin recipe with a mixture of ground venison, dried cherries, and butternut squash.

The result is a sweet and savory stuffed pumpkin recipe that’s impressive to look at but surprisingly simple to make.

Even better, not only is it one pot cooking, but you can eat the pot it's cooked in!

Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin with Venison, Cherries & Squash on a golden platter.

How to cook stuffed pumpkin

What type of pumpkin should I use?

Do not use a regular pumpkin. You know, the kind you use for Halloween carving and decorating. They’re too stringy and rather tasteless.

Instead, look for sugar or pie pumpkins, which are sweeter and more meaty. They’re usually smaller and can be found next to the squash.

There are many types of sugar or pie pumpkins. They go by the names Baby Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider (no, it doesn’t  look like Nicolas Cage), and New England Pie Pumpkin. There’s also a white pie pumpkin called Lumina.

There are also Fairy Tale and Cinderella pumpkins, which have thick skins, but delicious flesh for eating. There’s also the Blue Hokkaido squash, which is actually a type of pumpkin!

If you’re wondering what each variety looks like, check out online seed catalogs for the best pictures. All varieties will work well in this roasted pumpkin recipe.

Remember to pick a large pumpkin for this recipe as you’ll be stuffing it with a lot of goodies!

Do I have to use venison?

For this meat stuffed pumpkin recipe, you can use ground lean beef, ground turkey, or ground buffalo instead of ground venison.

You can even make this a sausage stuffed pumpkin recipe. (After all, who doesn’t love sausage?) I recommend a lean turkey or chicken sausage to keep the recipe as wholesome as possible.

Make it vegetarian or vegan

It’s easy to adapt this into a vegetarian or vegan stuffed pumpkin.

Just leave out the ground venison and double the quinoa, squash, and cherries that you’ll place inside the pumpkin. Or you can use veggie crumbles instead of the venison in this roasted pumpkin dish.

Also, make sure to prepare the quinoa with vegetable broth or salted water and not chicken broth. (Some people forget, you know?)

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin stuffed with quinoa, venison, dried cherries, and butternut squash, on a golden platter.

No cherries?

If you can’t find dried unsweetened cherries, use dried cranberries, chopped dates or dried plums (prunes) in this stuffed pumpkins dish.

Don’t like quinoa?

Instead of quinoa, you can substitute farro, brown rice, whole wheat tabbouleh, or wild rice. However, note that farro and tabbouleh aren’t gluten free.

Also, some folks don’t like quinoa because they think it’s bitter. That’s because you must rinse it before cooking.

Rinsing removes quinoa’s saponin coating, which is what gives it that bitter taste. Give it a try! You’ll notice a big difference.

Also, cook your quinoa in vegetable broth and add a little salt and pepper to the broth. All will give it a nicer flavor.

Not enough room in the pumpkin?

If there’s too much quinoa and meat stuffing, any extra can be put into a casserole dish and baked alongside your stuffed pumpkins dinner.

Cover the top of the pumpkin with foil and add some water or vegetable broth to keep the pumpkin stuffing extra moist.

Have leftover pumpkin?

You may find that you have a lot of pumpkin (not stuffing) left over, especially if your kids gobble up the venison and quinoa, and won’t touch the pumpkin, like mine tend to do.

If that’s the case, peel off the skin off the sides and top of the pumpkin. Then cut the pumpkin up into chunks.

You can then serve the reheated pumpkin with a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese as a side dish.

Or you can add the pumpkin chunks to soups, chili, and stews.

Closeup of a Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin with Venison, Cherries & Squash with lid on a gold platter.

Stuffed pumpkin packs a nutritional wallop

Not only is this baked stuffed pumpkin delicious, it’s also good for you!

Quinoa – Is one of the few plant sources considered a complete source of protein. Quinoa’s also a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, anti-oxidants, and iron.

It’s also gluten-free and ideal for serving with a favorite side dish like Slow Cooker Chicken Adobo and Shrimp Puttanesca.

Cherries – According to the Cherry Marketing Institute, compared to other fruits, tart cherries have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, and contain 19 times more beta carotene than blueberries or strawberries.

There’s also some evidence that links cherries to many important health benefits from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

Venison – A super lean protein that is high in iron, but low in fat.

Butternut Squash – Butternut squash is a terrific source of powerful antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene.

It’s terrific to use in other Thanksgiving side dishes like Vegan Rice Stuffing Recipe with Cranberries, Squash & Dates.

Pumpkin – Full of fiber, Vitamin A, anti-oxidants, and low in calories. I use pumpkin puree in everything from my Weight Watchers Pumpkin Mousse to Pumpkin Bread Pudding.

I use canned pumpkin because it’s convenient. But it’s easy to learn how to cook pumpkin, too!

More pumpkin recipes for Thanksgiving

Check out the Best Gluten Free Thanksgiving Desserts Recipes and the Best Keto Thanksgiving Recipes for more delicious recipes for your holiday table.

This Gluten Free Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie recipe is a delectable, deep dish coconut milk pumpkin pie that’s a must serve Thanksgiving dessert.

Keto Pumpkin Mousse is a four-ingredient no-bake dessert recipe that’s super easy to make.

Crockpot Pumpkin Dump Cake is like a layer of creamy pumpkin mousse topped by a layer of spice cake.

Make this Pimento Cheese Spread Recipe in a shape of a pumpkin for a fun party appetizer.

Serve up this Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread Recipe for breakfast or as a snack. So yummy you won’t know it’s gluten free.

Both Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes and Crockpot Mashed Potatoes are easy to make side dishes that don't take up room in your oven while you're making other Thanksgiving dishes and desserts.


Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe with Venison, Cherries & Squash

Baked Stuffed Pumpkin stuffed with quinoa, venison, dried cherries, and butternut squash, on a golden platter.

This stuffed pumpkin with meat is baked with quinoa, cherries, and squash. It’s a Thanksgiving recipe for stuffed pumpkin that aims to impress.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours


  • 1 medium to large sugar pumpkin (also called a pie pumpkin) 4-5 pounds
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dried unsweetened cherries
  • 2 cups butternut squash, cubed


  1. Prepare quinoa per package instructions. Usually, 1 cup of dried quinoa equals three to four cups of cooked quinoa.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Cut the top off the pumpkin and remove strings and seeds. Put top aside. Reserve the pumpkin seeds for another use.
  4. Prick the cavity with a fork and rub with 1 teaspoon salt.
  5. Rub the outside of the pumpkin with the oil.
  6. Place the pumpkin on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  7. Add ground venison, chopped onion, minced garlic, and ground cumin to a heated sauté pan. Cook until venison is browned.
  8. Turn off heat and add cooked quinoa, cherries, and butternut squash. Stir until evenly mixed.
  9. Stuff pumpkin with the venison and quinoa mixture and cover with the lid to keep it moist.
  10. Place 1/2″ water in the bottom of the rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. (As it cooks, add more water to the pan as necessary to avoid sticking.)
  11. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the pumpkin skin starts to “bubble” and is tender. Do not overcook as the pumpkin will collapse.
  12. To serve, cut the pumpkin into wedges, giving each person a slice of pumpkin and the venison and quinoa stuffing. Or you can scoop the sides of the pumpkin while scooping out the venison and quinoa mixture. Make sure to mix in the pumpkin before serving.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 203Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 315mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 3gSugar: 4gProtein: 18g

Nutritional information is automatically calculated per the ingredients list. Serving size may not be accurate. Please double-check with your preferred nutritional app for the most accurate information.

Originally published on November 10, 2010 and October 25, 2017. Updated with new pictures and information.

5 thoughts on “Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe with Venison, Cherries & Squash

  1. Ann Marie

    Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    This is going to be the dish at Thanksgiving no one eats. I usually make something out of the ordinary and it doesnt get eaten. I love quinoa and my husband has wanted me to make a stuffed pumpkin, so this is it! I don’t have time to get the venison from my brother but I am going to use up some sausages that are sitting in my freezer. Craisins instead of cherries too. I may add pecans not sure yet. I cant wait to bake this pumpkin!

  2. Gretta Hewson

    I am so happy I saw this recipe because I never would have thought to stuff a pumpkin and bake meat inside of it. It was a very healthy well balanced meal as well. Thanks for this recipe annemarie.

  3. Meg Boone

    I’ve made this for two or three years running now but cant find a good source of venison near me in Massachusetts, so I have used buffalo. I adapted it from the same book, Spirit of the Harvest, which I picked up at a visit to the Plimouth Plantation gift shop. I also learned the hard way about how crunchy the rice on top gets if you bake it with out the pumpkin lid. I can’t wait to try the quinoa version. My children aren’t all that excited about wild rice either.

    1. annemarie Post author

      Meg, I’m married to my “good source of venison.” But if I didn’t have a husband who hunted, buffalo is great are are lean beef or ground turkey.

      What is it with kids and wild rice? I just don’t get it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating: 5 4 3 2 1