Baked Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe with Rice

I recently watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain when he was in Armenia. The history of the social and political turmoil of the country was interesting, but of course the food was MUCH more interesting to me. And that’s where I first saw – a Whole Roasted Pumpkin. They stuffed the pumpkin with a delicious rice, covered it with the top of the pumpkin and roasted it to perfection. I loved the concept – it was a conversation starter, pretty to look at, and a GREAT way to recycle pumpkins that we use for decoration around Halloween! I decided that I wanted to recreate this dish for Thanksgiving; thus was born the Whole Roasted Stuffed Pumpkin with a Spicy Cranberry-Pistachio Pilaf with Crispy Onions, Mint, and Coriander.

Here’s what I absolutely love about this recipe – zero-waste. As a vegan chef and someone who has a substantial platform, I strive to educate my audience on just how much food wastage occurs in this world, and particularly in America.

Did you know that nearly 40% of all food supply is wasted in the US alone. FORTY! So if we can take small steps to help alleviate that waste, then let’s do it. Rather than throw your whole pumpkins out, eat them! And this recipe allows you to now only eat the flesh, but even the skin and seeds if you’d like! Just wash, dry and roast those seeds up with some spices and you have an additional to your Whole Stuffed Pumpkin. So this recipe is a win-win: delicious AND zero-waste/sustainable. Plus, if you’re like me and not the biggest fan of Thanksgiving (we should all know why by now), then spend some time saving the planet instead!

Whole Roasted Pumpkin Stuffed with Rice

  • Whole edible pumpkin – medium sized, with all the guts, seeds, and strings removed
  • 1 cup basmati rice – rinsed at least 5 times until water is clear and soaked in water for at least an hour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium white onion – diced small
  • 1 clove garlic – thinly sliced, plus 1 clove just peeled and halved
  • 3 Indian green chilies – split in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (about) unsalted pistachios – roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cup baby spinach – all stacked together and thinly julienned
  • 1 hefty pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter
  • some vegetable oil

Crispy Onions:

  • 1 large white onion – thinly sliced
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Fresh mint – julienned
  • Fresh coriander leaves – roughly chopped

The rice

  1. (You can make this the day before!). In a large heavy bottom pan, place over medium flame and add butter. Once butter is melted, add in vegetable oil. Add onions, garlic, and sliced green chili. Sauté about 2 minutes until slightly translucent. Add in pistachios, cranberries, and orange zest. Continue sautéing and allowing to become fragrant. Add in salt and pepper.
  2. Once the mixture is soft, drain the basmati rice to remove all the water that it’s been soaking in and add the rice to the mixture. Sauté in, add in the whole black peppercorns, cloves. Continue cooking. Right before you add the water, add in the julienned spinach – the reason why you want to add it now, is because you don’t want it to be completely mushy once you add the water in. Mix the spinach in then add the 2 cups water, saffron threads, bay leaf, and sprig of mint. Time to cook the rice.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to low and cook with a cover on until the rice is fluffed up and cooked through. Set aside.

4. Preheat oven 350 degrees. Take the pumpkin and rub it with the halved garlic clove that you had reserved on the side. Rub it thoroughly and sprinkle the pumpkin flesh with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with the cooked rice until completely full. Cover the pumpkin with the stem lid.

5. Cover the bottom of the pumpkin with foil – wrap is tight. Then place in a deep oven-proof baking pan. Fill the pan about a 1/4 of the way up with hot water. Place in the oven and bake about 1-2 hours, until the pumpkin is fork tender.

6. Heat vegetable oil for frying on the stove on high flame. While the pumpkin is cooking and the vegetable oil is heating, make the crispy onions and prepare the garnishes. Soak the sliced onions in the coconut milk for about 10 minutes. While soaking, prepare flour – in a shallow bowl, sift together all purpose flour with the salt, black pepper, and garlic powder until mixed together well. Once the onions have soaked, remove and shake off access coconut milk and dredge into the flour mixture. Shake off access and place into the hot oil carefully. Fry for about 2-4 mins until lightly golden and onions are cooked through. Remove and place on a paper towel and foil lined plate to drain access oil. Allow to cool. Repeat until all onions are cooked.

7. Before serving, fluff up the rice in the pumpkin, top with a generous amount of crispy onions, chopped mint & coriander. Serve!! To actually eat, use a sharp chef’s knife and cut into wedges. Each person should be served a wedge of roasted pumpkin with rice. Mmmm.

Chef Priyanka is a Food Network championQuibi Dishmantled WinnerTODAY Show-featured chef, and has traveled to about 40 countries. She is passionate about food, animals, sustainability (including sustainable fashion), and travel. She has been featured in CNNGQ, and host an original show on Tastemade called Dish It Healthy, among several other brands, publications, and platforms. She has used the knowledge she has developed in cooking, traveling, and sustainability to develop original vegan recipes for her blog, for editorial work, and as a public speaker. She is working on her first cookbook (to be out in Fall 2021). Her vegan recipes are all available on Instagram.

To learn more about Chef Priyanka, visit: