Super-tasty and low in carbs, this delicious side dish is perfect not only for Thanksgiving, but also for the fall and winter seasons in general. And it’s not just a side dish; you can serve it as a light main course with fresh green salad and low-carb bread, too.
Tips for making the Cheesy Stuffed Butternut Squash with Caramelized Red Onion
The preparation does require some time, but all in all this is an easy dish to make. That said, for best results, keep the following things in mind.
First of all, be sure to roast your butternut squash for long enough, so that it’s soft all over: It’s easier to scoop out the inner part when the flesh is soft and tender. Moreover, roasting enhances the flavors and highlights the natural sweet flavor of butternut squash.
Oh yes, and when halving the butternut squash before roasting, be extra careful with your hands and use a very sharp knife! My hands are full of scars because I’ve cut myself so many times doing this. But luckily, when making this recipe, I managed to do it without wounding myself… a miracle, I would say. (Or maybe I just finally learnt my lesson!)
When you cook the onion and let it caramelize, it’s good to use a low enough temperature. Cooking for long time at a low temperature is better than a short time at a high temperature—the onion doesn’t caramelize if the temperature is too high. And thinner onion rings cook and caramelize faster than thicker ones.
A couple more onion-related tips: While cooking the onion, if it looks dry, add a tablespoon or of two water, mix, and continue to cook. Remember to cover the skillet while cooking: it prevents the onion from drying and turning brown.
If you would like to make the caramelized onion even sweeter, adding a couple of tablespoons of erythritol-based Sukrin Gold really adds to the flavor. Highly recommended! However, to keep this recipe sweetener-free, I have left it out for now.
The amount of carbs in this recipe is directly proportional to the amount of butternut squash you leave in. The more you scoop out, the lower the carb count. This is important to remember if you are on a ketogenic diet and have to drastically restrict your carbs. You can naturally choose another variety of squash or pumpkin, with fewer carbs. Just remember that if you use zucchini or other variety with soft flesh, it doesn’t need roasting before you stuff it. Just scoop out the flesh with a spoon, like in this Pizza Stuffed Zucchini recipe.
Another ingredient which affects the carb count is sour cream: be sure to choose one with as few carbs as possible—naturally, a full-fat version without food additives or preservatives.
But now, let’s take a look at how to make this brilliant butternut squash dish:
First the video, though:
And if you prefer photos, I have you covered as well:
Take a medium-sized (approximately 53 oz = 1500 g) butternut squash and halve it with a big, sharp knife. Like I said: Be careful with your fingers!
Scoop out the seeds from the butternut squash halves.
Place the halves into a roasting pan, cut side down.
Roast for one hour or until soft.
Let the butternut squash cool down while you complete the preparations.
Take the red onions and cut them into thin rings.
Cut the rings into half and set aside.
Cook the bacon…
Reserve the bacon fat.
Fry the onion in the bacon fat first for a couple of minutes at a high temperature.
Then lower the temperature and cook, covered… until the onion is soft, brownish, and caramelized. Stir the onion thoroughly every few minutes while cooking.
When the onion is ready, pour in the sour cream. Season with salt and pepper if you like, but remember that cheese and bacon already contain salt, so try to avoid making it overly salty.
Mix until well combined. Set aside for a while.
Scoop out the flesh from the butternut squash halves so that you leave about 3/4 inch (2 cm) flesh on the squash…
Pour in the onion-sour cream mixture…
…and level the surface.
Sprinkle 1 cup (240 ml) of cheese evenly on top of each butternut squash half.
Here we go.
Crumble the fried bacon evenly on top of the cheese. Use 4 bacon slices per butternut squash half. Or as much as you want!
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and golden.
Bon appétit! Or Hyvää ruokahalua, like we say here in Finland.
My Cheesy Stuffed Butternut Squash with Caramelized Red Onion experiments
This is one of the recipes that were born relatively easily. Maybe that’s because it’s pretty difficult to go wrong with ingredients as delicious as cheese, sour cream, bacon, and onion. And, of course, the gorgeous butternut squash.
But it all started when I bought some butternut squash just because I use them quite seldom and I wanted to make something with them. With their curvy shapes, they just looked so inviting in the store that I couldn’t help but grab them.
First, I was planning to make soup. But then I realized that I already have a pretty good cream of pumpkin soup. Also, my new book has a very tasty and easy pumpkin soup that is ready in 15 minutes. So, no soup this time. What else?
I definitely didn’t want to make anything too complicated. The butternut squash have beautiful shape and color, so I wanted to emphasize those in my dish. To preserve that beautiful shape, I somehow started thinking about stuffed butternut squash. Something with golden, bubbly cheese in the center so that you can still see the bright orange color at the edges.
But what could be the actual filling? Something creamy and rich. Maybe cream cheese? No, that was too stiff: I would need something runnier. Sour cream? It’s rich and creamy, too. Yes, sour cream would be worth trying! But plain sour cream sounded too boring to make a good filling, I definitely needed to add something to it. A veggie? Maybe onions. Onions add rich, layered flavor to almost any savory dish.
Suddenly, a picture of golden, sweet, caramelized onion appeared before my eyes and I thought, that’s a perfect sight! What could be a better choice than golden, caramelized onion with scrumptious butternut squash, rich sour cream, and bubbly cheese? You can’t go wrong with that!
And how about adding some crunchy bacon as well? Wait — added to the filling, bacon turns soft and unappetizing. However, if I top the whole thing with bacon before baking it a final time, the bacon will stay deliciously crunchy. Plus, I could use the bacon fat to fry and caramelize the onion—that way I wouldn’t need any additional fat. Now that sounded like a plan!
So, I took one butternut squash and cut it into half. I obviously needed to roast it before stuffing it. But should I remove the seeds before or after roasting? I decided to remove them before — but I’m not sure it really matters when you remove them.
I placed the butternut squash halves into a roasting pan and roasted them for 40 minutes at 400 °F (200 °C). Well, the butternut squash didn’t get soft in the center and the top was about to burn, so for my next experiment, I’d need a longer roasting time at a lower temperature. Anyway, I managed to scoop out the flesh, leaving 3/4 inch (2 cm) layer of flesh on the skin. But the spoon I used slipped many times and almost ruined the beautiful shape of the squash halves, so proper roasting would really have paid off.
Next, I cooked the bacon until crumbly. I used the whole package of bacon with 8 thin slices, and was wondering if that would be too much. But on the other hand, can there ever be any such thing as too much bacon? Nope, not if you ask me.
After frying, I left the bacon fat in the skillet and added sliced onion. Red onion was all I had, so I used that. My yellow onions were spoiled (now THAT’s why the kitchen had been smelling so “interesting” for so many days!) so I had to throw them away. What a pity. But in the end, red onion was just a perfect choice, with its beautiful purple color and better caramelizing capabilities.
After the onion had caramelized, I added 1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream to the skillet with the onion. It was too little, so I added another 1/2 cup (120 ml). Now the consistency looked perfect. Creamy, but not too runny, and there was enough onion in the mixture. I had used three small red onions, but in the final recipe I was planning to use two large ones. Well, in the end it doesn’t matter as long as you use enough onion overall.
I divided the onion and sour cream mixture between the butternut squash halves. Then I took some shredded cheese and sprinkled it on top of the halves. 1 cup (240 ml) per half looked just perfect. (If there is cheese in the recipe, let there be enough cheese! Recipes that use cheese sparingly are just pathetic, don’t you think?)
Then I took my bacon and crumbled it evenly on top of the cheese. 8 slices seemed to be just the right amount, at least in my eyes.
I baked the halves at 350 °F (175 °C) for half an hour, taking a peek every five minutes to check if the cheese was melted and if it had gotten enough golden color. After half an hour, my stalking was met with success: the cheese looked ideal.
I hardly managed to wait until the dish had cooled down when I made an enthusiastic taste test. I took a big scoop of everything, starting from crunchy bacon and gooey cheese to rich sour cream with sweet caramelized onion and, finally, a layer of deep-colored, succulent butternut squash. My taste buds did a happy dance!
But was there still something that could be improved? How about if I tried mayonnaise instead of sour cream; would mayo make the dish even richer and creamier?
In my next experiment, I used 1 cup (240 ml) homemade olive-oil-based mayonnaise instead of sour cream. To my disappointment, the stuffing separated. Worse, it tasted too fatty, oily, and heavy. Lesson learnt (once again): If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Sour cream seemed to be the ultimate ingredient for this dish.
|Per serving if 8 servings in total:
Tips for variation
As always, feel free to vary this recipe according to your taste and the ingredients you have at hand. Use different cheese varieties, from mild mozzarella to fiery Pepper Jack. Or use sharp and flavorful Swiss cheese: it’s perfect in hot, savory dishes. This dish is also a great way to use the leftover cheese you happen to have lurking in your fridge.
For a vegetarian version, you can omit the bacon, but I’d recommend using sharp cheese for plenty of flavor. You can also add spices to the sour cream and onion mixture, like garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, Cajun seasoning, or anything you fancy at the moment. Fiery spices like cayenne pepper or chili powder also go well with this dish, as it’s pretty mild (and thus great for kids, too!).
Oh, and don’t waste the flesh you scoop out from the roasted butternut squash! Use it to make creamy pumpkin soup, or maybe a sweet pumpkin treat instead. Just remember to puree the flesh first to get a smooth result.