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Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins

Biryani Stuffed Pumpkins 8.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

Weeknight Vegetarian Nov 13, 2017

This side or main dish combines pumpkins or other winter squash with the heady flavors of ginger-spiced pistachios, plus yogurt and basmati rice. Small kabocha squash gave us the best results in testing, but you can use other varieties (or even a combination) for visual appeal. (Just know that using one variety will result in more consistent cooking, while using several will require more checking because their cooking times will probably vary.)

To read the accompanying story, see: The stuffed-pumpkin dish that will make vegetarians (and everyone else) happy this Thanksgiving.

Make Ahead: The ginger-spiced pistachios can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. The pumpkins can be initially baked with the spiced pistachios and refrigerated for up to 3 days. In both cases, bring to room temperature before proceeding.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 8 servings

  • For the spiced pistachio mix
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1 green chile (such as jalapeño or serrano pepper), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 small cinnamon sticks
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • For the pumpkins
  • Four 2 1/4-pound pumpkins or other round winter squash of your choice (preferably kabocha squash; see headnote)
  • Large pinch saffron threads
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt (may substitute low-fat or nonfat)
  • 2 1/4 cups uncooked white basmati rice
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter


For the spiced pistachio mix: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook until very fragrant and soft, 2 minutes. Stir in the green chile, pistachios, dried cherries or cranberries, bay leaves, the cinnamon sticks, chili powder, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, garam masala and salt; turn off the heat.

For the pumpkins: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Use a large, sharp knife to cut off the tops of the pumpkins; hang on to them, because they will serve as lids. Scrape out and discard the seeds (or reserve them for another use), then arrange the pumpkins, cut sides up, on a large baking sheet. Spoon the spiced pistachio mixture into the pumpkins. Put the lids back on and roast until a skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly.

While the pumpkins are roasting, stir together the saffron and water in a small bowl, to steep.

Scoop the spiced pistachio filling and most of the pumpkin flesh (leaving at least 1/2 inch wall of flesh around the edges) out into a saucepan. Stir in the yogurt.

Fill a medium saucepan three-quarters full of water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir in the rice and cook for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander. The rice will not be cooked through.

Divide about one-third of the pistachio-pumpkin filling among the pumpkins, followed by one-third of the rice. Repeat twice more, layering the filling and the rice in each pumpkin until full, finishing with a layer of rice. Top the rice with knobs of the butter and drizzle with the saffron water.

Place the lids back on the pumpkins; roast until the rice is tender and the filling is hot and very fragrant, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Note that the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks will be in the filling and can be discarded as the rice is spooned out and served.)

Recipe Source

Adapted from "The Vegetable: Recipes That Celebrate Nature," by Caroline Griffiths and Vicki Valsamis (Smith Street Books, 2017).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (using cherries): 620

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 25g 38%

Saturated Fat: 13g 65%

Cholesterol: 50mg 17%

Sodium: 630mg 26%

Total Carbohydrates: 95g 32%

Dietary Fiber: 8g 32%

Sugar: 18g

Protein: 11g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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