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Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

This festive rice stuffed pumpkin is filled with a sweet and savory mixture of rice, dried fruits and nuts. The showstopper makes for an impressive Thanksgiving side dish or vegetarian main!

We’re coming up on holiday season and if you’re in need of ideas for your next celebration, this rice stuffed pumpkin recipe is a crowd-pleasing dish that works as an appetizer, side dish or even vegetarian entree!

Piece of pumpkin on plate with rice.

Key Recipe Ingredients

  • Sugar pumpkin: Sugar pumpkins, also marketed as pie pumpkins, are smaller than the pumpkins you might buy for carving jack o’lanterns. They also have a sweeter flavor and smoother flesh.
  • Honey or maple syrup: Mix your sweetener of choice with butter and brush the inside of the pumpkin to make sure the pumpkin is just as delicious as the filling!
  • Unsalted Butter: One tablespoon to coat the inside of the pumpkin, one tablespoon to saute the onions and the remaining tablespoons are mixed into the rice.
  • Long grain white rice: I always use basmati rice for this recipe, but other long-grain white rice varieties will work as well. About one cup (190 grams) of rice is the perfect amount to fill a 3.5 pound (1.5 kg) pumpkin so make sure to adjust as necessary!
  • Yellow onion: Diced onions sauteed in butter add an extra layer of flavor.
  • Dried fruit: Golden raisins and dried cherries add a pop of sweetness to this rice stuffed pumpkin recipe for the perfect balance of flavors.
  • Nuts: Chopped walnuts add a nice crunch to the filling and can be substituted for other nuts.
  • Spices: A combination of paprika, cumin and allspice offers a savory blend of earthy, smoky, and sweet flavors.
Ingredients to make rice stuffed pumpkin.

Step By Step Instructions

Prep The Pumpkin

This rice stuffed pumpkin recipe begins with prepping the pumpkin. Start by cutting off the top to create a lid (don’t discard). Then scoop out the seeds, strings and pulp. Discard the strings and pulp and save the seeds for roasting!

While the pumpkin does make a pretty bowl, it’s also meant to be eaten so let’s give it some flavor! Mix together a tablespoon of melted butter with a tablespoon of honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch of salt. Generously brush the inside of the pumpkin.

Make The Rice Stuffing

The filling for the stuffed pumpkin comes together quickly and can be made in three easy steps:

  1. Parboil the rice by cooking it for one minute in boiling water, allowing it to sit for 10 minutes and then draining.
  2. Saute the diced onions in butter.
  3. Mix the rice and onions with the remaining ingredients.

Bake The Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

Now it’s time to bake the rice stuffed pumpkin! Spoon the filling into the pumpkin (it shouldn’t be packed in too tightly) and pour a bit of broth over the top.

Cover with the pumpkin top, place on a sturdy baking pan and it’s ready for the oven! Start by cooking the pumpkin for one hour. Then pierce the pumpkin with a toothpick to check for doneness. If you’re met with little resistance, the pumpkin is tender and ready to enjoy! If it’s not there yet, return to the oven for an extra 15 minutes.

To prevent the pumpkin stem from burning, you can tent a piece of foil over the stem. I usually do this about halfway through the bake time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you eat the pumpkin skin?

Yes, the pumpkin skin is edible and after baking for an hour is tender enough to enjoy!

Do I need to pre-cook the rice?

Yes, you should pre-cook the rice for this stuffed pumpkin recipe. This partial cooking step ensures that the rice will be fully cooked and tender when the stuffed pumpkin is baked in the oven.

Can I make this recipe vegan?

Yes, you can easily make this rice stuffed pumpkin vegan! Simply replace butter with a vegan butter substitute (we like Trader Joe’s) and use maple syrup instead of honey.

Can I use brown rice instead of white rice?

Yes, but because brown rice takes longer to cook, I recommend cooking it just shy of what package instructions recommend.

Can I make rice stuffed pumpkin ahead of time?

You can prep the rice filling and pumpkin a day in advance, but we recommend baking it right before you’re ready to serve.

Baked stuffed pumpkin with the lid removed to show the rice filling.

Recipe Variations

  • Make it vegan: This rice stuffed pumpkin recipe makes a wonderful vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving main dish. Simply swap out the butter for vegan butter and make sure to use maple syrup instead of honey.
  • Add some spice! Depending on who I’m cooking for, I sometimes like to add a dash of cayenne for the perfect balance of salty, sweet and spicy!
  • Nut-free version: Instead of nuts, try adding roasted pumpkin seeds for the crunch.

Storage and Reheating

If you have leftover stuffed pumpkin, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.

To reheat, place the pumpkin and rice in a baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 30 minutes or until heated through. And if you just want to reheat the rice, try frying it a skillet with a bit of oil or butter to make fried rice!

Whole pumpkin cut so rice stuffing is spilling out.

Recipe Inspiration

This rice stuffed pumpkin recipe is inspired by ghapama, an Armenian stuffed pumpkin dish. Our version of the pumpkin dish does bear similarities to traditional ghapama — there’s rice, dried fruits and nuts — but it also has quite a few more savory notes due to the addition of sauteed onions, paprika, cumin and allspice.

Fun fact: Ghapama is so treasured in Armenia that there’s even a song “Hey Jan Ghapama” devoted to telling the world how sweet and delicious the pumpkin dish is! If you’re looking to create traditional ghapama, I highly recommend checking out this wonderful recipe at Heghineh Cooking Show.

Slice of pumpkin topped with rice stuffing.

If you looking for more recipes to accompany your rice stuffed pumpkin on Thanksgiving, make sure to check out these posts:

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Piece of pumpkin on plate with rice.

Rice Stuffed Pumpkin Recipe

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Brit
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8
  • Diet: Vegetarian
    • Prep Time: 20 minutes
    • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
    • Category: dinner
    • Method: baking
    • Cuisine: armenian


  • 3.5 pounds (1.5 kg) sugar pumpkin (also called pie pumpkin)
  • 5 tablespoons (75 grams) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup (190 grams) basmati rice, rinsed (or other long-grain white rice)
  • ⅓ cup (50 grams) golden raisins
  • ⅓ cup (60 grams) dried cherries
  • ½ cup (50 grams) walnuts, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable broth


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Prepare the pumpkin. Cut the top off the pumpkin, reserving the lid. Scoop out and discard the seeds, strings and pulp (or save the seeds for roasting).
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon (15 g) of butter and mix it with the honey (or maple syrup) and a pinch of salt. Brush the inside of the pumpkin with the honey butter.
  4. Partially cook the rice. Place the rice and 4 cups (1 liter) of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, cook for one minute and then remove from heat. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl.
  5. Melt 1 tablespoon (15 g) of butter in the saucepan and add the onions. Cook for five minutes or until tender.
  6. Add the onions to the rice. Stir in the raisins, dried cherries, chopped walnuts, paprika, cumin, allspice and salt.
  7. Cut the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 g) of butter into cubes and stir into the rice (if the rice mixture isn’t warm enough to melt the butter you can soften it first).
  8. Place the pumpkin on a pan. Spoon the rice mixture into the pumpkin and pour the vegetable broth over the top. Place the lid on top.
  9. Bake for 1 hour or until the pumpkin is tender when pierced. Bake for an additional 15 minutes if necessary. If the pumpkin stem is getting too dark, consider placing a piece of foil over the stem to prevent burning.
  10. Let the pumpkin sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and slice the pumpkin into wedges to serve.


Storage: To store leftovers, refrigerate the stuffed pumpkin in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To reheat, cover with foil and bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 30 minutes or until warmed through.

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