Rice Stuffed Pumpkin

by Brittney

This festive rice stuffed pumpkin is inspired by Armenian ghapama! Filled with a sweet and savory mixture of rice, dried fruits and nuts, this showstopper makes for an impressive Thanksgiving side dish!

We’re coming up on holiday season and if you’re in need of recipe ideas for your next celebration, we’ve got just the thing! Inspired by ghapama, an Armenian stuffed pumpkin dish, our non-traditional version is a bit more on the savory side and uses additional spice. It makes for a wonderfully flavorful side dish or vegetarian main and even doubles as a festive centerpiece!

cutting rice stuffed pumpkin into wedges

ghapama: the inspiration

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 a traditional (and sweeter) ghapama, I highly recommend checking out this wonderful recipe at Heghineh Cooking Show.

Our version of the pumpkin dish does bear similarities to the 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. We wanted to create something that would be the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving table filled with roast turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce and this definitely fits the brief!

the rice stuffing

To make this dish, you’ll first create a rice stuffing that will then cook inside the pumpkin as it roasts for one hour. The stuffing for the pumpkin is easy to whip up and made with the following ingredients:

  • long grain white rice: To make sure your rice is tender, you’ll need to partially cook it in boiling water before adding it into the pumpkin. 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!
  • onion: Diced onions sauteed in butter add an extra layer of flavor.
  • dried fruit: I like to use golden raisins and dried cherries for this dish, but other great options include dried apricots and prunes!
  • nuts: Chopped walnuts are my go-to, but pecans or almonds would be excellent substitutes.
  • spices: While traditional ghapama tends to use cinnamon, we go for a more savory blend of paprika, cumin and allspice.
  • butter: One tablespoon to saute the onions and the remaining is mixed into the rice.
close up of rice in roasted pumpkin

baking your rice stuffed pumpkin

To prepare the pumpkin for the filling, 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 and brush the insides of the pumpkin. Then spoon the filling into the pumpkin (it shouldn’t be packed in too tightly) and pour a bit of broth or water over the top. Cover with the lid, 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, just return to the oven for an extra 15 minutes.

Looking for more Thanksgiving day recipe inspiration? Make sure to check out these recipes!

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pumpkin stuffed with rice, dried fruit and nuts

rice stuffed pumpkin

  • Author: Brittney
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8
  • Diet: Vegetarian


  • sugar (pie) pumpkin 3.5 lbs (1.5 kg)
  • butter (divided) 5 tbsp (75 g)
  • honey 1 tbsp
  • diced yellow onion 1 small
  • long grain white rice (rinsed) 1 c (190 g)
  • golden raisins ⅓ c (50 g)
  • dried cherries ⅓ c (60 g)
  • chopped walnuts ½ c (50 g)
  • paprika ¾ tsp
  • ground cumin ¾ tsp
  • allspice ¼ tsp
  • salt 1 tsp
  • vegetable broth ¼ c (60 ml)


  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 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.
  10. Let the pumpkin sit for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and slice the pumpkin into wedges to serve.
  • Cuisine: armenian

Keywords: stuffed pumpkin, rice stuffed pumpkin, thanksgiving side dish, ghapama

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