Black Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash is a simple and festive recipe that will add color and flavor to your table. This dish can be made in advance and assembled last minute, making it perfect for holiday gatherings.
Black Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash ingredients
- Black Rice. The nutty flavor of black rice pairs well with the earthy taste of butternut squash. The color of the dish will also be a beautiful addition to your holiday table.
- Butternut Squash. You will roast them until they are soft inside and caramelized on the outside.
- Maple Syrup. I like to add just a touch (a teaspoon) to help the squash caramelize. You can omit it if you want.
- Pomegranate Arils. Tossed in at the last minute to add a bright pop of color and juicy bites.
Nutrition benefits of black rice pilaf with butternut squash
Black rice is a type of whole grain that is high in protein, fiber, and iron. Also called Forbidden Rice as it was reserved to royalty in ancient China, it has a deep purple color and a delicious nutty flavor.
Butternut squash is a type of winter squash that is high in fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. It is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, and potassium. Butternut squash also contains beta-carotene, which is important for eye health.
Pomegranates are a delicious fruit that is low in calories and high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
How to cut a pomegranate
Begin by cutting off the top 1/4 inch of the pomegranate with a sharp knife. Then, gently score the sides of the pomegranate, being careful not to cut too deep through the skin. You might notice that there are 5-6 gentle ridges in its surface. Use your knife to make thin slits along the length of these ridges. You should be cutting through the fruit’s white pith, not slicing open any of the seeds.
Once you have made these cuts, use your hands to peel the fruit open and gently divide it into segments. Then, fill a bowl with cold water. Submerge the segments in it, and use your fingertips to gently pull apart each section of the pomegranate, separating the seeds from the white pith. The seeds will sink to the bottom of your bowl while the white membranes will float to the top. Skim off the white bits, and drain the seeds. That’s it!
Recipe tips and substitutions
- You don’t need to turn over the squash while it’s cooking. It’s OK if one side is more caramelized than the others.
- Follow package instructions for cooking your rice as they may vary depending on the brand.
- Add in pomegranate arils at the last minute and toss gently to avoid breaking them.
- Although the recipe calls for black rice, you can easily substitute with other types of rice.
- Acorn squash can be used in place of butternut squash.
- You can replace pomegranate arils with dried cranberries. They are not as juicy but add a nice sweet and tangy note.
Advance prep and storage instructions
The holidays are a time for celebration with family and friends. But they can also be a lot of work! If you want to enjoy your time with loved ones, it’s important to do some advance prep. The rice as well as the butternut squash in this recipe can be cooked in advance and reheated in the microwave just before serving. They will keep 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. The pomegranate can also be peeled in advance; the seeds will keep in the refrigerator for a few days. Just make sure you keep them separate and toss them in at the last minute.
Black rice pilaf with butternut squash serving suggestions
This recipe makes a great side dish but can also be turned into a complete meal with the addition of a protein such as chickpeas or cooked chicken or shrimp.
It is good warm, or at room temperature. You can also serve it as a salad, drizzled with any homemade dressing of your choice.
We hope you will give black rice a try in this delicious recipe. Let us know how you like it in the comments below!
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Black rice pilaf with butternut squash
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Peel the pomegranate and reserve 1 cup of arils (seeds)
- Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds and cut into 1/2" cubes. Place them in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tsp maple syrup, 1/4 tsp salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Toss well, using your hands to make sure all surfaces are covered.
- Place rice in a large saucepan and add at least 2 cups of lightly salted water. Stir, cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Place squash cubes on the baking sheet, making sure it is not overcrowded (otherwise, use a second sheet). Bake for 25 minutes, checking after 20 minutes to ensure it doesn't burn. You may toss the cubes after 15 minutes or so, but it is not absolutely necessary.
- Once the rice is cooked, drain it into a strainer to remove any extra water. Return it to the saucepan and cover until ready to serve.
- Combine rice and squash in a serving dish. Add about half the pomegranate seeds and toss gently. Top the dish with the rest of the seeds. Serve warm.