Not only does this stunning roasted kabocha squash, black rice, and sesame dressing combination impress visually, the remarkable combination of flavors will have you savoring every last bite.
Kabocha squash may be my favorite variety of winter squash. It has a deep green, knobby—but beautiful—exterior, and a rich flavorful flesh that’s sweeter than most butternut squash. It’s great in soups and stews, but I find that its flavor really comes out when it’s roasted in the oven, just to the point where its edges get caramelized and its interior is tender and sweet. I love this dish for so many reasons—for its flavor and textures, but also its wonderfully vibrant colors that are such a difference from the oranges, browns, and reds for which this season is known.–Lindsey S. Love
How do I peel a kabocha squash?
First off, kabocha squash is perfectly fine to leave unpeeled as the skin is tender when cooked. But if you want it a little more naked, you have 2 options. Slice into quarters, scoop out the goop, and then remove the skin. Or you can pop it into the microwave for 3 minutes (poke some holes in it first) and you’ll find the skin slips right off.
Roasted Kabocha Squash, Black Rice, and Sesame Dressing
For the dressing
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
- 2 tablespoons tahini paste
- 1 garlic clove roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
For the squash
- 1 (3-pound) kabocha or butternut squash peeled and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces
- 1 red onion peeled and cut into 8 wedges with root attached
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the rice
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 cup black (“forbidden”) rice
- Coarse salt
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Make the dressing
- Have your blender ready. In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup water and the flour until incorporated and no lumps remain. Set over medium low heat and cook, continuing to whisk constantly, until the mixture thickens, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat immediately and pour into the blender. Add the tahini, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, sesame oil, tamari, syrup, fine salt and pepper to taste, and blitz until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
Roast the squash
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- On the baking sheet, toss the squash and onion with the olive oil, season with a good pinch of coarse salt and a few cracks of pepper. Roast until tender and the edges are lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes.
Cook the rice
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil, add the rice and a pinch of coarse salt. Let the water come back to a boil, cover, and turn the heat to low. Cook until the water has evaporated and the rice is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Remove the dressing from the refrigerator and whisk; if dressing is too thick, add water 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
- Place the rice in a large serving bowl. Top with the roasted squash, onion, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Drizzle with 3 to 4 tablespoons of dressing and combine as desired.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is a beautiful, delicious, and nutritious side dish or even perfect as a vegetarian/vegan entree. The recipe was written very well, as the times given for cooking the rice, squash and onions, were all on the mark. The only exception was the timing for “hands on”. By the time you peel the squash and cube it (that can take 20 minutes alone), plus measure all of the ingredients, I’d say it takes about 40 minutes of hands on time.
I used kabocha squash, as it is one of my favorite winter squashes. The author says it’s sweeter than most butternut squash. I find just the opposite…it’s more earthy tasting to me. If you want sweeter, definitely go with butternut squash, plus it is so much easier to peel and cube.
A tip on peeling super tough kabocha squash: use an extra sharp chef’s knife, slice off the stem to make a flat surface, then peel the squash as you would peel an orange if you wanted to supreme it, i.e., segment it, (top to bottom, to remove the skin, and all the way around).
The squash I had was 3 lbs, whole, and using half of it seemed to be just the right ratio to rice. The forbidden rice I bought (Lotus), suggested cooking 1 cup of rice to 1-3/4 cups of water, as opposed to the 2 cups of water in the recipe; which worked perfectly.
Now the sauce….it is oh so good. The chickpea flour “slurry” with water thickened in exactly 4 minutes. The combination of ingredients: black rice, kabocha squash, roasted red onion and the chickpea sesame sauce makes this a wow dish. I did have to add just a bit of water to thin the sauce before drizzling it on. I am sure I will make this dish over and over again.
This is an unusual side dish, sort of sweet and savory. It takes some looking to find black rice but this dish is worth the search.
I ended up making this dish twice as the first squash my hubby brought home was not a kabocha. It was terribly dry even with the dressing. You want a sweeter variety of tender squash to make this. I went a few days later and bought a butternut squash (35 oz in weight) and using the right kind of squash really went a long way to making this dish.
The dressing doesn’t take long to make and only needed 1 teaspoon of water to loosen it after refrigeration. The squash and onions took 30 minutes in the oven to caramelize. The instructions on the rice called for 1 cup rice to 1-1/2 cup of water, but I followed the recipe and used 2 cups of water. After 25 minutes of cooking it all looked pretty soupy, but I set it aside while I chopped cilantro and allowed everything to cool. The rice did absorb all the water and was tender and fluffed easily with a fork.
I think the cilantro really brightened the dish. This is a dish I would consider making again, perhaps not for weeknight meals but certainly for special occasions.
Loved the dramatic look of this dish, and the completely new-to-me dressing using a briefly-cooked chickpea flour as a base. The black rice is a favourite already with us, with a chewy pearl-like texture and the drama of the colour. Combining it with colourful and different textures – the roasted squash has a great combination of silky interior and caramelized edges, the roasted red onions transform into a discrete element of their own, which you can really taste and appreciate in the wedge sizes.
Because the roasted veggies have minimal flavouring, you really are counting on the dressing. It is nearly perfect – and I think the only thing it needed was a little brightness, which was easily adjusted by thinning it with a little lemon juice in place of water. I also added pomegranate arils when we had this for a second meal, and that firmly placed it in the winning column for me, with a tart but earthy sweetness and another texture and colour.
Make the dressing ahead of time, and expect it to thicken quite a bit as it chills. Taste it and if you need to thin it, do so with water or as I did, lemon juice. One thing that made measuring the various liquids and the tahini easier was to use a small (1/4 cup) translucent silicone measuring cylinder that had teaspoon and tablespoon markings: I added the rice vinegar, sesame oil and tamari first, then the tahini, and it all slid out easily.
My kabocha was especially tiny, so I used the entire squash plus a miniature butternut squash. I got two meals for two people out of this recipe with a bit of extra black rice left over for a stir fry. My black (Forbidden) rice package suggested a smaller amount of water (1 3/4 cups) and that would have been better — I had to simmer off/drain some excess water using 2 cups as the recipe indicated. This was a satisfying vegetarian meal, and I think you can play up the variety of roasted vegetables to entice your carnivores (I plan to add roasted asparagus as a bribe next time).
Since the dressing recipe will probably leave you will excess, save it for dipping roasted or raw veggies!
This is a visually stunning dish. The orange from the squash, the depth of color of the rice and the red from the onion all contribute to the visual vibrancy of the dish. I used butternut squash which I’m sure is a fine substitute for the kabocha.
I served this as a side dish with pork tenderloin, but this dish in itself would make a very delicious and satisfying main course. It will easily serve 4 as a side or 2 as a main course. My butternut squash weighed almost 2 pounds. I roasted the entire squash and added a bit more onion. Following the amounts stated in the recipe, I served the rice with only half of what I roasted. I believe the entire amount could have been used, given the amount of rice, and so I added the remainder of the squash and onions to my leftovers.
I couldn’t find black rice in my market and so I purchased Black Japonica Rice Blend which is a very tasty combination of short grain black rice and medium grain mahogany rice that grow together in the same field. I followed the directions on the package and cooked the rice for 40 minutes which was longer than the 25 minutes stated in the recipe. The one issue I had was getting the sauce to thicken. I cooked the water and flour for a good 10 minutes and it still wasn’t very thick. Perhaps the next time I’ll add a bit more flour to facilitate thickening. I should mention that the sauce was delicious. It definitely needs more salt and pepper than stated in the recipe. I had quite a bit of extra sauce. Because I was serving the rice with pork tenderloin, I used some of the sauce on the pork which worked very well.
Originally published January 24, 2021
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This was a wonderful dish, seriously company-worthy. It looked beautiful laid out on an oval platter, with the pile of squash and onions on top, drizzled with the delicious creamy dressing and fresh herbs. It tasted as good as it looked.
To peel or not to peel the squash? We all know squash is no fun to peel and I didn’t want to peel it if not necessary. Since I wasn’t familiar with kabocha squash I had to google “how to prepare…” and found a great little video showing how to cut it into squares, and specifically stating that there is no need to peel the squash as the skin is very tender. Indeed, I hardly noticed that the peel was on the squash as I ate it.
The roasting time for the squash and onions was right on the mark, with both being done at the same time. The rice however was still quite watery at the 30 minute mark, but almost done, so I drained it and put it back in the pan to steam for 10 more minutes, perfect. Maybe only use 1 ½ cups of water for rice the next time.
I served this with a lovely filet of salmon. The dressing was perfect drizzled over the salmon as well, and the colors were spectacular together. I did thin the dressing down just a bit with a bit more vinegar and soy sauce instead of water.