Gluten-Free Rice Stuffing -a cozy and hearty side dish made with with butternut squash, fresh herbs, apples, cranberries, and almonds… everyone will love this flavor-filled stuffing. Warm spices and flavors make this the ultimate holiday dish.
Refined sugar free, no highly processed ingredients, soy-free and gluten-free.
Did I mention that this is a cozy dish? Every bite of this stuffing is cozy comforting. The gorgeous speckles of fresh and dried cranberries and the perfectly roasted butternut squash go so well with the sweet apple bites. It really is easy to make and you can change it up to your taste or for what you have on hand.
A gluten-free holiday showstopper, this makes a stunning side or even main dish. I know you may only think of stuffing made with bread. Our Best Ever Italian Sausage Stuffing is made every year during the holidays. This recipe came together quite by chance with a large portion of leftover Italian Venere rice. It is so good you may opt to skip the turkey (or whatever main dish you made!).
What is Italian Venere rice?
This is actually Italian black rice that when it cooks up, turns purple! It happens to come from Lombardy and Piedmont. Lombardy region is where my husband is from. It’s also known as black Venus rice (Venere means Venus). When it cooks up it turns from black to purple and it has a sweet and nutty flavor (I know they sell it at Whole Foods, but my husband brought this home from one of his importer friends right from Italy).
So there was a container leftover plain, and a container leftover that had fava and broccoli in it. That was a one of our side dishes from the night before. I combined both containers of the cooked rice, but I don’t list the broccoli and fava (you can see it in one of the photos and may be wondering…). IF you do not have Italian black Venere rice on hand, use whatever rice you have!
Now it was TOTALLY delicious with the broccoli/fava, so if you happen to have any cooked up on hand, toss it in! I believe in not wasting any thing and like I said, you could customize this to your taste.
I am one of those people that have most every thing on hand to make a rice stuffing. I already mentioned the cooked up rice. I also happened to have the squash, cranberries (fresh and dried), apples, almond slivers-it is all warmly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and pops of fresh herbs (I used sage and thyme from my herb garden).
These comforting flavors make a perfect holiday dish for your small gathering (think: your safe family/special close friends). And there will be leftovers! It is so good that you may skip the main course and just enjoy this! You could also make this any time of the week even as a main dish and the enjoy the leftovers a few more times over the week.
Can I make substitutions in this gluten-free rice stuffing?
Yes! As I mentioned, the Italian Venere rice could be subbed with whatever rice you have on hand (cooked or not cooked up).
- Rice: I used Italian Black Venere rice, but as I mentioned already above, use whatever rice you have on hand. Wild rice would be really great!
- Sausage: Turkey sausage was used, but feel free to use pork. OR omit the sausage and it is VEGAN/Vegetarian (make sure to use vegetable broth).
- Onions: I used red onions, but you could use white, scallions or even shallots.
- Apples: I had apples on hand to use up, but even pears would be nice.
- Almonds: You could sub pecans or even walnuts.
- Cranberries: For the dried cranberries, you could use golden raisins are dried cherries.
- Coconut Aminos: If you aren’t allergic to soy, use soy sauce. Or leave this out completely.
- Broth: I had homemade chicken broth on hand, but vegetable broth would work or even water if you don’t have any broth on hand.
If you have leftover steamed rice (as I did), this whole thing will come together in one pan. You could even put it in the oven on 350F for a few minutes to crisp up the top. And in no time you have this extra delicious gluten-free stuffing that could even be made vegetarian/vegan (just omit the sausage and use vegetable broth).
Fall herbs and warm spices infuse the red onions, tart cranberries, sweet squash and apples, crunchy almonds and hearty rice. It all makes for quite a flavorful and beautiful side dish. Could even be a main dish served inside roasted squash. Similar to this Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Dried Cranberries, and Pinoli.
Italian Venere rice is what I chose to use, but you could use sub wild or even brown rice. Brown rice has an earthy flavor. A naturally gluten-free whole grain that would be a great substitute for the Italian black Venere rice.
- Vegetarian/Vegan (omit sausage and it is totally veggie/vegan)
- Great source of fiber, protein, complex carbs and veggies!
- Whole-food ingredients
Can I make this stuffing vegan?
Yes! You can make it vegan by replacing the turkey sausage with your favorite vegan sausage, or just leave that out entirely.
Can I serve this stuffed inside a squash?
Yes, you could totally stuff this in a squash. I made stuffed acorn squash with a similar stuffing using quinoa. Also amazing!
Can I make this stuffing Whole30 compliant?
Yes, you could sub in cauliflower rice in place of the regular rice. I am all about using leftovers up. I had two containers of this gorgeous red Italian Venera rice to use up. But feel free to keep this rice-free and use cauliflower rice!
IF you omit the sausage, you have a delicious vegetarian meal (it’s that filling it could be a meal). It is perfect for a cold night when you need something healthy that warms you up. And that the whole family loves!
How do you make gluten-free rice stuffing?
First step is to gather all the ingredients.
Once you have all the ingredients together, next step is to roast the squash. You begin by lining a baking sheet with foil paper. Add the butternut squash and some fresh herbs (I used sage and rosemary from my little herb garden). Add on tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
Toss on a teaspoon of sea salt. With clean hands (you could also use a spoon), coat the squash with the oil, salt and herbs. Cover with a top sheet of foil and tuck it all around the edges of the bottom sheet (so you’re cooking the squash in a foil pocket).
Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is nice and tender.
While the squash is roasting up, cook up your rice (I had leftover Italian Venera rice had two containers and one of them had a little bit of broccoli and fava beans in it that was leftover from a side dish the night before). But you could use any leftover rice, like Basmati or Jasmine rice would work fine). IF you do NOT have any cooked rice on hand, cook up 1.5 cups of rice (white, jasmine, wild rice…whatever rice you love).
When squash is ready, remove from the oven and set aside.
In a 12″ skillet over medium heat, add the sausage (I found some nice turkey sausage, but you could use your favorite mild pork sausage or a vegan sausage).
Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces and stir while it’s cooking.
When the sausage has a nice color and is cooked through, transfer it to a small bowl (should take less than 10 mins to cook up), reserving the sausage bits in the skillet.
Turn the heat up to medium-high and add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet. As soon as it’s heated up, add in the onion.
I had purple onion on hand, but use whatever onion you have or even a chopped up shallot works great. Add in the apples and cook until the onion is translucent and apples begin to soften. I used Gala apples, but again, whatever apples you have on hand are fine. You could even leave on the peel (I peeled my apples).
Next, add in the cooked rice, dried cranberries and almond slivers. Add a splash of broth. Stir and combine.
Add in the fresh cranberries and the gently fold in the roasted squash pieces.
Add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut aminos (you could use soy sauce if you don’t have coconut aminos on hand )and a splash of some broth to moisten the stuffing.
Fold in the sausage. Check the flavor and add any salt and pepper, if needed. Add in the chopped fresh sage and thyme (or whatever fresh herbs you’re using), and serve.
Stir it all together to combine and add a splash of broth if it seems too dry.
It truly is an easy recipe to whip up. The last step is to toss some fresh herbs on top (I have two gorgeous sage plants that have lasted since the summer…so I used my fresh sage). A little bit more of the almond slivers and dried cranberries to give it a pop of color, and it makes it so festive! Enjoy it as a side dish during the holidays!
Can I make this stuffing ahead of time?
Yes! You can make the whole thing ahead of time. Wrap it tightly and store in the fridge. You could make it 2-3 days ahead of time. Reheat it on 325°F – 350°F for 10-15 minutes before serving as well
PIN for later!
More rice recipes to try:
- Very Easy One Pot Chicken and Rice
- Risi e Bisi-Rice and Peas
- Vegan Biryani Salad
- Kale and Black Rice Stir-Fry
Gluten-Free Rice Stuffing
- 1 pound bulk mild turkey sausage* you could use pork if you prefer
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1/2 large purple onion chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 butternut squash 12 to 16 ounces, peeled and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 2 cups apples cored and chopped (I used 2 Gala apples)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2-1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4-1/2 cup broth vegetable or chicken*
- 2 cups cooked rice* I used Italian Venera rice, could use basmati, long grain, wild or brown rice
- 2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup almond slivers
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup fresh cranberries* left whole
- 1-2 Tablespoons coconut aminos*
- 1/2 cup broth* vegetable or chicken
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh sage
- Fresh rosemary
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Add the butternut squash and some fresh herbs (I used sage and rosemary). Add on tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Toss on a teaspoon of sea salt. With clean hands, coat the squash with the oil, salt and herbs. Cover with a top sheet of foil and tuck it all around the edges of the bottom sheet (so you’re cooking the squash in a foil pocket).
- Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is nice and tender.
- While the squash is roasting up, cook up your rice (I had leftover Italian Venera rice, but you could use any leftover rice, like wild rice, brown rice, Basmati or jasmine rice would work fine).
- When squash is ready, remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add the sausage.
- Use a wooden spoon to break up the sausage into small pieces and stir while it’s cooking.
- When the sausage has a nice color and is cooked through, transfer it to a small bowl (should take less than 10 mins to cook up).
- Add a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet. As soon as it’s heated up, add in the onion. Add in the apples and cook until the onion is translucent and apples begin to soften.
- Next, add in the cooked rice, dried cranberries and almond slivers. Add a splash of broth. Stir and combine.
- Add in the fresh cranberries and the gently fold in the roasted squash pieces.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut aminos and a splash of some broth to moisten the stuffing.
- Fold in the sausage. Check the flavor and add any salt and pepper, if needed. Add some fresh sage (or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and enjoy), and serve.