Recipe: Festive Butternut Roast (& what makes the ultimate vegetarian & vegan Christmas dinner?)

Festive Butternut Roast - Vegetarian & Vegan

What to eat as ‘the main event’ for Christmas Dinner can be an annual dilemma, trying to find something suitably festive, with a bit of wow-factor, that the turkey-eaters won’t scoff at.

We’ve tried all sorts of recipes over the years – moroccan-spiced filo affairs, gooey baked cheesey pies, nutty patties, mushroomy wellingtons, aubergine stacks, chestnutty bites which were fondly nicknamed ‘reindeer poo’…. the list goes on.  I often wonder if I will stumble upon a veggie option so good it will become an annual event, just like turkey?  It would certainly take some of the frantic last-minute rush out of trying to decide what to make, and sometimes things we eat only once a year can feel like such a treat – like pancake day.  But I don’t think I’ve found that special dish just yet.

This got me thinking about what makes the “ultimate vegetarian & vegan Christmas Dinner”.  It was really interesting to read your feedback on my roundup of Vegetarian Sunday Lunch Recipes a few months ago – what people think does and doesn’t go with gravy and roast potatoes, whether you want something very quick and easy to throw together, or to spend a while in the kitchen making something really special you wouldn’t usually have for a weeknight supper.

I think Veggie Christmas Dinners should:

Be full of festive flavours and ingredients

Festive Butternut Roast 3I’ve seen all sorts of veggie options on over-priced Christmas lunch menus from local hotels and restaurants, including recently ‘Penne with a tomato and Mediterranean vegetable sauce‘, and ‘Asparagus and sun-dried tomato risotto‘.  These are not Christmassy!! Delicious, I’m sure, but I’m pretty sure December isn’t asparagus season, and tomatoes and Mediterranean vegetables just aren’t festive.  Give me cranberries, walnuts, nutmeg, stilton, port, rosemary and sage any day.

Create some theatre at the table

So the turkey turns up at the table to oohs and ahhs, and is ceremoniously carved, whilst you plate up your sorry looking nut roast to pitying looks from around the table…. sound familiar?  This Christmas, make some drama with your veggie option too – make it extra-tall, decorate your pie with pastry holly leaves, slice it at the table, add plenty of colourful and festive ingredients so it looks and smells amazing too.

Avoid all the veg you will be eating with it

I’ve had some really tasty spiced winter root vegetable pies as the main event for Christmas dinner, but realised that I was eating potato, parsnip and carrot in a pastry crust, with potato, parsnip and carrot next to it as side dishes.  Don’t overdo the root veg at Christmas!

Similarly, if something isn’t going to work well being slathered in oniony gravy, I don’t want it on my plate for Christmas Dinner!  Remember this centrepiece is going to be sitting alongside potatoes, sprouts, carrots, parsnips, red cabbage and lots of gravy.

Indulgent, but not too heavy!

Christmas lunch should definitely be a time of indulgence… a bit too much bubbly, just one more roast potato, and an extra slice of pudding.  Though I’ve seen some Christmas dinner recipes for two featuring a whole baked camembert wrapped in all-butter puff pastry, and thought…. would I ever be able to get up from the table?!  Its great to have some naughty-but-nice ingredients in a festive main course, but if your Christmas dinner is anything like ours with nibbles, substantial starters, every vegetable known to man with oodles of gravy and three different sauces, followed by homemade pudding and custard then a cheeseboard, half a baked camembert is a pretty high-risk strategy as a main course option!

Relatively simple to make-ahead – you will have enough to do!

I’m a great believer that everyone should enjoy Christmas Day from start to finish, including whoever is doing the cooking.  Getting as much prep out of the way in the days beforehand means maximum champagne-sipping. present-unwrapping, charades-playing enjoyment for everyone on the big day itself.  So choosing a veggie option that can sit happily in the fridge for a day or two then simply be re-heated 10-15 minutes beforehand is a very good idea.

ultimate vegetarian & vegan Christmas dinner

Taking all these into account, here’s a festive little idea for you which I cooked this week for our Christmas celebration with my husband’s family.  It went down very well indeed, and certainly looks and smells Christmassy!


4.41 from 5 votes
Festive Butternut Roast - Vegetarian & Vegan
Festive Butternut Roast
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr 5 mins
Course: Main
Servings: 4 people
Author: Kate Ford | The Veg Space
  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
  • 100 g puy lentils
  • 100 g fresh cranberries
  • 2 stalks fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 150 ml vegetable stock
  • 80 g fresh spinach, finely chopped
  • 50 g pistachios, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthways, and scoop out and discard the seeds. Brush or spray with a little oil, then bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out with a spoon. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or frying pan with a lid, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add the lentils, cranberries, rosemary and thyme leaves, nutmeg, red wine and vegetable stock, bring to the boil, then cover and lower to a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, (but still have a little bite to them). NB you may need to add a little more water near the end of cooking time if the lentils have soaked up all the liquid - keep an eye on them and stir regularly.
  4. Take one half of the butternut squash and scoop out most of the flesh with a spoon, leaving a little all the way around so that the squash holds its shape. Be careful not to tear the skin if possible, (though the occasional hole won't be disastrous!). Add the squash flesh to the pan of lentils, and mash it into the mixture with a fork. Repeat with the other squash half. Taste the mixture, and add salt as necessary.
  5. Stir the spinach and pistachios into the lentil mixture, and mix well to combine, then spoon the mixture into both halves of the squash until it is level, (see picture above) - there may be a little left over, but keep this aside to serve separately - don't over-fill or you will lose the nice, neat circular shape of your roast. Place one half on top of the other, then tie with string every 3-4 centimetres.
  6. Return to the oven for 10 minutes until piping hot throughout.

This Festive Butternut Roast can be made a few days ahead, wrapped in foil and kept in the fridge, then just reheated in the oven for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Porcini & Sherry SoupFor a full Christmas Day menu, why not take a look at:


Porcini & Chestnut Wreath Roasts
Porcini & Chestnut Wreath Roasts

Festive Butternut Roast

Garlic & Rosemary Roast Potatoes
Garlic & Rosemary Roast Potatoes
Ginger & Sesame Brussels Sprouts
Ginger & Sesame Brussels Sprouts
Best Vegan Christmas Cake
Vegan Christmas Cake
Orange & Maple Carrots
Orange & Maple Carrots
Figgy Christmas Chutney
Figgy Christmas Chutney

For more ideas, take a look at my recent post 34 Vegetarian Sunday Lunch Recipes You Need to Know About,

or hop over to my Pinterest Board Sunday Lunches and Roast Dinners: Vegetarian & Vegan:

Follow Kate Ford | The Veg Space’s board Sunday Lunches and Roast Dinners: Vegetarian & Vegan on Pinterest.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a very Happy Christmas and fun-filled 2016!

Kate x

Vegan in 15 by Kate FordAnd don’t forget that my new book Vegan in 15 is out now… simple but ludicrously tasty vegan meals.  Many thanks for your support!




  1. This looks absolutely stunning and I bet it tastes great too. Such beautiful styling and photographs.
    Claire @foodiequine recently posted…Festive Tortilla PizzasMy Profile

  2. Looks amazing and is stuffed full of my favourite things! It has already sparked a few spin off ideas now, such as stuffing the squash with some of my nut roast mix {which is demanded by the carnivores every year}
    I guess my card crafting twine will be fine for tying it together.
    Deborah ShireGardener recently posted…Winter Solstice Blessings!My Profile

  3. This looks amazing! I love lentils and squash. And it looks beautiful too 🙂
    Diana recently posted…Easy Party Rice & Corn Cakes CanapésMy Profile

  4. This looks amazing and such a genius idea too! 🙂
    Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes recently posted…Salted Almond Butter TrufflesMy Profile

  5. This is an inspiring Christmas Day recipe for my daughter and I, who until this year have always had meat. It looks impressively different from what we’d normally have for Sunday lunch!

  6. Love this idea! Looks absolutely amazing and full of goodness 😀 yum!!
    Nadia’s Healthy Kitchen recently posted…Vegan Gluten Free Gingerbread MenMy Profile

  7. In response to your question, will we ever find a special festive dish to make every year, I have been making the same nut roast for christmas dinner for over 2 decades. It is one of my simplest nut roast recipes. I can make it quickly the day before when in full festive swing and though it probably lacks theatre, a couple of small slices go a long way with all the trimmings and vegies but I also love it because it leaves me with lots of leftovers when others just eat meat leftovers – and slices up wonderfully for leftover sandwiches which are often all we want after christmas dinner. Anyway I enjoyed your post (even out of season) and love the theatre of the string tying up the pumpkin – looks like an impressive centre of the meal

  8. Lovely dish – dinner-party-worthy for Australian winters. And so adaptable to whatever you have on hand – I added mushrooms, nuts, feta, didn’t have any spinach, delicious.

    1. Ah thanks, that’s great to hear!

  9. I tried it just now. Will have to extend the cooking time for the lentils to 45 minutes and the initial butternut squash cook time to an hour. I cooked the squash for 35 minutes to start with and it was still hard. I kept sticking it in for 10 minutes at a time until it had been cooking for 55 minutes.

    Everything was still a bit too firm when we had it for dinner. Overall a great recipe in terms of the ingredients. Just needs a ton more cooking time.

    1. Hi Barbara, sorry to hear that yours took so long to cook. I make this quite a lot and those cooking times have always worked out fine, I wonder if yours was cooking at a lower temperature? Anyway I hope it tasted good at the end of it! Kate x

  10. That is Christmas Lunch sorted – thanks for the recipe and it looks good.

    1. Glad to hear it and let me know how it goes!! Kate x

  11. This recipe looks fantastic. I was wondering what you would consider as a possible substitute for the red wine since our family lives in a neighborhood where alcohol is forbidden. Thanks!

    1. Hi Georgia, Just vegetable stock or even water would be absolutely fine! X

  12. Silly question (cooking rookie here): does the skin stay on? Do you eat around it?
    Looks great, I ‘m planning on making it for Christmas dinner.

    1. Hi Anna, yes the skin stays on – lots of people eat it, it is perfectly edible once cooked, but if you prefer you can eat around it. Its a good idea to leave it on otherwise it might not hold its shape during cooking.

  13. I completely agree with you on the usual veggie Christmas dinner issues. This looks like an incredible veggie alternative for me this year… a few questions:

    1. How far in advance can I make this? Would 23rd still be ok for Christmas day?
    2. How do you serve it?? Do you just slice it up?
    3. I’m the only veggie at the table so this will definitely be going to left overs, how well does it keep once it’s been fully cooked? Am I best to keep it whole and slice as needed? Or slice it up / take it apart and put in a tuppaware?

    Very excited to try this!!


  14. Hi! I’m making this for Christmas dinner this year and I’m curious about an ingredient substitution. I don’t eat lentils since being pregnant with my daughter. The smell makes me absolutely sick. I was thinking of switching them out with chickpeas. Would I blend these up a little before cooking everything together? Any help would be appreciated. This sounds delicious!

    1. Hi Laree, yes I think that would work really well, but they wouldn’t need anywhere near the same cooking time or they would turn to mush, so just keep tasting and checking, and remember they cook again in the oven so better slightly undercooked if anything.

  15. […] Recipe: Festive Butternut Roast (& what makes the ultimate vegetarian & vegan Christmas di… […]

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