Stuffed Pumpkins with Middle Eastern Beef and Couscous

After kicking off with this healthy kale and grilled pumpkin salad, I wanted the main course of our Pumpkin and Chardonnay pairing dinner to be warm, comforting, and hearty.I find that people love when meals come individually packaged – individual mini stuffed pumpkins are the perfect example, and they have the added bonus of looking incredibly festive on a fall table, so that’s what we went with for course #2.

mini stuffed pumpkins

mini stuffed pumpkins

A lot of stuffed pumpkin recipes call for copious amounts of cream, cheese, and sausage as the primary stuffing ingredients. While that sounds absolutely delicious, I didn’t want dinner to be quite that indulgent, so I decided to take these pumpkins in a more Middle-Eastern direction, stuffing them with a tagine-like mixture of sweetly spiced, stewed beef, dried fruit, nuts, and Israeli couscous. The beef itself is the star of the show – it’s deeply savory, saucy, not at all greasy, fall-apart tender, and heavily flavored with the sweet flavors of cinnamon and dried apricots.

mini stuffed pumpkins

This recipe is a good one for a dinner party as it can mostly be prepared ahead of time. You can prepare the beef and the rest of the filling a day in the advance, then stuff and roast the pumpkins so that they are 75% cooked the morning of the party. Then, pop them back in the oven 30 minutes before serving time to finish cooking them through and heat them up, and all that’s left to do is bring them out to the table.

mini stuffed pumpkins

For the main course Chardonnay pairing, we served La Crema’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It’s a bit brighter and less buttery than the Monterey, and plays nicely with the slightly sweet flavors of the spiced beef, couscous, and roasted pumpkin. It is a juicy and highly drinkable wine, perfect for keeping conversation and good vibes flowing at the height of your event.

Mini-Stuffed Pumpkins with Middle Eastern Beef and Couscous

Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6


  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 lb. chuck roast or beef brisket
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 15 dried apricots
  • 5 dates
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling pumpkins
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 1/4 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 6 small (1 to 1 1/2 pound) sugar pumpkins or acorn squash
  • sea salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, allspice, ground mustard, paprika, brown sugar, sea salt, and black pepper until evenly combined. Rub all over the chuck roast.
  2. Heat canola oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chuck roast to the pan and brown on all sides, letting it rest about 2 minutes on each side before flipping to the next. When the beef is fully browned, remove it from the pan and set it on a plate to the side.
  3. Add the chopped onions to the pan and saute until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute longer. Deglaze the pan by adding the red wine to the hot pan and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. At this point, return the beef to the pan and add the stock, dried apricots, and dates. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.
  4. Roast the beef for 1 hour, then check, flip, and roast for 1 hour longer. At this stage, remove the lid from the pan and roast 1 hour longer, until sauce has thickened and beef is falling apart. Remove from the oven and let cool. If you have time, place the pan in the fridge as it will make it easier to skim the fat and shred the beef. If not, do your best to skim the fat from the top of the pan, discarding the fat. Remove the beef from the sauce and slice or shred into small pieces, reserving the sauce to the side.
  5. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat, then add the sweet onion and saute until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the Israeli couscous and almonds and cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until toasted and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the hot water, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until water is fully absorbed, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir the shredded beef as well as 1 cup of the reserved sauce into the couscous. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the tops off of the pumpkins and set aside. Use a large spoon to scrape the seeds and stringy flesh out of the center of each pumpkin, reserving the seeds for another use if you wish. Fill the cavity of each pumpkin with a drizzle of olive oil, using a spoon to rub it around the center of the pumpkin, then season with salt and pepper. Scoop the filling into the pumpkins, packing it in tightly and mounding it high on top. Place the tops back on the pumpkins and place them in a large, oiled casserole dish. Drizzle each pumpkin with a little bit of olive oil. Roast for 1 hour, then remove the tops and continue roasting for 30 minutes longer. The pumpkins should be tender and the filling browned on top. Serve hot.

mini stuffed pumpkins

Harvest Pumpkin Dinner

Grilled Pumpkin Salad

Mini-Stuffed Pumpkins with Middle Eastern Beef & Couscous

Pumpkin-Vanilla Pot de Cremes