Think outside the box this Thanksgiving! Try this variation on roasted butternut squash.

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Thanksgiving dinner traditionally features flavors like rosemary, thyme, and sage, and creamy, buttery preparations of foods that have become synonymous with holiday feasting. These flavors are a staple… but who’s to say that everything on the Thanksgiving feast table needs to follow expected tradition every year verbatim? Try this recipe for a variation on roasted butternut squash.

A white bowl filled with a recipe variation for roasted butternut squash. The bowl is filled with roasted butternut squash, fennel, nuts and spiced with za'atar.
Photo Credit: Kevin Coster

It’s time to think outside the box!

While many traditional dishes are heavy, creamy, and buttery, it’s also a great idea to offer some vibrant colors and interesting flavors on the Thanksgiving table, some of which might stray a little bit off the beaten path of tradition.

Vegetables like green beans, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash are expected veggies at holiday time, but you can have a bit of creative fun with the exact preparation of them.

This day and age, if you are entertaining a group for dinner, it’s more likely than not you will have a few vegetarians or plant-based eaters in your midst, and they will certainly appreciate something along the lines of this tasty, hearty variation on butternut squash.

A butternut squash on a table, along with an onion, small eggplants, herbs and greens.
Photo Credit: Natalie Rhea Riggs

Make it extra easy on yourself by prepping the butternut squash and fennel a few days ahead. You can even roast it… just don’t mix in the nuts and herbs until it’s time to serve.

You can also skip the only tedious step in the recipe, which is preparing the butternut squash. Many markets, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, offer the butternut squash pre-cut. You’ve already got enough to cut and chop on Thanksgiving Day, so we promise we won’t tell that you took a short-cut on this part!

Za'atar spice on a white plate
Za’atar at The Spice House

Haven’t used za’atar spice before? No clue what I am even talking about? Be prepared to have your tastebuds awakened!

The LA Times describes za’atar this way: “The woodsy, herbal, citrusy spice blend from the Middle East is thrilling to eat — one taste and the palate veers in surprising and delicious directions. Za’atar is a harmony of herb, sesame seed and sumac. … It has a deep red color and delightfully tart and tannic taste.”

You can find za’atar in many markets like Whole Foods, Farmers’ markets, Mediterranean markets, or online at The Spice House.

If you can’t find shelled pistachios, this recipe also works with toasted almonds, pine nuts, or even toasted hazelnuts.

Fresh fennel gives this a dynamic flavor with its sweet-savory licorice accent. If you can’t find fresh fennel, you can substitute red onion, though it won’t be the same. Fennel should be readily available, especially at this time of year.

Chef Julie's hands are seen chopping a fennel bulb on a wooden cutting board.
Fennel: The ingredient you’ve missing all these years!
Photo Credit: Kevin Coster

We hope you enjoy this version of butternut squash, and that it offers an exciting and welcome, but not too-far-outside-the-box stray from the traditional holiday menu.

If you do make it, please hashtag #doralyard or tag @doralyard so we can see what magic you are creating in your own kitchen. Happy cooking!

Recipe for variation on roasted butternut squash


1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and large dice

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cores removed, and sliced lengthwise

1.5 tablespoons za’atar spices

1 teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ to ¾ cup pistachios, chopped (you can also pulse in blender to break up)

¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped

¼ c cup mint leaves, chopped


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Lay butternut squash out on a baking sheet with fennel. Add olive oil, salt, and za’atar spice, and mix well by hand. 

Chef Julie's hands are seen tossing the butternut squash and fennel chunks with za'atar seasoning.

Put baking sheet in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove, and move the butternut squash around, flipping as much over as possible. Cook an additional 10-20 minutes, until squash and fennel are starting to caramelize, or brown. 

Chef Julie's hands are seen putting a pan of butternut squash an fennel  into the oven.
Photo Credit: Kevin Coster

Remove from oven, and sprinkle with pistachios and fresh herbs. Mix with a spatula. 

Taste and adjust for seasoning, if needed. 

Place butternut squash and fennel mixture in a bowl, and serve warm. We hope you enjoy this delicious variation on the recipe for roasted butternut squash.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at The Doral Yard!

Find more recipes by Chef Julie and Chef Danny on our blog.

A white bowl filled with a recipe variation for roasted butternut squash. The bowl is filled with roasted butternut squash, fennel, nuts and spiced with za'atar.


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