One-Pot Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale

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This Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale is the perfect fall dinner! Similar to risotto, this one-pot recipe is made by simmering orzo pasta in small batches of stock with butternut squash and fragrant aromatics like fresh sage and garlic. The squash breaks down as it cooks, coating the orzo and creating a beautifully creamy, built-in sauce with autumnal flavor. Finish with parmesan cheese and wilted kale to create a cozy, veggie-loaded dinner, ready in 35 minutes or less!

Naturally meatless. Easily vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free.

An overhead shot of a serving of butternut squash orzo topped with grated parmesan in a dark green shallow bowl atop an off-white surface.

This Naturally Creamy, One-Pot Orzo with Butternut Squash is the Coziest Way to Eat Your Fall Veggies!

Comfort food is my favorite thing about the autumn and winter seasons. But cozy dishes are so often super rich and indulgent – sometimes it’s nice to snuggle up with a meal that’s filled with veggies! That’s why I get completely giddy when I find a recipe that strikes the perfect balance of comforting and feel-good, and this Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale does just that!

This butternut squash orzo is a naturally meatless dish that’s loaded with in-season veggies like butternut squash and kale. The coziness comes from a cooking method inspired by risotto. Simmering the orzo and butternut squash together in small additions of vegetable stock creates a built-in, naturally creamy butternut squash sauce with the best glossy texture (no heavy cream involved!).

As a major bonus, this simple, one-pan method eliminates any need to prep roasted butternut squash ahead of time or lug out a blender to whip up a creamy sauce. The whole dish comes together in 35 minutes or less on the stovetop for a super satisfying, veggie-loaded dinner that you can enjoy any night of the week. Feel-good comfort food at its finest! 🙌🏼

This One-Pot Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale is the perfect fall dinner: cozy, veggie-loaded, and ready in 35 minutes or less!

If you love cozy and veggie-loaded dinners, try my Butternut Squash Red Curry or Butternut Squash Skillet Enchiladas next. Both are one-pot vegetarian recipes that are easy enough for any night of the week (ready in 30 minutes or less!).

Key Ingredients

This butternut squash orzo recipe leans on many pantry staples, but its stars are truly the seasonal autumn ingredients. With a fully stocked pantry and a quick trip to the farmer’s market, you’re ready to get cooking!

An overhead shot of ingredients displayed in various bowls and on a wooden board on a white surface: diced butternut squash, dry orzo, white wine, broth, shallots, parmesan, butter, garlic, sage, and kale.
This butternut squash orzo recipe leans on many pantry staples, but its stars are seasonal autumn ingredients: butternut squash, kale, and fresh sage.

Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.

You need 3 key ingredients…

  1. Orzo is a tiny-cut pasta (pastina) with a shape and size similar to rice. As pasta, orzo has a much faster cooking time than most whole grains, making it a super versatile and convenient pantry staple for a one-pan recipe like this one. My go-to is always DeLallo Orzo, which has the perfect starchy texture to create the creaminess we’re after in this butternut squash orzo recipe.
  2. Butternut squash – This hearty winter squash has sweet and nutty orange flesh. Using in-season squash always yields the best flavor, so grab it from your local farmer’s market while you can.
  3. Kale – This hearty green wilts into the warm butternut squash orzo, lending a pop of color and an extra serving of veggies. Feel free to use another green like spinach or Swiss chard if you prefer!

Plus, a few other simple staples…

  • Aromatics – A combination of shallot, garlic, and fresh sage layers the orzo and squash with complementary flavor.
  • Liquid ingredientsWhite wine and vegetable stock or broth boil the orzo to a perfect al dente. I love using white wine in creamy dishes – its bright acidity balances rich flavors beautifully. If you prefer not to cook with wine, simply swap it out for extra veggie broth and a quick squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Finishing touchesButter and parmesan cheese enrich the creamy butternut squash sauce, while nutmeg lends warm, autumnal flavor. This dish is naturally meatless, but be sure to use a rennet-free parmesan to ensure it is vegetarian.

Butternut Squash Prep Tips

While the store-bought bags of pre-cubed squash are tempting, learning how to break down a whole butternut squash at home has many perks. It’s cost-effective, reduces waste, and also leaves you with plenty of squash for different recipes – triple win!

A whole butternut squash rests on top of a round wooden cutting board alongside a pair of Zwilling Pro Le Blanc Knives. A woman's hand holds the top portion of the butternut squash, while holding a Zwilling Pro Y-Peeler in the other hand to peel the squash. The cutting board sits atop a white textured surface while butternut squash peelings, fresh herbs, & cloves of garlic surround the cutting board.
A Y-peeler makes it very quick and easy to remove butternut squash’s tough skin.
Half of a peeled butternut squash rests on top of a round wooden cutting board alongside a pair of Zwilling Pro Le Blanc Knives. A woman's hand holds the top portion of the butternut squash, while holding a spoon in the other hand using it to scoop out the butternut squash seeds. A small speckled ceramic bowl rests on the cutting board as well to collect the discarded butternut squash seeds. The cutting board sits atop a white textured surface while butternut squash peelings, fresh herbs, & cloves of garlic surround the cutting board.
Use a sharp chef’s knife to carefully slice the squash in half, then remove the seeds.
A peeled & cored butternut squash rests on top of a round wooden cutting board alongside a Zwilling Pro Le Blanc pairing knife. A woman's hands hold the top portion of a group of cut butternut squash, while using a knife to cut the squash into cubes with her other hand. Cubes of butternut squash rest on the cutting board & the cutting board sits atop a white textured surface while butternut squash peelings, fresh herbs, & cloves of garlic surround the cutting board.
Dice the squash into ½-inch cubes, which are small enough to become tender and creamy as they simmer with orzo.

How to break down a butternut squash…

  1. Peel to remove the tough skin, exposing its orange flesh. Tip! ⇢ The wide handle and blade of a Y-peeler makes peeling a large squash especially quick and simple.
  2. Slice in half and deseed. Use a sharp chef’s knife to trim both ends, then carefully halve the squash lengthwise. Remove the seeds using a large spoon. Discard or set them aside to roast up as a quick fall snack!
  3. Slice and dice the butternut squash. Cut the oblong section of the squash into planks and the round end into slices, then dice into cubes. For this recipe, aim for ½-inch cubes, which are small enough to really soften and break down into a creamy sauce as the squash simmers with the orzo.

10-Minute Meal Prep

Most of the active prep work for this recipe comes from peeling and chopping the butternut squash, so it’s great to do ahead of time. Store the diced butternut in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. At dinnertime, you can jump right into cooking – easy!

How to Make Butternut Squash and Orzo Pasta

If you’ve ever prepared risotto, this butternut squash orzo recipe will feel very familiar. The aromatics, squash, and pasta simmer together in small amounts of vegetable stock until everything is tender. It’s a one-pan operation with naturally creamy resultsready in 35 minutes or less!

An overhead shot of softened diced squash with a wooden spoon in a white skillet.
Sautéing butternut squash with aromatics perfumes it with flavor and ensures it’s tender when the orzo reaches al dente.
An overhead shot of white wine being poured over orzo and squash in a white skillet sitting on a textured off-white surface.
Deglazing with white wine releases the fond from the bottom of the pan, ensuring all of its rich flavor is incorporated into the creamy butternut squash sauce.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

1

Soften the squash with aromatics. In a large skillet on the stovetop, cook the diced butternut squash with shallots until the squash is fork-tender. Why? ⇢ Softening up the squash a bit before simmering it with the orzo helps ensure that it breaks down into a creamy sauce by the time the pasta reaches al dente.

2

Toast the orzo. Reduce the heat to low then add the dried orzo to the pan. Stir the pasta around for a few minutes, just until it becomes golden brown and toasty. Why? ⇢ Quickly toasting the dry pasta helps develop a beautiful nuttiness that adds extra depth of flavor to the entire dish!

3

Deglaze. Pour white wine into the hot skillet. Its steam will release browned bits (aka, fond) from the bottom of the pan. Stir and scrape them up using a wooden spoon. Why? ⇢ The fond from the butternut squash, aromatics, and orzo is FULL of rich flavor – we don’t any of it to go to waste!

An overhead shot of a wooden spoon stirring squash and orzo in a white skillet.
Simmer the butternut squash and orzo with small amounts of vegetable stock, allowing the pasta to absorb the liquid before adding more.
An overhead shot of a wooden spoon stirring squash and orzo in a white skillet.
This risotto-style cook creates a built-in creamy sauce thickened by the tender butternut squash and the starchy orzo.

Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.

4

Simmer. Add just enough vegetable stock to the skillet to cover the orzo. Once the pasta absorbs the liquid, continue cooking in small amounts of stock until it reaches al dente. Why? ⇢ This shallow simmer keeps the individual pieces of pasta close together as they cook. The orzo jostles around as it simmers, knocking its starchy exterior into the sauce. This thickens the broken-down butternut squash and creates a beautifully creamy and glossy sauce.

5

Finish the butternut squash orzo. Toss the shredded kale into the skillet with the parmesan cheese, butter, and nutmeg. The greens wilt into the pasta and the dairy tightens up the sauce to bring everything together. Easy as that!

Serving and Storage Suggestions

A creamy, cozy fall dinner in no time! Simply grab a big bowl, snuggle up, and dig in. 🥰

An overhead shot of a serving of orzo topped with grated parmesan in a dark green shallow bowl atop an off-white surface.
Garnish with grated parmesan and nutmeg. For an extra-special touch, finish each bowl with crispy sage leaves and a drizzle of browned butter.

Optional Garnish. ⇢ The butternut squash and orzo are stunning on their own, but if you’d like to add a special finishing touch, a drizzle of browned butter and crispy sage leaves is delicious! Heat unsalted butter in a small pan with fresh sage leaves, cooking until the butter bubbles to a rich, caramelized brown and the sage leaves crisp up – simple! Check out the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance.

Suggested Protein Add-Ons. ⇢ This butternut squash orzo is a fantastically hearty meatless dish, but you can certainly serve it with a protein if you like. Tender and juicy chicken meatballs, seared scallops, and crispy parmesan chicken are all great choices.

A close-up shot of orzo topped with grated parmesan and sage leaves in a dark green bowl.
Enjoy as-is for a hearty meatless dinner, or serve with a simple add-on like chicken meatballs or seared scallops for extra protein.

I can’t wait for you to try this Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale! It has everything there is to want in a fall dinner – simple, flavorful, and totally comforting. I think you’ll be just as obsessed as we are!

If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!

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An overhead shot of a serving of butternut squash orzo topped with grated parmesan in a dark green shallow bowl atop an off-white surface.

One-Pot Creamy Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4-6 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dishes, Side Dishes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American, Italian-Inspired
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

When I’m craving a cozy dinner, I love to find recipes that strike the perfect balance of feel-good and comforting. And this Butternut Squash Orzo with Kale does just that!

This is a naturally meatless dish that’s loaded with in-season vegetables like butternut squash and kale. The coziness enters the equation with a one-pot cooking method inspired by risotto. Shallow simmering the orzo and butternut squash together in vegetable stock creates a built-in, naturally creamy sauce with the best glossy texture (no heavy cream involved!).

Bring it all together with kale and parmesan cheese for the perfect cozy, veggie-loaded meal, ready in 35 minutes or less! It’s feel-good comfort food at its finest, and I hope you love it as much as we do. ♡ Happy cooking!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, & diced into ½-inch cubes (approx 1 pound or 4 cups cubed)
  • 1 large shallot (or ½ small yellow onion), finely diced
  • 1012 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 ½ cups orzo
  • 1 cup dry, unoaked white wine
  • 2 ½3 cups vegetable stock/broth, divided
  • 1 small bunch kale, destemmed & shredded (approx 2 cups chopped)⁠
  • ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season

Instructions

  1. Soften the butternut squash & bloom the aromatics: Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, stir in the butternut squash & shallot. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is fragrant & the butternut squash is fork-tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the sage & garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes longer, until fragrant.
  2. Toast the orzo & deglaze the skillet: Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium-low. Stir in the orzo. Toast the orzo 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until nutty & fragrant. Deglaze the skillet by slowly pouring in the white wine while using a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Let the skillet simmer until the wine is almost completely cooked off, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Simmer the butternut squash orzo: Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth/stock into the skillet, stirring frequently until the orzo absorbs all of the liquid. Continue adding stock/broth ½ cup at a time. Stir frequently between additions. Start tasting for doneness after 10 minutes – you may not need to use all of the broth. The orzo is ready when it’s creamy & cooked through with a nice bite (i.e. al dente) & the butternut squash should break down a little bit, creating a really creamy sauce with a light orange tinge.
  4. Finish the butternut squash orzo: Once the orzo is al dente, finish the butternut orzo by stirring in the shredded kale, grated parmesan, butter, & nutmeg. Once the kale is wilted & tender, remove from the heat. Taste & adjust seasonings as needed.
  5. Serve: Portion the butternut orzo into individual bowls, topping with grated additional grated parmesan or a drizzle of browned butter & crispy fried sage leaves as desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Jess’ Tips & Tricks:
    • Serving suggestion ⇢ Browned Butter & Crispy Fried Sage Leaves: While this butternut squash orzo is pretty stunning on its own, I love drizzling it with a little browned butter & topping it off with crispy sage leaves for extra drama. Preparing this garnish required a little multi-tasking, but it’s not difficult! Just after you finish Step 4 (stirring the kale & parmesan into the butternut orzo), add 3-4 tablespoons unsalted butter & 8-10 fresh sage leaves to a small skillet over medium-high heat. Cook 2-3 minutes, swirling the pan often, until the butter browns & the sage leaves become crispy. Carefully drizzle the browned butter over the butternut orzo & finish with the crispy fried sage – beautiful & delicious!
    • Recipe variations: This butternut orzo recipe is naturally meatless. To ensure it’s vegetarian, be sure to use your favorite rennet-free parmesan. To take it a step further & make it vegan + dairy-free, opt for your favorite non-dairy parmesan & butter. If you prefer to use a different green, go for it – spinach & Swiss chard both work beautifully!
    • 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all the active prep work for this creamy butternut squash orzo comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance – it takes 10 minutes, tops – & you can jump straight in to cooking during the week:
      • Dice 1 large shallot.
      • Peel, deseed & dice 1 small butternut squash into ½-inch cubes.
      • Transfer to an airtight container & store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover butternut squash orzo will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for 2-3 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding an extra splash of water or cooking stock to loosen up the orzo as needed, until warmed through.

Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.

Follow along with Plays Well With Butter on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Pinterest for more unfussy recipes that pack a big punch of flavor!

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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Comments

  1. 12.11.23
    Stephanie said:

    Made this exactly as written – AMAZING!!






    • 12.13.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      So glad to hear you enjoyed it, Stephanie! 🙂

  2. 12.3.23
    Jess G said:

    Delicious and comforting






    • 12.10.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      We couldn’t agree more, Jess! Thanks for the review!

  3. 11.28.23
    Janette said:

    Could I do quinoa instead of orzo? I’m thinking it would be the same cooking time.

    • 11.29.23
      Emma @ Plays Well With Butter said:

      Hi Janette, we’ve never tried this recipe with quinoa, and we love it as written with orzo, but you can definitely give it a try! Make sure to let us know how it turns out for you! 🙂