Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar ♥ Vegetarian Recipe

Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar, another vegetarian supper ♥ AVeggieVenture.com
Who says bread pudding is always sweet and always for dessert? Not me! Instead, this is a savory bread pudding, a layer of hearty greens greens sandwiched between layers of good whole-grain bread studded with cubes of butternut squash and cheddar cheese. This bread pudding (vegetarian casserole?) can be made ahead, much like a breakfast strata. It's perfect for a vegetarian Thanksgiving main dish or a weekend brunch or a holiday buffet supper. It could also stand in as the "stuffing" at Thanksgiving dinner. This vegetarian entrée recipe launched my 2009 collection of Thanksgiving vegetable recipes, all now showcased in a multi-year collection of Favorite Recipes for Thanksgiving's Favorite Vegetables.

How to strike fear in a cook's heart? "Alanna, I'm bringing so 'n' so to Thanksgiving dinner. He's a vegetarian." Even though I was a vegetarian myself for many years, even though I often cook simple vegetarian and vegan meals, there's something about meat, well, that's celebratory.

The good news about this bread pudding dish? It tastes good to everyone, carnivores and vegetarians alike. It feels special. It tastes substantial. And it smells divine while it's baking! One of my book club tasters walked in the door asking, "What smells so good in here?" and another, "You could bottle that aroma ..."

Here's what makes this bread pudding work so well:
  • Proportions – This is an "unbready" bread pudding, light on bread and heavy on vegetables. I use about a 4:1 vegetable:bread ratio.
  • Good Bread – A flavorful, slightly dense whole-grain bread is perfect for bread pudding. Sturdy bread doesn't "deflate" with the weight of vegetables and custard, it holds its own and doesn't turn the least bit mushy. And it's not just filler, the bread itself actually tastes good!
  • Contrast – Butternut squash and the cheddar are quite creamy. In contrast, the chard is slightly astringent, slightly bitter, that's a good thing!

COMPLIMENTS!
Be sure to check the comments (below) for the ways readers have adapted this recipe to their particular situations.

graphic button small size size 10 "... we both really enjoyed this dish, and Hubby LOVED it. He wouldn't normally go within 10 feet of wilted greens ..." ~ Anonymous
graphic button small size size 10 "It was awesome! Even, my husband, who always claims that he doesn't really like squash, liked it." ~ Tracy
graphic button small size size 10 "This was so delicious! It was a big hit as the main course for the vegetarians for Thanksgiving, and for the carnivores as well." ~ Nancy
graphic button small size size 10 "This came out amazing. ... The flavors are amazing!!!! It was a huge hit at my house and is definitely a recipe I'm going to be making again and again and again. YUM YUM YUM.." ~ Lindsay
graphic button small size size 10 "I've used some recipes from your site and they often turn out. However, this one was particularly great." ~ Anonymous
graphic button small size size 10 "... it is just as delicious with pumpkin and collards and it was the times I made it with butternut and Swiss chard. Every time I make it I wonder why I don't make it more often :-)" ~ Sarah

RECIPE for SAVORY BREAD PUDDING with BUTTERNUT SQUASH, CHARD & CHEDDAR

Hands-on time: 50 minutes
Time to table: 2 hours (can be made ahead)
Serves 8 as a main course, 16 as a side dish

CHARD
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
2 large bunches Swiss chard, washed well, stems discarded, leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

CUSTARD
3 large eggs, whisked
1-1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons good mustard (what is "good mustard"?)
2 teaspoons ground sage
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A generous sprinkle of freshly ground pepper

SQUASH-BREAD MIXTURE
1 large butternut squash, washed well, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes (aim for 1-1/2 pounds/675g of squash cubes, see how to cut, peel & cube a butternut squash and keep all ten fingers)
8 ounces (225g) whole-grain bread, crusts on, cut into half-inch cubes (see ALANNA's TIPS)
8 ounces (225g) cheddar cheese, cut in 1/3-inch cubes
Half the Cooked Onion

ASSEMBLE
Half the Squash-Bread Mixture
All the Cooked Chard
Remaining Squash-Bread Mixture
All the Custard

CHARD In a large skillet on medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the onions and cook until just soft, just until golden. Set aside half the Cooked Onion until it's time to assemble the Bread Pudding. Stir the chard into the remaining cooked onion a big handful at a time, stirring to coat with fat. Let the chard cook a minute or two, before adding another handful. When all the chard is added, let cook it until soft. Add the salt and set aside.

CUSTARD In a bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the remaining ingredients.

SQUASH-BREAD MIXTURE In a large bowl, combine the squash, bread, cheese and Cooked Onion you'd set aside.

ASSEMBLE If baking immediately, heat the oven to 375F/190C. Lightly butter an oven-safe baking dish about 8x11 or 9x13.

Spread just half the Squash-Bead mixture to the baking dish, cover the dish but without packing it down. Arrange the Cooked Chard evenly on top, then the remaining Squash-Bread mixture. (See the ALANNA's TIPS, if making ahead, you may choose to stop here.) Gently pour the Custard mix over top, being careful to wet all the bread pieces, especially.

BAKE Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Remove from the Bread Pudding from the oven; if any pieces of butternut squash are still firm, gently push them into the custard. Cover with foil or an oven-safe lid and bake for another 15 or so minutes. Let rest for about 10 minutes or so before serving. Reheats well.

TO PREP AHEAD This Savory Bread Pudding can be made ahead in two ways. (1) It can be fully assembled, then baked a few hours later for serving immediately. (2) Or the Squash-Bread mixture and Chard can put into the baking dish the day before and the Custard mix prepped ahead but not poured over the Squash-Bread-Chard mixture until it's time to bake; then combined just before baking. With the first method, the Bread Pudding turns out slightly crusty on top, very good! With the second, the Bread Pudding is more custard-y, also very good. Cook’s choice! With either option, you'll want to either let the dish come to room temperature (allow two to three hours) before baking or plan for a longer baking time.

ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
graphic button small size size 10 Bakers, consider a batch of homemade bread for this bread pudding. I'm especially fond of Our Daily Bread: My Easy Everyday Bread Recipe and Light 'n' Fluffy Whole-Grain Bread.
graphic button small size size 10 This is a great base or "concept" recipe, begging for adaptation. I think cornbread would be a fabulous substitute for whole-grain bread. I wanted to add fennel to the chard and corn to the overall mixture but ran short of room. Sweet potatoes? Of course. Kale or a sturdy (not baby) spinach instead of chard? Naturally. For a meat version, I'd add cooked pork sausage, chunks of cooked bacon or cubes of smoked ham or pulled smoked chicken. [Note to Vegetarians]



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Looking for healthy ways to cook vegetables? A Veggie Venture is home to hundreds of quick, easy and healthful vegetable recipes and the famous Alphabet of Vegetables. Healthy eaters will love the low carb recipes and the Weight Watchers vegetable recipes.
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Comments

  1. Oh my. That looks just heavenly! I hastily bookmarked this recipe. Alanna, this just might have to be my main dish this Thanksgiving.

    And did you say vegetarian entrees all month?! YAY!

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  2. I'm always looking for substantial main dishes for vegetarian holiday meals; our kids are vegetarians, so we tend to go all-veg for the holidays. A dish that has great mouth feel and satisfies the meat-eaters in our family goes right to the top of my list.

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  3. I agree that meat is celebratory at a festive dinner, but this bread pudding more than compensates for any missing meat. The colors and rich combination of bread, squash, chard and cheddar sound wonderful. Thanks for the recipe.

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  4. Any suggestions on what else might work in place of the chard? We are living overseas and can't get that. I can get spinach, though, but wasn't sure if it would work as well. Anything else you think might work instead? I love this idea; I think I might end up experimenting some with this.

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  5. I just found your website and the recipes all look very good and you have a lot of healthy ones. However, I noticed that the WW points aren't always accurate. For example, corn, winter squashes, and cooked carrots are not zero points. Thanks for letting me share.

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  6. Nupur ~ Oh good, I always love to pique the interest of my favorite vegetarian! ;-)

    Lydia ~ Something substantial is the issue, isn't it? I think your meat eaters would love this --

    Lynda ~ Oh you've so captured this dish, it's really something special.

    Ana ~ Any green would do, they all have a little astringency, don't they? The only thing that would change is the cooking timing. Collard greens and mustard greens, say, take longer to cook. But since this is done in the skillet, there's no getting it wrong. Good luck!

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  7. Anonymous ~

    I follow a sort of 'old school' way of counting Weight Watchers points. I add up all the calories in a dish, even the ones that might qualify as 'free' in the Weight Watchers world, then I divide by the number of servings and THEN calculate Weight Watchers points.

    For some things, like corn, I've actually taken and ear of corn (which most of us would think of as a 'serving' when we eat an ear of corn) and cut off the kernels to see how much corn is actually eaten.

    For vegetable side dishes, my serving sizes are actually larger than what other systems might call a serving. I make no distinction, a pound of vegetables is four servings. This makes it easier to compare one vegetable to another, pound for pound. I also make notes when that seems 'skimpy' -- roasted potatoes, say, roast down to something so that the portion size feels small. It's my way to be 'real' about Weight Watchers and points.

    If you're using the Weight Watchers 'slide' rule, I've found that it appears to hit 1 point when a serving size is right on the cusp of switching over from 0 to 1. Since I'm calculating points mathematically, not visually, one of these, as I calculate it, may well fall into 0 points while you 'see' it as one. Since I provide not just Weight Watchers points but all the nutrition data, you're welcome to calculate points however works for your own life and health objectives.

    I hope that you appreciate the effort that goes into calculating nutrition information for each and every dish on both my websites.

    Finally, with all due respect, you might send your complaints to other sites, even big commercial sites, that opt NOT to provide nutrition information at all.

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  8. How many stems or ounces of Swiss chard is in a bunch? I still have chard growing in my garden outside, but it doesn't grow in bunches! Thanks for your wonderful site!

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  9. Anonymous ~ Duh, sorry, I should have provided that information. There's maybe a 8 or 10 stems in a bunch here, you know of course that the greens really cook down.

    PS Thank YOU for reading!

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  10. I made this recipe last night and cut it in half, since there is just my husband & I. I ended up with ~14 oz of squash, used two eggs instead of three, and cooked it in an 8"x8" pan. It seemed a bit shy on custard. Any suggestions?

    BTW, we both really enjoyed this dish, and Hubby LOVED it. He wouldn't normally go within 10 feet of wilted greens, so that's really saying something.

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  11. Anonymous ~ Aii, you and your husband have made my day, be sure to tell him! :-)

    With both this bread pudding and with the similar Asparagus Whole Wheat Bread Pudding, I learned that the dish turns out more custard-y if it's combined just before cooking, versus beforehand. Would this apply to your situation? It actually seems opposite to me, that it would be more custard-y by mixing ahead of time.

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  12. No, I poured on the custard immediately prior to baking. Perhaps I had a bit too much squash. At any rate, it was very good.

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  13. What a beautiful recipe!! I had a couple questions about variations. Do you think roast squash could work or would roasting the squash cause it to be overcooked (I always hear how roasting brings out amazing flavors of the squash)? Also, if using spinach instead of chard how much spinach would be sufficient? Last question, I had a similar dish at an event that used gruyere cheese do you think the same amount of gruyere could be used as cheddar.

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  14. Monique ~ So glad you like it. I think roasting the squash is a great idea, it'll keep cooking once combined with everything else but won't get direct heat so wouldn't have the chance to burn, though it might begin to 'melt' a little, not a bad thing! Use the same amount of spinach, just be sure to use curly spinach, not baby spinach, which is great for salads but doesn't cook well. Gruyere would be awesome, yes use the same amount, I think.

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  15. I made this for dinner last night. It was awesome! Even, my husband, who always claims that he doesn't really like squash, liked it.

    I think that maybe the squash should be chopped even a bit smaller than 1/3" or else precooked a bit before putting it in the casserole. The squash on the top layer was not quite as tender as I would have liked, even though I squished the squash bits down into the custard two separate times.

    You aren't kidding about the prep work time. I actually *like* chopping veggies and it was a bit long for me. But totally worth it.

    This recipe is definitely a keeper for me, though I would try to do something about the squash. Maybe steam in the microwave for a couple of minutes before mixing it in?

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  16. This was so delicious! It was a big hit as the main course for the vegetarians for Thanksgiving, and for the carnivores as well. I had to sub delicata for the butternut squash. The only bad part was every one else took all the leftovers! Thanks for sharing this excellent recipe.

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  17. I made this recipe to accompany Christmas Dinner and it was fabulous! I think next time I will steam the squash slightly before using it in the recipe (or perhaps roasting it as someone else mentioned). At least the squash that will be on the top layer. But even so, this has made it into my "favorite recipe" collection! . . .seashell

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  18. I have added this to my Thanksgiving menu. In my produce delivery, I already have two bunches of spinach and a bunch of mustard greens. I was thinking of adding either a combo of both or just the spinach...will that be ok you think? I have so many veggies to get through right now I'm not sure I want to go out and buy more chard, but I can.

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  19. Talula Fairie ~ You know, my initial reaction was ' no' - especially to the mustard greens, which fall into the category of 'sturdy' greens versus the 'tender' greens like chard and baby spinach. But on second thought, so long as you cook the greens until they are soft and fully cooked, I think you'll be fine. I would cook the spinach and mustard greens separately if the mustard greens are sturdier than the spinach.

    Good luck, I think you'll love this bread pudding! Now I'm wanting to add it to my (already over-ambitious) Thanksgiving menu!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  20. This came out amazing. I ended up using spinach only, I'm sure the mustard greens would have been just as good but my spinach needed to get eaten faster and my casserole was ready to be baked. The flavors are amazing!!!! It was a huge hit at my house and is definitely a recipe I'm going to be making again and again and again. YUM YUM YUM.

    -Lindsay (I don't know why it's still displaying my name as talula fairie, I swear I changed that...).

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  21. I've used some recipes from your site and they often turn out. However, this one was particularly great. I still have some left over that I'm looking forward to eating. Thanks for sharing!

    Jaime

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  22. Yay - thanks for sharing the good news! For spring, do be sure to try the Asparagus Bread Pudding, it uses the same proportions of bread:milk:cheese.

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  23. I found a pumpkin that I bought last fall that had gotten pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten but that was thankfully still good. While pondering what to do with it I remembered this recipe and that I also had a bag of collards in the fridge. I just wanted to let you know that it is just as delicious with pumpkin and collards and it was the times I made it with butternut and Swiss chard. Every time I make it I wonder why I don't make it more often :-)

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna