Healthy Holiday Side Dish

The holidays can be a tough time when you’re trying to lose weight. Many people decide to just go ahead and enjoy holiday food without guilt – and there’s nothing wrong with that approach. There’s something to be said for enjoying the holidays – as long as “enjoying the holidays” doesn’t mean giving up on healthy eating from November to January. But you can also opt for healthier holiday meals – that are still incredibly tasty and enjoyable. 

This pumpkin and poblano casserole brings together some holiday favorites in an unlikely pairing that is absolutely delicious and will have your family asking when dinner is. The aroma of pumpkin and poblano baking in evaporated milk is mouth-watering. Essentially we’re making a deconstructed savory pumpkin pie, adding in southwestern flavors like poblano and queso fresco, and serving it as a side dish.

Now this is the healthy version, but there is room to kick it up a notch – a little bit of salt, sugar or some extra queso fresco would all increase the appeal at family gatherings (when those are possible), while still being a healthier substitute for many of the more “traditional” side dishes. But we recommend trying this as written the first time. You might love it just as it is. 

A few tips: 

  • If you don’t have cooking spray on hand, a tablespoon of a neutral oil (like vegetable or canola oil) on the bottom of the pan, rubbed in with a paper towel will help. Don’t skip this step or clean-up will be a pain.
  • If you happen to have gloves on hand, use them when de-seeding the peppers to avoid a case of burning hands. 


  • Small Sugar Pumpkin (or ½ a large one), approx. 700g when de-seeded
  • Yukon Gold potato
  • 2 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion
  • 2 oz Queso Fresco
  • 1 10oz Can Low Fat Evaporated Milk
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of flour

Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins | Active Time: 35 minutes | Servings: 10


  1. Remove seeds and skin from pumpkin. There should be no more “veins” visible on the outside of the pumpkin. You may prefer to use a knife rather than a vegetable peeler as pumpkin skin is thick. Cut into 1/3 inch-thick wedges. It’s okay if some of them fall apart. I’s also okay if some small strings in the pumpkin are on the inside. They will cook down and not be noticeable. 
  2. Slice onion vertically into thin strips. Make sure potato is clean (wash if you have not) and slice into thin strips. Dice garlic cloves.
  3. Preheat broiler to high. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds, using gloves if available. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and place pepper on tray, cut side down. Broil for 7 minutes. The skin of the peppers should be well-charred.
  4. Remove peppers from broiler and move to a cutting board. Slice into ½-inch strips (it doesn’t matter which way you slice).  
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (it may already be at temperature from using the broiler). 
  6. In a large bowl, add pumpkin, olive oil, onion, garlic, potato, spices, and flour. Mix thoroughly with hands. Add in poblano and bell pepper slices and mix again. 
  7. In a deep baking dish (any baking dish with sides higher than an inch will work, but not a cookie tray), spray cooking spray to coat the bottom. Pour mixture into the baking dish. Spray the top with a little more cooking spray. Cover with foil.
  8. Cook for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and remove foil but keep oven on. Add queso fresco and cook for 10 more minutes on the top shelf. 
  9. Serve! This dish travels and reheats well, but because of the evaporated milk does need some refrigeration. Don’t leave it out for too long. 

Nutrition Information

Makes 10 servings 

Pumpkin (700g)32256712.2519.61162
Yukon Gold Potato110263020
Poblano Peppers266112.24
Red Bell Peppers3081020
2 tbsp Olive Oil238002700
Evaporated Milk (low fat)25036.224.10.60370
Queso Fresco160112120210
1/2 tsp Salt000001164.5
Cooking Spray900100
Flour (2 tablespoon)56121000
Per Serving126.115.925.115.3852.88291.55

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Pumpkin Poblano Casserole
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