Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ghapama - Stuffed, baked Pumpkin

I started writing a ghapama blog item several months ago, but ended up putting the story on the back burner when I realized I wouldn’t have time to prepare it. 
Ghapama (photo credit:Pam Aghababian) 

Then, a few days ago, completely out of the blue, I received a request for a ghapama recipe by a very talented children’s book author and illustrator, Alik Arzoumanian. Alik is working on a project related to ghapama and was in need of a recipe as part of her research. I was happy to oblige, and in doing so, I figured, I’d post the story and recipe even though it’s somewhat out of ghapama season - at least in South Florida. In Armenian, the word ‘Ghapama’ literally means cooked in a covered pot. Recipe-wise, ghapama is a stuffed, baked pumpkin traditionally served between the New Year and Armenian Christmas which Armenians celebrate on January 6th.

NOTE: Sometimes ghapama is made with a winter squash such as the acorn squash variety rather than pumpkin. To make ghapama, a medium sized pumpkin (about 3 lbs. in weight) is cut open at the top, then the fibrous strands and seeds are scooped out. Generally, a stuffing made with partially cooked rice, dried fruit, raisins, chopped nuts, cinnamon, sugar or honey is placed in the cavity. The filled pumpkin is baked until tender and served table-side.

I was reminded by my friend Ara that there is a traditional song re-popularized by Harout Pamboukjian about this wonderful Armenian dish. “Hey Jan Ghapama, Hamov Hodov Ghapama”, meaning ‘Dear Ghapama, tasty, aromatic ghapama’. Ara went on to say the lyrics claim that over 100 guests will come if (ghapama) is ever made.
A more formal, yet fun, rendition of the ghapama song was performed by the KOHAR Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Gyumri, Armenia.

Ghapama Recipe 
1 pumpkin, about 3 lbs.
1 ½ cups rice
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
¼ cup each of dried plums, apricots, cherries, chopped
¼ cup raisins
½ - 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of salt, or to taste
1 – 2 Tbsp. honey (or sugar)
½ cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, or pecans), optional
¼ cup hot water

1. Wash and dry exterior of pumpkin. Cut off the top in a circle shape as it will be used as a lid.
2. Scrape out the stringy fibers and seeds. Discard fibers, but rinse and save the seeds for roasting later on, if desired. Rinse the inside of the pumpkin; pat dry.
3. In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add rice, stir, cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Cook rice for about 15 minutes. Rice should not be completely cooked. Drain any excess liquid.
4. In bowl, mix together the partially cooked rice, chopped, dried fruit, melted butter, salt, cinnamon, honey (or sugar), and nuts, if using.
5. Loosely stuff filling into pumpkin; pour the ¼ cup hot water over the top of the filling.
6. Place the pumpkin on a baking sheet for support. Put the top of the pumpkin back on and bake at 325°F for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until soft. Insert a toothpick into the pumpkin to determine tenderness.

Cut into wedges; serve.


  1. I'm glad you mentioned the song. It is my favorite Harout song. It says stays that everyone from aunts and uncles, godparents, inlaws, neighbors, and all those near and far came to eat the ghapama

  2. Thank you so much for the great idea and recipe. That is great.

  3. Funny how I was looking for ghapama recipe and ended up finding my childhood and best friend's name in your site (Alik Arzoumanian)......
    Thank you to you both for the recipe ;-)

  4. Thankyou for the Recipe! What kind of rice would be the best?

  5. What kind of pumpkins are good for ghapama? Are halloween pumpkins edible? Would they be good for ghapama?

  6. Halloween pumkins are good and certainly edible. You can use other types of squash, too. Use white rice of any variety that you're comfortable cooking.

  7. Hey JAN ghapama! Hamov, Hotov Ghapama!!

    we ate this for thanksgiving this year, it was awesome!!

    Georgette ...ian.

  8. Just a minor correction in Armenia Ghapama was made in Harvest time and this was one of the beautiful traditions of celebrating harvest and welcoming Autumn

  9. This sounds delicious, but I think the flavors would be greatly enhanced by some salt, at least in the filling.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. The recipe does call for a 'dash' of salt.

  10. I think I'll try using small 'pie' pumpkins for this recipe.

  11. Is it a dessert or a side dish ???

  12. Robin,
    How can I copy your recipe for Ghapama? The usual way of highlighting and then clicking "copy" doesn't work.

    1. Hello Perouz, Please email your request to me at, and I will email it to you. Thanks!

  13. I made it and it is so good.

  14. We used short grain brown rice and followed the 15 min cook why was the rice still hard and crunchy after it came out of the oven?

    1. Brown rice generally takes longer to cook than white rice. If you use brown rice again for ghapama, pre-cook it for a longer period of time.

  15. Is there a savory version of ghapama?

  16. There are certainly savory baked pumpkin recipes out there, but Ghapama is traditionally sweet.