Butternut Squash Curry

This butternut squash curry is an easy plant based dinner that’s vibrant and full-flavored, starring Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.

Butternut squash curry

You know about natural flavor pairings like peanut butter and jelly, and tomatoes and basil. Here’s another unique pairing that works like a charm: butternut squash and Thai curry paste! There’s something about the sweetness of squash and the spicy aromatic flavors of curry paste that go hand in hand. Try them together in this Butternut Squash Curry recipe! It’s easy to make, full of colorful vegetables and bursting with Thai curry flavor. The moment I took the first bite, I couldn’t stop singing its praises.

Is this an authentic Thai red curry?  

Curry is a very loose term. Per Bon Appetit, in many countries it was a word used by colonizers to simplify what they saw as foreign cuisines. Today, curry is usually a dish with a spiced sauce and meat or vegetables, often eaten with rice or flatbread like naan. Sometimes  curry powder is included in the sauce (like in many Indian curries), or sometimes curry paste (like Thai curries). The dish is made in many countries, including India, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and England.

This butternut squash curry is a recipe we designed in the style of a Thai red curry. This is a Thai dish with a sauce made with red curry paste and coconut milk. It can be made with different proteins like chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu. Thai cuisine does feature different types of squash and pumpkin, but usually not butternut squash since it is not a native plant. So this uses the principles and flavors of Thai red curry to highlight this tasty winter squash. 

Butternut squash curry

The key to butternut squash curry: red curry paste!

Do not make this butternut squash curry unless you can find red curry paste! This is what makes the fragrant Thai curry flavor. What is it? Red curry paste is a jarred paste that takes all the flavor of a Thai curry and concentrates it into a paste. In traditional Thai cooking, you’d make it with the real ingredients. Curry paste is a shortcut: it has all the chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, cumin, coriander, and more. It brings incredible flavor and lasts for months in the fridge. A few notes on red curry paste:

  • It ranges from mild to medium spicy, based on the brand. We love using Thai kitchen curry paste which is very mild. Taste your curry paste before using it: if it’s very spicy, use less than the recipe specifies.
  • It’s easy to find near the Thai products in most grocery stores. It keeps for months in the refrigerator and you can use it in lots more recipes (see below). You can also buy it online: Thai Kitchen red curry paste.
Butternut squash curry

How to cut butternut squash: some tips!

The main part of this butternut squash curry that requires technique is cutting the butternut squash! It takes a little time to peel and cut the squash. Here are a few tips: 

  1. Watch the video: The easiest way to understand how to cut it is by showing you! Watch this quick video of How to Cut Butternut Squash.
  2. Use a serrated peeler: The easiest way to peel butternut squash is a squash peeler! It’s serrated, which makes it easier than a normal vegetable peeler. Here’s the serrated vegetable peeler we use.
  3. Cut off the neck and chop it separately from the base: Don’t try to cut the entire squash together. Chop off the neck, then peel it and chop into squares. Do the same for the base. 

Can you substitute frozen squash? (No.)

Important: don’t be tempted to substitute frozen squash in this butternut squash curry recipe! This has been optimized for fresh squash. In fact, we tried it with frozen because we thought it would be a natural swap. The squash came out mushy and waterlogged: nothing like the fresh version. So stay away from this swap for this recipe. 

A few ideas for adding protein to butternut squash curry

You can eat this butternut squash curry on its own, but if you want to load it up with more protein, here’s what to do: 

  • Add shrimp. Throw in raw shrimp in the last 5 minutes of simmering. 
  • Add chickpeas. Make a butternut squash chickpea curry by adding drained and rinsed chickpeas when you add the coconut milk. You may need to increase the salt a bit in the final seasoning.
  • Add tofu. Make Pan Fried Tofu on the side (or in advance) and add it in the last 5 minutes: pan frying it in advance gives it a nice texture. Or even easier, add tofu cubes when you add the coconut milk: this results in a soft tofu texture, but it’s just as tasty. 
How to make butternut squash curry

What to serve with butternut squash curry? 

This butternut squash curry is Thai-style, so it’s most authentic to serve it with rice. Don’t attempt to add naan: that’s for an Indian-style curry! Here are the types of rice we like to serve with a Thai-style curry: 

  • Jasmine rice (best fit): Jasmine rice is also called Thai fragrant rice: because of its beautiful popcorn-like nutty flavor. Try our jasmine rice recipes: How to Cook Jasmine Rice and Instant Pot Jasmine Rice.
  • Basmati rice (also works): Basmati rice also works, but it’s less fragrant and more often used for Indian curries. See How to Cook Basmati Rice and Instant Pot Basmati Rice.
  • Jade rice (for fun!): Jade rice is a fun option: it’s naturally dyed green using bamboo extract and has a fluffy texture almost like couscous. We served the squash curry this way and it was excellent. 

Want to know more about rice nutrition? See Quinoa vs Rice.

Butternut squashs curry

More recipes with red curry paste

When you buy a jar of red curry paste for this butternut squash curry, there are lots more ways to use it! Here are some of our top favorite recipes using curry paste: 

This butternut squash curry recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Butternut squash curry

Butternut Squash Curry


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (9 votes, average: 4.89 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This butternut squash curry is an easy plant based dinner that’s vibrant and full-flavored, starring Thai red curry paste and coconut milk.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash (4 cups chopped*)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste**
  • 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups baby spinach or chopped spinach
  • To serve: jasmine rice, basmati rice or jade rice
  • Optional: Add shrimp, chickpeas, or tofu to add more protein***

Instructions

  1. Start the jasmine rice, basmati rice, or jade rice
  2. Peel and chop the butternut squashDice the onion. Place them in a bowl together. 
  3. Mince the garlic. Cut the pepper into thin strips.
  4. In a large skillet, pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and butternut squash and saute for 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper and saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add coconut milk, curry paste, turmeric, water and kosher salt and bring to a simmer. Simmer until squash is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the spinach and wilt for 1 minute. Serve immediately with rice. 

Notes

*Do not substitute frozen butternut squash; the texture does not work in this recipe. 

**The spice level for red curry pastes varies based on the brand. The brand we use (Thai Kitchen) is very mild. Taste your curry paste before you make the curry and add a little less if you’re worried about the heat level. 

***Add shrimp in the last 5 minutes of simmering, or chickpeas when you add the coconut milk (you may need to increase the salt a bit at the end; taste and add more to taste). For tofu, make Pan Fried Tofu on the side (or in advance) and add it in the last 5 minutes: pan frying it in advance gives it a nice texture. Or even easier, add tofu cubes when you add the coconut milk: this results in a soft tofu texture, but it’s just as tasty. 

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Curry

Keywords: Butternut squash curry

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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