Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry
Today it was 25°. This did not make me happy. I couldn’t feel my fingers and toes for considerable parts of the day and my nose was perpetually red. BUT, when I got home from a long day of work this evening, my spirits were immediately lifted because I knew I had this scrumptious and flavorful curry waiting to warm me up.
If my Red Lentil Almond Curry was my favorite curry of 2018, then this Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry is my favorite curry of 2019. I recognize how drastic that sounds since 2019 literally just began, but this curry is a true party for the tastebuds.
Here's what I love about this butternut squash chickpea curry:
Weeknight ready: It's ready in 45 minutes so you can make it for a weeknight dinner, but it’s special enough for the weekend and for serving to guests.
Maximal flavor. Packed with the flavors of ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and lemongrass, this dish reminds me of the incredibly fragrant, aromatic curries I happily devoured in Thailand.
Well-balanced: What I learned from Thai cooking is that every dish should be well-balanced in flavors: a little spicy, a little sweet, a little sour, and plenty of umami. A good-quality curry paste, coconut sugar, rice vinegar, and tamari take on those roles in this recipe.
Decadent yet healthy: This curry is oh-so-creamy and tastes indulgent (hi, full-fat coconut milk). But it’s also really nourishing and packed with antioxidants, protein, and fiber, thanks to a garlic-ginger duo, a plentiful amount of chickpeas and butternut squash, and a helping hand from baby spinach.
Meal prep-friendly: This dish makes excellent leftovers and will stay good in your fridge for 3-4 days.
And now here are some tips on making this butternut squash chickpea curry.
If you are sensitive to spicy food, you may want to use a bit less curry paste than the recipe calls for. On the other hand, if you love spicy food, I recommend adding those Thai chili peppers (or a Serrano pepper) along with the garlic, ginger, and curry paste. The spiciness balances out the sweetness of the curry.
If you are watching your calorie intake (I get it, it’s a new year), you can use lite coconut milk instead of the full-fat variety. You won’t get the same quality of creaminess, but it will still be fairly creamy (and delicious). Alternatively, you can use half the amount of full-fat coconut milk.
If you want to save time, you can buy pre-cut butternut squash cubes, available at most grocery stores these days. If you are peeling and chopping a whole butternut squash, you’ll need approximately a 3 1/2 pound squash. To cut the squash, be sure to use a large, sharp knife and pop it in the microwave for 2-4 minutes to make slicing it in half easier.
If you don’t have butternut squash, you can use sweet potatoes. However, sweet potatoes are much sweeter than butternut squash, so I would omit the coconut sugar. A better substitute would be red kuri squash (you don’t even need to remove the peel!) or kabocha squash.
Don’t skip the final step, which is to add a bit of rice wine vinegar. Finishing a rich dish like this curry with a splash of acid at he end helps balance the flavors and brings some freshness to the dish.
What you need to make this recipe
Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry
1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (use refined for a neutral taste)
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
Kosher salt to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece ginger, grated or finely minced
1-2 Thai bird’s eye chili peppers, thinly sliced (only if you like spicy food)
5 tablespoons red curry paste (use less to make it less spicy)
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
5 cups of peeled and chopped butternut squash (equivalent to a 3 1/2 pound squash)
2 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari (or soy sauce)
2 (15-ounce) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups baby spinach or baby kale
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or lime juice)
Fresh cilantro (for garnish)
Heat a Dutch oven or a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil, and once shimmering, add the onions and carrots along with a pinch of kosher salt. Cook the vegetables for 7-8 minutes, or until they are very tender and lightly browned.
Add the garlic, ginger, and red curry paste, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables. You may need to add a tablespoon of water to prevent the mixture from drying out and burning.
Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable broth, stirring with a spatula to scrape up any browned bits. Then add the butternut squash, tamari (or soy sauce), and coconut sugar (or maple syrup), stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low or medium-low to maintain a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender cooked through.
Turn off the heat, and transfer half of the curry to a stand blender. Blend until the mixture is puréed and mostly smooth, then return it to the saucepan. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to partially blend the curry directly inside the saucepan, leaving some chunks of squash intact.
Stir in the chickpeas and bring the curry to a gentle simmer. Once simmering, stir in the baby spinach or kale, stirring until the greens have wilted. Turn off the heat, and stir in the rice wine vinegar (or lemon juice). Taste for seasonings, adding more salt as needed.