Nearly every American grew up with pumpkin pie as a part of their Thanksgiving spread. The squash certainly tastes great with the warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, explaining why you can find pumpkin pie spice already mixed at the grocery store. By now, most folks have discovered the squash also works in savory applications. Pumpkin isn’t just a staple on American tables, though. Plenty of other cultures use the gourd in some tasty applications you’ve probably never considered. Try these six recipes for a some fantastic flavors you never knew you were missing.
1. Jamaican Pumpkin Rice
Most people think of rice as a boring, bland side dish. As long as you use some flavorful ingredients and give the rice a little bit of time to toast before adding the liquid, it can taste just as good as any other starch. Try this Jamaican dish with pumpkin and coconut milk from Elephant Journal. Start with some cooked onions and garlic, then add the pumpkin and rice. In addition to adding flavor, toasting the rice first will help keep the rice from sticking together once cooked.
Yes, this recipe calls for an entire scotch bonnet. These chiles are known for their extreme spice, which is anywhere from 12 to 140 times hotter than a jalapeño. Before you write this dish off as crazy, though, it’s worth noting you leave the chili whole. Since the heat lives in the seeds and inner membrane, this technique allows you to get the flavor without incinerating your taste buds.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups long grain or basmati rice
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup peeled and cubed pumpkin
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 garlic clove, mined
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small bunch of scallions, finely chopped
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
Directions: Heat the oil in the bottom of a large pot set over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic and onion, and let sweat for a few minutes, lowering heat if onions begin to brown. Add pumpkin, bay leaf, thyme, and scotch bonnet. When onion is translucent, add rice. Stir to coat and let toast for a minute or so. Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in the scallions, and serve.
2. Thai Pumpkin, Coconut, and Fish Stew
This fragrant pumpkin and fish stew from Edible Boston is sort of like a Thai twist on fish chowder, perfect for chilly fall evenings. Though this soup is great with nothing more than a sprinkle of basil, we like to load on the toppings. Cilantro, green onions, mint, chopped peanuts, sprouts, and lime wedges for squeezing are all great choices.
When you’re shopping for pumpkins, go for the smallest ones, usually called pie pumpkins. The large varieties might make great decorations for the house, but they’re far too watery and stringy for cooking. If you can’t find suitable pumpkins, just about any other type of winter squash will work well.
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 to 3 cups pumpkin, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ pound white fish, cut into pieces
- ½ red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cubed
- 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
- Fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
Directions: In a large pot, heat oil and cook onion, garlic, and ginger over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in red pepper flakes, and cook just a bit longer. Add the stock, bring to a boil, then add pumpkin. Lower heat and cook until pumpkin is tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Stir mixture into the pot. Just before serving, add the fish and pepper. Cook just until fish is cooked through. Add the coconut milk, and cook to heat through.
Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. Serve in bowls topped with basil.
3. Peanut Stew
You’ll see countless variations for this traditional West African dish, but we particularly like Young Sun Huh’s version, featured on Cooking Channel. Though this recipe calls for butternut squash, any type of pumpkin or orange-fleshed squash will give you delicious results. The real secret to this dish is the peanut butter. It adds a rich flavor and helps to thicken the stew.
- 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 pounds of lamb or beef stew meat, cut into ½-inch pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, halved, seeds removed for less heat
- 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, diced
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups diced butternut squash
- 2 cups diced turnips
- ½ cup creamy natural peanut butter
- Cooked white rice
Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper. Cook meat, working in batches, until browned on all sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per batch. When first batch has finished, transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining meat, adding oil between batches.
Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, garlic, chiles, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and cook until beginning to fall apart, about 4 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes longer. Return meat and accumulated juices to pot. Add chicken broth and bay leaf, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 1 hour.
Stir in squash and turnips, cover, and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Ladle about 1 cup of the liquid into a medium bowl and whisk in the peanut butter. Pour peanut butter mixture into stew, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove chile halves and bay leaf. Serve with rice on the side.
4. Ziti with Pumpkin
It isn’t difficult to find tasty vegetarian pastas, but many of them leave your stomach grumbling in just a few hours. If you’re cooking for some meat-free friends or just want to go for something a little different, Mario Batali’s pumpkin pasta, featured on Food Network, will satisfy both your hunger and your palate. Start by sweating some onions, garlic, and pumpkin, then add some water, cover, and let the pumpkin steam until it’s tender. Toss in some chile flakes, pasta, and sprinkle of Parmesan, and you’re ready to eat.
- 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 pound pumpkin, cut into thin strips
- 1 cup water
- Salt and black pepper
- Pinch of chile flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 pound ziti
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Directions: In a large pan, heat olive oil over high heat and add onion, garlic, and pumpkin, and cook 1 minute. Add water, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to medium, cover, and cook until pumpkin is soft, about 8 minutes. Add pepper flakes and parsley. Keep warm.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt. Cook ziti according to package directions, until tender but still al dente. Toss pasta with pumpkin over high heat for 1 minute. Divide pasta among four bowls. Top with cheese, and serve.
5. Spicy Grilled Chicken with Pumpkin Mole Sauce
Mole is a classic Mexican sauce that dates back to the 17th century. From there, a number of varieties emerged, including a popular version made with pumpkin seeds. It was only a matter of time before someone got around to trying the gourd itself. Though Rick Bayless’s chicken with pumpkin mole, which he shared with Epicurious, isn’t particularly traditional, it certainly tastes like it could be. This recipe takes some time, but the results are worth the extra effort.
- 2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into large pieces
- 4½ tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 (3-inch-diameter, ½-inch-thick) slice of white onion, separated into rings
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 (5-by-3-by-½-inch-thick slice) country white bread, crust removed
- ¾ cup drained canned diced tomatoes
- 3½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 canned chipotle chiles
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- ⅓ cup whipping cream
- 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
- 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- Fresh cilantro sprigs
- Lime wedges
Directions: Heat a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add chile pieces and toast until fragrant and lighter in color around edges, pressing with a potato masher or the back of a fork, and turning, about 2 minutes. Set aside one of the pieces for garnish. Transfer remaining pieces to a medium bowl. Cover with hot water and let soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
In same pot, heat 1½ tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add onion rings and garlic. Cook until brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to food processor, leaving oil behind. Add bread to pot and cook until golden, about 30 seconds per side, then transfer to food processor. Add tomatoes to food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, reserving food processor.
Drain chiles and place in food processor. Add ½ cup broth and two chipotles. Blend until smooth.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to same pot. Heat over medium-high heat, then add chile purée and cook until thickened and darkened, stirring often, about 1½ minutes. Add tomato purée. Simmer until thick, stirring often, about 4 minutes. Whisk in pumpkin and 3 cups broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, and simmer until reduced to 3⅓ cups, about 30 minutes. Whisk in cream and sugar. Season with salt.
Purée 2 tablespoons oil and two chipotles in a small food processor or force through a sieve to make a thick glaze, and transfer to a bowl.
Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Spread chipotle glaze over both sides of chicken. Season with salt and grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to plates, and top with warm mole. Crumble reserved chile piece over top. Garnish with cilantro and lime. Serve.
6. Pumpkin Halvah
We all know pumpkin plays well with spices, but we think cinnamon could use a break every now and then. For something completely different, try this creamy pumpkin dessert infused with cardamom from Saveur. It requires some patience, but this method is far easier than any pie crust. The recipe calls for topping with raisins and almonds, but any combination of nuts and dried fruit will work. We’re partial to dried cranberries and pistachios.
- 2 pounds peeled, seeded, and cubed kabocha or acorn squash
- 3½ cups milks
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup almond flour
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups powdered milk
- 1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
Directions: Working in 2 batches, blend squash and milk in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a 6-quart Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until reduced and thickened to the consistency of loose peanut butter, about 1 hour. Add both sugars, almond flour, butter, rose water, cardamom, and salt. Cook, stirring often, until smooth, about 5 minutes longer.
Remove pot from heat and stir in powdered milk. Using a handheld blender or a food processor, purée mixture until no lumps remain. Stir in ¾ cup chopped almonds and 6 tablespoons each of raisins and golden raisins. Transfer halvah to a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with remaining almonds and raisins. Drizzle with ghee, and serve immediately.