While pumpkin is right at home in pies, breads, and other sweet dishes, it’s far more versatile than you may realize. It’s also great in savory recipes, from curries to stews. Plus it packs a mega-dose of vitamin A and is also a good source of potassium and vitamin C.
A note about cooking with pumpkin: While massive pumpkins make for great jack-o-lanterns, they’re not so good for cooking. Instead, look for small pie pumpkins (also called sugar pumpkins) or varieties like the Long Island Cheese pumpkin, which taste better. Winter squashes like butternut can also be used in many recipes calling for pumpkin.
Here are five savory ways to eat pumpkin for dinner.
1. Thai Pumpkin and Chicken Curry
Squash gets spicy in this curry recipe from Williams-Sonoma. When buying a pumpkin for this dish, look for a smaller, sweet variety, like Sugar Pie, or use a butternut squash if you prefer. You might also try substituting Kabocha squash, or “Japanese pumpkin.”
- 1 small pumpkin or butternut squash (about 1½ pounds), halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size cubes
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
- 1 can (13½ fluid ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
- 2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil, preferably Thai basil
- Steamed rice for serving
Directions: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chopped and peeled pumpkin, and boil just until barely tender, about 7 minutes. Drain well, and set aside.
In a blender, combine the shallots, garlic, and curry paste with 2 tablespoons water, and process until smooth. In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice, and brown sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
In a wok or large fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken, and sear until light brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl.
Return the pan to medium heat, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the curry base, and cook, stirring, for about 10 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk mixture, and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and pumpkin, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork and the chicken is opaque throughout, about 5 minutes more.
Transfer the curry to a serving bowl, garnish with the basil, and serve immediately with steamed rice. Serves 4.
2. Stewed Pumpkin with Shrimp
Pumpkin is a common ingredient in Caribbean cooking. This recipe from Caribbean Pot cooks the squash until you have a soft puree and adds shrimp for a dose of healthy protein. If you can find calabaza (also known as West Indian squash), use it in this recipe.
- 4 cups pumpkin, peeled and cubed into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 medium onion
- ½ scotch bonnet pepper
- 3 cloves garlic chopped fine or crushed
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon golden brown sugar
- ¾ cup shrimp
- 1 teaspoon green seasoning (recipe below)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bundle of cilantro (about 1 to 2 cups)
- 1 stalk of celery (include leaves)
- 1 head of garlic (about 11 cloves)
- 4 green onions (scallions)
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme (about ¾ cup)
- ¼ cup of water
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- 2 to 3 shallots (optional)
- 2 pimento peppers (or 1 banana pepper or 1 Cubanelle)
To make the green seasoning: Peel, trim, and wash the ingredients. Let drain. Roughly chop any large pieces into smaller ones so that they will easily fit in a food processor or blender. Add all ingredients to the food processor or blender, and pulse to combine until everything is the consistency of pesto. Store covered in the fridge, or freeze for future use.
To make the shrimp and pumpkin: Clean and devein the shrimp. Add shrimp, pepper, and green seasoning, stir to combine, then set aside.
Peel, cube, and wash the pumpkin. Chop the onion and the pepper (make sure to remove the membrane and seeds from the latter). Thinly slice the garlic.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shrimp, stir, then let the shrimp cook for about 2 minutes. Return to the bowl. (The shrimp won’t be fully cooked at this point.)
Reduce heat to low, then add the onions and garlic to the pan. Add the sliced pepper, and stir. Add the cubed pumpkin and salt, then stir. Cover the pot, and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until you start to hear the pumpkin sizzle and pop. Stir, replace the lid, and continue to cook over low heat for about 25 minutes, stirring every 4 or 5 minutes.
After 25 minutes, remove the lid, turn up the heat, and let liquid in the pan cook down for about 4 or 5 minutes (you don’t want the final dish to be too watery). Add the shrimp to the pan as well as the brown sugar. Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes until everything reaches your preferred consistency. If you like, use a spoon to squish any remaining chunks of pumpkin. Serve with rice or roti.
3. Pumpkin and Yellow Split Pea Soup
Many recipes for pumpkin and similar squash soups are rich and creamy. This Indian-inspired version switches things up by adding split peas and diced pumpkin in addition to the pumpkin puree, so the result is more chunky than smooth. Recipe from Food & Wine.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium red onion, cut into ¼-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and minced
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups yellow split peas, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
- 8½ cups water
- One 15-ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree
- ¾ pound fresh sugar pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
- 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions: In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, garlic, and chili pepper, and cook over moderately high heat until the onion is softened, 4 minutes. Add the cumin and cayenne, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the split peas and the water, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the split peas are tender, about 2 hours.
Stir the diced pumpkin into the soup, and simmer over moderately low heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
4. Savory Pumpkin Quiche
Even if pumpkin pie isn’t your thing, you may still enjoy this savory quiche. It’s an easy-to-prepare dish that works well for a simple dinner, but it’s also perfect for a weekend brunch. Recipe from Vegetarian Times.
- ½ cup low-fat Gruyère cheese
- 1 frozen 9-inch prepared pie crust
- 1 cup low-fat milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin purée
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle cheese over bottom of pie crust.
Whisk together milk, eggs, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Blend in pumpkin. Pour mixture over cheese in crust.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake 45 to 50 minutes more, or until quiche filling has set and tip of knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
5. Pumpkin Bolani
Bolani is a kind of flatbread from Afghanistan that can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients. Popular fillings include spinach, potatoes, and lentils. Pumpkin is also used, as in this recipe from Streaming Gourmet.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup cold water
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus ¼ cup for frying
- ½ of a 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
- ¼ teaspoon minced jalapeño or Serrano chili pepper
- ½ teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- Fresh ground black pepper
Directions: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a depression in the middle of the flour, and slowly add the water. Add 1 teaspoon of oil, and mix until the dough forms a ball. (You may need to add a little more water if the ingredients do not come together.) After dough comes together, knead for 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for an hour.
Mix together all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl.
Divide the dough into 4 balls of equal size. Flour a work surface, and roll one ball of dough into a flat circle about 10 inches in diameter (make it as thin as possible). Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the pumpkin filling on one half of the disc, leaving an edge around the border. Fold together and press to seal the edges. Repeat the process with the remaining 3 balls of dough.
Heat ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the bolani for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until the dough is golden brown. Serve immediately.
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