Thai Butternut Squash Curry with Chickpeas

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Bring the incredible flavors of Thai cooking to your kitchen in a fun yet accessible plant-based way with this Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry. It's packed with aromatic Thai flavors, is indulgent yet healthy, and is a satisfying complete meal. Plus, it’s meal prep friendly and makes great leftovers!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
5 from 59 votes

I first devised this Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry two years ago when I was living in NYC. It was early January and it was 25°F on that particular day, so this curry really hit the spot. Even though I luckily benefit from warmer temperatures these days, this fragrant, Thai-inspired curry is no less satisfying.

While butternut squash curry and chickpeas are not traditional in Thai cuisine, I’ve combined them into this hybrid/fusion dish to bring you everything I love about Thai curries with a few of my favorite ingredients. I think the result is fantastic, and hope you’ll love it too!

Table of Contents

1. Why you’ll love this curry
2. What makes a flavorful Thai Curry?
3. Step by Step Instructions
4. Tips for making this curry
5. Video
6. Frequently Asked Questions

And if you’re in the mood for even more curry, check out my Vegan Red Lentil Curry!

butternut squash chickpea curry with white rice and limes in bowl

Why you’ll love this Thai Butternut Squash Curry

Easy but gourmet: This curry is easy to make, not complicated, and can be made in 45 minutes (if you use pre-chopped squash) with less than 15 minutes of prep time. But, it also delivers gourmet flavors and is special enough to serve to guests.

Maximal flavor: Packed with the flavors of ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and lemongrass, this dish evokes the incredibly fragrant, aromatic curries I happily devoured in Thailand. More on that in the next section.

Indulgent yet healthy: This curry is oh-so-creamy and tastes decadent (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 greens.

Meal prep-friendly: This dish makes excellent leftovers and will stay good in your fridge for 4-5 days and freezes well too.

What makes for a flavorful Thai Curry?

During my month in Thailand, we ate the most incredible Thai street food. And we also got to take a few Thai cooking classes (including a day-long class, which was one of my favorite experiences). 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.

Here’s how that shakes out in this recipe: 

  • Spicy: heat comes from a good-quality red curry paste and Thai chili peppers (aka bird’s eye chili peppers). 
  • Sweet: subtle sweetness comes from butternut squash and coconut sugar; also balances the spiciness and sour, as well as enhances the salty, umami.
  • Sour: acidity comes from rice vinegar; also balances the spiciness, as well as enhances the salty, umami.
  • Umami: savory notes comes from the soy sauce
closeup of Thai butternut squash chickpea curry in a blue bowl

How to make Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry

Gather your ingredients!

ingredients on cutting board with butternut squash, chickpeas, lemongrass, coconut milk

Dice the onion and the carrots. Chop the butternut squash into cubes (or use pre-chopped butternut squash).

Mince the garlic, mince or grate the ginger and lemongrass, and thinly slice the Thai chili peppers (if using).

minced garlic ginger lemongrass chili peppers with text

Sauté the diced onions and carrots in a bit of coconut oil in a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven until lightly browned. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili peppers, and curry paste, and stir frequently for 2 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with vegetable broth, then add in the coconut milk, butternut squash, coconut sugar, and soy sauce.

Simmer the curry for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender. Then, blend about half of the curry using an immersion blender. If using a stand blender, transfer half of the curry, blend, then return it to the pan.

Add the chickpeas to the pan and bring to a simmer. Then add in the baby spinach or kale and cook until wilted. Finally, stir in the Thai basil (if using) and/or chopped cilantro.

Tips for making this curry

Butternut squash. To save time, you can buy pre-cut butternut squash cubes, available at most grocery stores these days. If using a whole butternut squash, you’ll need approximately a 2 1/2 pound (1.1 kg) squash.

Lemongrass. Not essential if you can’t find it, but if you can, lemongrass really elevates this recipe. It’s lemony, herbaceous, and minty, and extremely delightful. Since it’s so unique, there is sadly no substitute.

To see how to peel and cut lemongrass, watch the Youtube video below (starting at the 3:09 mark).

Curry paste and chili peppers. There is variability in the spiciness across curry paste brands. For instance, commonly available Thai Kitchen red curry paste is less spicy than many other brands, including the one I used in this video (Maesri). If using Thai Kitchen, I use 5 tablespoons. With Maesri, I usually use 4 tablespoons.

Whichever brand you choose, be sure to read the ingredient labels – some pastes include fish sauce or shrimp paste.

If you like spicy food, go ahead and use the bird’s eye chili peppers (aka Thai chili peppers). But if you’re on the fence about spicy food or sensitive to it, omit them! They are very spicy! My personal preference is to use 3 of these peppers, but I eat spicier food than most of my readers.

If you want a good deal of spiciness but aren’t familiar with bird’s eye chili peppers, try just 1 pepper. If you can’t find bird’s eye chili peppers but still want a spicy kick, try 1-2 serrano peppers.

Rice wine vinegar. Don’t skip the final step, which is to add a bit of rice wine vinegar (aka rice vinegar). Finishing a rich dish like this curry with a splash of acidity at the end helps balance the spicy and sweet flavors, and also brings some freshness to the dish.

Thai butternut squash curry in blue bowl with rice and lime

Watch! How to make Thai Butternut Squash Curry!

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can I make this curry without coconut milk? 

If you are allergic to coconut, I would recommend a homemade cashew cream: 1 cup (135g) raw cashews (soaked overnight or in boiling water for 1 hour) blended with 3/4 to 1 cup water (180-240 mL). I do not recommend using a thin plant-based milk such as almond milk. A spicy curry like this needs something high-fat and creamy to balance everything out.

If you are simply watching your calorie intake, 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.

Where can I find lemongrass, Thai basil, and Thai chili peppers? 

You can sometimes find lemongrass and Thai basil at Whole Foods, but not consistently. Lemongrass and Thai basil are commonly available at various Asian grocery stores, particularly Southeast Asian grocery. You can find bird’s eye chili peppers at some grocery stores, including Sprouts and Whole Foods.

How to peel and cut butternut squash? 

To make it easier to cut butternut squash, microwave it for 1-2 minutes to slightly soften the flesh. Then slice off the stem from the top. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to peel the squash until the flesh is vibrant orange. Slice the squash in half, horizontally. Then cut the rounded bottom portion of the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.

scooping out seeds from sliced butternut squash

Cut the bottom halves into wedges, then cube. Slice the top half of the squash in half, vertically. Finally, cut the halves into spears, then cube.

Are there substitutes for butternut squash? 

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.

What pairs well with Thai butternut squash curry? 

My favorite way to serve any Thai curry is over white jasmine rice. For something a little more nutrient-dense, you can serve it over brown rice, millet, or quinoa.

Can I freeze this curry? 

Yes, this curry can be frozen! There might be some change in the texture, but overall, it freezes quite well.

closeup of butternut squash chickpea curry in bowl

More delicious vegan curry recipes

Love a fragrant curry? Take a look at these other flavor-packed curries:

You might also want to check out my Vegan Chana Masala. It’s not a curry, precisely, but it is heavy on the chickpeas and utterly delicious (for the instant pot version, see my cookbook, the Vegan Instant Pot Cookbook!).

hands spooning Thai butternut squash curry with rice

Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry

5 from 59 votes
Bring the incredible flavors of Thai cooking to your kitchen in a fun yet accessible plant-based way with this Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry. It's packed with aromatic Thai flavors, is indulgent yet healthy, and is a satisfying complete meal. Plus, it’s meal prep friendly and makes great leftovers!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Thai-Inspired
Diet Vegan
Keyword: gluten-free, refined sugar free
Serving size: 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (use refined for a neutral taste, or a neutral oil of choice)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2- inch piece ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 1-3 bird's eye chili peppers, thinly sliced (optional, for spicy version)*
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, minced or grated (optional but recommended)**
  • 5 tablespoons red curry paste (see Recipe Notes below on spiciness level and brands)***
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
  • 1 (13.5-ounce / (400 mL) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 5 cups (700-730g) of peeled and cubed butternut squash (~ 2.5 pound butternut squash)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (or 1 tablespoon Thai Light Soy Sauce)****
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or pure maple syrup)
  • 2 (15-ounce / 425g) cans of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups baby spinach or baby kale (about 4 large handfuls)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or lime juice)
  • 1 large handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 handful Thai basil leaves
  • White rice or brown rice (for serving, optional)

Instructions

  • 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, chili peppers (if using), lemongrass (if using), and red curry paste, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables. If not using a nonstick pan, you'll likely need to add a tablespoon or two of water to prevent the mixture from drying out, sticking, and burning.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth, stirring with a spatula to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Pour in the coconut milk and stir to combine, then add the cubed butternut squash, soy sauce or tamari, and coconut sugar, stirring to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low or medium-low to maintain a rapid simmer for 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and cooked through.
    Turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to blend roughly half of the curry. Make sure to leave some chunks of squash intact. Alternatively, transfer half of the curry to a stand blender. Blend until the mixture is puréed and mostly smooth, then return it to the pan.
  • 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. Taste for seasonings, adding salt as needed. Tear the Thai basil leaves to release their oils and add along with the chopped cilantro to the curry.
  • Serve the curry over rice and additional cilantro or Thai basil to garnish.

Notes

* I would use bird’s eye chili peppers (aka Thai chili peppers) only if you like spicy food, as these peppers are spicy. My personal preference is to use 3 of them, but I like my food spicier than most of my readers.
For a good amount of heat, use 1 chili pepper. If you can’t find bird’s eye chili peppers, try 1-2 serrano peppers. 
** Use only the tender, inner white bulb towards the bottom of the lemongrass stalk. For tips on how to peel/cut lemongrass, watch the Youtube video starting at the 3:09 mark. 
*** There is great variability in spiciness across curry paste brands. A commonly found brand in grocery stores is Thai Kitchen. It is less spicy than many other brands, including the one I used (Maesri). If using Thai Kitchen, I like using 5 tablespoons. With Maesri, I usually use 4 tablespoons.
Whichever brand you choose, be sure to read the ingredient labels – some curry pastes include fish sauce or shrimp paste. 
**** Thai Soy Sauce, aka Thin Soy Sauce or Light Soy Sauce, can be found at Southeast Asian grocery stores. It is considerably saltier than a standard grocery store soy sauce. If using a standard grocery store soy sauce, I recommend using 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons. If using reduced sodium soy sauce, use 2 1/2 tablespoons.  
To keep this recipe gluten-free, use tamari. 

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104 comments on Thai Butternut Squash Curry with Chickpeas

  1. Elizabeth I Langley

    Umami! This recipe is so easy and delicious! Im not plant based, so my tastebuds don’t always agree with what some vegans think is delicious but I have found your recipes consistently flavorful. Lemongrass is not available where I live but I’m sure it would turn it up a notch, if that’s possible. I used 1 dried Thai chili but could have used 2.
    I only had a handful of greens but that was plenty.

    Thanks for the butternut squash in the microwave tip. I live in the north so squash is a staple and this was so helpful.

    Thanks again!

  2. Anna K

    This recipe is outstanding. So clearly written. It was the best meal I’ve cooked in weeks. Satisfying and delicious and nourishing. I didn’t have any coconut milk so subbed a can of evaporated milk and it was still incredible. Thank you so so so so much!

  3. Jess

    I absolutely adore this recipe. Packed with flavor but *balanced* flavor – the spicy, umami, sweet, and sour elements work together in perfect harmony and none overwhelms the palate. It’s easy to put together but fancy (and flavorful) enough to impress guests. What’s not to love??

  4. Weily

    I left out the soy sauce and the sugar altogether. And I subbed spaghetti squash for the butternut squash, used powdered curry instead of the paste, kaffir lemon leaves instead of lemon grass. The result was still absolutely beyond amazing!!!
    I usually make my curry with some kind of cubed meat. I am delighted how yummy this curry tasted even without any meat:D!
    I will most definitely make it again!!!!!!

  5. Justine

    This recipe is awesome! Thank you! We substituted lemon rind/peel for the lemongrass and doubled the ginger (we love ginger!), and subbed brown sugar for the coconut sugar. AMAZING!! We loved it the first time… and are making it again tonight. Thank you! Thank you! Awesome recipe!!

  6. Jacky Deans

    Just made a big pot of this for dinner, used sweet potato instead of squash, was amazing, so tasty and filling, great recipe thanks Nisha

  7. Lucy

    I love the flavors in this dish. Savory, spicy, but still balanced. I’ve made this with Thai ingredients (birds eye chili, Thai basil) and without. It’s fantastic either way but it’s worth the extra effort if you can get them.

    Another fantastic recipe – bravo, Nisha!

  8. Ozden

    I made this recipe in the pressure cooker yesterday. I had soaked beans instead of chickpeas and it turned out great! I mashed the squash since it melted away while making sure the beans were cooked but I loved it even better. Lovely dish. Thank you!

  9. Victoria

    I made this recipe by following Nisha’s insanely informative YouTube video (love the butternut squash lifehack)… I am a novice in the kitchen, but this is *the* most delicious vegan dish I have ever cooked. The flavours are fantastic and the texture is divine! (Note: I didn’t have an immersion blender so I used a potato masher… It was janky, but worked out well for me!) Thank you so much for designing such flavourful vegan recipes, Nisha!! I will definitely be making this again.

  10. Melissa

    This was delicious! I followed the recipe pretty closely, but added a second can of coconut milk and extra carrots. Love serving plant based dishes that make all my meat eating friends and family go crazy.

  11. Angela Wilson

    Thank you for the super recipe Nisha… fabulous!

    Angela

  12. xiaofu sun

    I like your recipes a lot, healthy, easy, and tasty!!!!for now I’ve tried this, lentil curry, shepherd’s pie, stroganoff, all amazing!
    Especially for my boyfriend (he is American ,I am Chinese) he really loves the dishes when I follow your recipe. He said the lentil curry has good tomato flavor, stroganoff gets 10 (he hates mushroom just like your bf, can’t believe he gave a 10 to mushroom stroganoff.
    for shepherd’s pie, my boyfriend and his friend(British) said really similar to the traditional shepherd’s pie texture, well I’ve never tried the traditional one so I don’t know, but I like the taste too, I LOVE the idea of mixing cauliflower and potatoes, much more healthy and tastes the same! but I don’t like olive oil mix with coconut flavor, so I used sunflower oil instead, still, amazing!

    for this pumpkin curry ,I didn’t follow this recipe that strict though , because, like you said in your videos, it is not traditional Thai cuisine, it is Thai flavor, so I didn’t use carrots which I did’t have it when I made this but add chestnuts which is what I had in my fridge, still so good, lemongrass and basil is the key hhhh.
    and I like your videos too! funny and clear,looking forward to trying more recipes!
    THANK YOU SO MUCH
    HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR

  13. LeAnne

    This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s warm and comforting on chilly days. Very easy to make and absolutely delicious.

    1. LeAnne

      Edited to add five stars,

  14. Rose

    Another super yummy and healthy recipe. Once you get the squash chopped it’s pretty fast to make. If you don’t have Nisha’s cookbook yet: I highly recommend it!

  15. Sarah Lazzaro

    Made this today and it is freaking delicious. I made your buffalo chickpea quesadillas yesterday and those were epic too.

  16. Emily

    I made this last week with sweet potato instead of butternut squash. It was very good. Then I made it again this week with white potato instead of butternut squash and it was BOMB.

  17. Keerthana Sankar

    Hi Nisha, This is an excellent recipe! Thank you so much for sharing this! I thoroughly enjoyed this recipe and my boyfriend does too :)

  18. Nathaly

    Tried this today since I’m a big fan of Nisha’s Red Lentil Curry. Now, I have a new go-to-recipe! I omitted the lemongrass (couldn’t find it) and coconut sugar because I like things on the spicier side but it was delicious without them.

    It was my first time cooking butternut squash and I didn’t know of the residue it leaves behind, I had to scrub my hand with a sponge, so if it’s your first time too just be aware of that haha.

    I’ve been trying to eat better and these recipes really break the myth that vegan food is boring. Thanks Nisha!

  19. Abbie H.

    I just made it last night and it was so tasty! Thank you for another fantastic and easy-to-make vegan recipe :)

  20. Jackie

    I am absolutely amazed at how DELICIOUS this dish came out! By far the best meal I’ve ever prepared. The Thai Basil at the end is such a nice touch. This is now my #1 favorite recipe of all times. Thank you so much, Nisha. You are an incredible chef! :-)

  21. Chrissy

    Made this on a 29 degree day in NY and missed CA – know you feel my pain :) Was delicious, hearty and filling! Was able to find most ingredients at Whole Foods but the Thai basil but was good without it. I forgot to watch the lemongrass piece of the video / read the notes – don’t do that folks!

  22. Holly

    This is simmering on my stove right now, and it’s so fragrant and easy to bring together. As I live in Iowa, Thai peppers, Thai basil, and lemongrass are not easy to source – I ended up going to an Asian grocer in a neighboring city, and found what I needed. This is such a lovely and comforting dish, it’s worth it!

  23. Amber

    This recipe is amazing! I couldn’t find lemongrass or Thai basil, but still turned out delicious. My non-vegan boyfriend loved it. I will be making this again soon!

  24. Tim Barr

    Another great one by Nisha. I have made a bunch of her recipes and they are all accurate and relatively easy to execute. This one has a significant number of ingredients and steps, but well within reach. I opted not to add the chili, but got some nice warmth from the curry paste (don’t know the brand). This will be a go-to-dish for family and friends.

    Keep ’em coming, Nisha.

  25. Jessica

    Another winner!
    How does she do it?! 🤩
    Every recipe of Nisha’s that we’ve tried has been so great! This one was no exception!
    So flavorful and healthy.

    1. Nisha

      Aww I appreciate it, Jessica! Lots of love and recipe testing, I imagine haha. Thank you for the wonderful feedback on this butternut squash curry!

  26. Laurie Indelicato

    Made this and it was faster to make than I thought and Very delicious.
    Will make this regularly.
    Love all of her recipes

  27. Jen

    Super YUMMY and satisfying on a cold day. Converted to Instant Pot to make it even easier. I didn’t have lemongrass so I added 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil.

    1. Nisha

      That’s awesome to hear you were able to make this butternut squash curry in the Instant Pot! How long did you cook it for?

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