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 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: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
5 from 105 votes

This Thai Butternut Squash Curry is pretty much my ideal meal:

  • Easy but gourmet: This one-pot 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. 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.

While butternut squash 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 in a wonderfully balanced dish you’ll eat again and again. I think the result is fantastic, and hope you’ll love it too!

Table of Contents:
1. How to make a flavorful Thai curry
2. Step by step instructions
3. Tips for making this curry
4. Frequently Asked Questions

5. Watch! How to make Thai Butternut Squash Curry

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

butternut squash chickpea curry with white rice and limes in bowl

How to make 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. 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

Step by step instructions

First, gather your ingredients:

ingredients on cutting board with butternut squash, chickpeas, lemongrass, coconut milk, soy sauce, bird's eye chili peppers, spinach, soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk, garlic, ginger, and onions

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.

Tip: 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

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 do I 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.

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.

scooping out seeds from sliced butternut squash

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.

How should I serve 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 this 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

If you give this recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and comment with your feedback below!

Watch! How to make Thai Butternut Squash Curry

This Butternut Squash + Chickpea Curry is sooo good!
This Butternut Squash + Chickpea Curry is sooo good!

Thai Butternut Squash Curry with Chickpeas

5 from 105 votes
Bring the incredible flavors of Thai cooking to your kitchen in a fun yet accessible plant-based way with this Thai Butternut Squash 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: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
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 (peppers are optional; only use 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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184 comments on Thai Butternut Squash Curry with Chickpeas

  1. Melissa Collins

    This is an excellent recipe. Next time I will omit the spinach because I don’t think it added anything to the recipe and will add sweet potato and colored peppers for a little more sweetness. I also used berbere spice instead of the dried chilies because I didn’t have any chilies and it was delicious!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We are so glad you loved the recipe, Melissa! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  2. romy

    5 stars
    so good!!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Romy!

  3. Amalia

    5 stars
    I just finished making this curry. Made a bigger batch, so I added more coconut milk and butternut squash. Also, I omitted the greens and I included red lentils for some protein and fiber. Loved the end result: creamy, warm and filling. Thanks for another amazing recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Amalia!

  4. Stuart

    5 stars
    Hearty and wholesome. Left the chilli out to make it kiddie friendly, and were back for seconds! Many thanks.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Stuart!

  5. Sally

    5 stars
    I’ve never cooked with winter squash before because it’s not a usual vegetable in tropical countries but I’m living abroad now and butternut squash is everywhere. I gave this a try today and absolutely loved it. So much flavour with simple, pantry ingredients. This will definitely be a winter staple for me.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Sally. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  6. Cindy J.M.

    5 stars
    I served this for a casual games night with 6 other friends. We all loved this curry. I put extra carrots and kale in to make sure I had enough for my guests. I served it with peanuts and green onions to garnish over a bed of brown basmati. This was a huge hit with everyone. Your instructions and tips were very helpful.It was delicious, nutritious and I will definitely make it again.
    Thank you,
    Cindy

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Cindy! Those additions sound lovely.

  7. Sue

    5 stars
    Very flavorful – the chili paste I used wasn’t too hot (thank goodness) so the natural sweetness of the squash came out. Once again tho I’d say this will take a half hour to prep if you are peeling and cutting your own squash, carrots, onions, etc. Had some end of season thai basil in my garden waiting for an idea, and this was perfect! Thanks for these great recipes!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sue, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  8. Jennifer K Saucerman

    5 stars
    Loved this! I just used brown sugar and bought a tube of prepped lemongrass.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Jennifer!

  9. Leah Saunders

    5 stars
    This curry is fabulous! We added in some pineapple for a fun twist and it was so tasty!
    I will certainly add this recipe to my favourites it was easy, delicious, and nutritious

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Ooh, so interesting Leah! Thanks for trying the recipe. We’re so happy you love it!

  10. Femke

    5 stars
    So glad this made 5-6 portions, because it’s SO good! The texture is really pleasant and interesting thanks to the blending.
    Will be making this again soon!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Femke!

  11. Annie B

    5 stars
    Hello! I made this recipe by following the instructions almost to a T. It turned out great and was such a nice, warm, filling meal on a cold day. I’ll definitely be making this again and trying out more recipes from this site. Thanks so much!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Annie!

  12. Theresa Capri

    5 stars
    This was good! Since I don’t like super hot, I ended up only using about 2 Tbsp of the red curry-I had Mae Ploy brand and noticed it had lemongrass already in it, so only used one stalk. BTW thanks for showing how to grate the lemongrass. I never knew. I did use frozen spinach, just using what I had on hand, and lime juice with brown sugar instead of coconut sugar. You have a very thorough visual on what steps to take to make this dish. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Of course, Theresa! We’re thrilled to help you in your cooking journey!

  13. pamela S pipkin

    4 stars
    Love it! Although, I was taken aback when the curry paste hit the pan.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Glad you love the recipe and why is that, Pamela?

  14. Linda Miller

    Your recipes are great, especially lived this one! Thank You

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Linda! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating alongside your review? Star ratings are big help to readers who are thinking of making the recipe. Thanks!

  15. Sabine

    5 stars
    We love it, this will certainly be added to our favorites. Thank you for the recipe.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Great, Sabine! So happy you love the curry!

  16. CarolB

    5 stars
    Delicious, aromatic and pleasantly spicy. Followed recipe with three substitutes:3 Korean red peppers, Thai lime leaves &8 Oz regular spinach. Used stove top pressure cooker. After squash was added, cooked at pressure for 8 minutes with quick release. Served over basmati rice. Will definitely make again and againl

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Carol!

  17. Isabel

    5 stars
    Hi Nisha, I love every single recepie from you and I encourage you to keep going! You are the best!!! This one is A M A Z I N G 💕

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aw, thanks for the kind words Isabel! Thrilled you enjoy the curry!

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