I recently asked my audience on Instagram “what content of mine or what recipes of mine do you like best?” I was pleasantly surprised that the #1 response was Indian recipes! The #2 response (easy weeknight friendly recipes) did not surprise me, but I did not expect Indian recipes to be the #1 response. And amongst the categories of recipes that people answered (e.g., pastas, tacos, lentil recipes), curries was another top answer!
Of course, this was not a scientific poll, and there’s probably some sample selection bias. But, I ran with that and decided that my next new recipe should be an Indian curry! Hence, this Pumpkin Curry with Tofu!
Everyone’s favorite fall ingredient—pumpkin—meets warming Indian spices in this creamy and hearty tofu curry!
I had an Indian pumpkin curry at a restaurant many years ago and loved it. It’s not a dish my mom made growing up, but I knew it was something I wanted to recreate. Indian pumpkin curry is typically served as a side dish, but I wanted to bring some heft and heartiness and turn it into a main dish.
Why you’ll like this Vegan Pumpkin Curry with Tofu
Fall comfort food. This pumpkin curry is hearty thanks to the tofu, creamy thanks to pumpkin sauce and coconut milk, and warming thanks to the Indian spices. Hello, comfort food weather!
Extremely flavorful: It’s packed with flavor thanks to the sauteed onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers, along with a generous dose of Indian spices.
Nourishing: This pumpkin lentil curry might be dangerously delicious and indulgent, but it’s also quite nourishing. The garlic and ginger bring antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the pumpkin is high in Vitamins A and C and potassium, and the tofu makes this a protein-packed meal. Plus, you’ll stay full for hours due to the high content of healthy fat from coconut milk.
Whole pumpkin. The beauty of this recipe is that the whole pumpkin gets used in two ways. First, sliced pumpkin halves get simply roasted with oil, salt, and pepper until tender. For one half of the pumpkin, use a knife to score the flesh, then scoop out the cubes (or simply remove the peel and cut the flesh into cubes).
For the other pumpkin half, scoop out the flesh and add it to a blender. Once pureed with water, salt, and pepper, it turns into a luscious creamy pumpkin sauce that will help thicken the curry.
So, the curry has a pumpkin-coconut base and whole pieces of pumpkin!
Indian spices. As with many Indian dishes, I use a mixture of whole and ground spices. First, I dry toast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and black mustard seeds; once fragrant, I crush them in a mortar and pestle (or spice grinder).
If you don’t have whole cumin or coriander seeds, check out the “substitutes” section below.
Later in the recipe, ground spices—turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg—get added. And at the end, I stir in garam masala for a unique touch of warmth, heat, and sweetness.
Aromatics. And like most Indian recipes, this curry features my four favorite aromatics: onions, ginger, garlic, and green chili peppers. Sautéing these ingredients in oil is just one way of layering depth of flavor into this curry.
Coconut milk. As mentioned, the base of this curry is pumpkin-coconut. I use full-fat coconut milk for the creamiest texture, but you could substitute “lite” coconut milk if you’re trying to shave off a few calories.
To make your own “lite” coconut milk, mix together 1 part full-fat canned coconut milk with 2 parts water, stir together until well combined. Then measure out 13.5 ounces (400 mL).
Tofu. I use extra-firm tofu and boil it in salted water. If you’ve made my palak paneer with tofu recipe, you know how much boiling the tofu improves the texture! It makes it chewy and similar in texture to paneer, an Indian soft cheese used in many creamy curry-style dishes.
Green Beans. Because I want this curry to be a full meal, I also threw in some green veggies. I chose green beans because they have a short cook time, but they’re totally optional in this recipe.
How to make this Vegan Pumpkin Curry with Tofu
Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with oil and season generously with salt and. pepper.
Roast the pumpkin at 400°F for 35-40 minutes until tender. Once cool enough to handle, score the flesh of one half of the pumpkin and scoop out the pumpkin cubes.
Scoop out the flesh of the remaining pumpkin half and add to a blender to make the pumpkin sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add water. Blend until creamy and thick.
While the pumpkin is roasting, slice the tofu into cubes. Then add to boiling salted water for 2 minutes and immediately drain.
While the pumpkin is roasting, dice the onions, as well as the ginger, garlic, and Serrano peppers.
Toast the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat until fragrant. Then, roughly crush in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder (I was out of mustard seeds when I took these photos).
Heat up the oil in the same frying pan and add the diced onions, and cook until lightly browned
Add the garlic, ginger, and Serrano peppers and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Then stir in the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg for 30 seconds.
Pour in the pumpkin sauce and coconut milk and stir to combine. Then add in the roasted pumpkin cubes, green beans, and salt.
Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the curry starts to thicken. Add the boiled tofu and gently simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until green beans are tender but not soggy and tofu is heated through.
Finally, stir in the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro.
Watch! How to make Vegan Pumpkin Curry with Tofu
Tips for Making this Pumpkin Curry
Use a sugar pumpkin, aka pie pumpkin, not one of the large pumpkins used for carving. Those have very little flavor or flesh and shouldn’t be used for cooking. Sugar pumpkins typically weigh between 2 and 4 pounds. I use a medium-to-large sized one for this recipe (weighing between 3 and 3 3/4 pounds).
The most flavorful Indian recipes use a mixture of whole spices and ground spices, so if you have mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds, use those. You’ll toast them until fragrant, then crush in a mortar and pestle.
If you don’t have these spices, just omit the mustard seeds and use ground cumin and coriander. The exact amounts are listed in the “substitutes” section below and in the Recipe Note.
Speaking of spices, if you have fresh nutmeg, use that instead of pre-ground. It has more intensity of flavor!
Once the roasted pumpkin has cooled, the skin will be really easy to peel. You can take off the peel, then slice one half into cubes. Or, you can leave the peel on and score the flesh with a knife, then use a spoon to scoop out the cubes.
When blending the other half of the roasted pumpkin, if the mixture does not come together, add a touch more of water as needed. The end result should be a fairly thick, creamy puree.
If you don’t have a deep large frying pan, use a Dutch oven instead.
To stretch this meal further, serve it over rice or your favorite grain, or with a side of Indian flatbread.
Substitutes for this Pumpkin Curry
As mentioned above, if you don’t have whole cumin seeds and coriander seeds, you can use pre-ground cumin and coriander. You won’t get as much depth of flavor, but it’s still very tasty (and cuts out two extra steps).
1 teaspoon cumin seeds = scant 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons coriander seeds = 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Unfortunately, there’s no real substitute for black mustard seeds (except for brown mustard seeds), so if you don’t have those, just omit them.
If you can’t find a sugar pumpkin or pie pumpkin or if standard pumpkin isn’t your thing, you can easily substitute with butternut squash, Hokkaido pumpkin (red kuri squash), or even kabocha squash. Just try to find a squash that’s around the same weight (3 to 4 pounds).
Kabocha squash needs about 40-45 minutes in the oven at 400°F (or 204°C). I prefer to roast butternut squash at 425°F (or 218°C) for 45-55 minutes, depending on size.
If you can’t find serrano peppers are sensitive to spicy food, you can substitute with jalapeño peppers, which have a much milder heat.
While this is a curry with tofu, if you are allergic to soy, I’d recommend using chickpeas instead (one 15-ounce can).
I included green beans to add some extra color and veggies to this curry, but they are optional. Or, you can substitute them with small broccoli florets or asparagus spears. Or, you could add frozen peas!
Even more delicious curries you might like:
In the mood for even more delicious curries, here are some I think you’ll love:
- Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry
- Vegan Red Lentil Curry
- Instant Pot Butternut Squash Lentil Curry
- Thai Kabocha Squash Curry
If you give this Vegan Pumpkin Curry with Tofu recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- 1 medium-to-large sugar pumpkin, aka pie pumpkin (3- 4 pounds, or 1.4-1.8 kg)*
- Neutral-flavored oil of choice for roasting and cooking (I used avocado oil)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
Spices and Aromatics
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds**
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds**
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ tablespoons grated or minced fresh ginger
- 1-2 Serrano peppers, diced (omit the seeds for a mild version; I used 2 peppers with seeds)
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 of of the roasted pumpkin
- 1 cup 240 mL water
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 (13.5-ounce / 400 mL) can of full-fat coconut milk
- 1 (14- or 16-ounce / 400 – 454g) block of extra-firm tofu
- 8 ounces (227g) green beans, trimmed & sliced in half (slice long beans into thirds or fourths) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala, plus more to taste
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup fresh fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more to garnish
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (or 204°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice the pumpkin in half using a large sharp knife and rocking motion. If it’s too tough to slice, pop it in the microwave for 30 – 60 seconds to slightly soften. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy bits.
- Roast the pumpkin. Drizzle the pumpkin halves with a bit of the oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Place the halves, flesh side down, on the lined baking sheet. Roast in the preheated oven for 30-45 minutes, until the flesh is fork tender and lightly browned. Meanwhile, prep the rest of the ingredients.
- While the pumpkin is roasting, boil the tofu. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Drain the tofu and pat with paper towels to remove excess water. Chop the tofu into cubes. Add tofu to the boiling water. Once the water returns to a boil, boil for 90 seconds. Use a strainer to remove the tofu from the water and drain immediately, or gently drain over a colander. Set aside.
- Once the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, the skin should be easy to peel off. Take one roasted pumpkin half and use a knife to score the flesh into cubes. Set the pumpkin cubes aside. For the other half, scoop out all of the flesh using a spoon and add it to a blender.
- Make the Pumpkin Sauce: in the blender with the pumpkin, add 1 cup water, 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Blend until smooth – the texture should be a relatively thick puree. If needed, a bit more water until it comes together.
- Cook the aromatics. Heat a deep, large frying pan over medium-low heat. Add the black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds and toast until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer to a mortar and pestle and roughly crush, or grind the spices in a spice grinder. Add these to a bowl with the other ground spices – turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg.1. NOTE: if using pre-ground cumin and coriander, just toast the mustard seeds and don’t crush them (leave them in the pan) and move on to step 7.
- Heat the same pan over medium-high heat and then add 1 ½ tablespoons of neutral-flavored oil. Once shimmering, add the onions with a pinch of salt and sauté until they just start to turn brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, green chilies and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing frequently. Add the ground spices—freshly ground or pre-ground cumin and coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg— and cook for 30 seconds, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
- Pour in the Pumpkin Sauce and coconut milk, and stir until well combined. If the mixture starts to boil, lower the heat. Add in the roasted reserved pumpkin cubes, green beans, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the curry starts to thicken. Add in the boiled tofu and gently simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, or until the green beans are crisp-tender and the tofu is heated through.
- Add the garam masala, lemon juice, and cilantro, and stir to combine. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly, adding more salt, lemon juice, or garam masala as needed. Garnish with additional fresh cilantro, if desired.