Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

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This Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry is super creamy, packed with flavor, and an easy comfort food recipe for the fall! Plus, no need to use full-fat coconut milk to get the creamiest curry ever when you use my trick for cooking kabocha squash!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins
5 from 21 votes

This Vegan Thai-Inspired Kabocha Squash Curry is the perfect fall recipe. It’s easy to make, jam-packed with flavor, and so comforting on cold fall days.

And since my Thai Butternut Squash Chickpea Curry from earlier this year has been so popular, I was inspired to make a similar curry but using kabocha squash.

This post covers everything you need to know – how to cut kabocha squash (it’s easy), how to cook it, and how to make this delicious curry. Buckle up!

What is Kabocha Squash?

If you’re not familiar with kabocha squash, it’s a variety of winter squash also known as a Japanese pumpkin and commonly used in Japanese cooking. It’s one of the more unique-tasting winter squash varieties. IMO, it’s like the more refined cousin of butternut squash (you know, the one who studied abroad in Vienna during college).

Kabocha squash usually comes with a dark green skin, but you might also find the red-orange varieties as well. In either case, the flesh is a vibrant orange color.

When you bake kabocha squash, the texture becomes almost velvety, which I absolutely love. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up with dry, mealy squash.

Regarding the taste, it’s a bit sweeter than pumpkin and butternut squash, so it adds a subtle natural sweetness to recipes. It has a characteristic nutty taste with undertones of chestnut.

Kabocha squash peak season is late summer through the fall, but you can sometimes find it year round. You can find kabocha squash at farmers markets as well as many grocery stores these days (I’ve purchased it at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts).

Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

How to Cut Kabocha Squash

Like many a winter squash, cutting kabocha squash can be difficult. But it needn’t be!

First, you’ll need a long, sharp, and sturdy knife. A really good chef’s knife or a serrated knife works great. As when you’re cutting a pumpkin or butternut squash, you want to use a slow, steady rocking motion. Don’t try to slice the squash in one fell swoop (you will be disappointed and may cut yourself).

Before you slice into it, though, there are two tricks to cutting kabocha squash. First, try slicing a thin layer off the top and bottom of the squash so you expose the flesh of the squash. It can be a bit difficult to slice off a clean layer on the top of the squash if the stem is attached, but even getting some flesh exposed is helpful. That’s because your knife will have a much easier time slicing through the squash if the knife hits the flesh first, rather than the much thicker skin.

And second, if you’re still having trouble cutting the squash (for instance, if your knife hasn’t been sharpened in awhile), just microwave the whole squash for 1-2 minutes. This will lightly soften the squash (but not cook it) and make it easier to slice.

Why you’ll love this Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

Super creamy. This curry is incredibly creamy despite not using full-fat coconut milk. The secret? Kabocha squash puree! When you roast winter squash and then puree it, it becomes so silky smooth and luxurious (have you seen my pumpkin mac and cheese??). Adding the squash puree directly to the curry makes it really thick, and means you can save some calories by using reduced-fat coconut milk instead of full-fat.

Maximal flavor. Packed with the flavors of ginger, garlic, and chili peppers, this dish reminds me of the incredibly fragrant, aromatic curries I happily devoured in Thailand.

Well-balanced. 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. A good-quality curry paste and Thai chili peppers, coconut sugar, lime juice, miso paste, and tamari take on those roles in this recipe.

Decadent yet healthy. This curry is oh-so-creamy and tastes indulgent. But it’s also really nourishing and packed with antioxidants, protein, and fiber, thanks to a garlic-ginger duo and plentiful amount of chickpeas and kabocha squash.

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

Watch! How to make Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

KABOCHA SQUASH | how to cut it, cook it, and make it taste delicious
KABOCHA SQUASH | how to cut it, cook it, and make it taste delicious

Tips for making this Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

If spicy food ain’t your thing, you may want to use a bit less curry paste than the recipe calls for. On the other hand, if you love spicy food, I recommend adding those Thai chili peppers. The spiciness balances out the sweetness of the curry.

For curry paste, my favorite brand is Maesri. More commonly available is the Thai Kitchen brand. You can also try the Mekhala organic curry paste. If you can’t find any of these brands, just be sure to read the ingredients to ensure it’s vegan (many curry pastes contain shrimp paste).

If you are allergic to coconut milk or don’t want to use it, you can use oat milk or cashew milk. Be sure to use an unsweetened variety. I don’t recommend using almond milk, as it is quite thin and not good for curries.

I know this is a kabocha squash curry, but if you can’t find kabocha squash (it’s not always available outside of its peak season), feel free to substitute with butternut squash, pumpkin, or red kuri squash. As I mentioned, these varieties are a bit less sweet than kabocha, so taste the curry before finishing and add a tiny bit more sugar or maple syrup as needed.

Don’t skip the final step, which is to add a bit of lime juice. Finishing a rich dish like this curry with a splash of acid at the end helps balance the spicy flavors, enhances the salty and umami flavors, and brings some freshness to this creamy dish.

That’s all you need to know to make this Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry! If you make the recipe, drop a comment below or over on Youtube!

Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

5 from 21 votes
This Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry is super creamy, packed with flavor, and an easy comfort food recipe for the fall! Plus, no need to use full-fat coconut milk to get the creamiest curry ever when you use my trick for cooking kabocha squash!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Thai-Inspired
Diet Vegan
Keyword: curry, gluten-free, kabocha squash, nut-free
Serving size: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 medium kabocha squash
  • 1/2 cup water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil* (or oil of choice)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2- inch piece ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 1-2 Thai bird’s eye chili peppers, thinly sliced*
  • ¼ cup cup red curry paste (use less to make it less spicy)
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) can “lite” or reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, agave nectar, or coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari** (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste*** (optional but recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, or about 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • For serving: white rice or grains of choice

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) and line a sheet pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
  • Use a large, sharp knife to slice the kabocha squash in half. For tips on how to slice the kabocha squash, see the blog post section on “how to cut kabocha squash.” Once sliced in half, use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Lightly brush each squash half with a bit of oil (coconut oil or avocado oil) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Place the squash halves, flesh side down, on the sheet pan. Roast for 40-45 minutes until the flesh is very tender. If your squash is large, bake for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Once it’s cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the skin, and discard the skin. Place the kabocha squash flesh in a blender and add ½ cup water (or vegetable broth) and puree until very smooth. You should end up with approximately 3 cups of liquid.
  • While the kabocha squash is roasting, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Chop the onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and chile peppers, and measure out the spices and other ingredients.
  • Heat a Dutch oven or a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil, and once it’s shimmering, add the onions and carrots along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables for 7-8 min, or until they are very tender and lightly browned.
  • Add the garlic, ginger, chile peppers (if using) and the red curry paste. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the vegetables in the aromatics. If you aren’t using a nonstick skillet, you may need to add a tablespoon of water to prevent the mixture from drying out and burning.
  • Pour the pureed kabocha squash sauce into the pan, then add the lite coconut milk, tamari, miso paste (if using), maple syrup, and turmeric, and black pepper to taste. Stir or whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  • Add the canned chickpeas and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the curry has become thick and creamy, and the veggies are fully softened.
  • When ready to serve, stir in the lime juice and cilantro. Serve with white rice or grains of choice.

Notes

*If you are sensitive to spicy food, omit the chile peppers. Alternatively, you can use a less spicy pepper, such as a jalapeño pepper.
**Tamari is gluten-free but soy sauce is not, so if you use soy sauce, just keep in mind that the recipe won’t be gluten-free.
***The miso paste adds a deep, complex umami flavor. If you don’t have any, you’ll want to add a bit of salt at this stage.

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51 comments on Vegan Thai Kabocha Squash Curry

  1. Holly

    4 stars
    This turned out exallent.

    I didn’t have carrots in the fridge, so I added an extra onion. I ommited the miso and substituted for a shake of ajinomoto msg seasoning. I added maple syrup, but will would omit it next time, I found the curry a little to sweet for my taste. Very nice flavor over all, I was a little doubtfull that red curry, tamari, maple syrup, and lime juice would pair well, but it was very tasty. 9/10 would be 10/10 if I left out the extra sweetener.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Holly! So happy you loved the curry!

  2. Olivia

    5 stars
    I make this regularly now so good!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Olivia, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  3. Shelly

    5 stars
    I love this SO much! I couldn’t find kabocha so I used butternut, and it was amazing! I had to throw half in the freezer before I ate it all. P.S. – it’s just as yummy defrosted! Thanks for a winner.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  4. Jodie

    So good!
    Tons of flavour and so hearty. Really well done, love this dish

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Jodie!

  5. Allison H

    5 stars
    Delicious!! If you have “baby mouth” like me, I would recommend going light on the curry paste. I used two tablespoons and hotter than I usually prefer. Not too hot that I can’t enjoy it, but next time I might scale it back to 1.5 or 1 TBSP (or see if I can find curry paste for wimps). I followed as written, except for using full fat coconut milk (all I had). I also tossed in a can of chopped baby corns, because why not? Delicious and filling, perfect to eat on a cold winter day.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Allison!

  6. Laurie

    WOW! Just Wow! I followed the recipe exactly as written, except I used almond milk + coconut extract + a tiny bit of xanthan gum (to add back the mouthfeel of coconut milk). The dish was fabulous (my boyfriend agrees) and I’ll definitely make it again. Next time I’ll probably add some additional veggies.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Laurie, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! 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!

  7. Danusia

    It is delicious…thank for the lovely recipe with complex flavours!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Danusia, we’re thrilled to hear you enjoyed this recipe! 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!

  8. Amanda Verdon

    5 stars
    A flavorful and nutritious meal! Yum. A bit sweet for my palate, next time I will experiment and omit the maple syrup. Or maybe I should have added a bit more salt!? Anyway, thank you for yet another winner.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Amanda, you’re welcome to omit the maple syrup and try to add in regular sodium soy sauce and/or more lime juice! Happy cooking!

  9. Alexandra

    Is this the same as Hokkaido Pumpkin? It looks the same and I never heard of Kabocha squash here in Germany, but Hokkaido is quite common and sounds similar (slightly sweet and nutty taste, skin can be left on and eaten).

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Alexandra, they aren’t the same but you can definitely could use Hokkaido squash instead if it’s a variety you enjoy!

  10. Sharon Wegner

    Is it possible to freeze this?

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Yes, definitely Sharon! Save in single serving portions for easy reheating later!

  11. Laura

    5 stars
    This was delicious. So comforting on a cold fall night. I made it with delicata squash because I had 2 to use up. I roasted them as the recipe stated. I love all of Nisha’s recipes, and this one was no different. My husband and I ate 2 big bowls – yum!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      That’s so great to hear, Laura! Thanks for trying the recipe!

  12. Raman

    5 stars
    I have made this numerous times and it is always a hit! Wonderful recipe, thank you so much. I would also echo that the kabocha SKIN after roasting is DELICIOUS and can be eaten as a snack. 🙌🏽

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  13. Rachel

    5 stars
    Just made this and wow the flavors!! Amazing!! I wondered if it would be too sweet but the lime and miso and chiles add a complexity that softens and complements the sweetness. It’s a new favorite!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Rachel, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

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