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Butternut Squash Curry (30 minutes)

With a few good shortcuts, this healthy butternut squash curry can be on the table in 30 minutes for a perfect weeknight dinner. Rich, creamy, spicy deliciousness.

The dish is all about the sauce, made with tomato sauce, coconut milk, curry paste, curry powder, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and a dash of maple syrup.

squash curry over rice in bowl f

For the veggies, I use butternut squash and spinach, but if you’re short on time, you can try something that cooks more quickly such as cauliflower, green beans or cooked chickpeas. If you’re not a vegetarian, consider adding shrimp as seen in the last picture below.

So, whether you stick to the recipe or get creative, butternut squash curry is a simple, tasty, comforting weeknight meal.

If you’re looking for other vegetarian meals, try our 25 Meatless Monday dinner ideas. Or check out our 31 delicious meals under 400 calories. Lots of variety. Light does not mean sacrifice. 

Why make this recipe…

  • It uses simple ingredients that you can find in most grocery stores
  • There’s no need to roast the squash in advance because it cooks right in the sauce as a one pot recipe.
  • The dish comes together in just 30 minutes which makes having a home cooked meal on busy weeknights easy.

Ingredients-tailored to your taste

cubed butternut squash, frozen spinach, coconut milk, curry, ginger, garlic, oil, curry paste, maple syrup, tomato sauce
Ingredients: cubed butternut squash, garlic, frozen spinach, full fat coconut milk, curry powder, ginger, cayenne, oil, red Thai curry paste, maple syrup, tomato sauce

Here are the key ingredients along with substitutions and variations you can try.

Butternut squash: Buy it pre-cut and cubed or peel and cut it up yourself. You can even use frozen cubed butternut squash (see Shortcuts). If you don’t have or like butternut squash, substitute cauliflower, green beans or cooked chickpeas. These will cook more quickly.

Tomato sauce: I use a basic tomato or Marinara sauce, but you can substitute diced tomatoes (and cook a little longer). San Marzano or fire roasted tomatoes would be great.

Coconut milk: Full-fat coconut milk gives the sauce rich and creamy texture. If you prefer a mellower sauce, add a bit more. For a stronger tomato flavor, add less.

Red curry paste: adds classic Thai flavors to the dish. You can vary the heat in the recipe with more or less curry paste or a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Spinach: Omit the spinach if you like. I always add it because it makes the dish a complete one pot meal with extra nutrition. Use fresh baby spinach or frozen spinach (thawed in microwave and squeezed dry with paper towels). You can substitute the spinach with swiss chard or kale.

Flavor enhancements:

  • Add chopped fresh cilantro or parsley before serving.
  • Stir in a tablespoon or more of peanut butter.
  • Use a half inch of freshly grated ginger instead of ginger powder.

Step by step instructions

red curry paste and seasonings in pan
Sauté curry paste and seasonings on medium in a large skillet for a couple of minutes.
tomato and squash in pan
Add tomato sauce, coconut milk, squash, maple syrup. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then lower to simmer for 15-20 minutes until squash is tender.
squash curry with spinach in pan
Add spinach to the creamy curry sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Squash Curry over rice in bowl ff
Serve Thai butternut squash curry over basmati rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, quinoa or other grain.
squash curry with shrimp over rice in bowl p
Add cooked shrimp or tofu for extra protein.

Recipe FAQs

What is curry?

Check out this Bon Appetit article on curry – curry powder, curry paste and other curry products – if you are interested.

What is the difference between Thai curries and Indian curries?

Thai and Indian curries share some similar spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric and cilantro. Thai dishes include brighter and lighter spices, curry pastes and lemongrass, and almost never use dairy. Thai curries use a lot of coconut milk (dairy free) whereas most regions in India (except for the south) prefer yogurt or cream in their curries.

Indian curries are velvety with a thicker consistency. They often include tomatoes like our squash curry recipe. Common spices like cinnamon and cumin in Indian curries are rich and flavorful. Here is an excellent detailed article by Asia Highlights on the differences between Thai curries and Indian curries.

Is this creamy butternut squash curry recipe healthy?

Yes, the recipe is very nutritious with high levels of fiber, vitamin A and C, iron and potassium. It does have a fair amount of saturated fat, though, from the coconut milk. For a lower calorie, lower fat version, choose a light canned coconut milk.

Can you freeze leftover coconut milk?

Absolutely. It will keep in the freezer for a least a month. A good way to freeze leftover coconut milk is to put it in freezer trays. When frozen, transfer the cubes to a sealed bag or freezer-safe container.

What to serve with easy butternut squash curry

I love to serve it over basmati rice or quinoa with a side salad which you can prepare while the squash is cooking. Or instead, try serving the squash curry over nutritious bulgur or farro. For a colorful side dish, try these 5-minute microwave green beans.

If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, make this easy naan bread for dipping. Really good! Of course, you can always buy some 🙂 or use any warm crusty bread for dipping into the sauce.

Shortcuts

Butternut squash shortcut

  • Buy packaged fresh butternut squash that is already peeled and cut up (huge time saver!). I still cut the pieces smaller to 1/2 inch so they cook more quickly and evenly.
  • Or, even quicker, buy frozen butternut squash which is diced very small and will cook very quickly.
  • Instead of the squash, try cauliflower, green beans or chick peas which will cut the cooking time at least in half.

Spinach shortcut: Buy fresh baby spinach that is pre-washed. 

Garlic: I often use frozen crushed garlic cubes (1 cube = one clove or teaspoon) – so convenient.

Make Ahead

The flavors are even better the next day. Make the squash curry recipe up to 2-3 days ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. If you want the spinach to look vibrant, add it only when you are reheating the dish.

Reheat the leftovers on the stove (with a bit of liquid to thin it out) and stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. If you’re not fussy about the color of the spinach turning dull, just make the whole thing and warm it up in the microwave.

Freeze the squash curry for a meal prep option – up to 3 months. Some say the coconut milk can get a bit grainy, but the taste won’t be affected.

squash curry over rice in bowl p2

Other easy curry recipes

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squash curry over rice in bowl f
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Butternut Squash Curry (30-Minutes)

With a few good shortcuts, this healthy butternut squash curry can be on the table in 30 minutes for a perfect weeknight dinner. Rich, creamy, spicy deliciousness.
Prep Time8 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian, Vegetarian
Servings: 3
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1/2 can coconut milk, unsweetened (about 1 cup/237ml)
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, Note 1
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 pound butternut squash, diced 1/2 inch/1.27cm, Note 2 (about 2 1/2-3 cups)
  • 3 cups (90g) roughly chopped baby spinach (or 250 g frozen, thawed, water squeezed out)

Instructions

  • SAUTÉ SPICES AND AROMATICS: Heat olive oil in medium skillet on medium heat. Add garlic, curry powder, ginger powder, salt, cayenne and curry paste. Stir for 2 minutes.
  • ADD LIQUIDS, TOMATOES AND SQUASH: : Stir in coconut milk, tomato sauce (or diced tomatoes), honey and squash. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until squash is tender. If using diced tomatoes, you may have to uncover and cook a bit longer to reduce the liquid more.
  • FINISH AND SERVE: Add fresh spinach and stir until wilted – or stir in squeezed-dry thawed spinach until heated through – about 1 minute. Taste and adjust seasonings (curry, salt, pepper, honey, etc). Sauce will thicken on standing or by the time you serve it. Serve over rice or quinoa. Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro or parsley if desired. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to several days.

Notes

  1. Tomato sauce – I use a basic Marinara sauce (often White Linen from Costco), but other plain tomato sauces will work fine too. Or use on 15 oz (503ml) can diced tomatoes which you may need to cook a bit longer (uncovered) to thicken. San Marzano or Fire Roasted tomatoes would be great.
  2. Butternut squash options: Buy it pre-cut and cubed or peel and cut it up yourself. You can even use frozen cubed butternut squash (cook less time as the cubes are much smaller). Or substitute cauliflower, green beans or cooked chickpeas. These will cook more quickly. 
  3. Variations:
    • Substitutes 
      • Use a half inch of freshly grated ginger instead of ginger powder.
      • Instead of quinoa or rice, try serving the squash curry over nutritious bulgar or farro.
      • Replace the spinach with swiss chard or kale.
    • Add-ins
      • Add chopped cilantro or parsley before serving.
      • Stir in a tablespoon or more of peanut butter.
  4. Make Ahead/Reheat/Freeze
    • Make the squash curry recipe up to 2-3 days ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. If you want the spinach to look vibrant, add it only when you are reheating the dish.
    • Reheat leftovers on the stove (with a bit of liquid to thin it out) and stir in the fresh spinach until wilted. If you’re not fussy about the color of the spinach turning dull, just make the whole thing and warm it up in the microwave.
    • Freeze the squash curry if you like – up to 3 months. Some say the coconut milk can get a bit grainy but the taste won’t be affected.
 
Nutrition values are estimates and do not include rice or quinoa. 

Nutrition

Calories: 302kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Sodium: 1284mg | Potassium: 1416mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 20809IU | Vitamin C: 55mg | Calcium: 148mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This recipe was inspired by Pinch of Yum and A Virtual Vegan. It was originally published in 2018 and now updated with new information and edits.

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