This creamy, Thai Pumpkin Curry recipe brings the comforting flavors of fall into one easy meal, perfect for a weeknight dinner.
What is a Thai pumpkin?
Thai pumpkin, or Japanese pumpkin, is known as a kabocha squash in the States. This dark green, hard-skinned squash in many ways looks similar to a buttercup squash, without the extra protrusion on one end. Kabocha squash has a sweet and nutty flavor, like a cross between a butternut squash and an American pumpkin.
Unless we stumble upon a kabocha squash at the market, we tend to substitute American pie pumpkins for kabocha in our curries, because they are easier to find and quite a bit easier to peel.
How to peel a raw pumpkin (or kabocha squash)
If you’ve never peeled a raw pumpkin before, don’t be afraid to try it, but do get ready for a work out!
To peel our pumpkins, we first cut them in half and remove the seeds and stringy insides. From there, we grab a sharp chef’s knife and VERY carefully, but firmly, cut the peel from the outside of the pumpkin.
Peeling a pumpkin does take a bit of practice. But, the more you do it, the better you get!
Our Thai Pumpkin Curry Recipe
When we first tried making a Thai pumpkin curry, our curry included a long list of seasonings and other vegetables (onions, green peppers, and ginger). However, the more we looked into what an authentic Thai pumpkin curry contained, the more we realized that, traditionally, this dish is an incredibly simple fall dish.
Thai pumpkin, coconut milk, and chili paste, are all you really need to create a beautifully flavorful and comforting Thai pumpkin curry. If you want to add some protein, pork or chicken can easily be added to the mix. What’s more, once you peel and chop the pumpkin, the dish comes together in less than 30 minutes. So, if you do a little prep work the night before, it is a perfect, quick dish for a fall weeknight meal.
Thai basil and Kaffir lime leaves
Our pumpkin curry recipe contains two optional ingredients that you may or may not be familiar with. But first, we do have to say that this curry is wonderful on its own, and doesn’t really need the extra garnish. That being said, traditional Thai pumpkin curries nearly always contains one or both of these two ingredients as a flavor enhancer.
Thai Basil is different than sweet or Italian basil. It has small leaves and purple stems, and it adds a slightly spicy flavor and a hint of licorice to the classic basil flavor. It is easy to grow your own, but you can also find it in most Asian grocery stores.
Kaffir Lime Leaves come from the makrut lime plant. They are thick, dark green leaves that give off an unique, tangy and citrusy aroma when torn. You can find them fresh and dried at most Asian grocery stores.
As you can see, both of these ingredients would lend a unique flavor to your curry. If you feel like experimenting, go for it! But, if you want to stick with the simple, un-garnished curry, you won’t be disappointed.
Pumpkin curry leftovers
This curry intensifies in flavor and creaminess as it sets, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch! Refrigerate the leftovers, and they will keep you warm and satisfied all week long!
A wonderful fall curry that pairs the light sweetness of pumpkin with pork in a mildly spiced sauce.
- 1 c coconut milk, regular fat
- 1 c water
- 2 Tbsp Thai red chili paste
- ¾ lb pork loin, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 1 small pie pumpkin (2 lbs, 7 c cubed), seeded, peeled, cut into 1 inch cubes *
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, torn, or ¼ c fresh Thai basil (optional)
- White rice (Thai Jasmine rice is traditional for serving.)
- Bring the coconut milk and water to a simmer in a large pot over high heat. Add the chili paste and mix until incorporated.
- Add the pork pieces and pumpkin cubes. Cover and simmer over medium low heat until the pumpkin is just tender when pierced with a fork, 10-15 min.
- Remove the curry from the heat. Add the kaffir lime leaves or fresh Thai basil (if using).
- Serve with steamed rice.
* Quick tip: Seed, peel, and cube the pumpkin ahead of time. Place the cubes in an air tight container or storage bag and keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. (The cubed pumpkin pieces will stay good in the refrigerator for 1 week.)