Kabocha Coconut Curry

by Mary on November 10, 2012

garlic, red Thai chili, galangal, lemon grass, Thai basil, shallot

The herbs and spices for a Thai red curry sauce if you have an Asian grocery nearby

While in Kent to watch Skate America, my son and I had a pumpkin curry at Banyan Tree Thai Restaurant that I loved enough to try at home. After a phone call to Banyan Tree to check the ingredients, two trips to Uwajimaya, and a couple of rounds of cooking, here’s a version for you. It uses kabocha squash, also called Japanese pumpkin.

Thai Kitchen red curry paste shown with chopped lemongrass and other herbs

And what works if you don’t.

You can’t beat the fresh herbs and spices in this curry for flavor. The lemongrass is distinctive, and the Thai basil and galangal are noticeably different from Western basil and ginger.  The recipe I’ve made is about right for me but mild for my heat-loving family, so ramp up the chilies if you want more. If you don’t have the time or the local source for Asian produce, Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste works surprisingly well. Even Banyan Tree used a red curry sauce along with the fresh ingredients in its version.

Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste has healthy ingredients and I prefer it over other red curry sauces I’ve seen which have ingredients I’d rather avoid. You can use it on its own to replace the galangal, lemongrass, red Thai chili, basil and kaffir lime (I think I’d still supplement it with fresh garlic and shallot). I didn’t use fresh or dried coriander (cilantro) but it would have been a good addition. A non-vegetarian version of this could include fish sauce.

Besides using curry paste, buying pre-fried tofu is another way to make this recipe faster. If you are picking up produce at an Asian market they ought to have fried tofu, too. I wanted to save a buck and to use my own oil, and fried the tofu myself.

The coconut milk (and coconut oil, if you use it) is the least healthy aspect of this recipe due to its saturated fat. Light coconut milk is just coconut milk, water, and thickeners, so to lighten the recipe, use a smaller amount of regular coconut milk and more water, plus maybe a little starch if you want a thicker sauce.

Enjoy! And please let me know how you like it in the comments.

kabocha coconut curry on dinner plate with fork

Kabocha coconut curry


5.0 from 3 reviews
Kabocha Coconut Curry
Recipe type: main
Serves: 6
  • To blend the curry:
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. gluten-free tamari or, for non-vegetarian version, fish sauce
  • 1 large shallot, peeled
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. peeled, chopped galangal (Thai ginger), or if unavailable, regular ginger
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, extra-tough outer leaves removed, thick base and top of stalk cut off, middle portion of stalk chopped
  • 3 Thai red chilis
  • Tofu, vegetables, and ingredients added while the curry is simmering:
  • 2 packages extra firm tofu
  • 2 Tbsp. oil (coconut for the flavor or a natural unsaturated oil for health)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut in half, seeds removed, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium sized kabocha squash, peeled if desired, cubed
  • large handful Thai basil leaves, divided (most chopped to cook in the curry, a few leaves, or the smallest leaves, reserved for garnish)
  • several Kaffir lime leaves
  1. Combine coconut milk, tamari, shallot, garlic, galangal, lemongrass and red chilis in a high-powered blender. A powerful blender is called for because lemongrass is quite tough.
  2. Blend until smooth.
  3. Stir-fry extra firm tofu in coconut oil or your oil of choice until golden, about 15 minutes.
  4. Halve, peel, remove seeds and chop kabocha squash. To make this task easier I baked the kabocha at 350 for 20 minutes to soften it, let it cool, and then did the peeling and chopping. The skin is edible, if rather on the thick side: another option is to leave the skin on.
  5. Chop bell pepper.
  6. Combine the curry sauce, kabocha squash, and kaffir leaves in a large saucepan. Add a cup or two of water as needed at the beginning so that the squash will be covered with enough liquid to cook. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  7. Add chopped red pepper, fried tofu and chopped basil and simmer for another five minutes (I add the tofu at the end to keep it from crumbling as much).
  8. Remove kaffir leaves, serve garnished with remaining basil leaves.



{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Ivy November 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Mary, this looks so good. I must definitely try tofu.
Ivy recently posted..Penne with Mushrooms, Roasted Garlic, Cilantro and Marinara SauceMy Profile


mary November 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm

Ivy, for a non-vegetarian like you, you can make this dish with any kind of protein. At the restaurant my son and I ate at it could be ordered with beef or chicken– I just chose the tofu because that’s me.
mary recently posted..Kabocha Coconut CurryMy Profile


ATasteOfMadness November 12, 2012 at 2:28 am

I haven’t bought tofu in such a long time! I need to make a trip to the grocery store!
ATasteOfMadness recently posted..Rosebud Peanut Butter CookiesMy Profile


mary November 12, 2012 at 6:30 am

Hi Cathleen, thanks for the visit and comment! I checked out your blog, A Taste of Madness, and I’m impressed by all your healthy recipe blogging in the midst of your busy life of working and being a student. I tried to leave a comment but was thwarted by the Wordpress login– they did an update which has been making commenting difficult or impossible for me on some blogs. I don’t know whether you have time to straighten that out, but if you put in an option to comment with name and URL I could do it that way. Let me know if you make that change. Meanwhile, good luck with your juggling act getting through school and keep eating your healthy salads and drinking those smoothies!
mary recently posted..Chard, Kale and Fennel Salad with Wild Rice (Emerald City Salad)My Profile


Kiersten November 12, 2012 at 7:39 pm

I use that curry paste too–we love it! And it’s definitely easier than making it from scratch. Squash curries are my favorite thing to order at Thai restaurants and this one sounds fantastic!
Kiersten recently posted..Recipe | Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash RingsMy Profile


mary November 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

Guess I was late to discover the joys of squash curries, but now I’m on board. That curry paste has a really long shelf life in the fridge, so it’s easy to have on hand when you need it.


Sanjeeta kk November 15, 2012 at 9:23 am

Now I need to shop for Tofu..lovely curry!
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mary November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Sanjeeta, I wonder how it would be with paneer? Good, I think.
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Hannah November 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Kabocha is my all-time favorite gourd, so I’m always excited to see it used in new and delicious ways. This certainly counts! Since it’s a Japanese vegetable, I almost always take a more Japanese approach in terms of flavor, but I love the sound of your Thai-inspired spices.
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mary November 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Thanks, Hannah! I’d like to see one of your kabocha squash recipes on Bittersweet some time.
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Reeni November 24, 2012 at 2:43 am

Coconut curries are my absolute favorite and I am loving kabocha squash this year! I’ve used the green curry but never the red – time to branch out because this looks wonderful!


mary November 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Try it! I don’t really like Thai green curry but I love the red.
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Britni December 2, 2012 at 9:23 pm

This looks delicious! We enjoy exotic flavors in our house so I may have to give this a try 🙂


mary December 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm

Thanks, Britni, try it, you will love the smell as it’s simmering!
mary recently posted..Sweet Potato Vegetable Soup with Ginger, Cilantro, Coconut & LimeMy Profile


Laura December 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Love love love Thai curry… the addition of kabocha sounds great!
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mary December 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks, Laura! It’s a nice one while the kabochas are still in season!
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Veronica January 2, 2013 at 8:35 am

Wow does this sound and look good! I finally found kabocha here and really was impressed by the creamy texture. So yum.
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mary January 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

I’m glad you found kabocha, are they hard to find in Kansas? Here in Puget Sound they are in the piles of winter squash at my regular grocery stores, as well as at the Asian grocery.


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