Make Ahead

Coconut & Chile Braised Winter Squash

December 21, 2020
13 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis.
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This warming, vegetable-packed braise is the type of dinner I would happily eat every night of the week. It’s rich and decadent without being heavy, and it hits so many flavor notes (spicy, tangy, savory, sweet!) despite its short ingredient list. It also happens to be vegan. It’s a nod to the Harissa-Stewed Butternut Squash from Toro Bravo—the same restaurant in Portland, Oregon that gave us this "Genius" Radicchio Salad with Manchego Vinaigrette.

For my rendition, I used coconut milk versus heavy cream as the braising liquid, added crushed coriander and rosemary (one of my favorite flavor pairings with squash), and streamlined the steps to make it more weeknight friendly. It’s a dish that’s far more than the sum of its parts: The starches of the squash beautifully meld with and thicken the coconut milk, and the fiery kick from the chile sauce is nicely tempered by the rest of the components. I usually reach for harissa when making this dish, but other types of chile sauces, such as gochujang or sambal oelek, stand in nicely.

A few notes: It’s important to get a good char on the squash before braising it; this step brings out the nutty-sweetness of the squash and lends smoky depth. The easiest, least messy way to do this is by broiling the squash on a sheet pan. If you don’t have a broiler, sear the squash in a skillet (in two or more batches) without crowding the pieces. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • 2 to 3 pounds winter squash (such as 1 large butternut, or 2 medium delicata)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt plus freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 13.5 ounces can unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)
  • 3 tablespoons chile sauce, such as harissa, or to taste (see author note)
  • Couscous or rice, for serving
  1. To prep the squash: Peel the squash if using butternut; no need to peel delicata. Halve lengthwise and remove seeds and stringy flesh. Cut into 3/4-inch chunks.
  2. On a sheet pan, toss the squash with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, or just enough to coat. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Heat the broiler with an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches from the heating element. Broil the squash until nicely charred on the first side, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and broil about 1 to 2 minutes longer. (The total time will depend on the intensity of your broiler, so keep a close eye on the squash!)
  4. In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sauté onion until tender, about 5 minutes (a little browning around the edges is fine) then add the garlic, coriander, and rosemary and sauté a minute longer. Add the charred squash, stirring to coat it evenly in the oil.
  5. Add the coconut milk, harissa, and another pinch or two of salt, and bring to a simmer. Half cover the pan with the lid, and braise for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Add a little water (using the empty can to get every last bit of coconut milk!), as needed, if the sauce starts to get a little dry.
  6. Adjust salt to taste, and add more chile sauce if desired. Serve warm with couscous or rice as a complete meal, or as a side to virtually any protein.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sarah Greenblatt
    Sarah Greenblatt
  • Kristen Davenport Katz
    Kristen Davenport Katz
  • Karen Spardello Sagaspe
    Karen Spardello Sagaspe
  • EmilyC

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

20 Reviews

Clementine April 9, 2022
I was shocked at how good this was for so few ingredients and how easy it was. I used kabocha squash, dried sage instead of rosemary, and gochujang. It was delicious over rice.
elfleming January 10, 2022
I was so excited to see that this is Whole30 compliant!! And it is so so good. I added spinach and served it with cauliflower rice
EmilyC January 11, 2022
Wonderful, glad you liked it!
Jaustria79 January 5, 2022
Love this! A very flexible and quick autumn or winter stew. Added 1/2 block extra firm tofu to make it a complete meal. Had some extra purple sweet potatoes so I roasted them with the squash in the air fryer. Didn’t have ground coriander so I used the fresh cilantro stems (also garnished with cilantro leaves). Added a splash of lime.
EmilyC January 11, 2022
Yay, glad it hit the spot, and you're right, it's very flexible!
mymymyra February 24, 2021
Very tasty and easy! I love how the sweet coconut flavor played off the spice (I used gochujang). I added chickpeas and red lentils and it made a complete meal. I didn't have any rosemary but I thought it was tasty without. I think next time I would caramelize the onions more to develop more flavor. I will be making this again!
EmilyC February 25, 2021
Thanks so much for your note -- happy you liked it and will make again!
Victoria H. February 22, 2021
Absolutely delicious, even without any rosemary at all (I look forward to having it with). Charring the squash took longer in my Breville oven, but yes, the char brings out amazing depth of flavor. Served it as a side with a nice piece of opah – stellar. I will be making this often. Thank you so much!
EmilyC February 25, 2021
Yay, happy to hear this -- thanks Victoria!
Sarah G. February 6, 2021
Stupendous, even using dried rosemary.
EmilyC February 17, 2021
So good to hear, thanks Sarah!
Kristen D. January 27, 2021
FABULOUS. I've made it twice in two weeks and I make it WITH that manchego raddichio salad you mention (only I sub a bit of blue cheese and up the honey in the dressing) and it goes so well with this squash dish, just wow.
EmilyC January 28, 2021
Hi Kristen -- thanks so much for your note! So happy you've made this twice, and GREAT idea to pair this dish with the radicchio salad! I'm going to try that next time! ; )
Kristen D. February 6, 2021
Literally I'm making this every 2-4 days at this point although admittedly I've been shifting things up a bit-- I added chunked beets and carrots once, and once added some lamb chops to the chunked beet/squash/carrot mix.
PLNelson January 23, 2021
added can of chickpeas, served over quinoa cooked in veggie broth. big handful of chopped parsley on top..delicious!
EmilyC January 27, 2021
So glad! Thanks for trying this, Petra!
Karen S. January 4, 2021
Made this tonight and it was amazing! Made it as a side dish to grilled pork chops. I basically only ate this.
EmilyC January 5, 2021
So glad, Karen! Thanks for trying this and circling back. Happy New Year!
Carmen January 2, 2021
Delicious and very rich. The ultimate comfort food. So simple too. I used gochujang and it came out great. Will be making this again.
EmilyC January 3, 2021
Wonderful -- so glad you liked it, Carmen! Thanks for trying it and Happy New Year!