Gluten-Free Coconut Curry Acorn Squash


The time is ripe to use harvest-fresh acorn squash from your garden or the farmer’s market. Serve this gluten-free, dairy-free curry over rice or gluten-free pasta or add your favorite vegetables for a chunky stew. Its mild, slightly sweet flavor delivers exotic flair to your dinner or potluck. Alter spices to suit your palate.

2 pounds (1 large) acorn squash, scrubbed well and
    rinsed (organic if possible)
4-6 cups water (to cook squash)
2 tablespoons coconut oil or vegetable oil of
    choice, divided
1 small diced onion or ½ teaspoon gluten-free asafetida*
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon kalonji seeds,** optional
1 teaspoon cumin seed or ½ teaspoon ground cumin powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon lemon or lime zest
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper***, more to taste
⅛ teaspoon cardamom
1 cup coconut milk (not light)
1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot
2-3 tablespoons cold water
1 tablespoon turmeric
Precooked vegetables of choice (½ cup per serving), optional

1. To give squash a roasted flavor, cut it in quarters and oil lightly. Place on cookie sheet or in oven pan and bake for 15 minutes in 350-degree preheated oven. Alternatively, grill squash just until edges turn brown. (In a hurry? This step can be skipped.)

2. Remove squash from oven and place in a large saucepan. Fill with water just to cover squash. Bring water to a boil.

3. Cook squash just until soft. Remove from water and place in a bowl until cool enough to handle. Use a spoon to scoop flesh from the peel. Discard peel. Reserve water.

4. In a large frying pan with deep sides, add 2 to 3 cups reserved water and peeled squash. Set aside.

5. In a small frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil and cook diced onions until translucent. Remove onions and set aside.

6. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to frying pan and heat until sizzling. Add ginger, mustard seed, kalonji seeds (if using), cumin seed, salt, black pepper, lemon zest, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and cardamom. Cook, stirring constantly until mustard seeds pop or oil starts to brown.

7. Carefully pour spice mixture into large frying pan with squash and water. Add onions and coconut milk, stirring to combine. Turn heat on to simmer.

8. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch or arrowroot with 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water. Add to pan of squash mixture, stirring until combined.

9. Simmer mixture over low heat for about 10 minutes, adding reserved water ¼ cup at a time if it gets too thick. (Cornstarch will thicken and milk will evaporate; adding a little water will assure curry doesn’t burn.) Continue to stir as mixture simmers. If mixture is too thin, continue simmering until it thickens to your liking.

10. Stir in turmeric for a bright yellow color and great taste. If not adding additional vegetables, let mixture simmer for 2 minutes to allow turmeric to marry with other flavors.

11. If desired, add pre-cooked vegetables (potatoes, green peas, spinach, etc.) or fried tofu and simmer until vegetables are warm. (If using frozen vegetables, rinse well with cold water, let thaw 10 minutes, rinse again and add to squash; cook until vegetables are tender.)

12. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve curry over rice or gluten free-pasta or alone in bowls as a stew.

*Asafetida adds exotic flavor that’s treasured in Asian and Indian cuisine. It can be used to replace onions and garlic. Most asafetida contains wheat, so check labels carefully. Gluten-free asafetida is available from Frontier Natural Products Co-op ( and Supreme Spice (

**Kalonji seeds are also called “onion seeds,” but they're not related to onions.

***Cayenne pepper gets hotter as it cooks so unless you like it hot, add it carefully.

Each serving contains 185 calories, 12g total fat, 10g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g protein.

Recipe developed by Madalene Rhyand, director of Living Without’s test kitchen.

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