Indian Sabzi Recipe: Spicy Butternut Squash

Indian Sabzi Recipe: Spicy Butternut Squash Recipe

Spicy butternut squash sabzi is an Indian vegetable dish made with cumin seeds, fennel seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, sweet and sour ingredients (mango powder, lemon juice and sugar), butternut squash and its skin. I know what you're wondering. Yes, butternut squash skin is edible; it's just a matter of taste. I discovered this while learning to cook Indian food with Baji, my husband Lulu's late grandmother. If the skin is cooked long enough with a generous amount of water, it becomes soft and tender. The skin also helps prevent the squash from falling apart and turning all mushy.

Butternut squash sabzi is traditionally served with puri (fried flat bread). Baji tried teaching me how to make puri and all sorts of Indian flat bread, which I always failed at miserably. I find kneading and folding the dough very tricky, so usually I ask Lulu's aunt, Sheerin Auntie to make them for us. She was over recently so we got to enjoy a nice meal of puri and sabzi. Everyone should have their own Sheerin Auntie!


Yields: 6 servings

1 small butternut squash (about 5 cups)
4 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, freshly ground
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
6 dried red chiles, to taste
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 teaspoons coriander seeds, freshly ground
3/4 teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
½ teaspoon paprika
4 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1-½ teaspoons dried mango powder (see tips)
juice of a lemon
1-¼ teaspoons salt, to taste
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


Peel half of the squash. Seed and cut the butternut squash into quarters, lengthwise. Cut into ½-inch thick pieces.

In a small pot, heat the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and 4 dried red chiles. The seeds will start popping and darken in the hot oil. Immediately add the ground coriander, ground fennel seeds, remaining dried chiles, red chili powder, paprika and turmeric powder. Wet the mixture with a little water (about 1/3 cup). Cook for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. The mixture should turn into a thick paste. Add the fresh ginger. Stir well until fragrant.

Add the sliced butternut squash. Toss well until the squash is coated in the seasoning mixture. Cover with 1-½ to 2 cups of water; the water should barely cover the squash. Bring to a boil for about 3-4 minutes. Cover, immediately decrease the heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash softens. Season with salt. Keep stirring every now and then so the squash don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the water evaporates, check the softness of the butternut squash (add more water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). The butternut squash should be tender but shouldn't fall apart. Check seasoning. Finish with mango powder, lemon juice and granulated sugar. Stir well. Cover and let stand until ready to serve.

Transfer to a serving bowl.

Bon appétit!


For an acidic and tart taste, dried mango powder (also known as amchur) is added to the sabzi. Amchur is made of finely ground flesh of sun-dried green mangoes. It's an important step toward the end of cooking. You can find the beige-colored powder at any Indian store. If you don't have any, you could use lemon or lime juice.

Fenugreek seeds (also called methi) give a subtle, slightly bitter taste to the sabzi. They can be found in any Indian stores.

The amount of sugar depends on the level of sweetness of the butternut squash; you want to balance the sweet and sour flavors.

You can create the same Indian sabzi dish using acorn squash. It's equally delicious.

You can find all the ingredients listed in most Indian markets.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 4, 2011.


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