This chicken pumpkin curry is creamy, hearty, and delicious. Combined with tender chicken in a coconut milk curry sauce, this savory and sweet dish is a great way to use chunks of pumpkin in a main dish, making it a fabulously different way to enjoy pumpkin spice!
Autumn rolls around and pumpkins start showing up everywhere.
People carve them for Halloween, roast their seeds, and pumpkin patches pop up for photo-ops.
People prepare months in advance try to win awards and trophies for growing the biggest (and automatically ugliest) pumpkins. What they do with these pumpkins afterward, I have no idea.
Of course, there is also the much anticipated pumpkin spice latte that coffee shops start to sell (I, personally, avoid it at all costs, but that's just me).
And of course, on the food side of things, you see pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins occupying space in grocery stores, bakeries, and social media.
But pumpkins are so much more than all of that.
This recipe uses pumpkin served in chunks in a delightful chicken curry, highlighting a different way to enjoy this unique orange fruit, AND without turning it into a puree first!
Preparing The Ingredients
As with many recipes (especially Asian recipes), it is good practice to do all the ingredient preparation done before you start cooking. Each step in cooking the dish can happen quite quickly in some cases, so it is good to save time and have everything ready to go.
With that in mind, preparing the ingredients includes getting the sauce ingredients mixed and ready. In a measuring cup or bowl, I combine the chicken broth, coconut sugar, fish sauce, and tapioca starch and give it a good stir before setting it aside. The purpose of the tapioca starch (cornstarch is okay) is to help thicken the sauce when it is cooking.
Sauce ingredients done, I then prepare the bulk of the dish. On one plate, I have my chopped onions minced garlic, and on another, I have the boneless skinless chicken thighs which I have chopped into chunks and mixed with the salt, pepper and tapioca starch. Finally, there's one more plate with the pumpkin which has already been peeled, seeds removed, and cut into chunks.
Other ingredients that get added in on their own like the oil, curry powder, coconut milk, and water are also ready and at hand for when their time in the recipe comes.
Let's get cooking!
Cooking the Curry
The ingredients, as you saw above, are very simple, and putting the entire dish together is also quite simple. Don't let the simplicity of the dish fool you, though, as there are multiple layers of flavor to this curry that build as you cook, melding together deliciously at the end.
The first level of flavor comes from browning the seasoned chicken pieces in some oil in a wok or skillet. Browning creates flavor on the pieces of chicken, and it also leaves brown bits in the pan, or fond, which also contributes to flavor.
Remove the chicken when it is about ¾ done, then add a bit more oil to the pan to toast the curry powder. You could simply stir curry powder into the sauce later on in the cooking process, but doing this step to heat the spices helps them to release their aromas.
Next come the onions and garlic for a quick toss in the spices before adding the pumpkin chunks. Another quick mix and then comes the sauce ingredients.
The natural sweetness from the pumpkin chunks and coconut milk, and umami from the chicken broth and fish sauce are the final layers of flavor to the chicken pumpkin curry.
Add the browned chicken pieces and any juices back into the pan, mix everything well, and bring the mixture back to a boil to heat everything through. The pumpkin chunks cook quickly and is ready when you can poke a fork into it easily.
And that's it...dinner is ready!
If, for some reason, you can't find fresh pumpkin, or if you simply don't like pumpkin, feel free to substitute it with potatoes or sweet potatoes. Butternut squash is also a good option, as are bell peppers, eggplant, or daikon (Chinese radish).
You can use chicken breasts in place of chicken thighs. Chunks of firm fish could also work in this dish, but I would recommend skipping the step of browning and simply add them straight to the curry sauce near the end and cooking through.
Skip the meat altogether and simply have a vegetable coconut curry, using vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, etc.
Tapioca starch is what helps to thicken the sauce and it can be swapped 1:1 with cornstarch.
Store leftovers (if you have any) in the fridge and reheat in a pot over low heat on the stovetop.
If you're looking for another recipe that uses pumpkin, check out my Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake. In this case, the pumpkin is hidden in the cake, but it offers sweetness and the added benefit of nutrition to the cake, all without you knowing it!
Finally, you're interested in more curry recipes, be sure to check out some others I have made, like Seared Salmon Coconut Curry, Rich and Creamy Butter Chicken, Curry Chicken Rice Bake, or Chicken Skewers with Thai Curry Dipping Sauce. They're all different, but all delicious!
So the next time you look at a pumpkin, look beyond the pumpkin pies, breads, soups, jack-o-lanterns, roasted seeds, flavored coffees, etc. and think about how you can enjoy it in this chunky hearty creamy chicken pumpkin curry for your next meal!
Creamy Chicken Pumpkin Curry
- Combine chicken pieces with 2 teaspoons tapioca starch, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and black pepper. Stir well to coat. Set aside.
- Combine chicken broth, fish sauce, coconut sugar, and tapioca starch in a measuring cup or bowl and whisk well. Set aside.
- Heat a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil and add the chicken.
- Brown the chicken on both sides, cooking until chicken is about ¾ cooked; remove from pan and set aside.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and add curry powder. Quickly stir for about 10 seconds to toast the spices. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan with your spatula.
- Add onions, garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add pumpkin chunks to the pan and stir.
- Whisk reserved chicken broth mixture and add to the pot with the coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil.
- Add chicken back to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes to heat through and until pumpkin chunks are fork tender. Sauce should naturally thicken.
- Transfer to serving dish and garnish with toasted sliced almonds and green onion, if desired. Serve with hot steamed rice.
- Substitute chicken thighs with chicken breasts, if desired.
- In place of pumpkin, use potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, daikon, green or red bell peppers, etc.
- Adjust curry powder, fish sauce, and other seasonings according to your own taste.
- If sauce is not thick enough, mix ½ teaspoon tapioca starch with 1 teaspoon cold water into a slurry and stir it into the sauce.
- Tapioca starch can be replaced with cornstarch.
- Serve over hot white rice, cauliflower rice, or with flatbread for dipping.
- Top with chopped scallions and sliced almonds, if desired.
- Leftovers kept in the fridge reheat well.
**This recipe was originally published on October 23rd, 2018 and republished on October 18th, 2020 with recipe updates, and new photos and writing.