This hearty pumpkin curry is an autumnal twist on a classic butter chicken. Pumpkin puree replaces heavy cream for a lighter, healthier, but just as hearty curry. Diced chicken pieces marinate in a spiced yogurt marinade before browned and then cooked fully in a thick and warming sauce. | Gluten Free + Whole30 + Dairy Free Options
I give credit for this pumpkin curry idea to the Indian Pumpkin Butter Chickpea Curry I found over on Half Baked Harvest. It sounded so cozy and seasonal, I had to make it – or at least my take on a pumpkin ‘butter’ chicken.
I’ll start off by saying that it’s not the most authentic recipe in the world. There’s no heavy cream and plenty of opportunities to swap out butter/yoghurt for non dairy alternatives. That all being said this curry is just as warming, hearty and downright delicious as any takeaway curry you can get.
So let’s get to it!
Pumpkin Curry Steps
To sum it up quickly it comes down to a few basic steps:
- Marinate the chicken.
- Brown the chicken.
- Make the sauce.
- Add the chicken back to the pan & simmer.
To break it down a little more in depth:
Marinate the Chicken
Like most good curry’s, this one starts out with a simple chicken marinade: plain yoghurt, garlic, ginger and a few spices.
Mix it up and then stir in your chicken pieces. You can use either thighs or breasts – I prefer the darker meat here but it’s up to you. Whichever meat you choose, just make sure it’s skinless and boneless first.
In order to keep this dairy free, I chose to use a dairy free, unsweetened coconut yoghurt. If coconut yoghurt is hard to come by you can also use full fat coconut milk/coconut cream (make sure it’s unsweetened). If keeping this dairy free isn’t an issue then just stick to plain yoghurt.
Once mixed, cover and let your chicken marinate at least 30 minutes. If you’re able to – try planning ahead and prep the chicken the day before you make this curry. This will give your chicken longer to marinate (which will make for more tender chicken) and it will mean less work when you actual prep the curry.
Make the Curry
Once your chicken is ready to go, begin searing your chicken pieces in a large skillet or pan.
- Only begin adding the chicken when the oil is hot. Contact with hot oil will form nice crust on your chicken.
- Fry the chicken pieces in batches of 2 or 3 to prevent overcrowding. Overcrowding will also prevent the chicken from browning properly.
- Keep the charred bits that form when browning the chicken. The brown bits = flavour. If the brown bits end up burning you can always discard them before making the sauce.
Once all of your chicken pieces have been seared, remove them from the pan/skillet and set aside on a plate as your prep the sauce.
Start out by frying your onions. You’ll need to add more fat to your pan at this point. If you need to keep this dish dairy free you can use more coconut oil or opt for vegan butter. If dairy isn’t a problem then use either dairy or ghee.
Fry the onions in your chosen fat for about 5 minutes and then add the garlic, ginger, tomato paste and curry spices. Continue frying everything another couple of minutes. Stir well to keep everything from burning.
Next, stir in the coconut milk and pumpkin puree. Mix until a thick sauce forms and then let the sauce simmer and cook about 10 minutes. You want to give the sauce time to reduce down and let the flavours all meld together.
Taste and season as you need – add more salt if you feel it needs it. You can take this time to adjust some of the seasonings to suit your preferences. Finally, add the chicken back to the pan, stir and then cook another 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and that’s it!
Serve this pumpkin curry topped over a bed of rice and paired with a couple of gluten free flatbread/naan to dip into the sauce. If you’re looking to keep your carbs down you can always serve over some cauliflower rice.
More Curry Recipes You Might Enjoy
- Dairy Free Butter Chicken
- Tomato Coconut Curry Chicken
- Chicken Korma with Coconut Milk
- Tomato & Turmeric Shrimp Curry
- Yellow Cauliflower Chickpea Curry
- Stir Fried Broccoli Potato Curry
- 1/2 cup yogurt (I used dairy free coconut yoghurt but you can use any plain yoghurt)
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite sized chunks (can sub with chicken breast)
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 white or yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee (non dairy butter if needed or more coconut oil)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon minced or grated garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt + more to taste
- 1 (14 oz) can unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 1 cup (225 g) pumpkin puree
Marinate the Chicken
- In a medium sized bowl: add the marinade ingredients (yoghurt, ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder and salt).
- Mix together until fully combined and then stir in the chicken pieces until coated in the yoghurt blend.
- Cover the chicken and let marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
- Heat the coconut oil to a large skillet over a medium heat. When hot, add the chicken pieces to the skillet and fry until all sides are browned (about 3 minutes). You may need to fry the chicken in batches of 2-3 to prevent the pan from crowding. Once browned, remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. The chicken will cook fully in the sauce later.
- Add the butter or ghee (or coconut oil) to the same skillet you used for the chicken. When hot, add the onions and fry until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the ginger, garlic, tomato paste and spices (garam masala, curry powder, coriander, cumin and salt) and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and pumpkin to the skillet. Stir until a thick, mostly smooth sauce forms and let simmer for 10 to let the sauce thicken slightly.
- Add the chicken back to the skillet, stir and let the curry simmer another 8-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is bubbly.
- Taste and season with more salt if needed. Top with fresh cilantro and serve over rice (or cauliflower rice) and with gluten free naan.