This Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry is going to be the best pumpkin curry you ever make! Packed with so much flavor, this gluten free and vegan curry is a super comforting dish for any time of the year!
Spiced and creamy pumpkin curry – authentic Sri Lankan curry!
Looking for vegan curry recipes that are super satisfying, cozy, and delicious? A curry that even picky meat eaters will love? Then look no further, this Sri Lankan pumpkin curry has got you covered.
With robust curry flavor, and garlic, and the delicious creaminess of coconut milk, and the nuttiness of toasted coconut – this pumpkin curry is packed with comforting flavor! It’s easy to make, and it’s an authentic Sri Lankan recipe.
In this post, I’ll show you how to make this recipe with step by step instructions, plus ways to adapt this recipe as well.
Important ingredients for this curry
Type of pumpkin to use
Traditionally, we use a pumpkin that is a little bit starchy. While living in New Zealand and Australia, I used Kent pumpkin (also known as Jap pumpkin / kabocha).
In Canada, I use a pumpkin variety known as Jamaican pumpkin (Calabaza) which is very similar to the kent pumpkin.
When I was living in the US, I didn’t have access to any of these pumpkins where we lived. So I used butternut squash instead.
So you can use any of these varieties. Just know that the cook time will vary according to which pumpkin you use, and how large the pieces are cut into.
Can I use something other than pumpkin?
Yes, you can use sweet potatoes instead of pumpkin. The cooking time will be much shorter because sweet potatoes cook faster.
I use my Sri Lankan curry powder here. You can use the roasted or unroasted version for this, it’ll be just as delicious either way.
If you don’t want to make your own Sri Lankan curry powder from scratch (which I do highly recommend though), you can use store-bought Sri Lankan curry powder. Madras curry powder is a close substitute.
How to check if your store-bought curry powder is good
A curry powder is essentially a mix of spices that is used for making curries. Other spices can also be added in addition to the curry powder to make each curry unique, for instance, this black pork curry.
But DO avoid curry powders that have,
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Ginger powder
- Celery seeds / powder
- Mexican chili powder
These are not traditional ingredients in a Sri Lankan curry powder.
Instead, look for a curry powder that has a combination of,
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper or Kashmiri chili
This curry is heavy on coconut milk, since it adds creaminess to the curry. For best results, use regular full fat coconut milk. But if you must, you can use lite coconut milk too. I don’t typically use lite coconut milk since it doesn’t have as much of the coconut flavor.
Toasted desiccated coconut
This is an optional step, but a very popular technique for some Sri Lankan curries. It adds a lovely toasty, smoky flavor.
The unsweetened desiccated coconut is toasted in a non-stick pan until it starts to turn golden brown in color and is toasted. This is then ground into a powder and added to the curry.
It not only adds a lovely smoky flavor, but also helps thicken the curry.
The process of making Sri Lankan pumpkin curry
How to cut the pumpkin into pieces
Since Jamaican pumpkin is large, I usually only buy pieces that have already been cut.
Whichever pumpkin you use, you need to scoop out the seeds in the center. Then you can cut the pumpkin into pieces.
With large pumpkins, cut them into wedges that are about 2 inches in width on the skin side. Then cut each wedge into pieces that are about 1 inch thick. You can cut each piece in half for 1 x 1 inch pieces, or keep them at 2 x 1 inch as well.
Butternut squash can be prepped by first halving them and then removing the seeds. Then lay them cut side down, and cut pieces that are about 1 x 2 inches.
The important part however is that,
- They are all more or less the same size, so that they cook at the same rate.
- They are cut with the skin on. The skin will hold the pumpkin pieces together as they cook, and prevent them from disintegrating into the curry.
Prepare all the other ingredients
I like to keep the garlic cloves whole. This is because they soften in the curry, and my husband loves eating softened whole garlic cloves. That way the curry gets plenty of garlic flavor, and my husband gets to eat “curried” garlic cloves. Win win.
This curry works best with a generous amount of garlic. If you’re especially averse to it, then you can reduce it, but I do highly recommend being generous with the garlic.
You can find my Sri Lankan curry powder recipe here.
Toast the unsweetened desiccated coconut before you start cooking OR while the pumpkin curry is cooking. You will be adding this only at the end.
Once you have everything prepped, cooking this Sri Lankan pumpkin curry is easy.
In a large pot, heat some oil (you can use any kind of cooking oil) over medium heat. Add the onions and start to soften them in the pot. Add the garlic and curry leaves at the same time. This allows the base of the curry to develop.
When the onions are translucent, add the spices (including the Sri Lankan curry powder), and stir until they toast ever so slightly, so you can smell all the flavors of the spices.
Add the pumpkin and coconut milk (and some salt and a little sugar), and stir to combine. Let it simmer in the curry sauce over medium or medium – high heat (with the lid off). Top off with water only if too much of the coconut milk evaporates.
The curry is done when the pumpkin is tender. You can add more water if you’d like the curry sauce to be less thick. But take care when stirring the curry, as you don’t want to crush the soft pumpkin pieces.
When the pumpkin curry is almost done, sprinkle in the ground toasted coconut, and very gently fold it in. You can also gently shake the pot to distribute the ground coconut in the sauce.
What pairs well with this Coconut Pumpkin Curry
Pumpkin curry is always delicious with freshly cooked rice or this Sri Lankan coconut roti. It’s naturally gluten free and vegan as well.
To keep your meal plant based, you can pair your pumpkin curry with the following vegan Sri Lankan curries,
- Beetroot curry
- Jackfruit curry
- Dry green bean fried curry (skip the dried fish)
- Creamy cashew curry
- Apple curry
- Mango curry
Or if you’d like non-vegetarian / non-vegan options,
My personal favorite combination is chicken curry, apple curry, and pumpkin curry! The combination of spicy, fruity, and creamy hits the spot perfectly!
But this pumpkin curry recipe doesn’t have to be paired with another Sri Lankan curry either. It’s delicious with anything! In fact, I often eat leftovers for breakfast with just a runny yolk fried egg. Tastes like a delicious coconut curried pumpkin soup!
Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry
- 1½ tsp black mustard seeds optional, but recommended
- 2 lbs pumpkin Kent pumpkin, Jamaican pumpkin, or butternut squash
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil, or olive oil
- 1 medium red onion finely sliced
- 10 fresh curry leaves dried is fine as well, or 2 bay leaves
- 3 green chillies sliced into thick slices (jalapenos or serrano peppers are fine as well)
- 6 cloves garlic sliced or whole
- 1 ½ tbsp Sri Lankan roasted curry powder
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper use less if you don’t like it spicy
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 2 tsp sugar optional
- 1 tsp salt
- More salt to taste
Toasted coconut (to finish)
- 4 tbsp desiccated coconut roasted
- Place the mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle and crush until the seeds are coarsely ground. You can also do this in a spice grinder. Set the mustards seeds aside until needed.
- Wash the pumpkin, and then cut it into similar-sized cubes. Make sure the skin is in tact on all the pumpkin pieces. For larger pumpkins, cut into 2 inch thick wedges, and then cut 1 inch slices from the wedges. You can either keep them as 2 x 1 inch pieces, or cut them in half again for 1 x 1 inch pieces. The size doesn't have to be precise, but make sure they are all even, so that they cook evenly.
- Heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, curry leaves, and green chili, and saute until the onions have softened and are translucent.
- Next, add the curry powder, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, and crushed mustard seeds. Saute for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the pumpkin pieces, coconut milk, salt, and sugar. Mix to combine.
- Allow the curry to come to a simmer with the lid off. Continue to simmer the curry until the pumpkin is tender. This can take between 20 – 40 minutes (depending on how large the pumpkin pieces are).
- Check on the curry regularly, and add water if the liquid level is low. Gently fold / stir the mixture to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom.
- Add more salt to taste if needed.
- Add the ground and toasted coconut just before the curry is done. Gently fold it into the curry (so that you don't crush the tender pumpkin pieces). Simmer for a further 2 – 5 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
- Serve with a garnish of cilantro (optional), along with rice, and any other side dishes.
Toasted coconut (to finish)
- Make this at the beginning, or while the pumpkin is cooking.
- Place the desiccated coconut in a dry non-stick pan. Heat over medium heat while stirring frequently, until the coconut turns toasty.
- Remove the toasted coconut from the pan, and transfer into a spice grinder. Grind until you have a fine powder. Add this to the curry towards the end of the cooking time as mentioned above.
- You can also use fine desiccated coconut, and skip the grinding part.
Tips & Tricks
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