This creamy pumpkin stew with spinach is a delicious one-pot meal packed with vegetables cooked to perfection in a broth. Fork-tender pumpkin, wilted spinach and mild zucchini are stewed with aromatics and warm spices which are then thickened with Greek yoghurt resulting in a wholesome, satisfying vegetarian meal.
Easy to prepare, mildly spiced, warm and comforting, this is ‘fall-in-a-bowl’, a perfect meal on a chilly autumn or winter’s day.
Vegetarian pumpkin stew
This creamy vegetarian pumpkin stew with spinach and zucchini is like autumn or fall on a plate. What time is better to make this stew than when pumpkins are in full season?
Pumpkin or butternut squash are such great vegetables to use in a wide variety of dishes. Don’t miss out on these recipes if you love butternut squash or pumpkin:
So, if you love pumpkins, you will love this recipe. Here’s why:
- Easy meal: This recipe comes together fairly easily with pantry-friendly, seasonal ingredients.
- One-pot meal: This stew can be eaten as a meal by itself. Serve with some slices of bread or rice.
- Full of flavor: When combined, the vegetables, broth and spices add lots of warming fall flavors to this dish making it a delicious and comforting meal.
- Customisable: This stew is very customisable, meaning many other ingredients can also easily be added. Think about adding sweet potatoes, bell peppers, chickpeas or green beans.
Which ingredients to use
- Pumpkin: For this recipe, you can use any pumpkin you have on hand or that you like. Examples you can use are Hokkaido, Sugar, Kabocha or Cinderella pumpkin. I have used butternut squash for this recipe as I love the slightly sweet and nutty flavors of this winter squash.
- Onion: I use yellow onions for this recipe to create a good flavor base for the stew.
- Garlic: Use more or less than indicated depending on your love for garlic. Fresh garlic cloves will create more depth of flavor than garlic powder.
- Spinach: Use either baby spinach or chopped spinach leaves. Make sure to remove the thick stems of the spinach when not using baby spinach.
- Zucchini: The mild flavor of zucchini pairs really well with butternut squash. No need to peel the zucchini as it ads extra color and a bit of texture to the stew.
- Tomatoes: Use either a can of peeled tomatoes of fresh tomatoes. I chose to add a couple of chopped fresh tomatoes for some extra acidity. No need to peel the tomatoes as the skin will become soft after cooking.
- Olive oil: Olive oil can be substituted with a neutral cooking oil for sautéing the vegetables.
- Vegetable broth: For this pumpkin recipe I prefer stewing the vegetables in a vegetable broth rather than a chicken broth, which is also fine, but I prefer to keep it fully vegetarian flavor-wise. Use either homemade or store bought vegetable broth or use water with stock cubes.
- Greek yoghurt: Adding a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt makes the stew creamy and thickens the sauce. The amount of Greek yoghurt will depend on how liquid the sauce is after cooking and the desired thickness according to personal preference.
- Seasoning: This creamy butternut squash stew calls for warming and flavorsome spices. I add bay leaves, ground cumin, ground cinnamon and mild smoked paprika powder. The smoked paprika adds warmth but also a bit of punch.
- Garnish: Serve this pumpkin stew with lightly roasted pumpkin seeds, fresh parsley, fresh chives or fresh cilantro.
Tips for making pumpkin stew
- Chop the vegetables in equal sizes: To ensure equal cooking of the vegetables, make sure to chop them in equally sized cubes (per type of vegetable).
- Don’t skip sautéing the vegetables: Sautéing the vegetables in olive oil or any neutral cooking oil helps to release their natural flavors. The longer the vegetables are caramelised the more flavor base gets created, the better the stew. Don’t skip this step, and take your time.
- Layer the flavors: This creamy stew is not made by adding all the ingredients at the same time in a pot. The depth of flavor is created by layering the different ingredients to create more flavor and adding the vegetables to the stew according to the required cooking time. So follow the recipe step by step to get the best result.
- Don’t overcook the vegetables: This vegetable stew is ready when the vegetables are fork-tender. This means that they are soft enough to be easily pierced with a fork with minimal effort but still maintain their texture and shape.
- Total cooking time can vary: The total cooking time of this stew will vary depending how thick the vegetables are cut and the type of pumpkin used. So when cooking, do check the softness of the veggies regularly in order not to overcook them.
- Add the spinach at the last moment: As spinach cooks really fast, you will want to add it during the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. It needs to be tender but still bright and tasty.
- Add Greek yoghurt at the last moment: This should speak for itself. It is important to only add the Greek yoghurt when the stew is nearly ready.
Best way to add Greek yoghurt
The Greek yoghurt is added to thicken the sauce and to make this stew nice and creamy. Don’t add all the Greek yoghurt at the same time in the hot pan as this will surely make it separate from the sauce. Add it one spoonful at a time and stir well, but gently, until all the yoghurt has been mixed in the sauce, only then add the next spoon.
This will also give you control over how much yoghurt to add as just a few spoons is enough to make the sauce thicker and creamier without adding too much. Dumping a whole 1 litre tub in one go won’t end well.
Another way is to add a few spoons of yoghurt in a separate mixing bowl then and add a few spoons of hot liquid from the stew over it and whisk together well. When the sauce is mixed with the yoghurt, add it back in the stew and stir gently. Repeat, if necessary.
Can I also use frozen vegetables?
You can use frozen vegetables to make this creamy spinach pumpkin stew. Just keep in mind the following tips and tricks when using frozen vegetables:
- Frozen vegetables contain more liquid which will be released when cooking, so keep that in mind when adding broth as otherwise the stew will be too watery.
- Part of the flavor base is made by sautéing (caramelising) the vegetables in olive oil, before adding broth. Due to frozen veggies containing more water, caramelising is more difficult, so the taste of the end result will be a bit different.
- The total cooking time as indicated in the recipe card is based on fresh vegetables, so it can / will vary when using frozen vegetables.
This pumpkin stew with spinach and zucchini can be served either for lunch or dinner. But considering it is also great to make ahead and store, you’ll be able to take it to work for lunch, or serve as an easy and fast weeknight dinner after work.
Serve with any of the following side dishes:
- Bread: Slices of French loaf, crispy baguette, sourdough or flatbread goes well to mop up all the sauces of the stew.
- Grains: This stew tastes great over cooked white rice, or why not trying out a flavored rice like Greek lemon rice or spicy Mexican rice, or the healthier cauliflower rice.
- Salad: Make a more filling meal and serve extra veggie side dishes with this stew like, sautéd green beans, Italian stewed peppers or grilled Italian green beans.
- Potatoes: Consider serving mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes or grilled potatoes with this stew.
How to store
This creamy stew with pumpkin and spinach is perfect to make in advance in larger batches for later use. In fact, the day after, this stew will even taste better as the flavors will have had time to further develop.
After cooking, allow to cool to room temperature, transfer in airtight containers and place in the fridge for up to 3 days. This pumpkin stew is also great for freezing and can be kept in the freezer in sealed containers for up to 3 months. To re-use, leave to thaw in the fridge overnight and re-heat in the microwave oven or in a pan on the stove top over low heat.
More stew recipes to try
- Flemish beef stew
- Wild boar stew with mushrooms
- Spanish chorizo and chickpea stew
- Chicken Normandy with apple and cider
Creamy pumpkin stew with spinach
- 1½ pounds (or 600 grams) butternut squash or pumpkin peeled and cubed
- 1 cup (or 225 grams) baby spinach
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup (or 175 grams) zucchini cubed
- 2 tomatoes diced
- ½ cup (or 125 ml) vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika powder dulce
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- pumpkin seeds roasted
- fresh parsley
- fresh chives
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a thick bottom pan (Dutch oven or skillet) on medium heat. Sauté the onions for 4-5 minutes until translucent and softened.
- Add the garlic and cubed butternut squash and stir to combine. Sauté for 4 minutes then add the zucchini, tomatoes and all the seasoning (cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaves and cinnamon). Sauté for 1 minute.
- Pour in the vegetable broth. Don't worry if the vegetables are not fully covered as they will steam. Bring the liquid to a boil, than reduce to low heat, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the spinach, season with salt and pepper and continue cooking on low heat until the spinach wilts. This will take about 5 minutes. Stir to combine and the stew is ready when all the vegetables are fork-tender.
- When the stew is ready, remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt, one spoonful at a time, while continuing to gently stir until all the yoghurt is fully blended with the sauce.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with fresh parsley, chives, roasted pumpkin seeds or fresh cilantro.
- Greek yoghurt: Another method to prevent the yoghurt from curdling when adding it to the hot stew is to first add the yoghurt in a separate small mixing bowl, then add two spoons of hot liquid from the stew. Now whisk well until the yoghurt is blended with the warm sauce, then add the yogurt/sauce mix to the stew while stirring gently.
- Amount of Greek yoghurt: The amount of Greek yoghurt depends on how much liquid you still have in the stew after cooking. It is added to thicken the sauce, so add a few spoons, 1 at a time, until the sauce is creamy and thickened to your liking.