One-pot Greek pumpkin stew called “Kolokitha Stifado” in Greek: a luscious stew that can easily be turned into a hearty, silky soup coming right from the Cretan cuisine to your table. Simple ingredients like pumpkin or butternut squash, onions, mushrooms, and chestnuts, cooked the Greek way (with onions) and resulting in earthy flavors & savory sweetness. Served with homemade bread, olives, and wine.
STEW OR SOUP? WHY NOT BOTH?
With the weather turning colder, it’s so nice to embrace this change with a warming bowl of homemade pumpkin stew. Or soup? What the heck! Let’s have both! Today I may want to enjoy a stew but another day we scream “SOUP DAY” in the house. So I make just an additional step and I hand blend everything into a smooth soup.
It’s nice to have choices and to serve the same food but in a completely different form. Because this dish can be super versatile. You may serve it as a main meal either as a stew or as a soup but then the following day leftovers can easily be an amazing side dish. Additionally, how about serving it along with your favorite grain? Pasta, rice (preferably brown), quinoa, couscous, etc. Brilliant and zero-waste cooking = delicious flavors and less time in the kitchen (more money in our wallet- Amen!).
THE HISTORY BEHIND THIS RECIPE
Greek traditional dishes always come with a historical background. Do you want to know about it? If not, no problem… Jump to Recipe.
If you are curious about what stories are behind a humble pumpkin stew, go ahead and keep on reading!
A Greek yiayia (γιαγιά in Greek = your grandmother or just any senior woman) would probably have freaked out if she had read this post. This kind of dish is hardly worth mentioning recipe. It doesn’t need any special cooking skills because it is a one-pot “throw in everything that I have in hand” meal. And the basic material is butternut squash! My yiayia had been detesting pumpkin because, during the 2nd World War, it was served so often that people were totally sick of it.
Pumpkin is an easy to cultivate, resistant to harsh winter conditions, and long self-life vegetable. Of course, it is delicious too but eating it every day is kind of harsh. Well, I guess, when you starve, you end up eating whatever is offered but you don’t have to like it. That’s the reason behind the aversion of old generations to pumpkins.
As mentioned several times in this blog, one of the main reasons Mediterranean Greek dishes are delicious is the combinations and cooking techniques coming out of necessity/poverty: living only off what you can grow, some dairy products from the flock, and zero food waste. The meat was consumed only a few times yearly, mostly during family celebrations (like marriage) or religious celebrations (like Christmas).
That’s why Mediterranean Greek cuisine is called peasant or poor man’s cuisine. Peasant foods are predominantly plant-based with vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. The variety and deliciousness of vegan/vegetarian dishes are unrivaled. Since you are here, you already know it!
THE INGREDIENTS FOR PUMPKIN STEW
What kind of pumpkin?
You might opt for the most readily pumpkin/winter squash available in your area. Any variety will work well here. If you’re fresh out of pumpkins, substitute with butternut squash, as I did. Use either 2 small squash or 1 medium squash.
Alternatively, you may want to rush things a little bit and opt for tinned pumpkin puree. By all means, knock yourself out. By the way, send me a couple of tins. It is hard to find tinned products in the Mediterranean area.
Lots of onions: Greek stifado
You are going to cook Greek stifado which will make you a respectful home cook. At least by Greek standards.
In Greece, we call stifado the dishes that include lots of onions. Traditionally we use pearl onions but other also small-sized onions work just fine. To give you an idea about the onion quantity, the main ingredient (poultry, seafood, meat, and vegetables) is usually equal in weight to the number of onions. There are limitless variations of stifado dishes and you may add even fruits, nuts, and all kinds of herbs and spices. So if you like onions, this is your food to taste. You are going to love it!
Garlic, tomato, red wine, vinegar, bay leaves
These ingredients are often included in a stifado recipe and create an amazingly flavorful base. You will find them in almost every stifado dish.
I find this vegan pumpkin recipe too flavorful so I usually don’t add too many spices. I like nutmeg and I propose cumin as well but even though my clan doesn’t like it. Nevertheless, it is an excellent addition to this dish.
Chestnuts: raw or pre-cooked?
I use raw shelled chestnuts which need to be boiled and the shells removed. I know it sounds like too much trouble and, truth be told, it does. But the pre-cooked chestnuts I find around my area have nothing to do with the raw ones. Totally tasteless. So it’s a big “no” from me!
See how to boil chestnuts below (recipe card). It isn’t rocket science but it’s a hands-on task, for sure. You won’t need a big quantity for this recipe, so I advise you to boil some more since you make the trouble. Add them to salads, soups, and stews, or eat them as they are because they are super delicious.
If you don’t have any chestnuts in hand, replace them with nuts such as hazelnuts or pecans. They’ll work just fine.
Any type of mushroom will add an earthier flavor to the sweet combo of onion-squash. Probably I would avoid dried porcini because their flavor is too strong and maybe it won’t fit well with the rest of the ingredients. I promise I will test it and then come back to the recipe with my suggestion.
If you are using raw chestnuts, prepare these first.
Use a serrated knife to slice one way and then the other to create a cross in the shell. Then turn over and do the same on the other side. Place the curved chestnuts into a small pan and cover them with boiling water. Simmer gently on medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes.
Peel or slice off the squash’s skin. Chop up the flesh into cubes. If you want to make a stew chop them up into larger cubes (about 1 inch). If you like soup then cut them into smaller cubes (about 1/2 inch) to reduce cooking time.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot sauté onion wedges until soft. About 10 minutes. Add the cubed squash, the garlic, and gradually the rest of the ingredients: mushrooms, tomato, wine, vinegar, chestnuts, bay leaves, nutmeg, and cumin (optional). Season to taste. Simmer to medium-low heat for about 20-30 more minutes stirring occasionally.
If you decide to make a soup, use a hand blender or transfer the soup to a blending machine and blend until smooth.
MY PUMPKIN STEW / SOUP IS READY! NOW WHAT?
No matter the version, don’t forget the wine. Preferably white, Vidiano, Viognier, or Côtes du Rhône. Cheers!
CAN THIS PUMPKIN STEW BE STORED OR FROZEN?
Yes and yes!
Keep it in the fridge in a sealed glass food container for up to 3 days. Alternatively, freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight and then reheat in a pan or pot over low heat until just slightly simmering.
If you make this recipe, you have to let me know! I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Bookmark this recipe and leave your rate and comment below, or take a photo with your Vegan Pumpkin Recipes: Butternut squash with onions and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood.
Greek Pumpkin Stew
- 1 ½ pounds (680g) about 4 cups of ½-inch cubed butternut squash or any other pumpkin
- 1 ½ pounds (680g) about 2 cups of 1-inch cubed butternut squash or any other pumpkin
FOR SOUP & STEW
- 1 ½ pounds (680g) about 3 cups onions or pearl onions, cut into wedges
- ½ cup (120ml) olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 10-15 raw chestnuts
- 10-15 cooked & de-shelled chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 5-6 oyster mushrooms or any other kind, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (120ml) dry red wine
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 cup (250g) tomato sauce (passata)
- 2 bay leaves
- A pinch of nutmeg
- A pinch of cumin (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
PREPARE THE RAW CHESTNUTS
- Use a serrated knife and firmly hold the nut. Slice one way and then the other to create a cross in the shell. Then turn over and do the same on the other side. Repeat for all nuts.
- Place the chestnuts into a small pot and cover with boiling water. Simmer on medium heat for 20-30 minutes.
- Drain, transfer to a bowl and cover with a towel. After 10 minutes peel and remove the shells. Discard any that isn't de-shell or that appears to be bad.
- Let them cool for a while and roughly chopped them. Set aside.
PREPARE THE PUMPKIN/BUTTERNUT SQUASH
- Peel or slice off the squash’s skin. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Chop up the flesh into cubes. ½-inch sized for soup, 1-inch sized for stew.
MAKE THE STEW & SOUP
- Preheat a large heavy-bottomed pan with olive oil and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and the pumpkin.
- Stir in the rest of the ingredients: mushrooms, tomato, wine, vinegar, chestnuts, bay leaves, nutmeg, and cumin (optional). Season to taste. Simmer to medium-low heat for bout 20-30 more minutes stirring occasionally.
- When a knife will easily press into pumpkin flesh, remove the pot from heat.
- In case you make the soup, use a stick blender or transfer to a blending machine and blend until smooth.
- Serve hot with homemade crusty bread, olives, a sprinkle of thyme, or feta cheese crumbles (vegetarian version).