Cooler fall weather has settled into Northern California. Chilly air and earthy colors call for hearty, warming food. Thai cuisine is one of my favorites. I love its bold flavors, and this Thai-inspired curry dish combines tofu and butternut squash in a creamy, spicy sauce.
Thai cooking balances flavors through four basic elements: sweet, sour, salty, spicy. In this dish, coconut milk and palm sugar add sweetness; citrus or vinegar provides sourness; soy or fish sauce is salty; red curry paste creates spicy heat.
This dish is very flexible. My vegan, gluten-free version, adapted from Choosing Chia, uses red Thai curry and extra-firm tofu then adds seasonal vegetables. I enjoy the spice inherent in red curry, but take care with how much you use—red curry can be quite spicy. Alternatively, green or yellow curry is less spicy.
Make it your own. Double the curry elements if you prefer more sauce. Substitute chicken or shrimp for the tofu, add red bell peppers and eggplant, kale and bamboo shoots, or even potatoes and carrots. Here, I sneak in zucchini and spinach for added nutrients and put it all on a bed of whole-grain Jasmine rice.
Coconut Thai Curry Tofu and Squash
This spicy Thai-inspired dish combines coconut milk and Thai red curry paste to create a creamy sauce for tofu and butternut squash, perfect to serve over rice.
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cubed
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
- 1 tsp (5 mL) dried basil
- 1 pack extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed (a towel works to extract liquid), and cut into cubes
- 2-3 Tbsp (30-45 mL) avocado oil (or other high temperature oil)
- 2 tsp-2 Tbsp (10-30 mL) Thai red curry paste, depending on spice preference
- 14 oz (400 mL) can coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) tamari (soy sauce or coconut aminos or fish sauce)
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) coconut palm sugar (traditional Thai sweetener—or use maple syrup or honey)
- 1 tsp (5 mL) juice from lime (or lemon or apple cider vinegar)
- 1 tsp (5 mL) paprika (optional for more vibrant red color)
- 1 zucchini, shredded
- 2-3 large handfuls of baby spinach, chopped
- roasted butternut squash
- steamed rice
- fresh, coarsely chopped cilantro and basil
- Preheat oven at 425ºF (220ºC) to roast the butternut squash. Toss the squash with olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper, and basil on a sheet pan (which I line with a sheet of parchment paper). Roast for 20 minutes.
- While squash roasts, heat oil in a large pan.
- Pan fry tofu for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from pan.
- Add the curry paste, letting toast for 30 seconds, then add the coconut milk and whisk to combine. Bring mixture to boil, stirring constantly to let thicken slightly. (Double for more curry sauce.)
- Reduce to low heat. Add tamari, coconut sugar, lime juice, and paprika. Whisk together. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. (Double for more curry sauce.)
- Return tofu to pan. Add zucchini, spinach, and butternut squash. Fold together to combine with sauce.
Tip: Top a bed of red and brown Jasmine rice for a delicious whole-grain base. Fish sauce is traditionally used instead of tamari. Acid from lime, lemon, or vinegar brightens flavors. Herbs add freshness.
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