Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Stew

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Stew – a flexible recipe


I have been cooking this stew for years, and until now I have never written the recipe down, nor weighed or measured the ingredients. But I can’t really pass on a recipe by saying, “Just chuck in a handful of this and a couple of that,” so last time I made it I got the measuring spoons out!

To be honest, exact quantities and even exact ingredients aren’t that important (apart from butternut squash and some sweet potatoes – without them it would need a new name!) You can use this recipe as a base and add your own variations – though I have included a few suggestions at the end.

This stew contains some spices but is not fiery so children enjoy it – at least my children and their cousins do. If you or your kids don’t like the spices I’ve suggested here then try some others, or use herbs instead. Combinations that work well together are ginger and lemon or rosemary and sage.

Dried garbanzo beans versus canned beans: BPA in canned foods

I recommend dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) for this recipe rather than canned because almost all can linings contain Bisphenol-A, a chemical that is a known hormone disrupter and has been banned in babies’ bottles in the EU and Canada.

Unfortunately buying organic does not guarantee BPA-free: most organic canned foods contain just as much as non-organic. One exception I know of is Eden Organic, which clearly specifies that their beans are all canned with BPA-free linings.

How to prepare and cook dried beans

There are 2 ways to prepare the beans for cooking

  1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight
  2. Pour boiling water over the beans and leave for at least one hour, until the beans have swollen.

In both cases, use about twice as much water as beans because they absorb a lot of water.

There are also 2 ways to cook the beans:

  1. The quickest way is in a pressure cooker, which takes about 5 minutes to come to pressure and 20 under pressure. This is the method I recommend because the beans can cook while you prepare the rest of the stew.
  2. In an ordinary pan, the beans will take about 2 hours to boil.

Alternatives to garbanzo beans (chickpeas)

If you are pushed for time or forgot to soak any beans, you can use lentils instead – green, brown or puy (French) are best, though red lentils will do. None of these need pre-soaking.

Although I am vegetarian my husband is not, and he sometimes eats chicken with his butternut squash and sweet potato stew.

Cook Time (plus up to 2 hours extra if soaking and cooking beans)
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 25 min
Ready in: 55 min
Yields: 6 servings

Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Stew Ingredients

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions – use red if you can get them, but it’s fine with ordinary onions too.
  • 1 heaped teaspoon coriander/cilantro seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 butternut squash, weighing around 750 grams/1lb 10 oz
  • 2 medium or 3 small sweet potatoes
  • 100 ml/4 oz/ ½ cup vegetable stock or water
  • 170 grams/6oz/1 cup dried garbanzo beans/chickpeas, soaked, and cooked by either of the methods described earlier.
  • seasoning to taste (this is optional: I don’t use salt or pepper during cooking)

Optional extra ingredients: choose whichever takes your fancy – they all go well with the stew

  • Fresh tomatoes cut into quarters
  • A small jar of passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • Plain yogurt
  • Shavings of creamed coconut
  • Garden peas, fresh or frozen


  1. Chop the onions.
  2. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onions.
  3. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Grind the coriander/cilantro seeds in a pestle and mortar (or you can use pre-ground.)
  5. Add all the spices to the onions and cook over low heat for a minute, stirring occasionally to prevent the spices from sticking or burning. Remove from the heat until you are ready to add the squash.
  6. Chop and peel the squash and remove the seeds. (I find it much easier to first chop the squash into slices or wedges before peeling and removing seeds, but you can do it any way you want, so long as you end up with chunks of squash of roughly 3 centimeters or an inch. There’s no need to get out a measuring tape, the size doesn’t matter all that much!)
  7. Return the pan to the heat, add the squash to the onions, and stir round to coat with oil. Add more oil if necessary.
  8. Place the lid on the pan and allow the squash to “sweat” for 5 minutes to soften it. If the spices look very dry, add a splash of stock. (If the squash has been partly baked already, you don’t need to do this step, just add squash and sweet potato at the same time.)
  9. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and add to the other ingredients.
  10. Add the stock and stir around.
  11. Cover and cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  12. Add the garbanzo beans and warm through.
  13. That’s the basic stew, and now if you’d like you can add any of the optional ingredients.

Tip: Peeling squash can be time-consuming and if your family is happy to eat squash with the peel on you can simply scrub it thoroughly and chop. Or to make peeling easier, preheat the squash with one of the methods suggested above.


Serve the stew with rice, pasta, couscous, bulgar wheat, or quinoa.

You can also serve with a green vegetable to balance the red and orange vegetables.

Mango or apple chutney goes well with the stew.


butternut sweet potato stew

Butternut squash-sweet potato is great baby food

If you have a baby, he or she can join in the meal: just steam a chunk of squash and one of sweet potato, and then mash together. Or, if you bake the squash first, then you can save a chunk for your baby.

Vitamins and Minerals in Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Stew

Each portion contains approximately the following percentage of adult daily requirements of these vitamins and minerals

  • Vitamin A: 80%
  • Vitamin C: 68%
  • Calcium: 14%
  • Iron: 22%
  • Magnesium: 25%
  • Manganese: 75%
  • Potassium: 29%
  • Selenium: 8%
  • Sodium: 1%

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