Delicious and easy Asian & Chinese pumpkin recipes from Xinjiang stir-fry to Thai pumpkin soup, perfect for bringing you a bountiful harvest over the Lunar New Year or for a fresh take on a traditional Thanksgiving ingredient.
Everyone knows that pumpkin is a staple of American Thanksgiving (and Halloween)- it's a type of squash that is native to North America- but it's also eaten on other special occasions such as Lunar New Year.
Fun fact: Besides the bright orange pumpkin flesh, its shell, pumpkin seeds, leaves and flowers are also edible once cooked. The roasted seeds make a delicious snack and pumpkin leaves are part of Korean cuisine.
FYI Korean and Japanese cooking often use a particular type of pumpkin/ winter squash, Kabocha Squash, which has a sweet flavor in their cooking- click the link for more information and recipes.
A pumpkin dish is a staple on the Thanksgiving table. These Asian & Chinese pumpkin recipes are great if you're bored with the classic menu!
We usually end up with tons of leftovers after the holidays, so if you've had enough of pumpkin pancakes and pumpkin buns, the porridge and soup recipes below are good alternative ideas for any extra pumpkin puree you have on hand after making your pumpkin pie.
Note: If you're here for Thanksgiving ideas, here are some delicious Asian Thanksgiving recipes, alternative non-traditional Thanksgiving recipes as well as ideas on how to use up leftover roast chicken and turkey.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is commonly associated with lucky dishes such as dumplings and whole fish, but some people eat pumpkin for CNY too.
There's a belief that dreaming about pumpkins means you'll have a good harvest and some associate eating it ("kum kua" in Cantonese) with "You're the best" (ding gua gua in Mandarin Chinese), so this would certainly be a good time to eat golden brown, delicious Chinese pumpkin cakes (it's delicious with sesame seeds sprinkled on top) as well as Nan Gua Bing, a savory pumpkin cake that only requires a few ingredients.
Other CNY recipes
Chinese cuisine dishes that are typically found on the CNY table include:
- uncut noodles for long life, such as mee siam goreng, mee siam kuah, stir-fried bihun vermicelli and so on
- whole chicken e.g. one-pot soy sauce chicken
- Chinese peanut cookies for a fertile year
- jujube longan tea- families used to make this before they could buy cheap fizzy drinks!
- vegan and vegetarian CNY recipes
- general Chinese New Year dishes
If you're not sure where to start, here's an easy Chinese New Year menu plan.
3 heaped tablespoons (i.e. about 80g of pumpkin) make up 1 portion of your 5 a day.
Pumpkin contains Vitamin C. Other associated health benefits potentially include:
- better skin
- better eye sight
- improved immunity
- reduced risk of metabolic syndrome such as diabetes
- cancer prevention
Moreover, the natural sweetness of the pumpkin means that you can use less sugar than normal in a pumpkin recipe.
Note: this information is for entertainment only and not meant as medial, diet or health advice. Please consult a qualified medical professional instead for such purposes.
How to Cut
You will need a sharp knife to cut through the tough edible skin. Insert a sharp knife into the outer skin and slice through to reveal the bright orange flesh.
Scoop out the stringy insides, and cut the flesh into smaller pieces to cook.
Tip: Place a wet cloth under the cutting board so that it stays in place.
How to Store
Uncut pumpkins can be kept for quite a while at room temperature, preferably a cool and dark place. (Make sure there are no soft spots.)
If you've leftovers after cutting your pumpkin, cover it with plastic wrap and store in the fridge. Some pumpkins are huge though. If it's too large to fit in the chiller, divide it into thin slices then store in an airtight container in the fridge.
It can also be frozen for for up to 3 months- line the pumpkin slices in a single layer, and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, they can be jumbled up in a ziplock bag without sticking to each other (for easy defrosting.)
Chinese Pumpkin Soup
This delicious pumpkin carrot soup is so easy to make, it's great for an easy weeknight dinner! (No need for an immersion blender or slow cooker!)
Thai-inspired Vegan Soup
Chinese Pumpkin Porridge
This delicious Kabocha Squash recipe is also a great way to use up leftover pumpkin puree (not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling, which is sweetened!)
Tip: although you can use regular pumpkin, I recommend Japanese pumpkin for this recipe as it results in a more appetising orange colour.
Instant Pot Pumpkin Chicken Curry
Stovetop Chicken Curry
This is my favorite way to eat pumpkin as the cooked pieces simply melt in your mouth. The savory flavors and easy cooking method make it a great addition to any family meal.
Xinjiang-style Stir Fry
You can also add mashed, steamed pumpkin to your mantou dough to get delicious, orange steamed mantou buns.
For regular Western-style pumpkin dough , try this easy pumpkin bread recipe from King Arthur Baking. The perfect side dish for your Friendsgiving table!
Baked Mini Pumpkins
This savory side dish is as delicious as it is pretty! Make sure not to scoop out too much of the pumpkin, or the skin will break if cooked for too long!
The easiest way to cook pumpkin is to cut it into cubes, and roast with cinnamon, brown sugar (or maple syrup) and a pinch of sea salt.
Whilst this recipe originally calls for butternut squash, pumpkin is a great substitute too as the rich flavor of the gochujang sauce is very flexible.
You can also mix it with kabocha, sweet potatoes and carrots, though you'll need to be mindful of the different cooking times and cut the sizes accordingly.
Note: you can get Gochujang at the Asian grocery store or online.
Nan Gua Bing
Chinese Pumpkin Cake is a great introduction to Asian snacks and Chinese dessert as it is soft, chewy and so easy to make, you'll get it right the very first time! It only requires gluten-free flours so is perfect for those with celiac disease.
You can fry it as is, or coat it in bread crumbs to give it a crisp exterior and gooey inside.
Note: deep frying is traditional but I usually shallow fry the cakes in a pan to use less oil.
What is your favourite Asian food that contains pumpkin? I'd love to know if any of these recipes make it onto your holiday table! For more delicious recipes, click here to subscribe for my newsletter.