Butternut Squash in Tamil Cuisine: Poosanikkai Recipes and Tips

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

Imagine diving into the vibrant world of Tamil cuisine, where spices meet sweetness in a delightful harmony. Butternut squash, a versatile and nutritious vegetable, finds a special place in this culinary tradition. Known locally as “poosanikkai,” this winter squash is celebrated for its smooth texture and sweet flavor that perfectly compleates the robust spices commonly used in Tamil recipes.


Dive into the flavors of Tamil cuisine with this delightful butternut squash recipe. Known locally as “poosanikkai,” this squash pairs wonderfully with the aromatic spices customary in Tamil cooking.

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds): Begin by peeling the squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 1-inch cubes. This ensures each piece cooks evenly and absorbs the spices fully.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil: To roast the squash, providing it a slightly crisp texture and rich flavor.
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds: For an authentic pop of Tamil flavor, these seeds are a must.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds: Adds a warm, earthy tone that is quintessential in many Tamil dishes.
  • Sun-dried fenugreek leaves and a pinch of asafoetida: Both ingredients are key in achieving the unique Tamil flavor profile.
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder: This gives the dish a beautiful golden color and has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Salt to taste: Enhances the natural flavors of the ingredients.
  • 2 curry leaves: These leaves add a subtle aroma and a hint of citrus to the dish.
  • 1 dried red chili (optional): For those who appreciate a spicy kick to their meal.
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut: This brings sweetness and texture, contrasting beautifully with the savory spices.

Equipment Needed

To prepare this delightful butternut squash dish, capturing the rich flavors of Tamil cuisine, you’ll need a few essential tools in your kitchen. Listed below are the necessary items to help you execute the recipe efficiently:

  • Large Skillet or Frying Pan: Essential for sautéing the butternut squash along with the spices. Choose one with a lid if possible, as covering the pan can help the squash cook evenly and absorb the flavors more intensively.
  • Sharp Knife: Needed to peel and dice the butternut squash. A good quality sharp knife makes the cutting smoother and safer.
  • Cutting Board: Opt for a sturdy cutting board for chopping the squash, curry leaves, and other ingredients.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Accuracy is key in the art of cooking, especially when dealing with spices. Use these to measure out mustard seeds, turmeric, and other ingredients correctly.
  • Spatula or Wooden Spoon: A non-metallic spatula or wooden spoon is preferable for stirring the contents gently without scratching your pan.
  • Grater: Required for shredding fresh coconut, unless you choose to use pre-shredded coconut.
  • Mixing Bowl: Useful for mixing the spices or blending the coconut with other seasonings before adding them to the skillet.

Each piece of equipment plays a pivotal role in bringing out the authentic flavors and textures of this traditional Tamil dish, ensuring a delightful culinary experience. Gather these tools before you begin cooking to streamline your preparation process.

Preparation Steps

Now that you have your essential tools ready, let’s dive into the preparation of your butternut squash. Follow these steps closely to bring the rich flavors of Tamil cuisine right into your kitchen.

Peeling and Cutting the Squatch

  1. Begin by washing the butternut squash thoroughly to remove any dirt or debris from the surface.
  2. Place the squash on a stable cutting board. Using your sharp knife, carefully trim off the top and bottom ends.
  3. Stand the squash upright and use gentle downward strokes to peel away the skin, making sure to remove all the thick outer layer.
  4. Once peeled, slice the squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and fibrous strings from the center of each half.
  5. Lay the squash halves flat on the cutting board and cut them into 1-inch cubes. Ensure the pieces are uniform in size for even cooking.

Sautéing and Simmering the Butternut Squash

  1. Heat your large skillet over medium heat and add two tablespoons of cooking oil, allowing it to heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add one teaspoon of mustard seeds to the hot oil. Once they start to pop, add half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a pinch of asafoetida.
  3. Stir in the diced squash, ensuring each piece is coated with oil and the seeds.
  4. Sprinkle one teaspoon of turmeric powder over the squash and mix well to evenly distribute the spice.
  5. Add salt to taste and pour in a quarter cup of water. This will help the squash cook thoroughly without burning.
  6. Cover the skillet with a lid and allow the squash to simmer over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the squash becomes tender.
  7. Finally, stir in a handful of dried fenugreek leaves, half a cup of shredded coconut, a few curry leaves, and a broken dried red chili for an extra layer of flavor.

Follow these steps to perfectly prepare your spiced butternut squash, and you’ll be ready to enjoy a delightful Tamil-inspired dish that bursts with vibrant colors and aromatic spices.

Cooking Instructions

Now that your squash is prepped and your spices are ready, let’s start cooking this hearty Tamil-style dish. Follow these steps to ensure a flavorful experience.

Roasting the Squash

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (204°C).
  2. Place the peeled and cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet. Ensure the pieces are spread out and not overlapping to promote even roasting.
  3. Drizzle the squash with 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, ensuring all pieces are lightly coated. This will help in caramelizing the surface for a sweeter, richer flavor.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the squash, which will enhance its natural sweetness.
  5. Roast in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. Halfway through the roasting time, give the squash a good stir to ensure even cooking and browning.
  6. Once the squash is tender and the edges are starting to brown, remove from the oven. Set aside while you prepare the final seasoning.

Sautéing the Aromatics and Butternut Squash

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds to the hot oil. When the seeds start popping, add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and a few curry leaves if available. Be careful, as the seeds may splatter.
  3. Once the popping slows down, stir in a finely chopped medium onion and cook until it turns translucent and slightly golden.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and a pinch of asafoetida (hing) to the onions, stirring well to incorporate. Cook for another 1-2 minutes until the spices are fragrant.
  5. Finally, add the roasted butternut squash to the skillet. Toss everything gently to coat the squash evenly with the spices and onion mixture.
  6. Cook together for an additional 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  7. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Your butternit squash is now ready to serve hot, garnished with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lemon juice for an extra zing.

This method of roasting followed by seasoning builds layers of flavor, making every bite of the butternut squash a delicious peek into Tamil cuisine.

Serving Suggestions

Elevate your dining experience by pairing and garnishing your Tamil-inspired butternut squash dish in a way that complements its rich flavors and aromatic spices.

Pairing Ideas

Enjoy your butternut squash with a variety of sides that enhance the meal. For a wholesome experience, serve it alongside a bowl of steamed basmati rice or fluffy quinoa, which will absorb the vibrant flavors of the spices. If you prefer something lighter, a side of warm naan or roti makes the perfect accompaniment for scooping up the squash. For added protein, a lentil dal or chickpea curry pairs wonderfully, creating a satisfying, vegetarian-friendly meal.

Garnishing Tips

To add a final touch of freshness and color to your Tamil-inspired butternut squash, consider sprinkling finely chopped fresh cilantro or curry leaves over the top just before serving. A squeeze of lemon juice can brighten the flavors, while a sprinkle of toasted coconut flakes will introduce a subtle sweetness and extra texture. If you enjoy a bit of crunch, scattered fried mustard seeds or chopped cashews can transform the dish, providing a delightful contrast to the soft, roasted squash.


Exploring the flavors of Tamil cuisine through the lens of butternut squash or “poosanikkai” offers you a delightful culinary experience that’s both nutritious and flavorful. By following the recipe provided you can create a dish that not only satisfies your palate but also introduces you to the aromatic spices and traditional cooking styles of Tamil Nadu. Whether you’re serving it alongside steamed rice or with a side of naan don’t forget to add those special garnishes—they’re the perfect finishing touch to elevate your meal. Enjoy the burst of flavors and the health benefits this wonderful squash has to offer!

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