When I think of winter squash, I immediately think of butternut squash. I feel like it's one of the more versatile squashes that pairs well with sweet and savory. However, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy acorn squash, delicata, or kabocha squash. Today I want to divert the love to kabocha, which I feel doesn't receive much attention. This kabocha squash and beef stir fry incorporate sweet squash with savory tender beef, earthy eggplant, charred peppers, and a delicious sauce. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it as much as I did!
Kabocha Squash and Beef Stir Fry
- 1 lb chuck steak cut into 3" strips
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon rice wine
- ⅓ cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons oil divided
- 2 cups peeled kabocha squash chopped into 1" cubes
- ½ cup water divided
- ½ medium onion sliced
- 1 small Japanese eggplant sliced
- 1 bell pepper sliced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 Thai chile minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Toss chuck steak with cornstarch, soy sauce, and rice wine. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Stir until sugar is dissolved and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large wok or saute pan over high heat. Add marinated beef and saute until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove beef and set aside.
- Heat another tablespoon in the same pan over medium heat. Add chopped kabocha squash and saute until browned and caramelized. Add ¼ cup water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and continue to cook until squash is tender. Remove squash and set aside.
- Heat another tablespoon oil in the same pan. Add sliced onion and eggplant and saute until browned. Add ¼ cup water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and continue to cook until eggplant is tender.
- Remove lid and add sliced bell pepper, garlic, Thai chile, and ginger. Saute until bell peppers are tender, about 2 minutes. Add back beef, kabocha squash, and stir fry sauce. Bring to a simmer, tossing to coat. Saute for another minute or until everything is well sauced. Remove from heat and toss in chopped cilantro. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and serve stir fry with rice.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
So what makes kabocha squash different from other squashes? Kabocha is sweeter than butternut squash with subtle notes of chestnuts. It's like a cross between a pumpkin and a sweet potato while butternut squash tastes more like a pumpkin. I love to roast whole kabocha squash and snack on the creamy yet firm flesh.
I thought kabocha would be perfect for this stir fry because it'll add a sweet element, complimenting the soy sauce and beef. However, if you're not a fan of kabocha you can swap it out for sweet potato, pumpkin, or yes, even butternut squash.
Before we can start cooking the kabocha squash and beef stir fry, we need to first marinate the beef. Cut chuck steak into wide strips and toss it with cornstarch, soy sauce, and red wine. The cornstarch will help tenderize the meat. If you can't find chuck steak you can use flank, sirloin, or any other tender cut.
While the beef is marinating, prepare all of the other ingredients. It's important to have all of the vegetables cut and the sauce made before you start cooking. Stir-fry cooking is quick so you don't want to have to stop in the middle to cut the bell peppers.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok or large saute pan and cook the beef until beautifully browned. Then, remove the beef, and brown the kabocha squash. Add a splash of water and cover the pan, simmering until the squash becomes tender.
Remove the squash from the pan and set it aside with the beef.
In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil and saute sliced onion and eggplant until browned. Add another splash of water, cover the pan, and cook until the eggplant becomes tender. I hate it when eggplant is not cooked all the way and has a spongey texture. By adding water, you make sure it breaks down and softens.
Remove the lid and add the bell peppers and aromatics. Saute until the bell peppers soften, then add back the beef and kabocha squash along with the sauce. Let everything simmer for another minute, soaking up all that sauce.
Finish the kabocha squash and beef stir fry with chopped cilantro and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve the dish with rice and enjoy!
I ate this every day for 4 days in a row, I enjoyed it so much. It's a winter stir fry that checks off all the boxes!
For more stir fry inspiration check out this dry pot salmon stir fry recipe!