Ginataang Kalabasa is a classic Filipino stew that shows off the country’s rich culinary tapestry with the creaminess of coconut milk, and the subtle heat of aromatic spices.
Commonly also called Kalabasa sa Gata (gata is another name for coconut milk), this stew is a Bicol favorite, celebrated for its rich mix of coconut milk, veggies and spice. If you're vegetarian or vegan, you will be psyched about Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw, called that because it has sitaw (long beans in it). While mainstream Filipinos are big on meat and seafood, there is a large and growing vegan community, especially in cities like Manilla. I was blown away when I cooked there at the World Street Food Congress that a bunch of people who came not only knew of Cinnamon Snail, but many even brought copies of my cookbook to sign!
Best of all, this recipe is well-tested, and takes no time to make if you are in a rush to get a nourishing meal on the table! Let's get cooking!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🥥 Coconut Milk Magic: The secret to the velvety richness of this stew lies in the full-fat coconut milk, which helps carry the flavors of the veggies and spices, coating your mouth in their heavenly flavors.
🍲 Foolproof Kabocha Squash: Squash can be a pain in the butt to peel! There is no need to struggle with peeling as the kabocha squash skin adds an extra layer of flavor and nourishment, making your prep work a breeze.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Just like all recipes on my blog, this Ginataang Kalabasa has been meticulously tested and re-tested by me, and then shared with a global team of recipe testers. Rest assured that this recipe works like a charm, no matter where on the planet you are!
🌱Notable ingredients and substitutions
Kabocha squash is the Kalabasa in Ginataang Kalabasa. Its vibrant orange flesh is a feast for the eyes and a nutritional powerhouse packed with fiber, vitamins A and C, and antioxidants. You can also make this with pumpkin, acorn squash or butternut squash if you can’t get kabocha, but all those substitutes WILL need to be peeled.
Made from the processed flesh of mature coconuts, coconut milk infuses this stew with a rich, tropical essence. Beyond its luxurious taste, it brings a dose of healthy fats and a creamy consistency that defines Ginataang Kalabasa. Don't use coconut cream, which is better suited to recipes like Vietnamese Kem Chuoi.
Sitaw (Long Beans)
In the Philippines, these vibrant green beans are called “Sitaw." They are the same veggie I use in my Adobong Sitaw, Lotong Sayur Lodeh, and Sambal Goreng recipes. If sitaw is hard to get, green beans (like you would use to make urap sayur), string beans, or runner beans (like I use to make Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye Tarifi) will be fine substitutes.
Bunched mature spinach leaves bring a nutrient-rich boost to the recipe. They are the same kind I use to make saag aloo. Don’t use baby spinach in this recipe as it sorta gets slimy when it cooks. So if you can’t get mature bunched spinach, opt for a different green entirely, like collard greens or Swiss chard.
Sautéed to golden perfection, diced onions add a sweet, aromatic undertone to the stew's savory flavors. If you are an onion freak, you could serve some onion bhaji along with this stew to be on onion cloud-9! Shallots (which make great sambal dabu dabu and sambal matah) offer a good alternative, though, in my opinion, they are even more likely to make you cry than regular onions when you handle ‘em.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
🇵🇭 Bicol Express Vibes:
For a fiery variation hailing from the Bicol region of the Philippines, infuse the stew with the bold flavors of Bicol Express. Add plenty of very finely chopped bird's eye chilies and a generous helping of finely minced lemongrass (or lemongrass powder) during the sautéing stage. The result? A Ginataang Kalabasa with a spicy kick and a great smelling citrusy undertone.
🏝️ Vegan Meaty Stuff:
Since many people put pork and poor little defenseless fishies in their Ginataang Kalabasa you can replicate some of those flavors and textures by adding a little seitan or jackfruit (what I use in my kathal ki sabji), and a splash of vegan fish sauce or nuoc cham.
📖 How to make perfect Ginataang Kalabasa Sitaw
Nail this stew on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with important tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Start the flavors off strong:
Warm oil in a sturdy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is sizzling, introduce diced onions, minced garlic, jalapeño, grated ginger, and lemongrass if you are using it. Sauté for roughly 5 minutes until the aroma dances in the air.
Lock in the flave’:
Add diced kalabasa (kabocha squash) to the pot and give it a gentle stir. Pour in the unsalted vegetable stock or water, then add the coconut milk, salt, and black pepper. Allow this aromatic symphony to simmer until the kalabasa becomes fork-tender, taking around 20-24 minutes.
Add the Green Good Stuff:
Once the squash reaches the desired tenderness, stir in the chopped sitaw (or green beans) and the cleaned, chopped mature spinach leaves. Stir until the spinach gracefully wilts, and the green beans achieve that perfect tender-crisp balance.
Ginataang Kalabasa is some good eating in the bathtub if you have had a rough day. I don’t know what it is, but stews like this, or noodle dishes like khao suey, bami goreng, bihun goreng, or mee rebus just make all of life’s hard times and icky feelings disappear for me, especially when eaten in a nice hot bath. I know, I'm a little weird. Whatever.
A bun on the side of the bathtub, like in a little waterproof box or something? Why not stuff two banh bao buns in that box!?!
Cap off your culinary adventure with delightful desserts like Indonesian Kuih dadar, Putu Ayu, cekodok pisang, martabak manis, or Vietnamese flan. My wife usually has us start with dessert, so like, if you are doing that tub thing I mentioned, maybe smash the dessert before you get in the bathtub…
- Mindful Kabocha Prep: When dealing with kabocha squash, embrace its nutty skin - no need for peeling. Simply dice it into 2cm pieces, leaving the skin intact for added flavor and texture. This not only simplifies the prep but also enhances the overall richness of the stew. The seeds are trash, though. For real, it’s so sad because there are a ton of them, and normally squash and pumpkin seeds are my fave, but not these. They suck.
- Coconut Milk Consistency: Use full-fat coconut milk to achieve the luscious creaminess that defines Ginataang Kalabasa.
- Balanced Simmering: Achieving fork-tender kalabasa requires patience in simmering. Let the stew bubble away for 20-24 minutes, and add more liquid if the pot starts running dry.
- Green Bean Brilliance: Whether you choose sitaw or green beans, add them at the right moment (towards the end). This way, they will not get all limp and lose their attractive color.
While Kalabasa technically means Kabocha squash, you can make most Filipino recipes that call with it by substituting peeled pumpkin, butternut squash or acorn squash.
While you can, the full-fat version contributes to the stew's luxurious creaminess, enhancing the overall taste and texture. If you have to substitute a non-coconut milk, opt for unsweetened oat milk or a thicker, creamier almond milk if you can get your hands on one.
Reduce or omit the jalapeño. Kids tend to like this dish a little sweeter too, so consider adding a spoonful of coconut sugar or maple syrup to make sure they are happy eating their veggies!
Absolutely, the flavors deepen with a couple of days of the veggies sitting in the flavorful coconut milk broth. Make it ahead and reheat gently, ensuring a delightful, well-developed taste.
Store your Ginataang Kalabasa in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Don’t freeze it as the veggies' texture will suffer, and the coconut milk may separate and thaw, looking a little thin and oily.
🔥 Stovetop Reheating:
Place your desired portion in a saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of vegetable stock or water to maintain moisture. Stir occasionally until heated through, ensuring the flavors revive with each gentle simmer.
🔥 Microwave Reheating:
For a quick fix, transfer a serving to a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a microwave-safe lid or damp paper towel to prevent drying. Heat on medium in 1-minute intervals, stirring in between, until the desired warmth is achieved. This ensures a speedy yet equally delectable reawakening of your Ginataang Kalabasa.
✌️My faves to serve with this dish:
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Ginataang Kalabasa (Vegan Filipino Coconut Milk Stew)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 cup onion small dice
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 teaspoons jalapeño minced (optional)
- 2 teaspoons ginger grated
- ¼ cup lemongrass thinly sliced (optional)
- 2 cups kalabasa kabocha squash, 2 cm. diced (no need to remove the skin, but discard the seeds)
- 4 cups unsalted vegetable stock or water
- 13.5 ounces coconut milk 400 ml., full fat
- 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ cups chopped sitaw or green beans
- 1 lb. mature spinach leaves washed and roughly chopped
- 4 teaspoons fried shallots
- Fresh cilantro leaves
- Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. After 90 seconds, when the oil is hot, add diced onions, minced garlic, jalapeño, grated ginger and optional lemongrass. Sauté for about 5 minutes until fragrant.
- Add diced kalabasa (kabocha squash) to the pot and stir. Pour in the unsalted vegetable stock or water. Add coconut milk, salt, and black pepper. Allow the mixture to simmer over medium heat until the kalabasa is fork-tender, about 20-24 minutes.
- Once the squash is tender, stir in chopped sitaw (or green beans) and the washed and chopped mature spinach leaves. Stir until the spinach wilts and the string beans are just tender.
- Ladle the stew into bowls. Top each serving with fried shallots and fresh cilantro leaves.