I love spaghetti squash but always found it bit bland. Okay, I find it very bland! I picked up a few and was wondering how to cook them when I realized something. Anytime, I want to bump up the flavors with vegetables, my go to method is to cook in Indian style. It never disappoints and always adds fantastic flavors. So I decided to make this spaghetti squash stuffed with chickpeas smothered in makhani (buttery) sauce. This is completely vegan since I used vegan butter vs regular butter. The creaminess also comes from cashews in the recipe. Trust me when I say this is a knockout dish that will be loved by everyone whether they are vegan or not.Personally I find this dish extremely comforting. This would also make a great main for events like Thanksgiving, Christmas or any event where you have friends or family who are vegan or vegetarian.
How to cut and cook spaghetti squash
If you have never cooked with spaghetti squash, this is the perfect introduction to help you through the process.
How does it look?
This squash is light yellow in color and is usually the size of a small watermelon although it is more elongated in appearance. It will be hard to touch like most other squash like butternut, delicata ,sweet pumpkin etc. When you cook the squash and lightly scratch the inside with a fork, you will see strands of squash being pulled up that resembles “spaghetti”. Of course it does not taste anything like spaghetti but has a mild, sweet flavor. This acts as an advantage because it can carry any flavors you add to it. Also if you are looking for a low carb options, this vegetable is a fantastic option.
How to cut spaghetti squash?
If you are prepping spaghetti squash for the first time, you might find it tricky but my tips will make it much easier. Rinse the squash and wipe it dry. Make sure you are using a good solid cutting board and a large, sturdy knife. Place the squash parallel to the length of the cutting board so that when you cut it vertically, the knife is moving away from your body.
Score the skin of the squash right in the center vertically and go around the entire body so that you know exactly where you want to cut. Now drive the knife in to the centre of the vegetable along the line where you have scored it. Usually the flesh is around 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick. Repeat this until you have cut through most of the fruit. If the squash is still attached at the stem, you can gently pull it apart using your hands. If at any point, the knife gets stuck in the squash, try to dislodge it safely and continue. This might all seem like a lot but trust me, its easier than it sounds and patience is key.
How to cook spaghetti squash?
Preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Scoop out all the seeds and keep aside. Use a cooking spray or brush some avocado or olive oil on the inside. Season lightly(to ensure it does not realease too much water) and place the cut side down on a sheet pan. Place in the oven and cook for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before using a fork to pull up the strands and fluff it up. The flesh of the vegetable easily separates from the skin but I would suggest leaving a thin layer on. This will help when we add the butter chickpeas later and cook it again for a few more minutes. If you are just planning to remove the “spaghetti” strands to cook separately in another pan, then you can remove the entire layer.
Quick tips for making the butter chickpeas
Soak the cashews – Soak 3/4 cup cashews in some hot water for 20 minutes to make it soft. Drain once done.
Dont skip the Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder – This chilli powder is key to getting that beautiful reddish orange color. Unlike other regular chilli powder, this is milder. Even if you prefer a very mild sauce, I would suggest using a teaspoon of this. If you are very sensitive to heat, then paprika would be a good substitute.
Take your time – We need to cook the onions, cashews and tomatoes along with the spices well. The flavors will only develop when the onions are caramelized and the onion- tomato flavors meld with the spices. After you turn off the stove, let this mixture cool down before grinding it in to a smooth paste. The additional 5 minutes cooking the base well will make a big difference to the flavors.
Making it vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten free – This dish is naturally vegetarian and since I used vegan butter, it is also completely vegan. You can of course use regular butter while making the sauce as well. All the ingredients used are gluten-free. Just make sure any spices you use is labeled completely gluten-free if you are very sensitive.
Substitutions – If you would like to keep the spice levels low, you can reduce the green chilis used or omit them completely. You can also sub with jalapenos or anaheim peppers.If allergic to cashews, you can substitute almonds. Make sure to remove the almond skins after soaking it. Full fat coconut milk can also be used instead of nuts. For the Kashmiri Chilli Powder, you can substitute paprika.
Making it ahead of time and storage
If you want to make this ahead of time, you can make the sauce ahead of time and store. If using canned chickpeas, then use it right out of the can after rinsing them else prepare the chickpeas ahead of time as well and store in the refrigerator a couple of days before the event or planned meal.
I would suggest cooking the squash on the day you want to use it since it has less of a chance to get soggy. If that is not an option, then cook it a day before and store in the fridge. Set it out on the counter an hour before adding the other toppings and cooking it further.
You can store the finished dish for 2-3 days refrigerated. Reheat in a microwave or in the oven at 350 deg F for 15 – 20 minutes or until completely warm.
This butter chickpeas spaghetti squash is a knock out dish. It will fit right in whether its a festive get together or with a little prep, it can also be a weeknight dinner star. Please share your creations if you give this recipe a try over on Instagram using #dillandthyme. You can also leave a rating and comment to let me know what you think of it. Please feel free to leave any questions as well.
Spaghetti Squash with Butter Chickpeas
- 2 Half Sheet Pans
- 2 Whole Spaghetti Squash
- 3 cups Cooked Chickpeas
- 2 tbsp Avocado/Olive Oil
- 2 tbsp Butter or Vegan Butter
- 1 large Red Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 1 lb Tomatoes washed and finely chopped
- 3/4 cup Whole or Halved Unsalted Cashews
- 2 cups Water
- 4-5 cloves Garlic peeled and diced
- 1/2 inch Ginger roughly chopped
- 1 tsp Cumin(Jeera) Seeds
- 3 Indian Green Chillis sub with Jalapeno or Anaheim peppers
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder sub with Paprika
- 2 1/2 tsp Coriander Powder
- Handful of Cilantro washed and roughly chopped
- 3 – 4 tsp Salt adjust acc. to taste
- Soak the cashews in hot water and keep aside.
- Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Cut each of the spaghetti squash in half by cutting it vertically right in the middle. Scoop out the seeds. Brush the insides with the avocado/olive oil. Season lightly with salt. Place the squash halves with the open face down on the sheet pan and place in the oven.
- Let cook for 40-45 minutes and remove from the oven to let it cool down. While the squash is being cooked, heat a medium sized frying pan and add the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the cumin seeds. Wait for the seeds to splutter and then add the chopped onions.
- Saute the onions well and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.Add the drained cashews to the pan along with the garlic, ginger and green chillis.Keep sauteing for 5 minutes until the cashews are browned.
- Add the tomatoes. Then add the powdered spices and season with 2 tsp of salt. Mix well and let this mixture cook for a minute. Heat 1 1/2 cups of water and add to this mixture. Mix well and let this mixture simmer for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat. Let this mixture cool down for 15-20 minutes.
- Once cool, add this mixture to a blender and blend until the micture is completely smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more water.This should yield around 4 cups. Keep aside.
- Check the squash and once it has cooled down, use a fork to gently dig in. Pull up the strands and fluff them up. Do this evenly while leaving a thin layer of the squash still attached to the skin.
- Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Now add 1/2-3/4 cup cooked chickpeas on top of the fluffed "spaghetti" strands. Top with around 3/4 cup of the makhani sauce for each half.
- Place in the oven and let it bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let ti cool down for minutes. Gently mix the chickpeas and makhani sauce. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce and chopped cilantro. Serve hot.