Red-Cooked Butternut Squash

A simple vegetarian recipe with butternut squash as the star. A mix of sweet and savoury is created with peanut oil, cinnamon sticks, five spice and soy sauce.

Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure: 100 recipes from our journey
By &


This is a simple but delicious dish that can be served as an accompaniment or as a main vegetarian dish alongside vegetables ‘Red-cooked’ is a term used in Chinese cuisine to describe a sauce that uses light and dark soy, sugar and spices (such as star anise) to create a deep reddish-brown braising liquid to flavour meat, fish or eggs. This is a quick red-cooked dish using butternut squash; the result is a sweet and savoury spiced dish.

Serves 2-4 to share


1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthways and peeled
1 tbsp peanut oil
2.5cm (1in) piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks, about 7.5cm (3in) each
4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
250ml (9fl oz) hot water
A pinch of Chinese five-spice powder
1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
For the garnish:
A small handful of fresh coriander

Essential kit

You will need a wok.


Scoop out and discard the seeds from the squash and cut the flesh into bite-sized(2.5cm/1in) pieces.

Heat a wok over medium-high heat, then add the peanut oil. Add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon and stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the squash and stir-fry for 1 minute. Season with both soy sauces and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the hot water and stir to combine. Cover the wok and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender – about 10 minutes. Add more water if necessary to keep the squash from sticking to the sides of the wok. Season with the five-spice and brown sugar and toss well. Remove from the heat and stir to combine. Garnish with the coriander, then serve.

See more recipes »

More Butternut Squash Recipes

See more recipes »

More Vegetarian Recipes

See more recipes »

More Recipes by Ken Hom