November 25, 2014

Khoresh Kadoo Halvaie - Persian Beef and Pumpkin Stew

One of the beauties of fall is the abundance of many varieties of winter squashes that come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. I typically use butternut squash for its flavor and color in my cooking however this time I chose to use کدو حلوایی - kadoo halvaie, the vibrant orange small sugar pumpkin that is both beautiful and delicious. It is the same kind of pumpkin my mother used to roast in the oven back in Iran and now when I cook it still has the overwhelmingly familiar taste of home. Orange is a joyous color and pumpkins are nature's gift; a free dose of color therapy on these gray, short and gloomy autumn days. I'm thankful to my lovely neighbors for leaving out all these gorgeous pumpkins on their front porches early on in the fall season until they eventually become food for the squirrels. There are a ton of sweet pumpkin dessert recipes out there. However, pumpkins are also delicious in savory dishes as well. خورش کدو حلوایی - Khoresh-e kadoo is a ملس - malas (sweet and sour) fall-flavored dish that will warm your heart.

I'm often asked if there are any Persian vegetarian or vegan recipes. Most people may not think of Persian cuisine as vegetarian/vegan-friendly and only think of کباب - Kabobs when they think of Iranian food. Or there may not be many obvious vegetarian dishes on restaurant menus. However, many types of fresh vegetables are served raw or cooked as a side dish. Just to give you a sample check out this link to my vegetarian recipes. As for vegan recipes, I'd like to point out that you can easily omit the meat in many stew recipes that call for stewing lamb/beef, except for the traditional آبگوشت abgoosht/dizi varieties, and still have a delicious and fulfilling meal.

I added a handful of آلو بخارا - aloo bokhara (dried yellow plums) to the stew toward the end of cooking. They may be found in most Persian/Middle Eastern grocery stores. If not, you can substitute them with prunes instead. Typically, potatoes and carrots are not a part of the authentic version of this khoresh but they make the stew more rich and flavorful without changing the overall taste. I also like to add a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. جوزهندی - Nutmeg is not a commonly used spice in Iranian cooking but in our home, it was one of the spices that my mother cherished and she always kept some in her little glass spice jars.

Khoresh Kadoo Halvaie

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 pounds boneless beef or lamb stew meat, cut into small bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 pounds peeled, seeded, and cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, peeled, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced *optional
1 large potato, peeled, cubed *optional
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (8 ounces) can tomato sauce, organic
1 cup aloo bokhara (dried plums), pitted
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
Juice of 1 lemon (use more if you prefer)
1 tablespoon table sugar or brown sugar (use less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil

  1. In a large skillet heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil, add pumpkin and saute lightly for about 7 minutes.
  2. Stir in cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside. 
  3. In a large pan heat 3 tablespoons of oil, add sliced onions, and saute over medium-high heat until golden. Add minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the turmeric powder, stir and mix well.
  4. Add beef and cook until brown on all sides, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add water to cover all ingredients by about an inch, mix well. Bring to a boil on high heat, lower the heat, cover and cook over medium heat for about 45 minutes or until tender.
  6. Add the sauteed pumpkins, potato, and carrots to the stew. Add a little bit of water if necessary. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes over low heat. Add in the plums, lemon juice, and sugar. Stir well, taste and adjust the seasoning, simmer for another 10-15 minutes. 
Serve hot with rice, mast o khiar, and sabzi khordan.



  1. This stew looks absolutely delicious, full of hearty ingredients :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  2. Stews are the absolute best during this time of year - I bet the combination of lamb, pumpkin and cinnamon is really something here.

  3. Dear Azita, I enjoy in your posts and photos very much. My first associatons of Persia were rugs and Sergei Yesenin's beautiful Lala. Now it is your blog. Thank you for sharing your recipes, pictures and stories.
    With best wishes, Nadia