Kabocha pork stir-fry かぼちゃのそぼろ炒め

Kabocha Pork Stir Fry. photo by Namiko Chen

abocha pork stir fry is a simple yet satisfying dish you’ll enjoy when kabocha is in season. It’s a one-pan wonder for a weeknight dinner!

Fall is here and all I can think about is all things kabocha. Soups, desserts, salads — it can do it all. In Japan, people enjoy kabocha year-round, but here in the U.S., you can definitely spot this Japanese pumpkin at farmer’s markets, local pumpkin growers and mainstream grocery stores when it’s in season.

Today I’m sharing a healthy, delicious and lifesaving recipe — Kabocha pork stir fry (かぼちゃのそぼろ炒め).

What is Kabocha?
Kabocha (かぼちゃ, 南瓜) is a type of winter squash, a Japanese variety of the species Cucurbita maxima. It is also called kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin in North America.

The green outer skin may be tough, but you’d be surprised that the deep yellow-orange flesh on the inside is known for its outstanding sweetness. Kabocha has a rich texture and flavor that is almost similar to a sweet potato and a pumpkin combined. Some even describe the flavor as being close to roasted chestnut.

We treasure the squash so much that it is used in Japanese cooking where it is simmered in dashi or soups, stewed, stir-fried, deep-fried into tenpura, or used in salads and desserts.

Why You Should Make Kabocha Pork Stir Fry
Here are a few things I want to talk about for this dish:

It’s really easy and quick to prepare!

It’s so full of flavor! Make sure to cook extra rice for a second serving.

Make a big batch and freeze it for later. It’s perfect for emergency days.

It’s nutritious and packed with protein.

You can make it sweeter or spicier … easily customizable to your liking!

How to Make Kabocha Pork Stir Fry
Ingredients You’ll Need
Kabocha squash
Ground pork — ground chicken or turkey would also work. For vegetarians, you can sub with seitan or minced mushrooms.
Seasonings: sake, soy sauce, oyster sauce, gochujang (other chili sauce for spice; or use miso for non spicy version), sugar

Overview: Steps
Marinate the pork.
Cut the kabocha and pre-cook in microwave.
Stir-fry pork until it’s almost done.
Add kabocha and cook covered to steam.
Add the seasonings and toss everything together.

Helpful Cooking Tips
Tip #1: Marinate the Meat
Ground meat, especially pork, can get dry from cooking, as the moisture and juice from the meat escape. The common technique to prevent it from happening is to coat the meat with potato starch (or cornstarch). The combination of sake, soy sauce and potato starch is often used as a marinade for the meat.
You do not need a lot of marinade for this. Just a thin coating would be more than enough to give the meat a silky coating. Too much potato starch could lead to a very thick sauce, which you would want to avoid.
A quick five to 10 minutes is all you need while prepping other ingredients.

Tip #2: Pre-cook Kabocha
Kabocha takes some time to cook through. When it’s done cooking, the texture is easily breakable. Therefore, I highly recommend pre-cooking kabocha to give it a head start.
Then add the kabocha to the dish, and cook together with other ingredients so the kabocha can soak up all the flavors.

Tip #3: Adjust the Seasonings
Feel free to adjust the spiciness and sweetness to your liking. You can completely omit gochujang if your children are not used to spicy flavors. I slowly increase the amount of gochujang so my kids developed a palate for spicy food over time.
This dish also works great with a bit more sweetness. However, if you prefer, you can omit the sugar completely to keep it savory.

Kabocha Pork Stir Fry
Kabocha Pork Stir Fry is a simple yet satisfying dish you’ll enjoy when kabocha is in season. It’s a one-pan wonder for a weeknight dinner!

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 30 mins

Servings: 2

6 oz ground pork (you can use turkey or chicken; for vegetarians, you can sub with seitan or minced mushrooms)
11 oz kabocha 1/4 kabocha; you can use butternut squash or acorn squash)
1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.)
1 clove garlic

For Pork Marinade
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sake
1 tsp potato starch or cornstarch

For Stir-Fry Seasoning
1 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp gochujang (Korean chili paste) (you can substitute it with other chili sauce for spicy version; or use miso for non-spicy version)
1 tsp sugar

Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients: https://www.justonecookbook.com/ingredient-substitution-for-japanese-cooking.

For the full recipe, visit: https://www.justonecookbook.com/kabocha-pork-stir-fry/.

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