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Casseroles. I’m into them. Especially this time of the year. And this brown rice casserole? Delightful. The warm Indian curry spices, coconut milk, and roasted butternut squash make a hearty dinner for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike. The flavor is is simply fantastic.
With endless options and combinations, herb and spices are my power tools in the kitchen. The most familiar recipes get an updated twist with the addition of unexpected flavors. This brown rice casserole is no exception. A play on a traditional chicken and rice casserole, I used curry powder, chickpeas and long grain brown rice for this brown rice casserole recipe.
Curry powder is actually a combination of spices, usually consisting of coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek and chili pepper. Other spices such as ginger, caraway, and cardamom are also used in some formulations. Curry powder is an all purpose seasoning in my kitchen. I’ve used it in a curry vegetable galette, carrot ginger soup, and even fried millet. In fact, curry powder roasted cauliflower is one my my favorite preparations and uses.
Rice Casserole with Curry Butternut Squash
This curry brown rice casserole brings together traditional Indian spices, seasonings and ingredients in a very classic American style recipe. Instead of condensed soups (a la green bean casserole or tuna casserole), I used coconut milk to bring the flavors of the ingredients together. Long grain brown rice is incorporated as the familiar carbohydrate while tender chickpeas provide a bit of protein for a wholesome, hearty meal.
And, of course, how could I forget to include some kind of vegetable? Heaps of fresh baby spinach cook down easily and provide some color alongside the sweet, tender roasted butternut squash.
I prefer some texture to most of my dishes, which is why I precooked the ingredients before combining and heating in the oven. I find it retains the texture of the rice and the butternut squash.
Alternately, if you want to make this as more of a traditional casserole, where everything bakes in the oven, I recommend adding broth or water to cook the rice. Be sure to finely dice your butternut squash so it cooks thoroughly. Cover the casserole with foil before baking 45 to 60 minutes and then remove for the last 10 minutes.
Brown Rice Casserole with Curried Butternut Squash
A twist on classic comfort food, this vegan rice casserole includes butternut squash, chickpeas and baby spinach. Warm curry powder seasons this hearty gluten free dinner.
14.5-ounce can coconut milk
cooked brown basmati rice
fresh baby spinach
cooked butternut squash
14.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Cilantro, for serving
Heat oven to 400°F.
Warm coconut oil in a pan over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in curry powder and coconut milk.
In a large casserole dish, combine cooked rice, spinach, cooked butternut squash, chickpeas.
Pour onions and coconut milk over the rice mixture. Stir well to combine.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Serve with a garnish of cilantro.
I prefer my onions well cooked, so I sautéed them prior to adding it to the rice casserole. You can skip this step if you don’t mind slightly more pungent onions.
Prep the rice and squash ahead of time to make this an easy weeknight rice casserole. If you want an extra dose of spice, add some whole cardamom pods, cloves and garlic when you cook the rice.
You could easily brown chicken thighs when cooking the onions and bake them right into this brown rice casserole. Paneer (Indian cheese) is another mix in option.
CHECK THE FRIDGE
Don’t have spinach? Other greens like kale or swiss chard can be substituted. Be sure to chop these heartier greens finely so the cook easily. Roasted cauliflower or other winter squash can be used instead of the butternut.
Making chickpeas from scratch? You’ll need 2 cups of cooked chickpeas for this brown rice casserole.