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Coconut Collard Greens with Butternut Squash

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October 24, 2023 by Pierre Thiam

I love cooking with coconut milk. It has the perfect consistency for making vegetable dishes filling and rich and can be either sweet or savory. It’s also good for our immune, cardiac, and digestive systems. This recipe uses coconut milk as a base for cooking collard greens, a popular leafy green in West Africa, the American South, and many other parts of the African diaspora. Add in the butternut squash and you have an elegant, unforgettable dish that just might change the way you think about vegan food forever.


  • lb (collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips
  • tbsp sustainably sourced red palm oil or vegetable oil
  • small yellow onion, chopped
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • small butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ -inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ½  cups or 1 can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk
  • tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • tsp fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • ½  tsp ground turmeric
  • ½  tsp cayenne pepper
  • scallions, thinly sliced, for serving
  • ¼  cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving


  • 01 .  

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the collard greens, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until very soft and tender, about 1 hour. Drain well and set aside. (See note.)

  • 02 .  

    In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until fragrant, another 2 minutes. Add the butternut squash, coconut milk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, turmeric and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked collard greens and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Top with the scallions and cilantro and serve.

  • 03 .  

    Note: A few recipes in this book call for long-cooked collard greens, and a great shortcut is to make a big batch, then store them in small batches for future use. After cooking the collard greens, drain and drop them in a large bowl of ice water to cool. Drain again, then squeeze them in a towel to remove excess moisture. Store the leaves in a small reusable bag in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 12 months. When ready to use, simply drop the leaves (cold or frozen) into the pot with the rest of the stew and cook until hot. Additionally, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda added to the boiling water will help the greens stay greener.

    Recipes and images reprinted with permission from Simply West African by Pierre Thiam with Lisa Katayama, copyright Pierre Thiam ©2023. Photographs by Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.


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