Pumpkins are a staple of Brazilian cuisine. Known collectively as “aboboras,” the term can apply to many varieties of winter squash, including acorn squash and Japanese squash. While Brazilians are famous for their sweet tooth, they tend to favor savory pumpkin dishes over sugary ones. Quibebe is one example: a flavorful stew made from butternut squash that incorporates garlic, onion, spices, and coconut milk for a creamy and satisfying dish.
The word “quibebe” most likely comes from the Guarani word, “kiveve.” (The Guarani comprise three indigenous tribes of Brazil). It translates to “reddish,” which is a nod to the dish’s vibrant color. The original recipe was a simple, sweet gruel cooked in clay pots. In places like Paraguay, the dish continues to be more of a sweet snack or dessert: steamed pumpkin is pureed and mixed with cornmeal, sugar, and cheese.
In Brazil, however, quibebe is a savory pumpkin dish that omits the cheese and cornmeal and incorporates warming spices, like ginger and chili. The pumpkin is also cubed rather than pureed to give it a more satisfying texture. Coconut milk gives the dish a creamy consistency and a boost of added sweetness. The overall taste and texture is not dissimilar from a Thai curry. Served over fluffy white rice, it is a surprisingly rich dish that is also ridiculously easy to make.
Savory Pumpkin Stew Variations
Quibebe is highly customizable, so feel free to add whatever ingredients you like. If you want to maintain a vegetarian dish, try adding in garbanzo beans, fresh jalapeno slices, red bell pepper, and diced potatoes for even more flavor and texture. If you don’t mind a little meat, shredded chicken in savory pumpkin stew is delicious, as is zesty Brazilian sausage.
Pumpkin Stew vs Soup
Quibebe pumpkin stew has a hearty, irregular texture. You can always blend it out with an immersion blender if you prefer a soup, but then we are no longer talking about authentic quibebe.
Do You Have to Use Butternut Squash for Quibebe?
No. Any winter squash will work in this savory pumpkin dish. Ideally, though, you want one with a higher sugar content and bright orange, starchy flesh to stay true to the traditional recipe. Spaghetti squash may not be the best option, for example, since it is yellower in color and has a stringy texture when cooked.
Boiled vs Roasted Squash
Traditional quibebe involves stewing the pumpkin or boiling it. You can use roasted squash as well, but it will alter the texture and cooking time. If you do use pre-cooked or roasted squash, reduce the time you stew the mixture to just until it is heated through (5-10 minutes).
You can also buy frozen, pre-cubed butternut squash if you do not have access to fresh pumpkins. It tastes just as good and saves you the step of peeling and chopping yourself.
Savory Brazilian Pumpkin Stew Recipe (Quibebe)
2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1 inch cubes
½ yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp lime juice (1 lime should do)
2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
14 oz unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tablespoon chili paste (less if you don’t like spicy)
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander for garnish
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in a drizzle of olive oil, and cook the onions until they have softened (1-2 minutes).
- Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so (don’t let it burn!).
- Add in the cubed butternut squash and your sugar and seasonings (ginger, salt, chili paste, and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper).
- Stir in the lime juice and pour in the coconut milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.
- Stew your savory pumpkin stew over medium low heat until the squash is fork tender (around 20 minutes).
- Serve over fluffy white rice or with a slice of crusty french bread for dipping. Garnish with chopped parsley or coriander. Enjoy!