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North African harissa turkey and butternut squash stew {gluten-free}

Turkey and squash stew spiced with North African harissa hot pepper paste. #glutenfree

When we first moved into the log house fifteen years ago, we installed radiant heat under the kitchen floor. A small probe sticks out the side of the house, and when the temperature outdoors goes below 50°F, the probe triggers the thermostat and kicks on the gentle heat in the kitchen. At about that same time of year, when it's cooler outside, my cooking heats up, too. There's no shortage of hot chiles, hot pepper sauce, and hot ground peppers in my pantry from cultures around the world. One of my favorites, harissa -- a smoky, fiery, little-goes-a-long-way red pepper paste from North Africa -- adds the zing to the mild turkey and butternut squash in this dish. I use my favorite rice cooker to cook brown rice, which makes an ideal base for the stew; start the rice an hour before you're ready to make the rest of the recipe, or make it ahead of time and reheat before serving.

North African harissa turkey stew, served with brown rice. #glutenfree

North African harissa turkey and butternut squash stew

From the pantry, you'll need: olive oil, onion, garlic, ground turkey, turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, harissa, cornstarch, chicken stock (be sure to use homemade or check ingredients for gluten-free), brown rice.

Serves 6.


2 tsp olive oil
1-1/4 lb lean ground turkey (I use 93% fat-free)
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups cubed butternut squash
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1 Tbsp harissa (this will be very spicy; for a less spicy dish, start with 1 tsp harissa and add more to taste)
1 cup chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium store-bought), or water
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water
4 cups cooked brown rice


In a large, deep nonstick skillet, heat the oil. Over low-medium heat, sauté the turkey until it's no longer pink. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the squash, cover the pot, and cook for 1 minute. Then add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and harissa. Mix everything together, and sauté for 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock or water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 15 minutes until the squash is cooked.

Taste, and season to your liking with salt and plenty of black pepper. Fold in the parsley.

With the liquid in the pan at a simmer, pour in the cornstarch mixture, and stir to combine. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Portion the cooked rice into individual bowls, and top with the turkey and squash. Garnish with additional chopped parsley, and serve hot.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More reasons to buy the tube (or can) of harissa:
Moroccan carrot salad
North African harissa turkey meatballs
Chicken salad with walnuts, celery, and pomegranate-harissa yogurt sauce
Vegan butternut squash and chickpea stew
Pumpkin "hummus"

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Skillet harissa turkey meatloaf, from Skinnytaste
Pumpkin and harissa vegetarian sausage rolls, from Delicious Everyday
Shakshouka with harissa, from Wild Greens and Sardines
Harissa potatoes, from Herbivoracious
Chunky pumpkin soup, from Chocolate & Zucchini

North African harissa turkey and butternut squash stew, a spicy dish served with brown rice.

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I love spicy cooking in the cool months... Definitely bookmarking this one to try!

Sues, this one was such a hit with my family and friends. I know you'll love it.

I love the idea of a heated kitchen floor. Harissa is something I still haven't tried making - I've seen it at the store but it's so expensive. This stew sounds perfect for Fall, full of warm flavors.

Jeanette, I'll miss the heated floor when we move! It's such a nice feeling to have morning coffee with warm feet. I've never made harissa from scratch, either, though it's been on my to-do list forever. The tubes do last a long time, though, so the cost isn't too high.

I love squash &interesting in spicy :) gotta try this :) Thank you :) personal chef in austin tx

This sent me looking through bookmarks. I found your 2007 post - Spiced lentils with squash and raisins - which I made tonight. I love these tastes!
And my harissa experience, based on an exploding tube: it's reasonably priced when it's stored in the freezer. I have a glass jar, which keeps very well, and there will be no waste.

Susan, thanks for the tip about freezing harissa. It sounds like there's more to the story of the exploding tube, though!

Not as exciting as it sounds. It sat on the counter, waiting for attention, then silently leaked all over. So many things call for refrigeration and don't need it, but I did blithely observe it swelling and moved on...

You are going to miss that heated floor, what a treat. This is such an interesting and creative idea for using ground turkey. Love how you turned it into something that's delcious and unique.

Kalyn, it's true: I will miss the heated floor! We loved the combination of squash and turkey in this stew, and smoky heat just brought it all together. A real crowd-pleaser.

This recipe would be very affordable for the ap't bldg potluck & I have an excellent source for the turkey. But seniors may object to the spice--trying to think of what herbs etc. I could substitute.

I have 'piment d'espelette'--from France-perhaps it would be spicy enough for myself for this recipe- and a chance to use it. Would use chicken recipes I have found for it to figure out amount to use.

Shirley, you could use the Espelette pepper, or sweet smoked paprika (which is even milder), and cut the quantity. I hope you will try the original version some day!

A vendor at my local farmers' market who is passionate about her spice mixes, will make her own harissa recipe for me to pick up on Sat! She dries, roasts the peppers, etc. But I need to make it for a potluck for Thurs.--have to decide which spice I will use-smoked paprika of Espelette?? Thank you for your encouragment.

Shirley, you're so lucky! I'd go for the Espelette, which I think is just a bit more complex in flavor. But either spice will work well in this dish. Or, maybe get both....?

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