Kanako's Kitchen

Kabocha Nimono: Simmered Squash

Posted in Recipe, side dish by Kanako Noda on January 24, 2011

This is one of the most popular Japanese home cooked side-dishes. It’s not a complicated recipe, but you do need some tips and experience to make a really good one that blends the squash’s natural sweetness with just the right amount of salty soy sauce and umami dashi. In fact, this is one of those recipes where it really pays to measure things carefully before tossing them in!

Squash arrived in Japan in the middle of 16th century from Cambodia through the Portuguese. Originally, we got a kind of butternut squash, but today the green-on-the-outside variety, known as kabocha squash or Japanese pumpkin, is the most common in Japan.

Kabocha Nimono is the kind of old kitchen stand-by recipe most Japanese moms can make with their eyes closed. Cooked this way, you don’t even have to peel the squash: the skin becomes very soft through simmering. The big pitfall to watch out for here is using too much moisture and letting the pumpkin get all soggy. The goal is to get the squash soft and buttery, almost like a chestnut. You don’t want it waterlogged.

Ingredients: (for four)

  • A half of Squash (use the type that’s green on the outside, not pumpkin!)
  • Dashi stock – 400cc (mix hot water with half a teaspoon of dashi powder)
  • Soy sauce – two tablespoons
  • Sugar – one tablespoon
  • Mirin – one tablespoon
  • Sake – two tablespoons


  1. Dig out the seeds and cut the squash into chunks.
  2. If you like, partially peel the squash. Don’t peel all the skin off: it’s much prettier with some of the green skin still on.
  3. If you have enough time, cut off a little the corners to keep it from crumbling after cooking. This technique is called mentori (chamfer).
  4. Prepare hot water (400cc) and dissolve the dashi powder (half a teaspoon) in it.
  5. Place the squash and dashi stock in a big pan. The liquid should be just to cover the squash.
    If it’s too much, pour off some of the liquid to keep it from becoming too watery later.
  6. Heat the pan. When it starts to boil, add soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake.
  7. Make a paper towel dome  to seal in the moisture, and cook over middle heat until the sauce reduces (about 5 minutes – depending on your pot).
    Don’t cover.
  8. Check whether the squash is cooked by piercing with a chopstick.
    As soon as you find it’s cooked, turn off the heat. Don’t overcook it.
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8 Responses

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  1. condospalillos said, on February 16, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Nice blog!

  2. Emma - Shichimi said, on March 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Kanako,

    I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to let you know how much I’ve been enjoying it. Your articles over at Menuism are great as well!

    Cheers (and in solidarity against sushi),

    PS: Kabocha nimono is definitely one of my top 10 favorite Japanese foods. A quick question though: if I wanted to include some miso, how much would you recommend?

    • kanako said, on March 13, 2011 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Emma,
      honestly I’ve never tried with miso for kabocha… In Japan sometimes miso is used for simmered fish. It’s called “miso-ni”. According to miso-ni recipe, 1/2 tablespoon of soysauce and 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of miso could work. But I’ve never tried this and I’m not sure how it comes….

    • Minnie said, on May 5, 2011 at 10:35 am

      That saves me. Thanks for being so sesinble!

  3. Okisteve said, on September 12, 2012 at 2:56 am

    This is such a wonderful recipe! I used a whole large kabocha and it totally disappeared from the munchies table by the end of a big party! Now I’m experimenting with a dish I had at an izakaya – strips of kabocha lightly sauteed and then marinated in sugared rice vinegar.

  4. Jose Kibbey said, on January 26, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Excellent Views! I will come back often . Related information can be found at http://www.babyledweaning.com/2006/asparagus/

  5. kabocai.com review said, on June 1, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I blog quite often and I seriously thank you for your information. Your article has truly peaked my interest.
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  6. Emma said, on November 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    Is it possible to replace the saki with something else? Rice vinegar maybe?

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