'Tacolicious' Butternut Squash Taco With Kale And Crunchy Pepitas Is Basically Fall Summed Up In One Perfect Dish

One of the things we love most about tacos is that they're always in season (although let's be real — there's no way we could ever pick just ONE thing we love most about tacos). And yet, this seasonal twist has our taste buds in serious overdrive. This butternut squash taco recipe by 'Tacolicious' lets our favorite fall gourd take center stage, wowing us with its rich autumnal flavor paired perfectly with hearty kale and crunchy pepitas (read: fried pumpkin seeds). And while this dish is a total show stopper any time of year, we honestly can't think of a better way to indulge on a brisk, autumn day. Thanks, 'Tacolicious,' for blowing our minds yet again.

Butternut squash, kale, and crunchy pepitas taco

Drummed up by our intrepid recipe tester Lauren Godfrey, this nontraditional taco, sweet with squash, earthy and nutty with kale, and crunchy with fried pumpkin seeds (pepitas), is — shhhhh — vegan. Don’t tell anyone, but because it is so tasty, no one will care. The cashew crema can be replaced by store-bought crema or our cumin-lime crema, but after polling both vegetarian and carnivorous friends, everyone preferred the nutty and rich nondairy cashew version (which must be made with raw cashews to work). To prepare the butternut squash, use a sharp peeler to remove the tough skin before slicing it in half and scooping out the seeds and fibers. Lazy cook’s tip: Some markets sell butternut squash already peeled and seeded and ready to go.

Makes about 12 tacos; serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients:

Cashew Crema

  • 2/3 cup raw cashews
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 3 limes)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Pumpkin Seeds

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 cups 1/2-inch-diced butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups finely chopped kale
  • Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
  • Chopped white onion, chopped fresh cilantro, and salsa of choice, for serving (optional)

Instructions:

To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve. Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely. In a blender, combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water, and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.

To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and sauté for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.

To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt. Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until it begins to wilt. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.

Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about 1/2 cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.

Reprinted with permission from Tacolicious, by Sara Deseran and Joe Hargrave, copyright © 2014, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.

Photographs copyright © 2014 by Alex Farnum