Sautéed Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard and Harissa Sauce

There are so many recipes for roasting butternut squash, but I want to use a skillet, so I sauteed butternut squash. Added some Swiss chard, coconut milk and spicy harissa sauce, and in a little over half an hour you’ll have a healthy, easy-to-make dish made right in your saute pan.

Cooking from the pantry

Since I’m snowed in at the moment of cooking this meal, I’m optimizing what I have in my fridge and pantry. I’m a bit of an experimental home cook, and often browse the internet for inspiration, so I asked Google what could I make with butternut squash and Swiss chard using a skillet. When I came across a recipe that included harissa sauce, I thought, "Perfect, I have that in my fridge 😁" It turns out that butternut squash with harissa is a taste sensation!

How Do You Saute Butternut Squash?

To sauté butternut squash, start by peeling and cutting it into small, even pieces to help uniform cooking. Heat a pan with a bit of oil over medium heat, then add the squash pieces, stirring occasionally. You can add seasonings like salt, pepper, or other spices for flavor.

Cook until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized on the edges, which can take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.

For the best flavor and texture, don't overcrowd the pan to allow each piece to brown nicely.

What To Pair With Sauteed Butternut Squash?

Sautéed butternut squash is great with lots of dishes because it's sweet and nutty. You can add it to salads or grains like quinoa. It's also tasty with cooked vegetables like such as kale or Swiss Chard.

Mixed with a spicy harissa sauce, this recipe makes a filling and flavorful dish that's good all on its own, or serve with meats or beans on the side, for a well-rounded meal everyone can enjoy.

As a vegetarian entree, I enjoyed a side of canary beans, but butternut squash with harissa and chard would also work well with earthy lentils or creamy butter beans (giant limas).

Or for omnivores, it is a delicious side dish to any entree such as chicken.

What is Harissa Sauce?

Harissa is a North African & Middle Eastern flavor profile that is smoky, tangy, and gives just enough spiciness without being too hot.

It is made from a paste of roasted hot chili peppers, garlic, cumin oil and lemon, then mixed with other ingredients, such as tomatoes, yogurt, or coconut milk, to make a sauce or dip.

I thought the harissa seasoning would blend perfectly with coconut milk as a simmer sauce to pair with the slightly sweet butternut squash and tender greens. Full fat and lite coconut milk can be used interchangeably, and since I sauteed the onion in coconut oil to start, I chose the lite version from the pantry.

Home Chef Tip: How to store Swiss Chard

It drives me nuts when produce wilts in my fridge before I can work it into a meal.

Here's the perfect way to make sure your swiss chard stays hydrated and crisp, and often works to revive greens that are limp straight from the market.

Leave it unwashed. Trim stems at the base and immediately place in a jar of water, just like a bouquet of flowers. Rinse individual leaves as you use them.

If you know you'll be cooking it anyway, you can go ahead and wash the whole bunch and spin dry. Chop roughly and place in airtight, freezer-safe bags. Remove any air from the bag to prevent freezer burn.


Mealtime conversation starters

“Don’t just invite someone to the party, invite them to dance.” ~ unknown

Cartoon dancing hot pepper and swiss chard used as an icon for mealtime conversation starters about enjoying who you're with

We don’t know about you, but this quote creates a wonderful word picture of what it means to feel included. It feels pretty special, doesn’t it?

By asking a question, you invite another person to dance. They feel included.

While you are cooking or sharing this meal with another, here is a question you can ask so that you don’t just invite the other person to the party, you ask them to dance. Let another person know they matter.

Question: What song makes you feel like dancing whenever you hear it?

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Sauteed butternut squash in harissa sauce. The spicy, tangy elements pair well with creamy canary beans. One skillet dinner
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4.84 from 6 votes

Sautéed Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard and Harissa Sauce

Spicy, smoky, & tangy, harissa sauce pairs well with the slightly sweet sautéed butternut squash and tender swiss chard. Complement this with your favorite bean for a complete vegetarian entree.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time50 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 244
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: African

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  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 6 cloves garlic minced, (or 3 tbsp)
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 1 medium butternut squash peeled, diced or cut lengthwise and sliced into half moons
  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 6 tbsp harissa sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger peeled and grated, or ⅛ tsp dried ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 6 leaves swiss chard stems separated and diced


Prep the vegetables

  • To peel fresh ginger, rub the skin off with the edge of a spoon. Then grate.
  • After rinsing your chard, carve the rib out from the leafy green and set aside. Chiffonade the greens or chop into bite sized pieces.
  • Dice the onion and chard ribs finely, and mince garlic.

Cooking directions

  • Sauté diced onion and chard rib in coconut oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and squash and cook for an additional minute.
  • Stir in coconut milk, harissa paste, ginger and salt, then bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until squash is almost done, about 10 minutes.
  • Uncover the pan and raise heat, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated and and the sauce has thickened.
  • Add chard leaves wilt, turning occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  • Serve hot.


If your greens are a bit wilty, perk them back up by treating them as you would a flower bouquet.
Trim a bit off the bottom of the stems and place them in a jar of water and they will firm right up again!

Hand Size Portions

Nutrition Facts
Sautéed Butternut Squash with Swiss Chard and Harissa Sauce
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Polyunsaturated Fat
Monounsaturated Fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Hand Portions

When you look at the nutritional values of a meal to log what you are eating, that is called tracking macros. A lot of people use this method to reach their health goals.

Looking at hand portion size and using this method to gauge how and what you eat is also a great method to help you reach your health goals. Many people who use this method often think this form of tracking meals is easier and more sustainable for a lifetime.

Want to learn more about hand portion size and how to use it to reach your goals? Check out the article How to Get Started with Hand Portion Sizes.

Heather Lynn Darby helps office and tech professionals disrupt the cycle of chronic stress that undermines their health, and to recover from the negative effects of sitting at a computer all day. Find other articles written by Heather on her coach profile.

If you are largely sedentary at work and rely on your intellectual acumen for success, her take on body-mind interventions will help you find a balance between being "in the zone" and getting the amount of movement that will optimize your mental productivity and prevent health problems.