Stanford chef offers up original chicken recipe

Coconut Chicken
Coconut-braised chicken with butternut squash (Alex Kekauoha)

ERICA HOLLAND-TOLL, executive chef of Stanford Flavor Lab, recently shared her original recipe for coconut-braised chicken with butternut squash and crispy spiced chickpeas with student readers of the publication Roundabout. The recipe can be easily followed using equipment found in most residence kitchens. We thought readers of Stanford Report might enjoy giving the recipe a try, as well.

The recipe is a healthy and affordable option that serves four people and can be made in about 30 minutes.

Coconut-Braised Chicken and Chickpeas with Butternut Squash


  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (or any cooking oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 inch-long piece of ginger, peeled and grated finely or well chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. of ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp. of chili flakes (add more or less depending on your preference)
  • 1 tsp. salt (if kosher salt, for table salt, use half as much and add more if needed)
  • 2 lb. boneless chicken thigh or breast, cut in large 1.5-inch chunks
  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
  • 2 15-oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 1 lb. of butternut squash diced in 1-inch chunks (this is usually easy to find already cut in most supermarkets)


  • 1 lime
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • 4-5 sprigs of mint
  • Spiced chickpeas (see recipe below)


  1. Heat a large pot over a medium flame until warm. Add oil, onion, ginger and garlic. Cook until the onions look soft and translucent.
  2. Add the butternut squash and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, chickpeas, spices and coconut milk and increase the heat. Simmer the dish for 20 minutes over medium heat so that the coconut milk reduces as the chicken and butternut squash cook.
  4. Check that the butternut squash is tender, then reduce until the sauce is thick. Season to taste, adding more salt or chili as needed.
  5. Serve with jasmine rice, a sprinkle of spiced chickpeas, mint, a lime wedge and a dollop of plain yogurt.
  6. “This is an easy dish to play around with,” Holland-Toll said. Potatoes, sweet potatoes or any other vegetable can be used instead of squash and will taste great. However, cook times will need to be adjusted.

“Adding more coconut milk will change it from a stew to a soup. Play with the amount of seasoning and spices until you find exactly what you like,” she said.

Crispy Spiced Chickpeas


  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 pinch (plus or minus) chili flakes
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin


  1. Drain chickpeas well and pat dry with a paper towel (or lay them out in a pan and dry in a refrigerator overnight).
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering, then carefully add dry chickpeas. Make sure they are dry or the oil will splatter.
  3. Stir often and shake the pan to keep them from sticking or burning. The skins will start to pull away and the chickpeas will become golden and crisp-looking. Toast for a few more minutes, then turn off the heat.
  4. Add all the spices at once and stir well. The spices should smell delicious, but by turning the heat off, you prevent them from burning or becoming bitter.

“This tasty garnish elevates this dish by providing crunch and spice,” Holland-Toll said. “The leftovers make a great snack or topping for salads and soups.”

Read more in the Roundabout.