This hearty, healthy Butternut Squash Chicken Stew with Quinoa is perfect comfort food for cold weather days! It can be made in the Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or on the Stovetop.
Original post was published in March 2014. This is an updated and improved version.
This is one of the recipes that made me fall in love with slow cooker meals. Yes, despite receiving a beautiful slow cooker and accompanying recipe book for our wedding, I didn't get the whole magic of slow cooking until some 3 years later.
In our first year of marriage I used it maybe twice. Then we decided to travel and had a garage sale where I practically gave away our first slow cooker.
Funny enough, I started reading food blogs while traveling abroad - probably because I was missing comfort food from home. And that was also when Pinterest first became popular.
Suddenly I was seeing mouthwatering slow cooker recipes everywhere. I couldn't wait to give all of them a try.
Luckily, when we returned my mother-in-law got herself a new fancy slow cooker which allowed you to brown meats before slow cooking them.
So we got her previous one and I started using it at least once a week (!) right away. We had crazy busy working schedules at the time, so it was amazing to come home to ready-cooked meals.
This wonderful Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chicken Quinoa Stew (what a mouthful - I know) came into being one day when I really felt like combining some butternut squash with quinoa.
This sounds so cliché but I literally threw a bunch of ingredients into the slow cooker without much of a clue what to expect in the end. Well, we absolutely loved the result - a flavorful, slightly spicy and hearty stew.
Perfect for cold Canadian winter days that don't seem to want to end. We loved it so much that I made it again the following week. That time I actually paid attention and wrote down what I 'threw' together.
Now, almost 4 years later I revisited the recipe. There are over 60 comments on the recipe - mostly glowing reviews - but I wanted to test a few things in order to be able to address all questions.
I ended up making a few tweaks to the recipe. Mainly, I reduced the amount of chicken breast, butternut squash and broth while leaving everything else pretty much the same.
This should solve the issue a couple of commenters had, where they weren't able to fit everything into their crockpot. At the same time it also eliminates any possibility of blandness (1 comment).
Secondly, I also wanted to test out alternative cooking methods. While this was originally a chicken and butternut squash slow cooker recipe, I wanted to see if it can also be converted to a Instant Pot and stovetop recipe.
Spoiler alert: Yes, it can! Find the full instructions for each method in the recipe box below.
How to use the Instant Pot as Slow Cooker
Also, I got to try out my Instant Pot's slow cook function for the first time. Can you believe, that after the all my gloating about slow cookers above, I don't actually have one anymore?
Multifunctionality is what sold me on the Instant Pot in the first place, but then I never ended up using the slow cook mode until now.
Luckily, everything went well and smooth on the first try. Thanks to the wealth of wisdom that can be found in Pressure Cooker Facebook groups.
Through those I learnt that slow cooker LOW equals NORMAL (not LESS!) in the Instant Pot's slow cook mode. And HIGH equals MORE.
Can you freeze this Chicken Butternut Squash Slow Cooker Stew?
No matter which way you cook this Chicken and Butternut Squash stew (Instant Pot, slow cooker or stovetop), any leftovers can certainly be frozen for a later time.
Use airtight containers but preferably no glass. I actually like 1-quart yogurt containers best for freezing any kind of soup or stew.
Just keep in mind that the butternut squash is already really soft. So after freezing, defrosting and stirring everything up, the cubes will probably break down into much smaller pieces.
Kitchen Gadgets Used:
For the Pressure Cooker version I used my 6-quart Instant Pot DUO60.
These days I don't have a separate slow cooker anymore. So for the slow cooked version I used my Instant Pot as well!! Keep in mind that a normal slow cooker's LOW and HIGH settings equal NORMAL and MORE with the Instant Pot.
When made on the stovetop nothings beats a Dutch oven for making stew! I used my beloved Marquette Castings pot.
In the video you see me stirring up the ingredients with a gorgeous olive wood utensil. I have this set.
More yummy chicken dinner recipes:
Butternut Squash Chicken Stew - Slow Cooker, Instant Pot, or Stovetop
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1.5 lbs chicken breasts, boneless, skinless diced (unless making in slow cooker)
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley or stir in ¼ cup fresh parsley after cooking
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 medium-small butternut squash peeled and cubed (about 4 cups)
- ⅔ cup quinoa
- 14 ounces (1 ¾ cups) diced tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 bay leaf
Slow Cooker Instructions:
- In a small pan heat the olive oil, then saute chopped onion and garlic until lightly browned (can be done in slow cooker if it has a browning function).
- Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add all other ingredients on top of chicken and cook on high for 3 hours or 6 hours on low.
- When using the Instant Pot for slow cooking, the 'More' setting equals high and 'Normal' equals low.
- When finished cooking, discard bay leaf. Take out chicken breasts and shred with 2 forks etc. Return shredded chicken to slow cooker together with fresh parsley (if using) and stir to combine everything evenly.
- Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- Select 'Saute' to heat the Instant Pot. Once 'Hot' displays add the oil, then stir in onion, garlic, diced chicken and all spices. Saute until the onion has softened.
- Add butternut squash cubes, quinoa, diced tomatoes, and broth. Then stir to combine and add the bay leaf on top.
- Close the lid and turn the pressure valve to 'Sealing' position. Cook on 'Manual' mode on high pressure for 5 minutes. (Mine takes about 15 minutes to come up to pressure before the timer starts counting down).
- When the cooking time is up, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes before turning the pressure valve to release any remaining pressure.
- Stir in fresh parsley and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
- Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used my Dutch Oven) on medium. Add the oil and stir in onion, garlic, and diced chicken. Add all the spices and saute until the is onion softened.
- Add butternut squash, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Stir to combine.
- Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Then close the lid and turn down to a simmer.
- After 15 minutes open the lid and stir in quinoa. Close lid again and simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Stir in fresh parsley and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
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Butternut squash typically takes around 20-30 minutes to boil until it's tender. The cooking time may vary depending on the size and freshness of the squash.
Yes, you can substitute the chicken with other meats like turkey, pork, or even beef, depending on your preference. Adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
Yes, it's recommended to peel the butternut squash before boiling it. This helps to remove the tough outer skin, making it easier to cut and cook.
Absolutely, you can customize the stew by adding various vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, or greens like spinach or kale. Adjust the cooking time based on the specific vegetables you include to ensure they are cooked to your liking.
Peeling the butternut squash before cooking is not mandatory, but it is generally advisable for most recipes to ensure a smoother texture and to enhance the overall flavor of the dish.