I love cooking with coconut milk. It has the perfect consistency for making vegetable dishes filling and rich and can be either sweet or savory. It’s also good for our immune, cardiac, and digestive systems. This recipe uses coconut milk as a base for cooking collard greens, a popular leafy green in West Africa, the American South, and many other parts of the African diaspora. Add in the butternut squash and you have an elegant, unforgettable dish that just might change the way you think about vegan food forever.


  • 1 pound collard greens, stemmed and cut into 1-inch strips

  • 2 tablespoons sustainably sourced red palm oil or vegetable oil

  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped

    TOR- Simply West African Book cover Simply West African Pierre Thiam
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into

  • ½-inch pieces (about 2 cups)

  • 1½ cups or 1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced, for serving

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving


Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the collard greens, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, until very soft and tender, about 1 hour. Drain well and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until fragrant and soft, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until fragrant, another 2 minutes. Add the butternut squash, coconut milk, lemon juice, salt, pepper, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the squash is easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked collard greens and stir to combine.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Top with the scallions and cilantro and serve.

Reprinted with permission from Simply West African by Pierre Thiam with Lisa Katamaya, copyright Pierre Thiam © 2023. Photographs by Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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