Pumpkin and Pigeon Peas with rice and curry leaves sit in a black serving bowl.

This vibrant Pumpkin Pigeon Pea Erissery is a treat when travelling through Kerala. Each year at the fall harvest festival of Onum it’s easy to find. It’s an essential part of the banquet feast or sadya for that festival. And, a whole lot of feasting goes on during that 10 days each year.

We are truly delighted chef Velu at Kalari Kovilakom shared the Palace for Ayurveda’s version of this dish. We’ve modified it slightly.

Chef serves it completely mashed as is traditional. But, we like to see some of the beans and pumpkin still intact so we only mash a third of the mixture. We also use easy-to-find butternut squash and pigeon peas instead of Kerala’s special thick-fleshed pumpkins.

With the grated coconut and black pepper, plus a healthy dose of curry leaves, this pairing or erissery – as it’s called in Malayalam – of squash and beans is loaded with the flavours that define Keralan cuisine. We hope this Pumpkin Pigeon Pea Erissery becomes a perennial favourite for you.

Pumpkin and Pigeon Pea Erissery Recipe

6 servings


1 cup dry pigeon peas
1 (19 oz – 540 mL) can pigeon peas (use black pigeon peas)
3 cups finely cubed butternut or other yellow fleshed pumpkin or squash
¼ teaspoon turmeric
1 Tablespoon ginger paste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1¼ cups freshly grated (or dessicated) coconut – divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 stalks fresh curry leaves


  1. Soak the dry pigeon peas in water overnight then rinse in several changes of water, drain, then add 2 cups of fresh water and the peas to a saucepan and boil on high until tender – about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Or, drain and rinse the canned peas and put them in a pot with a cup of water and bring to heat.
  2. Add the squash cubes, turmeric, pepper, ginger, cumin, 1 cup of the coconut and pepper and salt and cook until the squash is tender – about 5 minutes.
  3. Mash about a third of the mixture at this point with a potato masher. Transfer to a serving dish.
  4. Heat a small fry pan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to crackle and pop and then add the remaining ¼ cup of coconut and toss it until it is golden brown.
  5. Add the curry leaves, mix well and pour over the pumpkin and pigeon peas just before serving.
  6. Enjoy with basmati rice.

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