How To Cook The Best Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw – A Filipino Vegetarian Recipe

Are you tired of the usual meat dishes? Are you planning to chow down on healthier recipes for a change? Then we have the perfect menu for you, a meal that hits close to home. Ginataang Kalabasa and Sitaw (String Beans) is a classic home-made meal usually served as an alternative to the typical meat or chicken offering. 

(Photo Credits to: Knorr)

This vegetable meal is a preferred choice for mothers who are on a mission to teach their kids how to appreciate vegetable-based dishes packed with nutrients and minerals. And who could ever deny the fact that coconut milk or gata can bring out the incomparable taste in many recipes, may it be meat, fish, or even vegetables. From homes to roadside carinderia, this humble vegetarian stew is a staple offering. 

The elements needed to concoct this stew are always readily available in the market; no wonder this is a go-to dish for any household. Simple, affordable, and easy to prepare; these are the reasons why our featured dish will never go out of season. With all the incredible things said about our featured menu, we hope that you are excited as we are in learning how to make this exceptionally delicious treat. 

What Is This Particular Dish

Ginataang Kalabasa is a staple dish when serving vegetable-based dishes. Its elements are abundant, and the approach to preparing this dish is quite simple. Thus, many variations are found throughout the archipelago. If we want to look at traditional Filipino recipes, which are not influenced by any foreign culture, we will notice that they employ seafood paired with vegetables. Probably because they can be easily and readily found. 

(Photo Credits to: Junbelen)

Mothers who are trying to teach their kids how to appreciate vegetables often rely on this particular menu, because let’s admit, anything simmered or made in gata is indeed going to be a great treat not just for adults but even for kids alike. The creaminess of the coconut milk paired with the natural sweetness of the kalabasa is a match made in culinary heaven. The vegetables, which are the stars of this dish, are conventional farm produce and grown as garden vegetables. 

Gata is also a commonly used ingredient. The Philippines, being an archipelago, and a tropical one at that, is naturally abundant in coconut trees, so it is no surprise that most of our traditional dishes use its milk and meat. Its natural sweetness and creaminess go well with meats and vegetables alike. 

As we have mentioned, the spices and veggies used in this dish are abundant. They can be found anywhere, making their price relatively cheaper and thus can be made regularly without hurting your budget. Also, the components used for this dish are power-packed with nutrients, so serving it frequently will not pose any health concerns but rather assure you that you are not just making savory tasting meals but also healthy ones. 

Ways To Cook The Best Ginataang Kalabasa At Sitaw

(Photo Credits to: Junbelen)

Preparing this delicious dish comes in various ways, making it a very versatile dish. Because we believe that cooking should be an enjoyable and hassle-free experience, not the other way around, so we listed down some of the ways you can try doing this dish. 

Instant Pot

This method of making this dish is suited for people who are always in a rush. All you have to do is lightly saute the veggies with the other spices and condiments, then pour in the broth and set the instant pot in the recommended setting. Then put the gata just before the vegetables get tender. 

Slow Cooker

As the name of the recipe implies, this utilizes a slow cooking process. It allows all the goodness of the vegetables and spices to incorporate into each other while they tenderize. However, saute all of them first to draw out their flavors before putting in the broth. Add in the gata last, before the vegetables become tender but not mushy. This method draws out and concentrates the spices’ taste, while the Squash absorbs all those flavors into its fibers. 

Claypot (Kalabasa sa palayok)

The use of clay pots in preparing food is found in many Asian countries. In the Philippines, usage of earthenware predates the colonial period. The porous nature of the clay pot allows for a slower and even process. In this method, saute the ingredients first before putting it in the clay pot and the broth, and the gata. Filipinos, especially those who grew up before the turn of the century, are very familiar with this food preparation style, making dishes a home-made one. This nostalgic special dish hits close to home. 

Variations Of Recipes

This versatile vegetable menu is famous throughout the Philippines. Depending on the province, the veggies and the spices may vary to suit the people’s taste in that particular region and produce available. So we listed them down for you just in case you wanted to give them a try. 

With Dilis (Dried Anchovies)

Dried kinds of seafood can be found in any market in the country. It is an heirloom method of preserving foods to prolong shelf life, especially in a tropical land like ours, where the rainy season is longer. Dried foods are rich in umami-laden savoriness, and the concentrated flavors inside them make coconut milk-infused recipes taste more creamy and savory. 

   Please make sure that you can draw out the ingredients’ flavors by sweating them out. In place of the seafood, use dried anchovies. Simmer the vegetables with the broth and gata until the vegetables are thoroughly cooked. Use a lesser amount of salt in this dish as the dried anchovies are already salty. 

With Alamang

Alamang (krill) is a smaller variety of shrimp and is typically used to make bagoong. However, they are not just limited to just shrimp paste as they can also be used for many vegetable recipes, such as our featured kalabasa and sitaw dish. 

The same steps are to be followed when making this food; the only difference is we put the alamang in the last part to avoid overdoing them. It is a common variation, especially in the Visayas region, as their waters are teeming with abundant aquatic produce, particularly alamang. Alamang has a slightly milder taste due to their sizes, which complement the vegetables and gata’s naturally sweet and creamy flavor.  

Pakbet na Ginataan

Pakbet or Pinakbet, depending on the province you’re from, has a striking similarity with our featured dish. The only difference is the addition of tomatoes, okra, bitter gourd, and eggplant. However, making them is the same. And instead of any seafood, pork isn’t preferred meat for recipes like this.

Proceed with sauteing the pork first, drawing out its juices, then followed with the vegetables. Then add the broth until the portions are tender, adding the gata last. Bring to a boil, then serve. The said vegetables add another layer of flavor to the kalabasa dish aside from the mild sweetness. This variant is slightly more festive than the usual dish because of the pork and the added garden produce. 

Kalabasa at Sitaw With Gata and Alimasag (Blue Crab)

As we have mentioned, seafood and vegetables go well together. In the provinces of Capiz and Northern parts of Iloilo, particularly Carles and Estancia’s municipality, fishing is the primary income source. So their version of this dish uses alimasag instead of the usual shrimp. It can be said that this variant is indigenous to this region, as the main ingredient is abundant in their waters and also cultivated in fish ponds, specifically in Capiz, dubbed as the seafood capital of the Philippines. 

The vegetables are sauteed first, then simmered in broth though you can also include the alimasag in the sauteing process to extract its juices and blend in with the vegetables. The gata is added last and simmered until the crabs change in color, from its bluish shell to red. It is a sumptuous treat, especially for seafood lovers. 

Nilutik (Mashed Squash in Coconut Milk)

This dish’s particular variant is different because it omits the string beans, and the Squash is lightly mashed but not pureed. This variant can be compared to pumpkin soup because of the consistency. This recipe is famous, especially in the Iloilo province. 

The veggies are sauteed with onion and garlic. For this particular variant, alamang (krill) is more favored because of the desired mashed consistency, which calls for smaller veggies and spices. Squash is simmered until soft and almost mushy. Then the gata is added and stirred continuously until the veggies are roughly mashed. The name Nilutik comes from the Hiligaynon (a dialect spoken in the Panay islands) term for the continuous stirring motion of the spoon while cooking; the movement renders the veggies to have a mashed consistency. 


Kitchen mishaps can sometimes happen, whether we are new or even experienced in the kitchen. Just remember that these are merely new learning opportunities for us to be more efficient in the kitchen. Here are some troubleshooting steps that you can try whenever you face problems when making this dish. 

  • Bland taste

If this kalabasa dish seems to be lackluster in flavor, adding few teaspoons of fish sauce will help brighten up the sauce. Add a pinch of salt and pepper as well to highlight everything. 

  • The sauce is too thin or runny.

If the sauce became too thin, coconut milk is the answer to your dilemma. Add another cup of gata to help thicken the sauce. 


The ideal thing about this menu is not just about its taste but the fact that it is also a nutrient powerhouse. So we also listed down the benefits you can get from these veggies. 

  • Squash is loaded with Vitamin A; in fact, a cup of it is more than enough of the daily recommended intake. Vitamin A helps in the maintenance of the immune system and promotes healthy eyesight. 
  • Sitaw or String beans are rich in Vitamin A, C, and K. 


As a treat, here are some tips that you can consider to ensure that you’ll be able to nail this recipe. 

  • If you are to use fresh coconut milk, and you’ll be the one to squeeze them, do not discard the grated coconut after the first press. Pour some warm water onto it, press for the second time, and use gata as a substitute for water. It will give you a creamier taste and thicker consistency. 
  • To prevent the string beans from being overdone, blanch them in boiling water for about 20 seconds before adding them with the rest of the ingredients. It also helps in retaining its deep green color. 

Other Filipino Recipes Perfectly Served With

Pairing foods with other treats is one way of appreciating them a lot more. So here are some proven foods that go well with this particular dish.

  • Pritong Galunggong ( Fried Round Scad)

The salty, savory taste of this fried fish serves as a counterbalance to our featured dish’s richness and creaminess. The love for this food combo passed from our forefathers, who enjoyed this meal as to-go lunch when cultivating the fields. 

The crispy skin and the tender meat of this pork delicacy are a perfect partner for our vegetable dish’s soft and creamy texture. And the fibers and nutrients of the vegetables lessen the guilt when eating this sinful pork dish. 

  • Daing Na Bangus

This dish’s soft consistency complements Bangus’s firm flesh; it doesn’t even matter whether you fry it or grill it. 

  • Rice

Filipinos love rice; we eat rice with almost anything; heck, we even eat rice with just oil and soy sauce when we were younger. So it is without a doubt that rice will be the perfect canvas for our dish’s delectable flavors. 


Now that you have learned how to prepare this unique and delicious dish, make sure that you include these new, nutrient-packed veggies in your marketing list. And nailing this dish would not be a mystery for you in the kitchen with all the information we have shared with you. Have fun and enjoy!  

For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!

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Best Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw Recipe

This dish is very delicious because of the creaminess of the gata used in simmering it. Have a taste of it using these uncomplicated and quick steps. Happy cooking, and be sure to share this with your family and loved ones!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Filipino
Keyword Vegetable recipes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 229kcal
Cost $5-$10


  • 1 lb Squash cut into desired size
  • 1 cup Coconut milk
  • 1 tsp Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp Cooking oil
  • 8 pcs String beans cut into 2-inch
  • 4 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 pc Onion cubed
  • 1 cup Shrimp shelled
  • 1 1/2 cup Water


  • In a medium bowl, smashed the shrimp's head and pour 1 cup of water. Set aside.
    Note: Filter the heads, you just need the broth.
  • Heat oil in a cooking pot.
  • Saute garlic and onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Then pour-in the shrimp's head broth.
  • Add the string beans and squash, and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Then pour the coconut milk. Stir carefully until it boils.
  • When boiling, cover the pot and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Serve while hot! Enjoy.


Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 849mg | Potassium: 561mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 12068IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 119mg | Iron: 3mg
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