Vegetable stew, made with vegetables, coconut milk and flavored with whole spices. This Kerala style vegan stew is wholesome and comforting, and pairs very well with appams.
About this recipe
Kerala style vegetable stew, together with appams (hoppers), are a match made in culinary heaven. If you haven’t tried this dish, let me try to describe it to you. It’s a subtly spiced stew, inspired by the classic Western stews, but made with spices that are native to Kerala (in India).
The beauty of this recipe is that there are very few whole spices used, and the flavors of the whole spices really come out after they are sauteed in coconut oil. The stew is a blend of veggies cooked in coconut milk. This recipe is as wholesome as it gets!
Kerala stew is a staple breakfast in Malayali homes (in Kerala). There are many variations of the humble stew, from beef to mutton to chicken stew. ‘Ishtew’, as it is called sometimes, is perfect when paired with pillowy soft appams that soak up the stew, or even when paired with sliced white bread.
To make a Kerala-style Vegetable Stew, you will need:
(head to the bottom of this page to see exact ingredient measurements)
Veggies – Typical veggies used to make stew are Carrots, Potatoes, Green Beans, and Green Peas. If you are making a non-veg stew, you can also add meat (remember to saute the meat before making the stew).
Coconut Oil – This is a key ingredient in this vegan stew, the coconut oil gives a unique flavor to the stew that can not be substituted with other vegetable oils. Organic coconut oil is preferred.
Coconut Milk – Traditionally, this recipe is made with freshly extracted coconut milk. However, I use store-bought canned coconut milk and I definitely recommend this as well. Preferably get a good quality brand of coconut milk.
Whole Spices and other ingredients – Traditionally, veg or nonveg stew doesn’t require too many spices to give it flavor. You will need whole green cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, green chilies, whole curry leaves, peppercorns, and whole ginger. These ingredients will form the flavor profile of the veg stew.
Step by step recipe with images
Start by chopping the vegetables for the stew into small pieces (approximately 1/2 inch long).
Before making the stew, par-boil the vegetables in water for 4-5 minutes. The potatoes should be slightly done, just enough for a fork to just pierce it. Drain the water and keep the veggies aside.
In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat coocnut oil. Once the oil is hot, add sliced ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Saute for a couple of minutes, until the spices are aromatic. Then add the green chilies and curry leaves and saute for a minute more.
Add the par-cooked vegetables.
Add 3/4 of a can of coconut milk. If the coconut milk is too thick, thin it out with a little water. The liquid should be just enough to cover the vegetables (see image below).
Cover with a lid and let this simmer for five minutes.
Add the frozen green peas. Add salt to season. Mix well.
Using the ladle, gently mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the stew.
Cover with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
Now your vegetable stew is ready to be served! Serve it hot along with Appams or sliced white bread.
Pro Tips and Recipe Variations
Use fresh ingredients – This vegetable stew uses just a few ingredients, so it relies on the quality of these ingredients for its flavor. Try to get good quality, fresh ingredients and try to substitute them. For example, don’t swap out fresh ginger for powdered ginger, or fresh curry leaves for dried leaves. You will see a noticeable difference in the taste.
Mash the potatoes – To thicken this curry, use your ladle to mash a few of the potatoes and gently stir the mashed potato back into the curry. This will give the veg stew more body and makes it a little starchy. Don’t skip this step!
Serve with Appams or White bread – This stew is best served with homemade appams – the perfect vehicle to mop up all that stew. However, sliced white bread also pairs well with veg stew, in fact, white bread and ‘Ishtew’ was a Sunday breakfast at my grandmother’s house.
Non-Veg Stew - To make a nonveg version of this recipe, you can use either beef or chicken or mutton (goat meat), or lamb. Cut the meat into small pieces (1/2 inch long). Saute the meat in coconut oil to cook it before you add the rest of the ingredients. Continue with the recipe for veg stew.
Vegetable Stew (Kerala-style veg stew) Recipe
- 4-5 medium potatoes chopped into 1/2 inch long pieces
- 2 carrots chopped
- 1 cup green beans chopped (1/2 inch long)
- ¾ cup green peas frozen
- 2 whole green chilies
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 cup Coconut Milk Preferably use canned milk
- 1 inch piece ginger thinly sliced (julienned)
- 1½ tablespoon Coconut Oil
- Salt to season
- 1 inch Cinnamon stick
- 4-5 Green Cardamom pods
- ½ teaspoon Black Pepper Freshly ground
- Start by chopping the vegetables for the stew into small pieces (into approximately 1/2 inch long pieces).
- In a pot on the stovetop, par-boil the vegetables in water for 4-5 minutes. The potatoes should be slightly done, just enough for a fork to just pierce it. Drain the water and keep the veggies aside.
- In a Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add sliced ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Sauté for a couple of minutes, until the spices are aromatic.
- Then add the green chilies and curry leaves and sauté for a minute more.
- Add the par-cooked vegetables.
- Add 3/4 of a can of coconut milk. If the coconut milk is too thick, thin it out with a little water. The liquid should be just enough to cover the vegetables.
- Cover with a lid and let the curry simmer for five minutes.
- Add the frozen green peas. Add salt and black pepper to season. Mix well.
- Using the ladle, gently mash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the stew.
- Cover with a lid and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
- Serve the veg stew hot along with Appams or sliced white bread.