Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew

My family tries to include very low meat and meatless meals in our menu rotation each week. And while some dishes like pasta or or pizza really lend themselves to this concept, it might surprise you to know that stews are actually perfect vehicles as well. The key is blending strong flavors with spices and fats that might otherwise be covered by cuts of beef, pork, or chicken in more traditional stews.

When making vegan stews, I take a page out of Indian curry cooking. Many curries are meat free by nature and the blends of seasonings plus the reliance on ingredients like creamy coconut milk to give dishes extra flavor and substance means meat can be an afterthought if it's a thought at all. As outlined below, this stew is vegan, though you could use butter or ghee instead of coconut oil and it would be vegetarian or chicken broth instead of vegetable broth and it would be only rely lightly on meat-based ingredients. And really, reducing meat reliance is where my family is right now and I have to say, it's delicious!

This stew is excellent on its own, though adding some bread, naan, or rolls to sop up the last bits in the bowl is a lovely idea. And, like most stews, this dish is actually even lovelier the day after it has been made, so consider doubling the recipe to make a week of quick and easy lunches the next time a spring cold snap finds your address.

Sweet Potato-Lentil Stew

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flake
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1.5 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ cup brown lentils, picked over
  • 14.5 oz. fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 13.5 oz. can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 small bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the coconut oil to the pot and let it melt. Add the onions to the pot and stir. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent and quite soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chili flakes, coriander, cumin, and turmeric. Sauté the mixture until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ginger and garlic to the pot and cook for another minute. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and stir the pot to coat the potatoes in the spices. Add the lentils and diced tomatoes to the pot and stir. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable stock and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Place the lid on top of the pot and bring to a boil.

Once the stew is boiling, lower the heat to maintain a simmer and set the lid slightly askew on top of the pot so that there’s a couple inches available for steam to escape. Simmer until the sweet potatoes are almost falling apart and the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and kale to the pot and stir. Place the lid on top and continue to simmer the stew until the kale is wilted and bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Adjust the stew with more salt, pepper, chili etc. if necessary before serving.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 50 minutes

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