Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe

Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe – A Traditional Recipe that is gluten free, vegan, made with mixed vegetables, an aromatic broth using Kerala’s finest spice blends and coconut milk.

Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe

Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe

When we talk about Kerala, we are transported to the gorgeous backwaters, immense greenery, pleasant weather, the tea plantations and spices. The recent devastation due to rains have destroyed much of the beauty but has not been able to shake the undying spirit of the people who are now struggling hard to revive their home, land and their spirit to overcome the loss of their loved ones too.

Being a Keralite (I hail from Palakkad), the news of the devastation deeply disturbed me. Though, I have to admit, I have not seen much of Kerala, since I was born and brought up in Mumbai and my parents and grandparents moved to Mumbai much earlier so there is nothing much left for me to go back. Nevertheless, the place has my heart for 2 reasons – Guruvayoor and my paternal side Ancestral deity which are my roots.

So, inspite of being a busy month with Ganesh Chaturthi Celebrations at home and managing several other commitments, I couldn’t say no to the Shhhh Cooking Group on FB when they announced that this month, we would be cooking from the Kerala Cuisine as an ode to the lost lives and property and with a wish that things resume back to normalcy. Presenting Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe

Happy to be partnered with Jayashree Trao who blogs at Evergreendishes and receiving my two secret ingredients namely (1) Ginger and (2) Black Pepper, I decided to make one of my favourite vegetarian side options, the Veg Stew or Ishtew as its called. Do check out Jayashree’s blog for some lovely recipes.

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Kerala Style Veg Stew is a thin gravy or broth that is flavoured with the best of Kerala spices namely Peppercorns, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Another key ingredient the dish uses, is coconut milk. Coconut grows in abundance in Kerala and perhaps the reason it forms part of all the gravies, vegetarian sides and even rice dishes too. Some add garlic to the stew whereas some skip as it gets a bit overpowering. I have skipped garlic and only added the pearl onions to the gravy.

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Originally the Kerala Christians made the stew with chicken and some vegetables like potatoes and flavoured with all the Kerala spices and thickened the gravy using coconut milk. However, the Hindus adapted the same recipe and replaced the chicken with loads of vegetables like French beans, carrots, peas, potatoes and cauliflower. This stew recipe is gluten free and vegan. 

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The Kerala Style Veg Stew has a medium consistency broth which is extremely flavourful and aromatic – courtesy the fresh local spices. Its best eaten as part of breakfast with Appams or Idiappams. Appams are similar to dosas but spongier and softer in texture with crisp edges. Idiappams are string hoppers which is basically rice flour passed through a cylindrical press and then steamed, served with either the stew or even plain coconut milk mixed with some sugar.

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Aviyal or Avial, another Kerala favourite is made using mixed vegetables and cooked in a coconut based gravy is completely different from the Stew. It doesn’t include whole spices nor coconut milk. But this vegetable forms part of all the Onam and Vishu Sadya meals in every home. Do check out the recipe on the blog.

Our trips to Kerala and Guruvayoor in particular are incomplete without all the breakfast specials like Puttu and Kadala curry with papadam or Appam and Stew, or my eternal favourite which is Puttu Pansarai (sugar) and ghee.

If you are in love with this dish, as much as we are at home, check out the recipe with the step by step pics and make a piping bowl of Stew today. Did I tell you that the stew tastes amazing with toasted crisp bread slices? Haven’t tried that combo yet? Please do! 

Recipe for Kerala Style Vegetarian Stew or Ishtew Recipe with step by step pics

Prep Time – 10 mins (if you are opting for readymade coconut milk)

                    –  30 mins (if you opt to make coconut milk from scratch)

Cook Time – 20 mins

Serves 2 nos.


    1. 1 cup of mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, French beans and potatoes)


    1. ¼ cup finely sliced shallots or pearl onions


    1. 1 cup of Coconut milk (1/2 cup thick and ½ cup thin)


    1. 2 tsps of coconut oil


    1. 1 tsp of grated Ginger


    1. 4 to 5 cloves


    1. ½ inch cinnamon stick


    1. 1 bay leaf


    1. 8 nos. peppercorns


    1. 1 star anise


    1. 1 black cardamom


    1. Few curry leaves


    1. 1/2 cup water to cook the vegetables


  1. Salt as per taste


    1. Finely slice the shallots or pearl onions. In case you don’t have the pearl onions, add the white ones instead of red as they have mild taste.


    1. Heat a kadhai or a non stick pan and add coconut oil followed by the whole spices like pepper, bay leaf, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.


    1. Now add the onions followed by grated ginger. Saute this mixture for a few minutes until the onions turn translucent in colour.


    1. Add the mixed vegetables, some water and salt. Close the pan with the lid and allow the vegetables to cook.


    1. Once the vegetables have cooked (they should retain their texture and not turn mushy), add the thick coconut milk.


    1. Stir well, add curry leaves and let it simmer for few seconds (without a lid).


    1. You will see the stew thickening. Now add the ½ cup of thin coconut milk and stir the mixture well.


    1. Let it simmer for a few seconds on low heat.


  1. Switch off the gas and serve it piping hot with idiappam or string hoppers, dosas, appam or even with chapatis or rotis.

Recipe Notes 

    • The cup measurement used is 1 cup is 200 ml. 


    • You can use canned coconut milk too for this recipe. Adjust consistency and thickness with some warm water accordingly.


    • You can steam the vegetables and add them to the spice mix too but I prefer to cook the vegetables with the whole spices as the stew smells pretty good. 


  • Add a variety of vegetables. I have added the staple and in season variety. You can add cauliflower or broccoli too if you like. 


Vidya Narayan



Views: 5773

Vidya Narayan

Hi Everyone, I am Vidya Narayan & Welcome to my blog MasalaChilli. Born in a Traditional Palakkad Iyer (South Indian) Family with strong value systems to an exceptionally strong and independent Single Mom, spent most of my childhood studying well (as most Iyer girls do).

This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. OMG! I am so gonna try this and post my version of the recipe, if that goes well! I will surely tag you in my post! I just love ishtew! 🙂

    1. So nice to hear that and I hope that your version turns out better than mine. Good luck!

  2. Superb Vidya mam… Coconut milk is such an amazing ingredient – one of my super favorites – due to its quality of giving a satisfying feeling, a peaceful feeling – just can’t quote enough.

    Would love to taste this Stew made by you! Pictures are so tempting!

    1. Firstly Abhinay, thank you for stopping by on the blog and pouring such wonderful words. Means a lot and it would be a pleasure to host you someday. Make a plan to Mumbai soon and let me know. Cheers!

  3. I love the simplicity of stew, yet how hearty and flavourful it is. Your version looks delicious!
    Lovely pics too! 🙂

    1. Thank you Priya!

  4. Very pleasing curry with healthy ingredients….love this stew with appam😊

    1. Thanks dear and I agree, this tastes best with appams.

    1. Thank you Deepti and I agree.

  5. I add only ginger to my stew, and very minimal spice – cinnamon and black pepper. 🙂 Definitely ishtu is what goes so well with appams and idiyappams, and my girls totally love it, though they do tell me to add the chicken into it, which I wouldn’t! I have always had ishtu with lots of potatoes… 🙂 Lovely clicks dear, and good to know your routes… 🙂

    1. Thanks dear Rafee and I was glad to make the traditional recipe of Kerala which many love and adore for breakfast. Time was short, else I would have gone all out to make the Appams too.

  6. Perfectly made ishtew.. love it with appams and idiyappams. I loved your presentation and clicks Vidya. The chatti with handle is cute.

    1. Thanks a lot Shobhaji, this one is a classic dish and I was so glad I could make it. The chatti is coincidentally from Kerala too.

  7. I love the stew and it is one of my most favorite side dishes for Appams 🙂 Lovely presentation Vidya!

    1. Thank you so much and yes, appams with stew are a classic !

    1. Pavithra, you are just like me – I can just have this like a soup. Thanks dear.

  8. love this with some homemade idiyappams ! yummy stew… I particularly add a little more than usual potatoes to this to give it a creamy thick consistency. The leftovers taste great even with hot chapatis.

    1. Absolutely true Kalyani and yes, potatoes with that creamy coconut sauce does taste delicious, especially for chapatis. Thanks dear.

  9. This soup looks so divine. Your presentation is wonderful Vidya!

    1. Glad you liked the pictures and the presentation.

    1. Thanks so much and stews with loads of veggies make it all the more filling.

  10. Now this is one stew hubby will love n relish. Will taste great with appeals, iddiappam something he cannot resist . Must make it soon as he is getting bored with his “diet “. Thanks Vidya

    1. Ha ha.. Please relieve him soon of his diet and feed him this and many more of his favs. Thanks dear

  11. one of my favourite dishes from Kerala, love to have it with idiyappam or aapam. The pictures also look really good

    1. Thanks Priya!

  12. Its been a while i prepared ishtew at home, what a lovely medley of vegetables na, how delicious and inviting this stew looks. A prefect dish to serve with Idiyappams na..Seriously i couldnt stop myself drooling here.

    1. Make a batch soon Priya and pair it with your gorgeous breads, it would be as delicious as Appams or idiappams too.

  13. Wow Vidya stew looks so inviting. Always love your presentation. I have learned to make a stew from my mom in law. Made it veg non veg both. But never used coconut milk. Bookmaking it to try soon.

    1. Kerala based stews are mostly coconut milk based. They impart the sweetness and aroma to the stews. Thanks so much and hope you like it.

  14. This stew looks lipsmacking delicious. I am not a lover of coconut bases curries but the way you have made and clicked those pics, I just want to have some now.

    1. Renu, this is not a curry, its a Stew Dear. Stews are light and flavourful than the curries. Thanks so much dear.

  15. It looks very yummy , I always love this mild creamy gravy with appam!

    1. Same here Poornima. Thanks

  16. Vidya, when the caterer suggested making appams and veg stew for my daughter’s wedding as something different for the guests to enjoy, I was a bit skeptical as I had not tasted either. He was kind enough to bring some home for me and I loved it. Since then have had veggie stew and appam about 4-5 times and also made it at home. What a wonderful share… a veggie stew. Looks so delicious and you’re tempting me to make it soon.

    1. Stew is something that can be enjoyed on its own during winters and I am glad you loved it. I can eat this with toasted bread too.

  17. I just add ginger and green chillies to my Ishtew. Most importantly I have to guard against my brother slurping the entire batch before lunch time. He is absolutely crazy about Ishtew.

    1. The simple stew minus the whole spices, like you mentioned is also great option. I like that with Adai and dosas actually.

  18. The kerala stew goes well with neer dosa too. Yours looks delicious.

    1. Thank you.

    2. thanks

  19. Vidya, you really captured the name…istew. I can ever remember calling it stew and get so annoyed when someone calls it stew… I use to love plain potato one. yours looks lovely, i have to try this

    1. Haha.. Thanks, I guess for us Keralites, Ishtew is more preferred than stew any day. Thanks and glad you liked it.

  20. The keraka style stew sounds so flavorful Vidya ! Love your props and presentation . It makes the dish look so appealing !

    1. Thank you so much Poonam

  21. Whenever I have visited Kerala or a Kerala restaurant, I have made a beeline for aapam with vegetable stew. Unfortunately for me, I have had very poor luck (or skills!) while trying to make the stew at home – I never get the rusty consistency and it usually turns out bland and boring. Thanks to your recipe I think I can make one more attempt at making a decent vegetable stew!

    1. Do try this, I hope people will start making a beeline outside your home for the best stew and appams next time. ha ha .. Thanks so much

  22. It’s just mouth watering.. No joke..

    1. Thank you so much

  23. Ishtew looks so perfect Vidya ! Must be a good combo with appam / idiyappam.
    And yes, the clicks are wow dear .. Love this share 🙂

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