Kerala Ishtew (Indian Coconut Milk Vegetable Stew) - Earth to Veg
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Kerala Ishtew (Indian Coconut Milk Vegetable Stew)

Kerala Ishtew, or Ishtu, is a hearty coconut milk vegetable stew with a little heat (but of course, feel free to make it as spicy as you’d like). Packed full of carrots, potatoes, and green beans, this is a cheap and healthy staple food in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

History & Origins

Ishtew or इश्तेव (pronounced “ish-tayv”), is a Hindi word that simply means stew. Ishtew is a hearty, soupy concoction of vegetables slow-cooked in flavourful broth. Sound vague? That’s because ishtew is an umbrella term for a whole family of dishes. Every region of India has its own take on ishtew, ranging from spicy to sour to savoury, with vegetarian and meat variations.

This version is from Kerala, is naturally vegetarian, and uses coconut milk as the base. The coconut milk gives it a velvety rich texture and unique flavour, which sets it apart from other Indian stews.

Even though I didn’t grow up eating Kerala ishtew, to me it screams comfort food. The creamy coconut milk, the soft and sweet vegetables, and the enticing aroma imparted by the curry leaves combine to make a beautifully balanced dish.

Some recipes include additional warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and star anise, but I like the mild simplicity of this pared-down version. It’s the ultimate comfort food!

What You’ll Need

Coconut Oil: You can use any neutral vegetable oil in a pinch, or even vegan butter. But coconut oil tastes the best in this recipe, plus it helps keep the colour of the stew a pale white colour.

Potato is optional, but it adds some thickeness and body to the stew.

Green Beans or Runner Beans: Green beans are more common in Kerala ishtew, but I personally love the thicker runner beans!

Ginger: Make sure, if using fresh ginger, to mash it up very very fine. You don’t want to be biting into a big ol’ chunk of ginger.

Green Chili Peppers: I used bird’s eye chili; you can also use Indian green chili peppers or hari mirch if you can find them.

Curry Leaves: If you can’t find fresh curry leaves, you can use dried curry leaves instead, which can be ordered online. But double the amount because they lose quite a bit of flavour when dried.

Coconut Milk: Use a full-fat coconut milk for the most satisfying result.

For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Step-by-Step Process

Yellow onions and wooden spatula in a teal-coloured Dutch oven.

Step 1: Add coconut oil and onions to a Dutch oven or stockpot on medium heat.

Chili pepper, ground ginger, and salt are added to cooking onions in a Dutch oven.

Step 2: Add chili peppers, salt, and ginger. Sauté until the onions are softened.

Assorted vegetables stirred together in a stockpot.

Step 3: Now add the carrot, potato, green beans, and salt.

Water being poured into a pot full of vegetables.

Step 4: Pour 2 cups of water over and cover with a lid.

curry leaves laid on top of vegetables for ishtew

Step 5: Add curry leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until vegetables are softened to your liking.

Coconut milk is poured onto a pot of cooked vegetable ishtew.

Step 6: Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk until warmed through.

Note: Turn off the heat and make sure the stew is no longer boiling before you add the coconut milk, or else it may split.

Make Ahead & Storage Tips

Keep Kerala stew in the fridge for up to five days. I haven’t tried freezing yet; let me know how it turns out if you do.

What to Serve with Kerala Ishtew

Traditionally, Kerala Ishtew is paired with various Indian rice dishes:

  • Appams (fermented coconut milk rice crepes)
  • Idiyappams (steamed rice noodle patties)
  • Puttu (steamed rice flour loaves)

Other good options are Roti, Chapati or Cooked Basmati Rice.

Recipe Card

Did you make this recipe? Please consider leaving a rating below to let me know how you liked it.

You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @earthtoveg, I will shout you out in my Stories!

coconut bowl full of kerala ishtew

Kerala Ishtew (Indian Coconut Milk Vegetable Stew)

5 from 1 vote
Author: Kelly
Course: Soup, Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 bowls
Calories: 298kcal
Cost: $0.87 per bowl
Kerala ishtew is a hearty coconut milk vegetable stew with a little heat. Full of carrots, potatoes, and green beans, this is a cheap and healthy staple food.
Print Recipe

Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.


  • Medium pot or Dutch oven with lid (a 2-quart pot is the perfect size for 1 batch of this recipe)


  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 cup large carrot, chopped
  • cup potato, chopped *optional
  • 2 cups green beans or runner beans, chopped into 2-inch segments
  • 2 tsp fresh or ground ginger
  • 3–4 green chili peppers, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large handful curry leaves double the amount if using dried leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk


  • Add coconut oil to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Sauté the onion, chili peppers, and ginger until the onions are softened, around 10 minutes.
  • Add the carrot, potato, green beans, curry leaves, salt, and water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until vegetables are softened to your liking, around 15–20 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the coconut milk.


Calories: 298kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 625mg | Potassium: 663mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 4573IU | Vitamin C: 42mg | Calcium: 65mg | Iron: 4mg
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4 thoughts on “Kerala Ishtew (Indian Coconut Milk Vegetable Stew)”

  1. Being a keralite, we really love to have this during our breakfast. but it’s so sad to see the way the name being changed. it is called Stew in Kerala and stew is something that’s present globally. how can the author take the freedom to change the name just like that? it’s unethical I would say.

    1. I was told this dish is known as ishtu in Kerala, which is anglicized as “ishtew.” Is that incorrect? I am definitely not the one who invented this word, nor did I randomly decide to rename a whole dish lol.

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