the taste space

Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on November 10, 2010


I have been apprehensive of curries for a long time. I do not like curry. Rather, there is something in curry powder I do not like. A bit earthy, definitely spicy. I still haven’t figured it out. It may just be the chili pepper!

I enjoy Indian food, though, and bought 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer to help me conquer my fear of curries without the use of curry powder. I simply omit the peppercorns and add Aleppo chili flakes to my liking. :) Browsing through the cookbook, you realized this is a cookbook of authentic Indian dishes along with contemporary dishes with an Indian spin. And they are all considered curries.

The word “curry” doesn’t exist in the Indian vocabulary. Authentic Indian dishes do not call for curry powder, either! So what is a curry then? Iyer describes it as any dish which is simmered with a sauce/liquid with spices and herbs, which can be pretty much anything.

Hence why this dish is considered a curry.

And I didn’t even know it until after I sat down to eat it.

In my quest to find interesting ways to use my large bunch of kale (superfood #1), I stumbled upon a vanilla sweet potato and kale soup by KathEats. I adapted it by swapping some of the sweet potato for butternut squash. I inadvertently added more coconut milk (my can was 19 oz, but I think 14 oz is the standard size) and instead of using garam masala, I made my own spice blend, loosely based off of Lisa’s post.


This was supposed to be a soup, but it was too thick to be a soup and too saucy to be a stew (although it technically could be considered a stew since everything was stewing). In the end, we christened it as a curry due to its Indian-flavoured spices and use of coconut milk.

Regardless, this was delicious. DELICIOUS. It was sweet, savoury, spicy, and salty. It was hearty, yet creamy. It was filling. It was everything great. Just not a soup.

The sweet potatoes and butternut squash cook down to a sweet hearty broth, aided by a blender. Coconut milk permeates along with the sweet/spicy flavours of the garam masala – cumin, cardamom, cloves, coriander, cinnamon and nutmeg – with a kick from Aleppo chili flakes. I almost thought to leave this as a nice soup after blending it, as it tasted great. But I am glad I persisted, because the kale was a delight. Chewy and full of texture. The vanilla worked well and the raisins were like hidden treasures, sweet jewels popping up in every few bites or so.

I am sure this would still be nice as a thinned soup, but served with rice, the textures balanced out nicely.

This is my submission to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring sweet potatoes and to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for coconut.

Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry

2 pounds of sweet potato and butternut squash, combined – (I used 1 lb sweet potato and 1 lb squash), cut into 1” pieces
3 cloves garlic,  chopped
1 can lite coconut milk (I used a 19 oz can, but you might get something more soup-like if you use a 14 oz can of lite coconut milk)
1 cup milk (or almond milk, or vanilla soy milk, if vegan)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes (add more for more heat, this is pretty tame)
1/2 lb kale (4 packed cups), trimmed, washed and torn into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup raisins
1/8 cup salted peanuts, for garnish
shredded coconut, for garnish

1. Cook sweet potatoes and squash in microwave on high for 6.5 minutes.
2. Heat a large pot on medium high. Spray with cooking spray and add potatoes and squash, cooking until they begin to brown. Stir in garlic.
3. Add coconut milk, milk, spices, salt, pepper and flakes.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Mash potatoes with potato masher or puree with immersion blender.
6. Add raisins, kale and vanilla and cover. Allow to cook for 8-10 more minutes, until kale is bright green.
7. Portion into bowls and garnish with 1 tbsp each peanuts and coconut. Serve with rice or roti.

Serves 6.

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34 Responses

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  1. Deanna said, on November 10, 2010 at 7:48 AM

    I’m trying to learn to like kale – and this looks like a great way to eat it. (So far, I’m good with kale chips and that’s about it.) But, I love curries – so a kale curry? I can do that. I checked that book out from the library and loved it, too. So many curries, so little tummy space.

    • Saveur said, on November 10, 2010 at 1:17 PM

      I have really been enjoying the kale as part of soups and stews. It really keeps its shape very well. I tried the kale chips before but didn’t love them. They also cannot last at all as leftovers. :(

  2. Ricki said, on November 10, 2010 at 10:54 AM

    This recipe is definitely one reason why I love sweet potatoes–they can be used in infinite ways! I bet the sweet/spicy/smooth/creamy/saucy/soupy mix was truly mouthwatering. And your photo is gorgeous! Thanks so much for entering this in the SOS Challenge this month. :)

  3. Leinana said, on November 10, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    I just discovered your site & wanted to say that your recipes look incredible, and your photos are just gorgeous! Definitely looking forward to browsing through your past posts & keeping up with the new ones! :)

  4. Megha said, on November 10, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    very interesting to notice vanilla in your dish…I’ve never tasted vanilla in any curry.

  5. [...] But I figured I’d pay homage to Vegan MoFo by posting vegan-friendly dishes all month. So far, so [...]

  6. Lauren said, on November 14, 2010 at 9:17 AM

    Kath’s original recipe has become a staple in my kitchen… and your adaption sounds fantastic! I love the spices you used, and will definitely be trying your version of the recipe.

  7. Carrie said, on November 15, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    Interesting recipe, I haven’t seen one like it! It sure looks delicious! I love the salted peanut garnish – seems like it would pair perfectly with the rest of the flavors.

  8. scrumptious said, on November 16, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    I hate packaged curry powder as well. There’s something about the taste that just really turns me off. Japanese curry is always strongly flavored with curry powder. Blech!!! I was so happy when I learned about making my own spice mixes and making Indian food from scratch.

    This recipe is super intriguing! New flavor combinations – I can’t wait to try it.

    • Saveur said, on November 16, 2010 at 6:49 PM

      That is so funny you mention Japanese curry. Most people find it sweeter/lighter than traditional Indian curry. But of all the dishes I ate in Japan, I couldn’t even finish my Japanese curry. It was terrible! Too spicy, wrong flavours, yuck!

      yay for creating our own spice blend! :)

  9. Cara said, on November 17, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    What incredible flavors! I especially love the use of the raisins and peanuts – one of my favorite restuarants serves a curried chicken salad with those ingredients (and banana! It’s quite phenomenal, if you like curry powder, I suppose ;) ) I am definitely bookmarking this one.

  10. [...] cooking. Spices don’t keep long, which is why I only buy the spices I need. I make my own garam masala and now I will show you how to make your own chili powder. For the spice-sissies like me, this is [...]

  11. [...] I really liked this dish. It is ridiculously healthy and ridiculously easy to make (you just need 2 hours for the long braise). And you end up with perfect, melt-in-your-mouth cabbage. Molly Stevens named this the “World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage” and I agree. However, as a stand-alone dish, it can’t compete with the Top 10.Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry [...]

  12. [...] rolled around and I still have the rice cooker, without having made Tamarind Lentils myself. But lots of rice, mind [...]

  13. Ashley said, on January 19, 2011 at 8:07 PM

    I have 660 Curries too and don’t cook nearly enough from it! This looks amazing, so creamy and delicious. I’m a little wary of the vanilla but lots of people seem to be using it in their savoury cooking so I should give it a try!

  14. [...] Sweet Potato and Kale Stew Adapted from The Taste Space [...]

  15. Wendy said, on February 14, 2011 at 1:18 AM

    Thanks for joining my vanilla theme this week. It ended up being a great week with all sorts of wonderful recipes….sweet and savory!

    Wendy
    Around My Family Table

  16. Maija Haavisto said, on August 26, 2011 at 4:00 AM

    Well, there are very different curry powders anyway. :-> Some are awful, some are wonderful. But you can definitely make curry without them, that’s for sure.

    Sounds really nice. I wonder what it would be like without the mashing (maybe I’ll have to try)?

    • Saveur said, on August 26, 2011 at 5:51 AM

      If you try it without the mashing, definitely let me know how it turns out!

      And if you like curries… I have a whole week of curries starting on Monday! All without a trace of curry powder. Stay tuned! :)

  17. [...] are actually really varied. Considering curry simply means something has been simmered in a sauce with spices/herbs, it can encompass many different kinds of meals. They are a heterogeneous bunch and hail from India [...]

  18. [...] am no stranger to renaming things as curry, as scary as it may originally [...]

  19. [...] Squash Soup with Pear, Apple Cider and Vanilla Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry Triple Corn [...]

  20. [...] Last year, with one bundle I made Brazilian Potato-Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo (Caldo Verde), Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry, African Pineapple Kale Peanut Stew AND  Cranberry Bean Mole with Roasted Butternut Squash. The [...]

  21. [...] used to make my own garam masala until I discovered Arvinda’s garam masala, which is what Rob had in his kitchen. It tastes [...]

  22. [...] three favorites include this Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry from Janet at The Taste Space, which I made in our crockpot and subbed out the peanuts for cashews [...]

  23. [...] PDF download on the My New Roots food blog; Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale curry, submitted by Janet (check out the photo of it on her blog, it’s much better than [...]

  24. Ellen Lederman said, on April 6, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    This was a hit! I so appreciate your suggesting this, Janet! Company really liked it. Tweaks were omitting the garlic due to the guests not eating it, roasting the potatoes and b squash, adding some more potatoes (I was afraid it wouldn’t be enough for 4, even though you said it serves 6), omitting the vanilla (didn’t seem to need it) and keeping some of the butternut squash and potatoes in chunks.

    Our guests were Malaysian, so they are very used to curries and they loved it.

  25. Ellen Lederman said, on April 7, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    Forgot to ask—did you get your comment about the can of coco milk backwards? You said you used a 19 ounce can of milk, but that a 14 ounce can may make it more souplike—trying to figure out how less liquid would make it more liquidy, but am drawing a blank (not unusual for me!).

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 7, 2013 at 4:54 PM

      Oh, blast from the past… I remember thinking my can was really thick… maybe it had a lot of cream that made it more solid? I think that was my reasoning..

    • janet @ the taste space said, on April 7, 2013 at 4:59 PM

      Actually it took me a while to realize it but the ethnic cans of coconut milk are all lite! Maybe I had a full fat can or something..

  26. [...] Bowl with Avocado and Asparagus, among others with minor modifications). In the end, Ellen made my Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry and it received high praises from her and her guests [...]

  27. […] Saveur’s Vanilla Sweet Potato and Kale Curry […]


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