Kerala Style Vegetable Stew / ‘Ishtu’ Recipe: Step by Step

Vegetable ‘Ishtu’ or ‘Stew’, is a gravy dish, more specifically a thin broth made from coconut milk and assorted spices. This is a specialty dish from Kerala, and is really tasty and nutritious in equal measure. This is very mild, aromatic and easy to prepare.


DSC_9228This stew is extremely mild in spice, with almost zero heat. It has a delicate sweetness from the coconut milk, and the fresh ground coconut in the gravy. The spices beautifully complement the sweetness of the coconut, while never overwhelming the dish at any stage. Also, this dish is incredibly light and not at all greasy or heavy on the stomach (unless, of course, you decide to stuff yourself with several appams!)


This is served traditionally with ‘Appoms’ or ‘appams’ which are fluffy, bowl-shaped pancakes made from a batter of rice, lentils and coconut.ย The idea is to soak the appams in the hot stew until they soak up all the juices and get soft ๐Ÿ™‚ YUM!ย Apart from appam, this dish goes well with idly, dosai, rice, and even chapati. In winter, this would be just as heavenly to drink (as hot soup) on its own ๐Ÿ˜€ Read on for the recipe!


  • Onion – 1, chopped finely
  • Carrots – 1, diced
  • Fresh green peas – a handful
  • Cauliflower – 1/4 cup, cut into small florets
  • Green beans – 1/4 cup, chopped finely
  • Salt to taste
  • Curry leaves – 4 to 5
  • Hing – a pinch
  • Sugar – 1/2 tsp
  • Coconut oil – 2 tsp
  • Coconut milk – 1 cup
  • Water – 2 cups

To Grind:

  • Fresh grated coconut – 1/3 cup
  • Cinnamon – 2 inch stick
  • Cloves – 4
  • Elaichi – 2
  • Ginger – 2 inch stick
  • Cashewnuts, broken – 8 to 10
  • Green chillies – 2


Grind all the ingredients with some water to form a smooth paste.


  1. Heat some coconut oil in a pressure cooker.
  2. Add chopped onion ns and saute until soft.
  3. Add curry leaves to this.
  4. Add chopped veggies to this and mix well.
  5. Add the ground coconut paste to the veggies.
  6. Top up with 2 cups of water.


  1. Close the lid of the cooker.
  2. Allow 4-5 whistles. Then switch off the stove and let the pressure release naturally.


  1. When you open the cooker, this is how it will look. The vegetables have cooked well and become soft.
  2. Now add coconut milk. Mix well.ย Add water if you need the consistency of the stew to be a little more runny. Alternatively, you can add milk as well.
  3. Add salt to taste. Add sugar and mix well. Adjust salt if needed.




Serve hot with Appam, idly, dosa, chapati or rice ๐Ÿ™‚


  • If you prefer, you can choose to temper this stew with coconut oil and curry leaves, with a bit of hing in the end. I didn’t think it was required, hence did not do it.
  • You can also add fresh cream to the stew, if you want it to be a little creamier in terms of consistency.
  • Always use thick coconut milk. If extracting fresh coconut milk, use the first milk, or the thick version. You can use the thin version to dilute the stew further. I used packaged coconut cream. Tastes equally great ๐Ÿ™‚



7 thoughts on “Kerala Style Vegetable Stew / ‘Ishtu’ Recipe: Step by Step

  1. They never use hing in stew at all. All other things were perfect. But appam has a lace like structure around and a fuffed like bun in the centre. It should not be flat in the centre. Hope u have taken this in the right spirit. Happy Friendship day.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Anamika! You’re right, they usually don’t. But every family in Kerala has their own additions/modifications to the stew recipe. I use hing because I like the flavor ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, my family doesn’t prefer appam thick in the centre, so we make it thinner while swirling the batter in the appa kadai. Plus, I don’t use yeast or baking soda in my appam batter for health reasons (I just let it ferment overnight and use it). Thats why it doesn’t seem that lacy around the sides. But it turns out really soft and flavourful, with crispy edges. When I post the appam recipe, I will post the actual lacy ones with a thick centre. Happy Friendship day to you too ๐Ÿ™‚

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