Keralan Vegetable Ishtoo

Vegetables are a huge part of the diet in Kerala. And, locals enjoy their vegetables especially when they are served in Keralan Vegetable Ishtoo.

Ishtoo is the Malayalam word for stew. The vegetables involved in this stew vary depending on what’s fresh at the local markets. Cooks pick the freshest seasonal ones. Then, they simmer them until tender and flavourful.

What’s different from most stews? In Kerala, cooks use coconut milk and spices for the simmering broth. These signature flavours of Keralan cuisine truly set the dish apart. And, the results are tummy-filling and heartwarming.

Keralans enjoy the dish almost daily. Then, at festival times, Keralan Vegetable Ishtoo is elevated with its own special spice masala. The masala cooks up separately. You add it just before serving for max flavour.

You’ll find both the everyday recipe and the special occasion variation here. We are grateful to friend Aroma of Casa Linda in Kochi for sharing her recipes.

Keralan Vegetable Ishtoo Recipe

6 servings


2 cups mixed vegetables (carrot, potato, cauliflower, green beans, peas)
1 small mild green chili
2 red shallots, sliced in lengthwise slivers
3 pods green cardamom (whole but cracked)
1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon bark
2 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns
1 whole star anise
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14 ounce/398mL) can coconut milk
3 Tablespoons coconut cream

For the special occasion variation:
2 Tablespoons ghee
2 Tablespoons unsalted cashews
2 Tablespoons raisins
1 green cardamom pod (whole but cracked)
1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon bark
2 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns


  1. Place the mixed vegetables, green chili, shallots, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns and star anise in a pressure cooker with water to cover and add the salt and cook for 5 minutes on high. Release the pressure, open the lid and add the coconut milk. Alternatively, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, add the mixed vegetables, green chili, shallots, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns,  star anise and salt to a large saucepan and add water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until fork tender (about 10 to 15 minutes) then add the coconut milk.
  2. Bring the stew to a boil on medium high heat once again then lower the heat, taste and adjust the salt to taste and gently stir in the coconut cream.
  3. Enjoy with rice and appams as a main or as a side with fish and seafood.
  4. For the special occasion variation: Make the Ishtoo as above but just as you lower the heat and stir in the coconut cream, heat a small fry pan on medium heat, melt the ghee and stir in the cashews, raisins, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns until the raisins puff up. Set aside. Drizzle this mixture over the Ishtoo just before serving it.

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