I tried to be a vegan once. It lasted a full day. My love for cheese was the biggest stumbling block in my short-lasting experiment. That, and every time I eat more than a spoon of beans or legumes, my body lets forth a tidal wave of flatulence. And more recently, I’ve discovered that soy products--the other major vegan source of protein--tend to trigger my migraines. So, while the prospect of having raging headaches every day and the occasional sharting episode sounds extremely appealing, I’ll have to pass on the vegan lifestyle. While I can’t swing a full-time vegan diet, I have been trying to decrease my meat consumption for various reasons. First, meat is expensive. When I don’t buy meat or poultry, my weekly grocery bill is at least $20 cheaper, and often up to $30 cheaper. Not buying meat could save me $1300 per year! When you work in the public sector for what feels like a pittance, those savings are major. But then you realize that $1300 can’t even pay for one month’s rent in New York City. And after you run a few more numbers, you come to the conclusion that you simply have to give up eating all food if in order to live comfortably in New York City.
What makes my grocery bills even more expensive is my conscience. The meat that I buy is particularly expensive because I place a high value on buying ethically raised, sustainable, and hormone-free meats, like grass-fed beef and organic, free-range poultry. While doing this makes me feel better as a person and allows me to gloat about my conscious consumerism to others, it makes me feel terrible when I check my bank statements.
There’s another noble reason I’m trying to eat less meat. Every time I think about global warming and what feels like the imminent implosion of our planet, I remember that raising livestock has an enormous impact on the earth’s resources. If I can minimize my role in the destruction of our earth by eating less meat, I'll sleep better at night. And you know much I value my sleep.
And finally, my less altruistic reason for eating less meat: I just want to be trendy, damnit. I’ve been trying to embrace the increasingly popular veggie-forward food movement. One of my favorite chefs, Yotam Ottolenghi, has popularized this style of cooking, and I often spend hours just browsing his cookbooks and admiring his imaginative vegetarian dishes, from cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad to braised eggs with leeks & za’atar to sweet potato galettes. While Ottolenghi does prepare meat dishes, he often elevates vegetables from the homely sidekick to the star of the show.
This Vegan Coconut Curry is one of my humble attempts to make a delicious, veggie-forward dish that is still delicious and satisfying. I didn’t do the exact math, but I think it comes out to $3 or less per serving, so you can eat this and still afford your fifth-floor walk-up 200-square-foot apartment in Manhattan. This curry is chock full of fiber and vitamins/minerals, has good-for-you complex carbs from the sweet potato and butternut squash, boasts healthy fats from the coconut milk, and has some spice to keep your libido kicking. If you want to amp up the protein but keep it vegan, add some lentils to simmer in the liquid or cook them separately. Happy sharting!
Here are some tips to get you started on this dish.
Butternut Squash: If peeling and cutting a butternut squash is too laborious for you, many supermarkets now sell pre-cut butternut squash. Or, you could substitute more sweet potatoes or a different type of squash, like kabocha or acorn squash.
Chile peppers: If spicy food gives you mudbutt or you can’t otherwise tolerate spicy food, you can omit the chili peppers or at least remove all of the seeds. Spicy fanatics, leave in most of the seeds.
Coconut Aminos: coconut aminos are a soy-free, gluten-free substitute for soy sauce. If you can tolerate soy or don’t feel like purchasing coconut aminos, feel free to use soy sauce instead.
Coconut sugar: the sugar balances out the heat and creaminess of the dish, but it is optional and can be omitted or replaced with a few tablespoons of unsweetened apple juice for those watching their sugar or doing the Whole30 challenge. If you don’t have coconut sugar, you can use honey.
Curry paste: pick your paste of choice and whichever color you prefer. I typically use Thai Kitchen green curry paste because there are no artificial ingredients or added sugar and green curry is my favorite type of curry.
Ginger: to easily mince fresh ginger, try using a microplane or peep one of the tips from The Kitchn.
Portions: This makes quite a lot of curry, so cut the recipe in half if you don’t want leftovers. But why wouldn’t you want leftovers? This meal is amazeballs.
Serve with: for a fully paleo meal, try serving this with cauliflower rice. If you’re not so concerned with all that jam, it’s delicious with quinoa or white/brown rice.
Vegan Thai Coconut Curry
Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped roughly
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped roughly
- Coconut oil, avocado oil, or olive oil for roasting
- Salt and pepper for roasting
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced
- 4-5 Thai/Bird’s eye chili peppers, split open
- 4 tablespoons of curry paste
- ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric, or ½ tablespoon of fresh, minced turmeric
- 2 cups of canned coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of Sambal Oelek chili paste
- 1 ½ tablespoons of coconut aminos
- Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 24-32 ounces of frozen vegetables (I used a bag of tri-colored peppers and a bag of broccoli)
- Lime juice
- Toppings: scallions, cilantro, avocado, purple cabbage, sesame seeds
- Preheat oven to 425 °F. Line baking trays with aluminum foil. Toss chopped sweet potatoes and butternut squash with oil of choice and season with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes until browned, flipping the veggies halfway through cooking.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes. Then, add garlic and ginger. Cook until onions are softened, approximately 8-10 minutes. During the last minute or two of cooking, add the chile peppers.
- Then, add curry paste and turmeric. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add coconut milk, coconut sugar, coconut aminos, Sambal Oelek, black pepper, roasted sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and frozen veggies. Stir and give it a taste. Add salt accordingly.
- Increase the heat and bring the curry to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low or low to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 15 minutes until the veggies are warmed through and the flavors have nicely melded.
- Finish with a few squeezes of fresh lime juice and top with desired toppings.