Sweet Potato Curry with Tofu, Bok Choy, and Carmelized Shallots

One day when I was a kid, the doctor informed my parents that I had extremely high cholesterol, 230 or something like that.  This didn’t mean much to me, except that all of the sudden I wasn’t allowed to have hot dogs anymore.  Coconut oil shared some of the blame, and it was also banished.  I had never heard of coconut oil, but it was a key ingredient in S’mores cereal, which I ate as a matter of course throughout the day, the way Muslims turn towards Mecca and pray at regular intervals.  Coconut oil was a demon and it was exorcised from my diet, and soon enough S’mores cereal disappeared from the supermarket (coincidence, or was I keeping the brand afloat?) and I’ve not tasted it since.  But to this day, the idea of cooking with coconut milk and its 43 grams of saturated fat per cup has such a tantalizing, forbidden appeal to a healthy cook like myself that I have, in weak moments, succumbed to the temptation.

[Curry Photo]

Coconut Benefits

But here’s the good news.  It turns out that coconut oil may not be so bad for us.  Recently, many benefits of coconut oil have been discovered.  In fact, it has been called a “miracle oil” and has even spawned the Coconut Diet.  According to OrganicFacts.net, some benefits of coconut oil include:

hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of coconut oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.

And of particular interest to readers of this blog:

Coconut oil is often preferred by athletes and body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that coconut oil contains [fewer] calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.

“Does not lead to the accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries”? Dammit, Mom and Dad! I could have been eating S’mores cereal this whole time!

Oh well.  At least I can cook with coconut oil on occasion and feel good about doing so.  And you don’t need to feel guilty about making this meal either.  It’s a curry dish, Indian or Thai or something.  Curry, by the way, originally referred to a cooking process, and now to a type of spicy dish, but not to a seasoning.  “Curry powder” is so named because it’s associated with the process or type of dish.  So “eating curry” doesn’t mean choking down the powder; it means preparing a curry-style meal.

[Erin Photo]This meal again highlights what I’m learning to love most about vegetarian food– the sheer variety of different ingredients, particularly vegetables, that the limitations imposed by the vegetarian lifestyle ironically afford you the opportunity to try.  If you’re in an eating box, this is how to get out.  In this dish: sweet potatoes, curry paste, shallots, bok choy, lime, cilantro, and of course, coconut milk.  Come on, when’s the last time you had a meal like this?

Sweet Potato Curry Recipe


  • 1 cup uncooked brown basmati rice
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 carton firm tofu, drained, dried, and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp peanut oil
  • salt
  • a few Tbsp soy sauce
  • 6 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 baby bok choy or 1 head chinese cabbage, cut into half-inch slices
  • 1 lime, quartered

Rinse the rice well and put in pot with 2 cups water, 1/4 tsp salt.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover for 15-20 minutes until cooked.

While the rice is cooking, heat the coconut milk and 1 cup water in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in curry paste and cilantro and add sweet potatoes and lower the heat.

Heat another skillet over medium heat, then add the tofu cubes.  Don’t touch it!  Let the tofu get a nice sear for about 5 minutes, add a little peanut oil, then season with salt and some soy sauce and shake up the pan to move the tofu around.  Cook for another 3 minutes or so and add to the sweet potatoes.

Wipe the pan and return to the heat with a little peanut oil.  Add the shallots and some salt and let caramelize, 4-5 minutes.  In another small pot, simmer the bok choy in some salted water for 3-5 minutes.  Put some rice on each plate, add sweet pototoes, tofu, and sauce, and garnish with bok choy, shallots, and lime.

A quick note: I say “dried” in reference to the tofu.  The way to do this is to cut the block into two thin slabs, lay some paper towels under, over, and between them, and rest a heavy pan on top for 15-30 minutes to squeeze out the liquid.  Change the towels a few times if you want it even drier (we didn’t change the towels, but it worked fine).  The tofu seared really nicely this way.

[Matt Photo]This was another really good meal, which is saying a lot considering I’m not a huge tofu fan.  In fact, we are awarding yet another 4 cows out of 5.  I still feel bad about handing out “4’s” like this, but here’s my justification.  A “3” would be an average meal, something that we liked but probably wouldn’t make again.  “4” is something that we’ll definitely make again.  It’s that simple.  How to distinguish a “5”?  I’m not sure yet, but I think when we have a “5,” we’ll know it.

Enjoy!  Come back tomorrow for another one.  And by the way, last time I had my cholesterol checked, it was 180.  Still slightly above average, but considering my genes, not bad.  And a hell of a lot better than when young Matthew was walking around with a ticking time bomb inside of him.



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  1. margaret says:

    I wouldn’t have even known sugar cereals existed if it hadn’t been for Sat. morning cartoons. My parents thought Cheerios were too sugary. If I dared ask for something like Apple Jacks my dad would say, “you’re better off eating the box.” I grew up eating a cereal that’s not made any more – Fortified Oat Flakes. It was plain oat flakes. And no adding more than 1 tsp of sugar in my parent’s house.

    According to the AHA a total cholesterol of 200 or less is in the desirable range. Why do you say yours is high? Do you have high LDL or triglycerides?

  2. I was just trying to do my best… who would’ve known back then that coconut oil would ever possibly be considered a “good” fat? By the way… Christine just informed me that S’mores is back on the shelf at Wal-marts. Hmmm… looks like someone hasn’t been following the rules. Mom

  3. I think that some peanuts sprinkled on top of that curry dish would be really good!

    Are peanuts allowed on the No-meat athlete diet?

  4. I agree; that’s a good idea! Peanuts are definitely allowed on the diet. I love peanut butter. But there are better nuts out there, like almonds, if you’re going to eat them every day.
    Thanks for commenting Ellie!

  5. If you are looking for an excellent tofu recipe..try this one! http://www.recipezaar.com/Sesame-Tofu-177242
    The crispy tofu is just as good as any Chinese restaurant you’ll ever find! Add eggplant for extra nutrients.

  6. S’mores ARE back on the shelf at Wal-Mart. Not IS. I was agonizing so much over the coconut oil, I apparently typed a grammar error.

  7. Christine made an excellent lunch today with millet. I had never heard of that before. Wikipedia describes millet as:

    “The millets are a group of small-seeded species of cereal crops or grains, widely grown around the world for food and fodder.”

    I hope she made it for me as food and not as fodder. It was good! Tasted like a mixture of rice and ground corn. She added it to beans with an olive/tomato/onion mixture. Chris- you should post that recipe. It was delicious! And also very filling (that’s a good thing).

    She also brought out some green and red curry paste which was really interesting! It’s in this blog’s sweet potato with curry recipe, but I have never seen or used it. However, from reading the No Meat Athlete blog, I know now that curry is a cooking process and did not originally refer to a spice. The paste is a mixture that includes chili peppers, shallots, garlic, lemon grass, coriander, peppercorns, salt and lime zest. YUM! Did it smell good! If anyone has a recipe using curry paste where the taste really comes through (I don’t like sweet potatoes) I’d love to see it!

  8. Since you made this about a year and a half ago, and this was a keeper, I was wondering if you’d made any improvements on it? Like ones that would reduce the number of pots 🙂 Couldn’t you saute the bok choy in the same pot as the shallots? I’ve never cooked with Bok Choy (but I need to figure it out since I have a bunch from my CSA), but I think it does fine with sauteing.

    Unrelated to pots… how about using coconut oil instead of peanut oil?

  9. I made this curry over the weekend and i can honestly say, it is the best thing I have ever eaten. My dinner companion has begged me to marry her, and keep her in a lifetime supply of this curry. Thanks for the excellent recipe!

    • I made this for my family and we LOVED it, definitely a new favorite. I left out the oil and salt, and cooked everything in two pots because I didn’t care to wash the extra dishes, ha. Yum!

  10. My hubby and I are on a 21 day cleanse so I’ve been searching for vegan, sugar free and wheat free recipes but still need fuel for our workouts. I made this dish last night and thought it was delicious. I would cook this again, even when we are off the cleanse, since it was so tasty. I’m an avid cook so it’s not too hard switching out the protein/dairy for vegan items, but I love the recipes on this site and it has made it much easier to find yummy dinner, lunch and snack items!

  11. Could you be more specific with the sweet potato part? What kind of chop and how long do you suggest they cook in the coconut milk? Looking forward to trying this but don’t want to mess it up!

  12. cynthia says:

    How many servings is this?

    Thanks it is DELISH!!!

  13. Made the sweet potato curry this afternoon, and I may have to give it a 4.5 or even 5 stars. It was awesome!!! I am always looking for different ways to eat tofu (that we love) and this is one recipe I will make over and over again!!! YUMMY!! Thanks~~

  14. Diana Lunan says:

    All I had in the fridge was some bok choy, sweet potato and tofu. Did not seem like they would go together but what the heck. I googled the ingredients and there was your recipe! Delish! You saved me from ordering take out man. I will make this again for sure!

  15. This was a great recipe, however, it was written poorly. Nothing is ever said about how one should prep the sweet potato or tofu so I assumed just cube them. The final paragraph of instructions seemingly out of nowhere says to wipe the pan. What pan? I just did the last instruction of adding the (cubed?) sweet potatoes to the first pan.

    And while we’re talking about pans, holy cow, why does this ask to dirty up so many pans?! There’s no need to boil the bok choy alone. I thought it was silly to keep the sauce separate until plating, so towards the end, I combined the sauce with the sweet potatoes and tofu, simmered for a few mins, and then added in the bok choy until wilted. By that time, I was starving and tired of deciphering this recipe and didn’t even both with the shallots. I did add a touch more salt to really bring out the flavors.

    Tasty recipe–despite all the saturated fat that coconut milk brings–and if you generally know how to cook, you can fairly easily figure out this recipe and just do it your own way.

  16. Can I substitute green curry paste and use coconut oil or canola in place of peanut oil?

  17. Yumm! Loved this recipe. Kept it at 3 pots by throwing the Bok Choy in with everything else at the end. So tasty and tons of leftovers! Thank you!

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