Recipe Review

I Made Alison Roman’s Viral Chickpea Stew Recipe (or Is It Soup?)

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Christie Bok)

Almost every single recipe that New York Times columnist and Dining In cookbook author Alison Roman touches turns to viral Instagram gold. Remember these? The cookies that broke the internet?

Her recipe for salted butter chocolate chunk shortbread cookies will forever go down in history as “The Cookies.” Seriously, if you search #TheCookies on Instagram, almost all of the 4,000 results reference her recipe (and considering the number of cookies out there, that’s no small feat).

Her latest recipe to go viral on Instagram is both literally and figuratively gold: spiced chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric for the New York Times. This weeknight (wallet-friendly!) recipe comes together in less than an hour provided that you have two cans of coconut milk, two cans of chickpeas, garlic, onion, ginger, a hefty dose of turmeric, chicken or veggie stock, red pepper flakes, and whatever leafy green of your choosing on hand.

Get the recipe: Spiced Chickpea Stew with Coconut and Turmeric from The New York Times

If we’re measuring the popularity of this stew using Insta Stories as our metric, then it is off the charts. As with “The Cookies,”, Roman’s hoards of loyal followers are making what they call “The Stew” and documenting it on the ‘gram. She often regrams them herself, adding witty quips and words of encouragement, cheering them on from afar. It’s an incentive for her followers to make and photograph the stew for a chance to earn a shoutout of their own.

After watching these interactions unfold, it became clear that a consensus was lacking: Is this a soup or a stew?

Followers who attempted the recipe and ended up with a thin yellow broth with a few chickpea floaters deemed it a soup. Those who unlocked a level of silky, creamy goodness, declared it thick enough to be stew. I decided that there was only one way to settle the debate once and for all: Make “The Soup” / “The Stew” myself (while obeying Roman’s recipe to a T of course.) Here’s how it went:

(Image credit: Lauren Masur)

Phase 1: AMATEUR HOUR. I diced a large yellow onion and started sobbing so hard that my roommate fetched me a pair of sunglasses so I could complete the task without chopping a finger off, blinded by tears.

(Image credit: Lauren Masur)

Phase 2: MISE EN PLACE. I sautéed the onion, ginger, and garlic until translucent and then added a hefty dose of turmeric and red pepper flakes to the mix — the first step to achieving that gorgeous (Instagrammable) yellow hue. Turmeric, I forgive you for staining every plastic utensil and Tupperware that I own.

(Image credit: Lauren Masur)

Phase 3: CHICKPEA O’CLOCK. I love nothing more than when a super cheap pantry staple is the star of the show — and in this particular recipe, that is most definitely the case. I crisped two cans of garbanzos in the pot along with the spiced onion, garlic, and ginger, for nearly 10 minutes, then removed a cup (for garnishing the final bowls) and slightly mashed the remaining chicks.

*This step is crucial according to Roman because mashing them releases their starches which help the soup turn into stew. I obey.

(Image credit: Lauren Masur)

Phase 4: CUCKOO FOR COCONUT MILK. This recipe calls for not one, but TWO cans of coconut milk, but not just any coconut milk. Another helpful hint from Roman here: Use coconut milk that contains stabilizers. “All brands are V different. If ya start [with] a watery coconut milk, ya gonna have a watery stew. It should be thick and creamy and emulsified (look for brands that have stabilizers) not watery and grainy,” she said per her Insta Story. As you can see above, mine contained stabilizers alright!!!! I dumped two cans into the pot (as directed) and hoped for the best.

(Image credit: Lauren Masur)

Phase 5: SIMMER DOWN. After adding in chicken stock, I simmered this for nearly 40 minutes until bubbly and thick, then tossed some Tuscan kale into the mix with almost seven minutes remaining, which made it even thicker. Once it was my desired consistency (everyone’s preferred level of stewiness is different, according to Roman!), I ladled this into bowls and served with plain yogurt and naan. As promised, it was rich, silky, spicy, coconutty, hearty, and perfect for a cold weekend afternoon.

THE CONSENSUS: After following all of Roman’s tips on Instagram, I can confirm that this is definitely a stew. I mean “THE STEW.” Sorry soup conspiracy theorists, this time you lose.