Recipe: Coconut Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

updated Jan 29, 2020
Coconut Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

When the temperature drops in January, what we really want is food that fills us up and nourishes at the same time. So start your day with a hearty smoothie, but finish it with a wholesome stew. This is one of a series of stews designed to make you feel good in every possible way. Brimming with veggies and spices, each of these wholesome stews will support and reward your best New Year’s intentions.

Chicken stew is so easy and satisfying that it’s little wonder that many cooks use a chicken in every pot — but that doesn’t mean every pot has to taste the same. This recipe keeps everything we love about chicken stew, but takes cues from a favorite Brazilian stew to make it feel fresh and interesting.

This is a quick stew; it’s straightforward enough to knock out at the end of a busy work day. When cooking quickly, each ingredient has to play an integral role and share the heavy lifting. To ensure they can do their part, make sure your dried spices are in top form. At least once each season, give your spice collection the sniff test: If their aroma doesn’t hit you with bold fragrance, they’ve lost most of their punch. Sometimes all it takes to be a better cook is to buy fresh spices.

TV commercials for canned soup and frozen meals suggest that white meat chicken is somehow superior, but chicken thighs rule in stews because they are less likely than breast meat to turn dry and stringy.

The signature garnishes are for more than looks — they are the last way to add flavor, interest, and texture. It also lets each guest add a personalized touch to their serving. Rice is a traditional accompaniment, but this stew is hearty enough to serve solo. Likewise, depending on your rule book, this stew is Paleo-friendly.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Coconut Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1/3 cup

    peeled and thinly sliced fresh ginger (3 ounces)

  • 4 cloves

    garlic, peeled

  • 2

    jalapeño peppers, chopped (seeds removed to reduce heat)

  • 1/4 cup

    freshly squeezed orange or lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon


  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground turmeric

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 3 tablespoons

    peanut oil, divided

  • 1

    large onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1

    (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices

  • 1/2 cup

    roasted peanuts

  • 1/2 cup

    unsweetened coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup

    shredded unsweetened coconut, plus more for garnish

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth or stock

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground ground black pepper, plus more to taste

  • 1 pound

    sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces

  • 2 pounds

    boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

  • Serve with: orange or lime wedges, chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro, and cooked rice (optional)


  1. Pulse the ginger, garlic, jalapeños, juice, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and water in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until it forms a paste; set aside in the food processor.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 8 minutes.

  3. Stir in the ginger paste (reserve the food processor; no need to wash) and cook, stirring, until the paste begins to brown, about 3 minutes.

  4. Stir in the tomatoes, peanuts, coconut milk, and coconut and cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer back into the food processor and purée until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan. (Alternatively, purée it directly in the saucepan with an immersion blender.)

  5. Add the broth and measured salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in the sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Keep warm over low heat.

  6. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches to avoid crowding the skillet, brown and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Add the chicken to the stew and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

  7. Serve garnished with shredded coconut, orange or lime wedges, peanuts, and cilantro. This can also be served over rice.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Paleo: Swap coconut or olive oil for the peanut oil and omit the peanuts.