I have to admit, for years I hated sweet potatoes, because the only way I’d ever had them was … well, “sweet”. Drenched in brown sugar and maple syrup, often cooked in casseroles with marshmallows on top.
Then, about 15 years ago, I had an epiphany. What if I cooked sweet potatoes just like … well, regular potatoes? Baked them in the oven and just added butter, salt, (sometimes garlic salt), and pepper?
To my surprise I discovered I loved them.
My Punjabi partner also hated sweet potatoes – because he’d only ever had them the same way, in sickeningly sweet casseroles. So last Autumn, when sweet potatoes started making an appearance, I created this little vegan Indian fusion sweet potato soup. It’s been a big hit with students in my cooking classes. It’s very much a “modify to suit yourself” soup – but don’t let that scare you, because really, as long as you like sweet potatoes, you can’t screw it up.
- 3 Sweet Potatoes
- 1 Smallish Onion, diced
- 2 Cloves Garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon Ginger Paste or about 1 inch piece of Fresh Ginger, minced
- 1-3 Green Chili Peppers, chopped fine (or, if that’s not available, 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red Cayenne pepper)
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 teaspoons Salt (maybe more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder (Optional, see notes)
- 1/2 -1 teaspoon Garam Masala (Optional, see notes)
- 3 cups Water
- 1-2 Cups favorite vegan cooking “Milk”
- EarthBalance (optional)
- Chopped Cilantro (optional)
- Soy Yogurt (optional)
- Cook sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 for approximately 1 hour. Once they’re done, let cool briefly, then remove skins.
- Chop/dice/mince the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers. If you can’t find green chili peppers (in Charlotte you have to buy them from an ethnic store), substitute 1/4 – 1/2 red Cayenne pepper later.
- Saute the onion in the olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and peppers, if using. Saute another 3-4 minutes.
- Add the sweet potatoes to the pot and mash with spoon. There should be enough liquid in the sweet potatoes you can stir them with the onions, garlic, etc. Add salt and pepper. Add cayenne pepper, if you didn’t add chili peppers earlier. Add curry powder. If you don’t have curry powder, don’t worry about it. If you do, be sure not to add more than 1/2 teaspoon. Add water. Stir well.
- If you have an immersion blender (I highly recommend them) now’s the time to use it. If not, don’t worry about it. You can pour the soup into a regular blender later right before serving, or just leave the soup chunky.
- Simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
- Add your favorite vegan cooking “milk” – for me, it’s usually some version of unsweetened soymilk. Depending on the size of the sweet potatoes you used, you’ll need to add one to two cups. Start with one and add more, depending on what looks good to you.
- If you have garam masala, add at least 1/2 teaspoon but no more than 1 teaspoon. If you don’t have garam masala, don’t worry about it.
- Simmer again on low heat for 5 minutes. It’s important the soup doesn’t come to a full boil – that can really change the taste/consistency of faux milks. If you haven’t already used an immersion blender, you can carefully blend the soup, in batches, in a blender, or just serve chunky. Just mash the soup with a spoon against the sides of the pot to get it as smooth as possible.
- If you want it really rich and super creamy, add a teaspoon to a tablespoon of EarthBalance to the soup. Let melt and stir.
- Ladle into bowls, then top with chopped cilantro or a dollop of soy yogurt (again, cilantro and yogurt are optional).
- My favorite way to enjoy this soup is WITH garam masala and WITHOUT the curry powder – a more traditional Indian approach. However, many of my students prefer the curry powder – either with or without the garam masala added later! Experiment to find out what works for you. If you do use curry powder, remember it is ALWAYS better to err on the side of less rather than more. If you are timid about spices, this soup will actually taste fine without the curry powder and garam masala. If you accidentally get the soup too spicy for your taste, add more milk.
- Don’t try to substitute Jalapeno peppers for the green chili peppers UNLESS you bought them from a farmer’s market and they truly have some fire! The Jalapeno peppers I buy from Harris Teeter have a tendency to be too sweet and mild and don’t add anything to my recipes (or even worse, detract from them because of the sweetness).
- The amount of “milk” used is also subjective, depending on how thin or thick you like your soup. The soup will definitely get thicker as it sits. Some of my students enjoy using SoDelicious coconut milk instead of soymilk. It’s not what I prefer, but apparently it suits American palates.
- Chopped cilantro and yogurt are optional garnishes. If you have neither on hand, just do a quick grind of black pepper!
To me, this soup tastes like Autumn in a bowl. Go ahead – experiment with it, play with it, and make it your own.
Your soup sounds delicious! I adore sweet potatoes. I also love Indian food. I have never had sweet potatoes in a ‘sweet’ recipe. I find it hard to imagine. I love them baked, or in curries.
Oh, wow, Ally, for years that was the only way I had ever known sweet potatoes! Baked or in casseroles with brown sugar, raisins, maple syrup, cinnamon, marshmallows … also plenty of sweet potato muffins and breads. Not to mention sweet potato pie! iicck! Here in Charlotte, NC a savory sweet potato is still pretty radical, but I’m glad to say it seems to be catching on!
It’s interesting how the same vegetable can be used so differently in different places- where I live, the sweet potato casseroles that you describe would be regarded as radical. Maybe I should try it. Or, maybe I should learn from your experience and save myself from the experience!
I would say … don’t try it. But then again, at every Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations those casseroles have disappeared pretty quickly … Maybe I should revise my soup to 3 sweet potatoes + 1 cup brown sugar + 1 cup maple syrup + 1 cup vegan marshmallows …
I can’t wait to try this. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite vegetable. I also grew up eating sweet potatoes as dessert, but now I adore them in so many ways. I am thrilled to be adding soup to my list. I am also a big fan of garam masala.
Let me know how you like it! It’s a fun soup because you can tweak it so many ways and it always tastes yummy. I love garam masala too and find it goes well with so many things.
My favourite vegan restaurant had a sweet potato soup on the specials menu today, but given I was running late I had to give it a miss! Thankfully I found your recipe and so will be making this for lunch tomorrow 🙂 Thank you! x
Oh, hope you like it! As long as you like sweet potatoes, it’s hard to screw this one up! You can adjust the flavorings to suit you and no matter what you do it’s always tasty!
I make my curried squash soups very similar in style – I will have to remember to add garam masala next time. Coconut milk is nice… is it vegan? 🙂 Lovely photo + recipe!
Thanks! Headed over to your site now to check out your curried squash soup .. sounds divine!