Vegetarian Sweet Potato Pilaw: Go Meatless With an Indian Flair

I love Indian cuisine with its awesome and interesting flavors, ingredients, and colors. Cooking these dishes always brings a touch of the exotic into the kitchen.

Vegetarian Sweet Potato Pilaw Recipe |
Photo credit: Nina Isensee

However, many Indian recipes require lots of preparation time. That is why I love this quick and aromatic sweet potato pilaw (also known as pilau, or pilaf), which is ready to eat in about half an hour.

Vegan Sweet Potato Pilaw Recipe | Foodal

The mix of spices and fresh ginger is a powerful combination, but it is not too hot. Curcuma (a.k.a. turmeric) will give your dish a wonderful yellow color. It is also found in curry powder, which is an additional ingredient.

Homemade Garam Masala |
Homemade garam masala.

Garam masala is another mixed spice that includes cumin, pepper, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and cloves. If you’re having trouble sourcing the pre-made stuff, you can find it on Amazon.

Foodal recommends Garam Masala Spice Blend from  Zamouri Spices

The raisins added to this dish provide the meal with a fruity twist that goes really well with the other flavors.

Pilaw is usually prepared with fish, meat, or chicken but the recipe I have prepared is a tasty vegetarian or vegan alternative. Vegetable stock is used rather than a meat-based product. The dish is also a great choice for a “Meatless Monday.”

Vegan Sweet Potato Pilaw |
Photo credit: Nina Isensee

If you’re not vegetarian, trying serving this as a side dish with your choice of meat, or serve it as the main meal with just a spoonful of plain Greek-style yogurt for a little added protein.

Recipe for Vegan Sweet Potato Pilaw |
Photo credit: Nina Isensee

A recommended drink pairing would be a refreshing lassi, a yogurt-based Indian drink. This can also quench that flame if the meal is too spicy.

Vegan Sweet Potato Pilaw Recipe | Foodal
Vegetarian Sweet Potato Pilaw
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Vegan Sweet Potato Pilaw Recipe | Foodal
Vegetarian Sweet Potato Pilaw
Votes: 2
Rating: 5
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 kohlrabi
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon spicy prepared mustard
  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  1. Peel the carrot, kohlrabi, and sweet potato, and shred the carrot. Cut the kohlrabi and sweet potato into small cubes. Place the vegetables in a bowl and set aside. Peel and mince the ginger, and place it in a small bowl, separate from the vegetables.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the garam masala, turmeric, and curry powder. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the vegetable stock with the mustard.
  4. Pour the oil into a hot work or large frying pan and stir-fry the ginger for a few seconds. Add the vegetables and keep stirring and tossing them around for about two minutes.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium, add the mixed spices and the rice, and stir for two minutes.
  6. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Place a lid on the pan, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes until the broth is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir to combine.
  7. Sprinkle the raisins on top, and leave to rest off the heat for 5 minutes with the lid on. Stir again and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
Recipe Notes

You'll need a good vegetable peeler to prepare the vegetables. Check out Foodal's Vegetable Peeler Buying Guide now.




Looking for other options to satisfy that sweet potato craving? Check out our recipe for vegetarian Sweet Potato Coconut Patties. They’re great atop a salad, or served burger-style.

Or try our Spiralized Sweet Potato Pasta, mixed with meaty sun-dried tomatoes, fire-roasted red peppers, and lots of Parmesan!


Recipe photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

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About Nina-Kristin Isensee

Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.

22 thoughts on “Vegetarian Sweet Potato Pilaw: Go Meatless With an Indian Flair”

  1. A think a “touch” is the amount of spice perfect! I hope to try this receipt tomorrow and if it’s good toss it into the rotation. I love Indian food and Marsala. But my partner is afraid to try it so I am hoping this dish will be a gateway =)

    • I hope you enjoy this pilaw as much as I do. I am also a huge fan of Indian food, especially curries. But as you have experienced too, some of my family members are quite sceptic. 😉 So I definitely wish you success in convincing your partner!!

  2. Rice is an important part of our meals at home. We almost always eat it weekly, if not more often. It is a staple food and it doesn’t take much to wow a crowd. I’ve never really tried Indian cuisine, but it does look amazing!

    • You’re so right. Rice is a wonderful side dish, there are many sorts and it can be combined to so many different types of cuisine. Its long-lasting shelf life is another great advantage I think.
      If you should every try an Indian or Asian recipe, basmati, jasmine or Thai fragrant rice would be the perfect choice.

  3. I’ve never eaten Indian food, but I do appreciate a good masala chai, and it seems many of my favorite ingredients are used in this dish, so I should enjoy it. I think it sounds great either vegetarian or with meat or fish. I love recipes that are fairly easy, and not time-consuming, and this sounds like a winner.

  4. I do like vegetarian recipes with sweet potato in them as they are good for you, but I usually only have them roasted as mashed they are a bit too sweet.

    I wonder if this dish can be served as a salad, because I think it would be great for buffets and barbecues as a side dish?

    • That is a nice idea, I think this can be a good option for grilled meat or buffets as you say. There are other varieties of rice-salads I know and I can imagine this version is definitely suitable too. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Mmm, this looks so tasty. Reminds me of a Thai rice/veggie dish I used to make on occasion, but this is probably way more intense in flavor. And I don’t eat enough sweet potato so I will definitely have to give this a whirl.

  6. This looks amazing. Love the addition of the sweet potato but I might have to swap those raisins for perhaps some dried cherries. I’m not a fan of raisins. I tried to love you, wrinkly grapes. I tried. This is going to be fun to play with. I love things to serve the family that are meatless. If it goes over well I might add some tofu for the next one.

    • I think dried cherries will be a nice addition too, I might try that out! I can imagine they will provide the same fruity twist as the raisins and harmonize well with the flavor of the other ingredients.

  7. I’m a massive fan od Indian food and this pilaw looks delicious. Rather than being concerned that it’s too hot though, I’d probably add a little extra heat to the dish. It is definitely one of the milder dishes out there so would make an excellent introduction for Indian cuisine sceptics.

  8. My girlfriend just recently shared with me how she really enjoyed a dish with kolrabi in it. She says it is so tasty! This is why this recipe is appealing to me. I also really like the taste of Basmati roce.
    There are just a lot of different veggies, fruits and seasons I would not have put together, so I look forward to discovering what the end taste will be.
    Thanks for listing the ingredients in the garam masala.

    • I’m happy that you are going to try the fruit-and-veggie combination and hope you’ll like it. When I first prepared an exotic recipe that included a mix of sweet and savory flavors, I was sceptic but in the end it goes really well together. Especially the spices put the finishing touches on it.
      Kohlrabi is a popular vegetable in Germany, in earlier times it had quite an outdated image but things have changed and people are using it in versatile ways. So I hope your girlfriend is going to enjoy the pilaw with it.

  9. I agree with one of the posters here that rice is also a staple food at home. We don’t have any Indian restaurants in my neighborhood at all. This might mean doing a bit of driving around though. I dont think I have had Indian cuisine before either. I would love to give a dish like this a try someday.

  10. I swear you have the most diverse recipes in the blogosphere (do people actually say this). Haha. This looks yummy and I’ve eaten at a lot of authentic Indian. I’m sure it will be a hit among natives. It being meatless makes it even more Indian.

  11. Rice is a staple in our country. But cooking rice this way is rather new to me. This is a good recipe to try out for me. Although I will have to skip the curry. My nose simply can’t tolerate the smell. I know it will probably kill the whole Indian vibe that it’s supposed to achieve. OR I can just ignore the smell, haha. The picture is shouting delish here plus I also love sweet potatoes.

    • Well, it might be right that leaving the curry will reduce the Indian touch a little. But you might experiment a bit with the other spices, because it would only be a teaspoon curry that is missing. Maybe you can replace it and add some ginger, cardamom, nutmeg or cayenne pepper, which are usually part of curry mixes. This way, you still have an extra flavor-nuance. Have fun trying it out!

  12. It might just be because I’m hungry, but this dish is making me salivate. I love Indians combinations… spicy, fruity and then a little yogurt to tame the brutal heat. (Not that I have a problem with the heat. A meal in which I am literally crying and sniffling is a good meal). Sweet potatoes look like an excellent substitute for the meat. Look forward to trying this one! Thanks!

    • I totally agree with you, also about the hot flavor of dishes 😉 I always enjoy this recipe and the sweet potatoes give you the impression that nothing is missing. As you say, they replace the meat really well. If you like, top the dish with some chili flakes! Enjoy!

    • I might have to try something besides the sweet potatoes, as they are not my favorite, although the more I think about the more I think you points you make about all the different flavors might really be a saving grace for me. Maybe it can turn my opinion on them around, and anytime you give me an Indian flair it is usually enough to make me enjoy a dish.

  13. The pilaf (or pilaw, pilau, etc) is a big hit on here, but I knew that before I even scrolled beyond all the other comments to add mine! Indian food is internationally famous among vegetarians because they really DO get Dr. John McDougall’s “Starchivore” dietary pronouncement: some of the longest-living, healthiest people on the planet eat a plant-strong, starch-based diet.

    I love this idea of mixing rice with carrot, sweet potato and even kohlrabi– a favourite vegetable that I have not encountered in an Indian curry before! Mix in just the right amount of warming spices and you have a healthy, satisfying optimal comfort food! I am particularly intrigued with the inclusion of kohlrabi and look forward to trying this.

    Thank you for the post of this lovely dish!

    • Thank you, it is indeed a great meal. Definitely one of my favorites, too! I’d be interested to hear how you liked the addition of kohlrabi. I really think it fits perfectly in there – althought it’s rather unusual at a first glance. Enjoy this aromatic and spicy dish 🙂

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