Ital Stew

Ital stew is a Jamaican dish aligned with the Rastafarian movement. The word “ital” is derived from the word vital, and is similar to the concept of kosher. Specifically, ital food should be vegetarian, unprocessed, and from the earth. Some believe that even iodized salt should be avoided, and only pure sea salt is acceptable. Since meat is considered dead, it is not ital, although some Rastafari are known to eat small fish.

Like in my Callaloo recipe from earlier this year, there is a lot of variation to this dish. Typically, it’s made with several different kinds of starchy foods (I used squash, taro, potatoes, and plantain) in a coconut milk broth. You don’t never every single starch to make a flavorful stew – just use what you have available to you. It’s lightly spiced, with just thyme and pimento (allspice).

Funny enough, when doing my research I discovered this dish isn’t considered an exceptionally tasty stew, to the point that I was almost turned away from trying it. I have a suspicion that the reason it’s not well-received is because every recipe I found had you adding all of the vegetables at once, which likely resulted in a mushy, jumbled, and slightly confusing stew. I tried a different tactic, and added the dishes in increments so that they all were perfectly cooked at the end of the recipe. This extra care made a huge difference in the final product; in fact, we’re adding this dish to our regular rotation because it’s easy, quick, and hearty – a perfect summer soup when you’re not in the mood for a meat dish.

Ital Stew (Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, Primal, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp whole allspice (or 1/2 tsp ground allspice, see note below)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
3 green onions, bottoms removed
2 bay leaves
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups water
2 cups pumpkin or squash, cut into bite-sized chunks (I used half an acorn squash)
2 cups taro, cut into bite-sized chunks (about 1 lb)
2 cups potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks (about 2 lbs)
1 cup okra, cut into 1/2″ pieces (about 10 okras)
1/2 yellow plantain, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cups collard greens, sliced (about 4 leaves)
juice of 1/2 lime (1 tbsp)
sea salt and pepper to taste, about 1 tsp each
1 small handful cilantro, chopped

1. In a stockpot, warm the olive oil over medium heat, then add the onion. Sauté until translucent and softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, allspice, and thyme, and sauté until aromatic, about 1 minute.

2. Add the green onions, bay leaves, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a simmer, then add the pumpkin and taro, and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat if it turns into a boil – you’re looking for a lively simmer, but not a full-on boil. Add the potatoes and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the okra, plantain, and carrots, and cook for another 5 minutes. Finally, remove the green onions (and any bay leaves and thyme sprigs you can find), then add the collard greens; simmer until darkened and bright green, about 4 more minutes. At this point, all of the vegetables should be easily pierced with a fork.

3. Remove from heat, and add the lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste; once it tastes good, stir in the cilantro and serve.

** This stew is traditionally made with split peas, which I omitted to save time and because many people avoid dried peas on a Paleo-style diet. To cook this dish with peas, you’d want to soak them for 10-12 hours, then add the peas when you add the coconut milk and water, and cook until soft, about 1.5 hours, before moving on to the next steps.

** Be sure to tell your dinner guests not to eat the whole pimentos. If you’re serving this to children, consider using 1/2 tsp ground allspice instead of whole berries.

** To give the stew a little bit of a kick, you can add a scotch bonnet (or habanero) pepper when you add the coconut milk and water, and remove it before serving. For more spice, burst the pepper in the stew before removing it.

** Holy crap, putting plantains in soup is awesome. This was my first experience.

44 thoughts on “Ital Stew

  1. Hey Russ, beautiful photo of the ingredients! That’s my kind of recipe – a photo with all the ingredients prepped in proportion to each other, and labeled. The photo makes learning this recipe that much faster and easier. Ya mon, thanks for posting this one. I will try it with home made rice milk instead of coconut, since coconut doesn’t agree with me too well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I received my CSA today – it had okra, carrots, potatoes, squash, onions, and green onions in it – a good portion of the ingredients for this recipe. I think I’m going to have to make this in the next day or two. Perfect timing…


  3. Not to change the subject Russ, I just found out that I may be sensitive to Salicylates, are you familiar and can the paleo be adapted?


    1. Hi William, I’m not terribly familiar with Salicylate sensitivity, but looking at a list of foods I found online it appears you should be fine; you’ll be limited to what fruits, veggies, and nuts you can eat, but since the most nutrient-dense foods are organ meats, meats, and seafood, you should be able to thrive without foods high in Salicylate.


  4. This looks and sounds so tasty. I can imagine how plantains would be very satisfying in a soup. Especially when coconut milk is involved. I will definitely be making this in the near future.


  5. two ingredients I know nothing about (taro and plantain). I will have to take a closer look at the store next time I am there. Got your book the other day from the library (must be pretty popular because it took over a month to come through inter library loan!). Very excited to dive into it and try a few recipes (gotta finish my other book first though!). Thanks for all you do. Love your posts and recipes!


  6. This is on the menu for tonight! My local grocery store had eddoes, a taro variant; I will report back with how that works in the recipe.


  7. Nice one! I recently discovered that I’m allergic to gluten.. so I’m looking for good recipes to include in my diet. I will definitely try out this one. Thank you for sharing!


  8. This looks pretty amazing. Maybe it’s blasphemy, but I feel like a bit of stew beef or sausage in this would be incredible. I probably need to try that, but I promise not to call it ital.


  9. Wonderful recipe, I cant believe how easily you describe it, very well presented..:) I love to cook too but I am a clumsy one in the kitchen..:) do you wear protection gloves whenever you prep your ingredients or just your bare hands?


  10. Now that I know that there is some degree of salt involved and coconut milk, I’ll definitely give it a try!



  11. Hi Russ, i am looking forward to preparing this as a surprise for a friend. Wondering if there is an alternate veggie that I can substitute for Okra. Not a favorite of ours, as the the slimy texture is too much for me, or does using it in this stew curb that trait? Thank you for any suggestions that you have.


    1. Akiko the sliminess is still there but not very pronounced in this dish. If you’re looking for a similar slightly-firm texture I would use green beans or eggplant cut into bite-sized chunks. Otherwise omit it and the soup will still be very tasty!


  12. Hi Russ!
    Just wondering which coconut milk do you recommend…(i’m from NYC, coconut milk is available here, we have canned and regular like “silk” coconut milk).

    ~Thank you!


  13. Nice. I’m a Jamaican, love this dish. I’m recently diagnosed with high blood pressure And looking for healty recipes to lower my bp.


  14. Recently, I read an interview you did with Yahoo that featured this recipe. It was the first of your recipes I’d heard of or seen; but I’m darn glad I found it! I made it tonight and WOW! It was SOOOO GOOD! It’s hearty and utterly satisfying. Even my boyfriend, the self-professed meat-aholic, loved it and didn’t miss the meat. The only change I plan to make next time is to put the potatoes in with the taro and squash since they cooked much slower than everything else (at least for me). Also, I couldn’t find taro at 3 different stores, so I substituted yucca, and it worked out deliciously. Oh, and the tip about the habanero is ace! It gave the whole thing a nice bit of heat. Thank you for sharing this Ital! Next on my list of your recipes is the mole verde roasted chicken!


    1. Gustav, if I took a swing at it (just guessing here), I’d say it’s 60% carb, 30% fat, and 10% protein. Definitely on the higher end of starches – but would pair nicely with a meat dish like roasted pork, or seafood.


  15. Made this last night. I really liked it. My teens think they would have liked it more without the plantain. They are not big fans of yellow plantain. It is amazing how that small amount really flavors the whole dish! I personally did like it. Anyway, I have some leftovers and was wondering if it would freeze well. Any thoughts?


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