Spicy Thai Chickpeas with Coconut, Lemongrass and Sweet Basil

Spicy Thai Chickpeas_blog
When I think of wholesome, satisfying and delicious vegetarian food, this is precisely the type of meal I envision.

But that wasn’t always the case.

Having been a slapdash vegetarian in my teens, I fell into the common rookie trap of gravitating towards pasta with oodles of cheese as the mainstay of my diet.  As yummy and addicting as that was, it was not exactly nourishing.  I then slowly discovered processed soy foods – veggie dog this, veggie ground that – full of sodium and plenty of other additives until I eventually wound my way to whole food sources of plant protein.

All to say, early exploring vegetarians tend to avoid animal flesh but are not necessarily educated about suitable plant based alternatives to protein, healthy fats and minerals.  The result is that we put ourselves at risk of developing nutrient deficiencies and conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, hypoglycemia, chronic fatigue and even depression.

The more you learn about healthful sources of plant based foods, the more options it invites for creating nourishing and delicious combinations.  Herbs, spices and sauces are especially helpful for flavouring vegetarian fare so don’t be shy; play around and see what combinations you like best.  I have a penchant for Thai cuisine so I often gravitate in this direction but the possibilities are endless.

Some of my favourite whole food sources of soy protein include: tofu, tempeh, edamame and miso. Other non-soy plant based proteins include: lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds, seitan, eggs and yes, some, dairy.

Spicy Thai Chickpeas with Coconut, Lemongrass and Sweet Basil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 heaping Tbsp chili garlic sauce, or less as desired (it’s hot)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 cup frozen edamame, simply run under hot water and drain
  • 3 cups cooked chickpea, thoroughly rinsed if using canned
  • 1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 1 generous nub of ginger, peeled and shaved*
  • 2 Tbsp curry
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 limes, each cut into four quarters
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, ends and rough exterior casing removed
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce,*optional* for non-vegetarians
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, some torn into pieces and some left intact
Notes:I used a cast iron pan to illustrate this meal however you are probably best using a larger sized skillet, wok or pot if using the ingredient portions outlined above (otherwise, you can cut the recipe in half).

*Lately, I’ve been shaving ginger. Once the ginger is peeled, simply use a carrot or vegetable peeler to slice off thin shaved pieces of ginger. It works really well in recipes like this.

You can skip any of the spices that don’t appeal to you. This is just one version of the recipe but there are many others – it is fully open and awaiting your interpretation!


Serves 4-6

On stove top, sauté onion and chili garlic sauce with some olive oil in a large skillet, wok or pot set to low-medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, prepare lemongrass stalks by removing root end (bulb) and blades (if still there).  Working from the middle section of the stalks, remove rough exterior layer/s until you get to the smooth white interior part of the lemongrass stalks.  Slice the interior of the stalks very thin to reveal layered rings (a bit like an onion).

You can either use the thin lemongrass rings as such or, more commonly, you can break them down further by chopping, grinding or mincing them.  Because lemongrass is quite firm and fibrous, it’s often easier to eat it when it has been broken down further (a food processor or coffee grinder would work fine).
Sprinkle onion with curry, turmeric and cumin, mixing to combine.

 Add coconut milk and vegetable stock to skillet and bring mixture to a gentle boil. Add bell pepper, edamame, chickpeas, mushrooms, lemongrass and ginger and reduce to lowest heat. Add most of the basil leaves (reserving some for garnish).  Allow mixture to simmer for about 6 minutes before removing from heat.

Squeeze lime juice into skillet along with fish sauce if using.  Mix all ingredients together and serve with a few more basil leaves on top.

 Spicy Thai Chickpeas_blog_1

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  1. says

    Chickpeas definitely ranks high for me as a vegetable protein. I can eat them just by themselves, but I’d definitely be interested in having them in this curry dish, too!

  2. nutmegs_seven says

    Kelly this looks wonderful! What a fabulous idea, I can’t get enough of Thai flavours, but would never have thought of combining them with chickpeas! Definitely on the must-try list!

  3. SallyBR says

    Awesome! Love everything about this recipe… and the last photo demands to be Tastespotted, very very beautiful and stylish

    Great post!

  4. says

    Kelly, first of all the dish looks so scrumptious, I would happily skip dead animals (and I am an avowed pisci and carnivore!). I also find your presentation in all the photos excellent, as always.
    Accidentally I had a Thai lunch today: a “trash bin” soup ;-) with what I found in the fridge+ home-made chicken stock I almost always have when cold days start. I totally agree with you. Thai seasonings are such a great staple (frozen kafir leaves, lemongrass stalks, coconut milk and different kinds of curry paste make even the most basic soup really palatable). I also find them very “filling”: the richness of spices+ coconut milk make everything seem to have more calories, more fat etc. than in reality.
    I am very glad you mentioned your vegetarian experience. I used to be a vegetarian during a year (one of my mum’s Sunday roast chicken dinners ended this folie ;-) ). I have put lots of weight then because I was always hungry! I also used to buy the “soy goulash” and other stuff you mention often pretending to be meat (soy sausages, burgers etc.). I quickly learnt that being a vegetarian and eating healthy was very very difficult. I know several people who are vegetarian for years and some of them still don’t want to believe their health problems can be due to the way they eat… (Bone problems for example) even though their doctors tell them so… There was also a horrible case last year in France: a baby died because it was fed insufficient vegan diet by its vegan – and apparently ignorant – parents. Their older child suffered from malnutrition too… People often think that they just find some protein vegetable sources and they go on living like this.

  5. says

    i LOVE all the flavors here…lemongrass is one of my favorite ingredients, but i really don’t cook with it often enough. I love vegetarian dishes…chickpeas, lentils, anything is tasty in my book. I’ll have to try this soon, Kelly :)

  6. says

    That is the exact reason I had decided not to be a vegetarian, it would have been too difficult to figure out the right foods to eat instead of meat! Having said that, today would be much easier since there are more options (and not just that processed stuff), with exotic beans and protein replacement options. I am a little put off soy these days due to that story 60 Minutes ran about Monsato.
    I have a few chick peas left over and all the other ingredients, this will make a delicious dinner tonight!

  7. mjskit says

    ALL of your pictures are absolutely beautiful and the dish with all of that color – full of vitamins and goodness! I love lemongrass but I don’t use it much, probably because it’s not always at the co-op. I need to find another source. Definitely would not omit any of the spices nor the fish sauce. It’s amazing how just a little fish sauce transforms a dish. Lovely, lovely meal!!!

  8. Mandy - The Complete Cook Book says

    I have never really been able to get to grips with the texture of tofu – I really did try but alas, we just don’t seem to get along.
    This recipe however sounds incredible! Such a pity I can’t have a taste from my screen.
    :-) Mandy xo

  9. Koko says

    Oooh Kelly. Amazing pictures. This dish has some of my all-time favourite flavours. I’m made a similar recipe using a green curry paste, but I actually love that you have used regular curry and turmeric here. I will have to try this. I fell into the same trap as an early vegetarian…fake meat, tons of cheese….no good!! SO glad to be a healthier vegetarian now, and hopefully spreading the word on that!

    Can’t wait until Dec 1st!!!!

  10. says

    Hi Kelly – on the subject of meat substitutes – I FINALLY found seitan for sale in France and tried it. I know nothing about it… what it’s made from, whether it’s good or bad in terms of sodium content and the like, but I was just eager to finally try it because I’d heard so much about it. I have to say… I was unimpressed. It came swimming in some smokey flavoured sauce (presumably to give it flavour because otherwise it would taste of nothing?). It was like eating… well, it was a bit like eating jelly made with WAY too much gelatine. It was kind of goopy and stringy. I wouldn’t say it was terribly unpleasant, but not something I’d choose to eat.

    Anyhoo – pulses are my thing. Peas, beans, I love them all and chickpeas are one of my absolute favourites (I had them tonight in fact in place of meat in some tacos). I’ll send this recipe to my mother – she’s a veggie and I think she’d love this. I would too – it looks yummy :)

    By the way, I read a great tip about preparing lemongrass. Bash the heck out of it using the blunt side of the knife before slicing it finely – makes it all broken down without the need to dirty another kitchen tool!

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