The 20-Minute One-Pot Recipe I Make Whenever I Don’t Want to Cook Dinner

A pot of sweet potato curry with half a lemon, cut-side up

You might think that because I’m a professional recipe developer and cooking is my job, or because I’m a long-time meal planner, that deciding what to cook for dinner and getting meals on the table for my family is a seamless event night after night. I want you to know that that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Just like every other home cook, there are plenty of nights when whatever I planned doesn’t pan out for one reason or another, then 5 p.m. rolls around and I’m staring into the fridge desperately trying to figure out what to make as fast I can. There are also just as many nights when I just don’t know what to cook.

My strategy for when this happens is leaning on a short list of easy tried-and-true pantry dinners. When I’m up against the clock or simply can’t decide what to cook, a pantry dinner it is. The one I cook more than any other is a comforting, veggie-packed sweet potato curry.

What Makes Sweet Potato Curry So Good

What sold me on this curry the first time around is simply that it’s incredibly satisfying and delicious. It has a deep, bold flavor that can be spicy or not, and the most irresistible broth that keeps you going back for more. For me, this is feel-good comfort food. The first time I made this one-pot curry I was also impressed with how quick and easy it was to make — which is how it ended up in my meal plan a second time. Aside from the ingredient list leaning hard on pantry items I almost always have on hand, the thing that keeps me making this sweet potato curry again and again is the recipe’s flexibility for substitutions.

Why This Recipe Really Works

This recipe has a strong foundation and a smart tip for building a curry with a really big flavor. First you sauté garlic and ginger until fragrant, and add the curry paste to the pot and toast for an additional minute or two. This step deepens the overall flavor of the dish, which opens the door for substitutions later, so you can use what you have on hand.

For example, if I’m out of sweet potatoes, I’ve found that carrots and winter squash (or better yet, a combination of the two) work great. White beans (really any bean variety, though), can be a stand-in for chickpeas. Even lentils work in a pinch. The recipe calls for baby spinach, and I use that when I have it but I’ve also tossed in kale, chard, arugula, and radish greens. In a pinch, I’ve used frozen spinach with success. Fresh garlic and ginger are ideal, but those convenient frozen cubes are fine when that’s all I have.

Tips for Making Sweet Potato Curry

  • Taste the curry paste first. This is an especially good idea if you’re using a new-to-you brand. The spice level can really vary from brand to brand.

  • Use broth in place of water. If you happen to have an open container of broth in the fridge, it’s worth using it in place of water, and makes a more flavorful curry.

Get the recipe: Sweet Potato Curry