Zanzibar Beans with Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Sauce

We visited Zanzibar in September 2007 and it was an absolutely lovely visit. There is a strong Arabic and Indian influence in the Zanzibar cuisine, lots of spices like nutmeg, ginger, clover and cinnamon and the food is on the sweet yet spicy side like Indian food (but toned down). The food we had there was absolutely lovely, every single dish. We ate out every night to try out all the local restaurants and we were never disappointed. This recipe is from a book called World Food Cafe and it is absolutely lovely (one of my favourite recipe books). I recommend buying a copy. I also love their restaurant in Covent Garden, London.

A lovely dish which I serve often

This recipe is:

  • Gluten free
  • Lactose (dairy) free
  • Nut free
  • Vegan

Zanzibar Beans with Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Sauce

Serves 4-6


  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 6 chilli peppers (green), chopped finely
  • A fairly small piece fresh ginger (equal to 3 grapes in size), chopped finely
  • 450 grams (15½ oz) sweet potatoes, cut into fairly small cubes
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped fairly coarsely
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 450 grams (15½ oz) tinned black eyed peas (weight after draining)
  • 400 millilitres (13½  fluid oz) coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Pinch of salt (Himalaya or sea salt) and pepper (black)


  1. Peel the onion and the 6 garlic cloves and chop finely.
  2. Peel the ginger (the skin is very thin, you can scrape it off with a teaspoon or a small knife) and chop very finely.
  3. Cut the 6 chilli peppers in halves, scoop out the seeds and membranes and chop coarsely. You might want to use plastic gloves if you have sensitive skin.
  4. Was the 450 grams sweet potatoes, peel and chop in small cubes (bite size).
  5. Chop the handful fresh coriander leaves. Set aside.
  6. Now heat 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a large frying pan (or saucepan).
  7. Add the sweet potatoes and heat for 15 minutes or until they are tender. Add a couple of tablespoons water to the frying pan if needed. Set aside.
  8. Add the remaining teaspoon coconut oil and heat the chopped onion for 5 minutes. Add a couple of tablespoons water to the frying pan if needed.
  9. Add the ginger and the garlic and heat for 5 minutes.
  10. Add chillies, 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon ground cloves, the coriander leaves and a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat for 3 minutes.
  11. Now pour the 400 millilitres coconut milk into the pan along with the sweet potatoes and the 450 grams black eyed peas.
  12. Allow to simmer until the potatoes are ready and tender.
  13. Serve with a salad, brown rice and chapati.


  • If the coconut oil is cold (in which case it becomes solid), place the jar in a bowl filled with hot water for a couple of minutes.  
  • You can use kidney beans instead of black eyed peas.
  • You can use dry black eyed peas instead of tinned. Boil them for 50 minutes (no need to soak).