This bright, golden Cabbage Thoran is a delicious cabbage curry from Southern India. It is incredibly healthy, light, easy and quick to make. Similar to the Gujarati Sambharo, this cabbage dish is a great vegetarian meal that can be eaten as a salad or a side. You will love the beautiful coastal flavours in this one!
🥬 What is Cabbage Thoran?
Cabbage Thoran is a delicious South Indian Cabbage Curry from Kerala, the coastal state known for its mesmerizing backwaters, houseboats, beautiful beaches, coffee and tea plantations and spice markets.
This Keralan cabbage dish is a dry curry made by stir-frying finely chopped cabbage and carrot with tempered spices, nuts, herbs and freshly grated coconut. The vegetables are cooked for a very short time so that they retain their crunch. Think of this dish as a warm salad.
The style of cooking is perfect for cooking salad vegetables that need just a hint of tenderness - green beans, carrots, capsicum, beetroot and leafy greens. A thoran is a dish that can be cooked with any of these vegetables. While the vegetable changes seasonally, the key ingredients remain the same - black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, red chilli, curry leaves and grated coconut. Finely chopping them helps with the fast cooking time.
✅ Health Benefits Of Cabbage Thoran
Ayurveda believes that eating raw food is more taxing on your stomach as it requires 80% more energy to digest than cooked food. And in turn, it provides less energy after digestion than cooked food does. It recommends that salad veggies be cooked for a short time to soften them slightly for easy digestion while retaining their nutrients.
Cooking the cabbage in this way makes the dish warm, light and slightly oily. These are the main qualities of Agni (fire or digestive fire). This in turn leads to a calmer and more balanced digestive system.
Consider the immense health benefits of all the ingredients in this South Indian cabbage curry.
- Cabbage is brain food and an amazing detoxifier amongst other things.
- Cumin helps with digestion, common colds and insomnia.
- Turmeric helps heal inflammation inside your body. Turmeric (and this is why I love it!) is nature's pain reliever and also helps with the regulation of joint and heart health. For long-term health benefits, it is essential to have it on a regular basis.
- Curry leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin B2, calcium and iron.
- Cashew nuts provide healthy fats and protein.
- Coconut is a great source of manganese, copper and iron along with providing plenty of fiber.
- Mustard seeds are loaded with vitamins and minerals. They are packed with selenium that promotes bone, teeth, hair and nail health.
📝 Ingredients and Substitutions
This is a simple and highly adaptable vegetarian dish. This is what you will need.
Cabbage - A drumhead cabbage is the most perfect variety for this cabbage thoran. It is most commonly known as green cabbage and has a round shape with a tightly packed leaf structure. The leaves are green, have a slight peppery flavour and soften as they cook. This was also the cabbage I used growing up in India. The nearest substitution would be a savoy cabbage, a wombok (Chinese cabbage) or green beans.
Carrot - Carrot not only adds a splash of healthy colour but also imparts a gentle sweetness to the dish. You can make cabbage thoran without carrot if you prefer.
Brown onion - Substitute with red onion if you prefer.
Mustard seeds - Use black mustard seeds for this recipe. They are found in all spice sections of supermarkets or speciality spice stores.
Cumin seeds - Cumin seeds add a lovely earthy flavour to the dish.
Urad/urid dal (split black lentils) - They are a distinct staple of South Indian cuisine and are used during the process of tempering whole spices. They are white/beige in colour and turn a golden shade when tempered in oil. They add a lively nutty bitterness to the dish. If you can't find them, substitute with chana dal or just leave them out, this dish is delicious even without them.
Red chillies - A thoran typically uses whole dried red chillies. Because they are whole during the cooking process they don't make the dish overtly spicy but add a really nice warmth to the finished dish. Substitute with half a teaspoon of red chilli flakes or a few slices of fresh red chilli (this will make your dish spicier).
Turmeric - Ground turmeric is a must for this dish and is one of the key ingredients.
Curry leaves - Curry leaves are lemony and peppery green leaves used in South Indian cooking. They can be bought at Indian supermarkets or easily grown in pots. If you can't find them, add half a teaspoon of lemon zest to the dish instead.
Cashew nuts - They are a lovely addition to this cabbage thoran. They add a bit of crunch and protein to the dish. You can substitute with macadamia nuts or just leave them out if you have nut allergies.
Grated coconut - Freshly grated coconut is absolutely delicious and adds that coveted, delicate coastal flavour to this dish. When I can't find fresh coconut, I substitute it with shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) that can be sourced from the baking section of supermarkets.
🔪 How to make Cabbage Thoran
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan on medium-low heat. Fry mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal and chillies for a few seconds.
- Add curry leaves and fry for a few seconds until fragrant.
3. Add onion and cook for a few minutes until softened.
4. Add cashew nuts and saute for a minute until golden.
5. Add carrots, mix and cook for a few minutes until carrots are tender.
6. Add cabbage, turmeric and salt.
7. Mix well and cook for a few minutes until the cabbage is glazed and starting to wilt.
8. Add coconut. Mix well.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.
🍽️ Serving Suggestions
- I often make sambar (lentil-based vegetable stew) along with this Cabbage Thoran. They really go well together.
- A lovely yellow Sri Lankan Fish Curry that has delicate coastal flavours is also another good accompaniment to this cabbage curry.
- You can stuff Cabbage Thoran in wraps, serve as part of a Buddha bowl, top it over steamed rice or add a hefty dose of nutrition by eating it alongside your favourite meal as a pickle.
👩🏻🍳 Recipe FAQs
Cooked cabbage thoran keeps well in the fridge for 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to a month. To eat, thaw at room temperature and warm in the microwave.
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Cabbage Thoran (South Indian Cabbage Curry)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon split black lentils, (urid/urad dal)
- 2 whole dried red chillies
- 12 curry leaves
- 1 brown onion, small, finely diced
- 1/4 cup raw cashew nuts
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
- 3 cups shredded green cabbage
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
- 1/4 cup fresh grated or shredded coconut
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
- Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan on medium-low heat. Carefully add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urid dal and red chillies.
- In a few seconds when the seeds start to sizzle and spit, add the curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds until fragrant.
- Add onion and cook on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until softened.
- Add cashew nuts and saute for a minute until they turn a shade darker.
- Add carrot, mix well and cook for 3-4 minutes until carrots are tender.
- Add cabbage, turmeric and salt. Mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes until cabbage is glazed and slightly softened.
- Add coconut. Mix well and cook for a few seconds until heated through. Remove from heat.
- Check for seasoning. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice and mains.