Cabbage Thoran is a delicious Kerala-style recipe for cabbage fry. Served at a traditional Onam Sadya (vegetarian feast), it is a home-style recipe for stir-fried cabbage spiced with whole spices. Best served with matta rice (parboiled Kerala red rice).
In the South Indian state of Kerala, 'Thoran' is a household name. This simple recipe is made with vegetables – often cabbage, sometimes with beetroot, or carrot. Thoran is definitely my favorite way to have cabbage. The cabbage is usually shredded into thin strips, or chopped up fine and then sauteed in a tempering made with coconut oil, whole mustard seeds, red chilies, curry leaves, etc.
In the North of Kerala, Thoran also goes by the name 'Uperi'. It refers to a vegetable dish stir-fried in whole spices.
The beauty of this simple dish is that the taste of the cabbage stands out and is enhanced with the flavors of the spices, and not overpowered by them. This is also a super simple recipe for beginners to attempt, made with very basic ingredients and some essential Indian spices.
To make Cabbage Thoran, you will need:
Cabbage - Use regular green cabbage. To prepare the cabbage discard the hard part of the vegetable inside the leaves. Use the leafy part, which is more tender.
Curry leaves - For best results, use fresh curry leaves, but frozen or dried curry leaves are also a good alternative.
Coconut Oil - Coconut oil is a key ingredient in this recipe. The authentic taste of Kerala-style thoran can only be got with coconut oil. Try not to substitute it. Organic coconut oil has the best flavor.
Onions - You can use either red onions or shallots for this recipe. Pearl onions (similar to shallots) can also be used.
Coconut - Fresh or frozen grated coconut works well for this recipe. Desiccated coconut will not have as much flavor as fresh or frozen coconut.
Start by chopping the cabbage. There are two ways you can prepare the cabbage – you can chop them into long thin strips, as I have done in the picture below, OR you could use a food processor to shred the cabbage into small pieces.
Remember that if you shred the cabbage to fine small pieces, it will cook faster. Longer pieces will take more time to cook, so adjust your cooking time accordingly.
In a mixing bowl, add the salt and turmeric powder to the shredded or chopped cabbage. Using your hands, mix the cabbage well. Keep the prepared cabbage aside.
In a Kadai or wok, heat some coconut oil. This is a key part of the recipe, try not to substitute coconut oil with any other oil, or you will miss out the authentic taste of cabbage thoran. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and let them sputter.
Then add the chopped green chilies, ginger, curry leaves, dried red chilies, and chopped onions.
Saute until the onions turn translucent.
Then add the prepared cabbage, followed by the coconut. Saute for 5-7 minutes.
Cover the Kadai with a lid, add a splash of water if the cabbage is too dry. Let the cabbage cook covered with the lid, for 7-8 minutes. Once the cabbage is wilted and cooked through, turn off the heat. If there is too much moisture in the wok, open the lid and saute for 2-3 minutes to release moisture.
Serve cabbage thoran warm, with rose matta rice (Kerala Matta rice).
Cabbage thoran is best served as a side with parboiled rice, such as Kerala Rose Matta rice. To accompany the rice and thoran, you can also serve Sambar, Pachchadi , Avial, Pappadom or any of the traditional sides that are part of a traditional Kerala menu.
Optionally, you can also serve cabbage thoran with yogurt, achaar (Indian pickle), and rice for a very quick and easy meal.
The traditional thoran has many variations, and you can make the same recipe using so many different vegetables:
Carrot and cabbage thoran – Add Finely chopped or shredded carrots to the chopped or shredded cabbage and continue with the recipe.
Beetroot Thoran – Replace chopped cabbage with chopped beetroot to make beetroot thoran
Cabbage Poriyal – Thoran and Poriyal are similar recipes, Poriyal is from Tamil Nadu and Thoran is a Keralite dish. There is a subtle difference between the recipes. Poriyal is made by topping off the sauteed and cooked stir fry with freshly grated coconut. Thoran is commonly made by cooking the cabbage along with the grated coconut.
Thoran (also known as Uperi) is the term for a dry vegetable dish that is finely chopped and then stir-fried with coconut and whole spices in coconut oil. There are several types of Thoran dishes - from the common cabbage thoran to carrot and beans thoran to beetroot thoran.
There is a very subtle difference between Thoan (from Kerala cuisine) and Poriyal (Tamil cuisine). Both dishes are made with finely chopped vegetables stir-fried in whole spices. In Thoran, the grated coconut is generally added with the vegetables, but in Poriyal, the coconut is added at the end, to retain its freshness.
You might also like these recipes:
Appam (Kerala-style hoppers)
- Kadai / Wok
- ½ Cabbage Shredded (discard the hard part of the cabbage)
- 1 teaspoon Turmeric Powder
- Salt to season
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
- 1 tablespoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 Green Chili finely chopped
- Curry Leaves a sprig
- 1 inch Ginger finely chopped
- 1 Red Onion or shallots finely chopped
- 2 Dried Red Chilies
- ⅓ Cup Grated Coconut see notes
- Start by chopping the cabbage. There are two ways you can prepare the cabbage – you can chop them into long thin strips, OR use a food processor to shred the cabbage into small pieces.
- In a mixing bowl, add the salt and turmeric powder to the shredded or chopped cabbage. Using your hands, mix the cabbage well. Keep the prepared cabbage aside.
- In a kadai or wok, heat some coconut oil. Once oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let them sputter.
- Then add the chopped green chilies, curry leaves, dried red chilies, ginger and chopped onions.
- Saute until the onions turn translucent. Then add the prepared cabbage, followed by the coconut. Saute for 5-7 minutes.
- Cover the kadai with a lid, add a splash of water if the cabbage is too dry. Let the cabbage cook covered with the lid, for 7-8 minutes. Once the cabbage is wilted and cook through, turn off the heat. If there is too much moisture in the wok, open the lid and saute for 2-3 minutes to release moisture.
- Serve cabbage thoran warm, with rose matta rice.