Sometimes a simple stir fry is all you need to set your mood right and elevate your spirits in the most comforting manner. This Cabbage Thoran recipe, a Kerala specialty, does just that. Call it a Cabbage Fry too, the Cabbage Thoran has cabbage cooked in coconut oil, tempered with spices and curry leaves, and finished with a good dose of coconut. It is vegan, gets done within minutes and wholesome too.
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What is Thoran
Thoran, also referred to as ‘upperi,’ is a quick dish made with veggies that are mildly spiced. Primarily cooked in coconut oil, this dish is a special from the cuisine of ‘God’s own country,’ Kerala. Just like the Cabbage Thoran or Cabbage Fry, all other variants of this dish are delicate, thus categorized as comfort food.
A variety of seasonal or non-seasonal vegetables can be used to make this dish. In addition to this, the key ingredients include black mustard seeds, shallots/onion, green chilies, turmeric powder, curry leaves and coconut.
Brightly colored, highly nutritious and calming, a Thoran is all this more. While the basic ingredients remain the same in any Thoran, changing the vegetable bring in a new flavor and texture to the dish.
More On Cabbage Thoran
I always end up including a Cabbage Thoran in the menu, whenever I make Kerala style Varutharacha Sambar and steamed rice. This is a super-hit lunch combination at my home. It is my personal favorite too, because the ease with which a thoran gets done is quite amazing.
Other veggies that can be a great choice for this dish are green beans, ash gourd, beetroot, spinach, drumsticks and amaranth. For instance, this vibrant red Beetroot Thoran is one of those versions that can instantly make you happy.
Cabbage Thoran is also an important dish in Sadya, the unique feast which is an important part during Onam celebrations in Kerala.
My Cabbage Thoran recipe is a little different than the conventional one. I usually sauté the ingredients one by one and then add the cabbage. This way the flavor of the spices first gets infused in the oil and then transferred to the vegetable.
Traditionally, except the oil and a few spices, all the ingredients are mixed with the cabbage and allowed to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Whichever way you make, since cabbage and coconut are a match made in heaven, this Cabbage Fry always tastes supreme.
How to make Cabbage Thoran
Prep and Sauté
1. Rinse 1 medium size cabbage. Remove the outer leaves. Half or quarter the cabbage. Shred or grate in a food processor. You can also slice the cabbage thinly.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a pan or kadai.
3. First, add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds and sauté on a low heat till they crackle.
4. Now, add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and sauté them till they change color.
5. Add ⅓ cup sliced pearl onions or ⅓ cup chopped shallots or ⅓ cup finely chopped onions.
6. Sauté the onions till translucent. Stir at regular intervals.
7. Add 1 green chili (chopped) and 10 to 12 curry leaves. Sauté for a minute.
8. Now, add ½ teaspoon turmeric powder and 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing). Mix very well.
Note that you can skip the turmeric powder and asafoetida. Adding about ½ teaspoon of cumin powder also works in this recipe. But if adding cumin powder, skip adding cumin seeds.
9. Add the shredded cabbage and salt as required.
10. Mix very well and sauté for a minute.
11. Cover the pan with a tight lid and cook the cabbage on low heat or sim.
12. Keep checking after every 4 to 5 minutes and give a stir.
TIP 1: If the cabbage starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, sprinkle some water all over. Cover with a tight lid and cook again. Make sure that the cabbage does not get browned or burnt.
TIP 2: If your pan is light and not heavy, it can brown the cabbage fast. So add about ¼ to ⅓ cup water. Mix well and cover the pan to cook the cabbage.
13. On low heat, cook till the cabbage is tender. If there is any moisture in the pan, then cook further till all the moisture or water dries up.
Make Cabbage Thoran
14. Once the cabbage is tender and cooked perfectly, add ½ cup fresh grated coconut. You could also use frozen coconut. But thaw the coconut before adding.
15. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more on a low heat.
16. You can garnish the Cabbage Fry with chopped coriander leaves if you like.
17. Serve the Cabbage Thoran hot with some steamed rice, roti or paratha. You can also have it with bread or pack it in lunch box.
- Use fresh cabbage for best taste. You can use the regular green cabbage and also purple or red cabbage to make this thoran recipe. In case you don’t want to shred or grate the cabbage, you can thinly slice it too.
- While cooking the cabbage, if it starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, sprinkle some water on it. It is best to use a heavy and thick bottomed pan so as to avoid the cabbage getting browned or burnt.
- The cabbage has to be cooked on low heat till tender. Once cooked well and if there are any liquids in the pan, simmer until all the liquids dry up from the pan.
- To make this dish gluten free, skip the asafoetida.
- If you want to increase the nutrition quotient, try adding some shredded carrots together with the cabbage. This will also make the dish colorful.
- This Cabbage Thoran recipe can be doubled or tripled easily.
Please be sure to rate this recipe in the recipe card below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Cabbage Thoran | Cabbage Fry
- 1 cabbage – medium-sized
- ⅓ cup finely chopped onions or ⅓ cup sliced pearl onions or chopped shallots
- 10 to 12 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
- 1 green chili – chopped
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ½ cup grated coconut – fresh or frozen
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- salt as required
- 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves for garnis – optional
- Rinse the cabbage a few times in fresh water. Remove the outer leaves. Half or quarter the cabbage. Shred or grate the cabbage in a food processor. You can also slice the cabbage thinly.
- Also, chop the pearl onions or shallots or onion.
Making cabbage thoran
- Heat coconut oil in a heavy pan or kadai.
- First, add the mustard seeds and sauté on low heat till they crackle.
- Now, add the cumin seeds and sauté them till they change color.
- Add the chopped pearl onions or shallots or onion. Sauté stirring often until translucent.
- Add the green chilies and curry leaves and sauté for a minute.
- Now, add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (hing). Mix very well.
- Lastly, add the cabbage and salt. Stir and sauté for a minute.
- Cover the pan and let the cabbage cook on low heat. Continue to stir at times.
- Steam cook till the cabbage is tender.
- If there is any moisture in the pan, cook further till all the moisture dries up.
- When the cabbage is cooked, add the coconut. Stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more.
- You can garnish it with coriander leaves if you prefer.
- Serve the Cabbage Thoran hot with some steamed rice, chapati, paratha or bread.
- Make sure to make the the thoran recipe with fresh and tender cabbage. You can easily use green cabbage or purple or red cabbage.
- If in case you don’t want to shred or grate the cabbage, you can thinly slice it.
- A heavy and thick bottomed pan is suitable for making a recipe like this so that the cabbage does not get burned while cooking. If while cooking, the cabbage starts sticking to the pan, add some water and mix. Cover and continue to cook.
- Remember to cook the cabbage till tender. Once the cabbage is cooked and if there are any liquids in the pan, continue to cook until all the liquids dry up.
- For a gluten-free dish, skip adding asafoetida. To make the recipe more nutritious, add some grated carrots together with the cabbage.
- You can also double or triple this this Cabbage Thoran recipe.
Nutrition Info (Approximate values)
This Cabbage Thoran post from the blog archives first published in June 2013 has been republished and updated on 17 April 2022.