Punjabi Cauliflower Sabzi
30 Min

Punjabi Cauliflower Sabzi

The humble cauliflower’s meteoric rise from a ho-hum vegetable relegated to crudités or steamed-vegetable medleys points to its impressive health benefits. High in fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, this cruciferous vegetable has become the darling of the plant-based world. You can grate it raw and use it in place of rice or buy a cauliflower pizza crust.

However, most of these preparations do not do justice to just how delicious cauliflower can taste roasted or braised with spices, which is how most of us Indians like to eat it. At my restaurant, it is one of our most popular vegetables, right up there with okra.

I grew up eating tender braised cauliflower sabzis, usually mildly flavored with a pinch of turmeric, ginger and chili. If tomatoes were in season, they went in and if not, maybe some minced onion went in at the start. In southern India, cauliflower sabzi is often finished with freshly grated coconut. Most places of worship in India serve “langar” (a free meal at the end of pooja, a religious service), and cauliflower sabzi is a popular addition. Cauliflower farmers in India finely mince and braise the “jackets,” or the greens holding the head of the cauliflower, where most of the nutrients lie.

Cauliflower season has started in Texas, and beautiful small, purplish tight white heads with green stalks have started appearing at farmers markets. These are in stark contrast to mass-produced massive cauliflower heads you often find in supermarkets and are well worth a trip to the market. But get there early; the good vegetables go first. Here is a preparation resembling the sabzis I grew up eating in India.

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Cook Time

30 Minutes



Step 1
Cut the entire cauliflower, including the stem, into 2-inch florets and pieces. Very finely chop the green jacket/stem parts and set aside separately. The only inedible part of the cauliflower is the core, which will need to be discarded.
Step 2
In a shallow sauté pan, heat the ghee over high heat. Pop the mustard seeds, then immediately add the onion and minced cauliflower greens. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook until the onions are translucent or just lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes, then add the garlic, cauliflower florets, turmeric, and salt. Increase the heat to high again and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes, until the cauliflower sweats then begins to take on some color.
Step 3
Add the red chili powder, tomatoes, and ginger, bring to a simmer, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the cauliflower is fork-tender and cooked through. Sprinkle the garam masala on top, turn the heat off, and let rest. Gently mix the cauliflower, garnish with cilantro, and serve.
1 medium cauliflower with its leaves
1/3 cup ghee
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cup minced onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes or 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons unpeeled grated ginger or ginger purée
1 teaspoon garam masala
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Notes & Variations

  • “Sabzi” is a Hindi word simply meaning cooked vegetables; however, in the dictionary of an Indian, this always includes spices.
  • In the absence of a good skillet, the cauliflower can be roasted in the oven at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes and added to the onion-tomato masala. If making a larger quantity, it is recommend to roast the cauliflower separately for better flavor.
  • Garam masala is a blend of ground aromatic spices often sold at spice stores — replace with a combination of ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove and nutmeg.
30 Min

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Two words: garam masala.

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