Cabbage Thoran: The Delicately Flavored Indian Dish You Should Know

Stir-frying and curry play an important culinary role in many cultures, and South Asia is no different. Cabbage Thoran is a lightly spiced stir-fry dish hailing all the way from Kerala, writes The Guardian. It has many of the key features of South Indian cuisine: Richness, tanginess, and a coconutty flavor.

Simple yet hearty, a cabbage thoran is a breeze to whip up, per The Guardian. The recipe is so effortless that it can be made in just a few minutes. You can pretty much use any fresh vegetables that your heart desires, notes the BBC. And it's a great way to make use of that leftover cabbage or carrots sitting in the fridge.

This Kerala-style specialty can be enjoyed as both a main and side dish (via The Guardian). Packed with an ample dose of coconut, curry leaves, spices, and herbs, a cabbage thoran is a tasty and nutritious meal for foodies of all stripes including vegans.


Cabbage thoran is a well-known vegan cuisine that can be traced back to Kerala, the southernmost coastal state of India (via Serious Eats). This region is often referred to as "God's Own Country", as a reference to its awe-inspiring natural beauty and biodiversity, writes The Washington Post.

Much like the colorful state, a thoran is a bright and vibrant dish, which is often made with succulent ingredients, such as papaya, jackfruit, and banana stem, per Serious Eats. Traditionally, it includes fresh coconut flesh, which occupies an important role in the diet of Kerala's population, as noted by the Ayurveda Journals.

Cabbage thoran is also one of the meals that are served as part of a Sadya, as per Serious Eats. This is a unique Kerala-style feast that consists of up to 28 vegetarian dishes. It traditionally features in Onam, one of the biggest festivals of Kerala and Vishu, explains the Onam Festival website. From its cultural cuisine to its festive rituals, the event celebrates the annual homecoming of the ancient and mythical king, Mahabali, who once ruled Kerala.


A cabbage thoran is a fun and flavorful meal that can be devoured by omnivores and non-meat eaters alike (via Dassana's Veg Recipes). Made with a colorful medley of vegetables, it often includes cabbage, chillies, and shallots (via Dassana's Veg Recipes). But you can easily add or swap these out for any other seasonal or non-seasonal veggies of your choice, such as carrots or bitter gourd. One of the great things about a cabbage thoran recipe is that it has plenty of room for improvisation and can be jazzed up to your liking.

As far as curries go, a thoran is a delicate one made with a range of wholesome ingredients. This comforting dish is typically cooked with coconut oil, per Dassana's Veg Recipes, though it's possible to use vegetable oil if necessary. It also includes plenty of fresh (or frozen) coconut, which gives it that signature sweet and nutty taste. Other star ingredients include fresh (or dried) curry leaves, black mustard seeds, and seasonings like cumin and turmeric powder to add some spiciness to the flavor (via Dassana's Veg Recipes). Some thoran recipes also call for garlic and ginger.


A thoran is a term that is used to describe a dry curry made out of various types of vegetables, explains the BBC. It's incredibly easy to put together and just as easy to create variations of it. Although the staple ingredients may stay the same, it's possible to play around with the ingredients to produce a slightly different taste, texture, and appearance.

Classically made with cabbage, a thoran can feature any vegetable that you want (via BBC). Some people opt for alternatives like jackfruit, green tomatoes, snake beans, plaintain peel, banana leaves, or leafy vegetables.

A beetroot thoran is a sweet and satisfying alternative to the cabbage version, according to Another popular variant is the beans thoran, made out of stir-fried or sautéed green beans -– a vegetable that pairs particularly well with coconut (via Dassana's Veg Recipes). Both variants are prepared in much the same way as the original. Other veggies that make a great choice in this dish are spinach, yam, plantains, and amaranth leaves.

How it's made

Curries can be time-consuming, but this one is fairly quick to put together. In fact, a cabbage thoran can be made within minutes, which makes it a perfect go-to meal for any time of the week. It's a good idea to give yourself around 30 minutes for preparation and another 10 for cooking time, suggests the BBC.

Make sure that your veggies are finely chopped or grated, per Dassana's Veg Recipes, since this is part of the beauty of a thoran. You can then start to fry the mustard seeds (per BBC), letting them crackle for 15 seconds or so. Add the curry leaves and chillis until they are fragrant. Stir in the shallots and allow them color. These can be spiked with spices like turmeric and cumin. A thoran tends to be mild but you can amp up the heat by adding in as much chilli or spice as you wish.

You then stir in the cabbage or any other veggies of your choice and fry them together until they are tender. Allow the mixture to become dry, letting most of the liquid evaporate. Finally, you can add the grated coconut and season it to your preference with salt and pepper.

How to eat it

A cabbage thoran is typically accompanied by some boiled rice, daal, or deep-fried puris, details Serious Eats. Puri is a deep-fried Indian bread, which can be made at home with just four ingredients: Wheat flour, canola oil, and salt (via Saveur).

You can also serve cabbage thoran alongside some poppadoms (via BBC). For your own homemade serving of fresh, crispy poppadoms (also called papadums), a cup of urad dhal flour, neutral oil, and a few other basic ingredients (via Mashed).

Alternatively, a cabbage thoran goes well with a warm plate of basmati rice and some Indian pickle (also known as achaar).

Another classic side dish that compliments this versatile meal is chapati flatbread, a simple but delicious vehicle for curry. Finish this off with a dollop of raita, which makes for a cooling accompaniment to curry dishes (via BBC Good Food). This is incredibly straightforward to make: Simply mix some yogurt, garlic, and cucumber together with some herbs like cumin or coriander. Add a sprinkle of lime and chat masala to taste.