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Indian Cauliflower Masala

This gorgeous dish will make an impression at a dinner table. It is so jam-packed with marvelous flavors, textures, and aromas that your guests will not even realize they are eating healthy! Don't let the number of steps and ingredients in this dish intimidate you. The key to preparing Cauliflower Masala is organization. If you like, you can make the tomato sauce, the toasted cashews, and the rice in advance. You can even make the tomato/onion sauce the day before and just toss it with the steamed vegetables a few minutes before serving. 
Prep Time30 mins
Course: Holiday, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: Cauliflower, Indian, Masala, vegan
Servings: 6


Toasted Cashews:

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 14-oz can tomatoes whole, diced, pureed, or crushed

For The Onion/Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 large onion, diced about 3 cups
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 pods green cardamom
  • 2 pods black cardamom
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 medium bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup reduced tomato sauce/paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (an Indian spice blend)
  • 1 1/2 cups water, preferably filtered

For The Cauliflower Masala:

  • 1/4-1/2 cup water
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets about 4 cups
  • 1 large carrots, sliced 1/8-inch thick on an angle 1 1/2 cups
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 8 ounces organic cherry tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise
  • all of the pureed onion/tomato sauce plus 1/2 cup water to clean out the blender.
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper optional
  • 1/4 cup toasted cashews
  • salt to taste optional


For the Cashews:

  • Toast cashews in a dry skillet or sauté pan on low heat until they become a light brown color and are fragrant. Turn frequently by flipping with the skillet or by turning with a spatula. Set aside.

To Reduce Tomatoes:

  • Prepare tomatoes in advance by pureeing in a blender. ≈
  • Transfer puree to a small saucepan. Simmer, uncovered, at a fast pace for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have reduced by half. Stir frequently to prevent scorching.

To Prepare The Onion/Tomato Sauce:

  • Add chopped onions to a large saucepan and heat until a drop of water added to it makes it sizzle.
  • Stirring frequently, sauté onions until golden brown. As the onions begin to brown and stick to the pan, move them aside with your spatula and drizzle a little water on the browned spots on your sauté pan. Scrub the caramelization loose with your spoon or bamboo spatula to pull it off the pan. Move the onions to the area you just scrubbed. This will pull the caramelization off the pan and onto the onions.
  • Continue pulling the onions off the areas of the pan that is developing caramelization, adding small amounts of water to loosen the caramelization, scraping with your spoon or spatula. Allow most of the water to evaporate before moving the onions back into that spot. Repeat process until all the onions are golden brown.
  • Add mustard, sesame, coriander seeds, bay leaf, green and black cardamom pods, and cinnamon stick. Stir in garlic and ginger and continue sautéing until the garlic and ginger are soft and the mixture becomes fragrant.
  • Stir in previously reduced tomato sauce.
  • Stir in ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, black pepper and garam masala. Add a little water to aid in combining ingredients.
  • Stir in up to 1 1/2 cups water, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Pick out cardamom pods (both green and black), bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Discard.
  • Transfer mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Wash sauté pan and return it to the stovetop.

To Prepare the Cauliflower Masala:

  • To a clean sauté pan, add carrots, cauliflower, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer for about three minutes or until the color of the carrots begin to deepen and the cauliflower becomes crunchy soft or until a fork inserted into the cauliflower meets with a little resistance. 
  • Stir in peas and cherry tomatoes. Cover and continue to simmer another two minutes. 
  • Add the pureed onion/tomato mixture. Clean out the blender with a half-cup water to recover the sauce remaining on the walls of the blender. Add this to the cauliflowers and carrots.
  • Stir in cayenne pepper, cashews, and salt, if using. Simmer, uncovered for another two minutes.*
  • Serve with Aromatic Brown Basmati Rice. (See video)


*I don't cover the mixture for the final two minutes to prevent the vegetable from becoming too soft.