Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Cauliflower sabzi is a classic in our home; I grew up eating it and now I make it often for my family. “Sabzi” simply means “vegetables,” and it refers to a range of quick and easy recipes that can accommodate just about any vegetable you like. My mum would usually make this with potatoes—in which case it goes by the name alu gobhi, the famous Punjabi dish. Carrots and peas are often added to both the cauliflower and potato versions, leading to even more variations. I make it in many ways, ending up with varied flavors each time. 

Sabzi is made all over India, with slight variations in the spices and flavorings depending on the region and family making it. The spices in my recipe are in the Punjabi style, and include cumin, coriander, turmeric, and the blend garam masala. They’re flavorful but basic: If you’ve ever cooked Indian food then you’re likely to have them in the cupboard, making this a very accessible sabzi to whip up anytime of the week.

Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

The key is not to rush cooking the onion, because the savory caramelized notes that develop by lightly browning it form the perfect flavor base for this sabzi. Since sabzi is a “dry” preparation (which means it’s usually made with no gravy or sauce), I add just enough water to help cook the cauliflower but not enough to make it soupy. The cauliflower acts as the perfect sponge to absorb the lovely flavors of the warm spices. 

You can enjoy sabzi with Indian flatbreads like chapati or naan but honestly, I often eat it simply with some generously buttered sourdough. It also makes a great side to serve with dal and rice. I also love using it in a winner of a vegetable-charged grilled cheese sandwich: Butter a couple slices of bread (sandwich bread or thick sourdough slices would both be good), spoon some sabzi on top, grate cheddar or another cheese over it, and grill until melty and crispy. 

Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

And if you happen to have leftovers, sabzi even tastes great cold, rolled up in a wrap for a packed lunch.

In a large skillet, sauté pan, or wok, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add cumin and mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. 

Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Reduce heat to medium-low, add tomato, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in coriander, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt. Add 1/2 cup (120ml) water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling add the cauliflower and stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium-high heat until the cauliflower is translucent and soft, 10 to 20 minutes. Adjust heat to high and continue to cook, uncovered, until liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. 

Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Sprinkle cilantro and peanuts over cauliflower and serve.

Serious Eats / Kanika and Jatin Sharma

Special Equipment

Large skillet, sauté pan, or wok

Make-Ahead or Storage

Cauliflower sabzi can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat before serving (sabzi is also great at room temperature, but I don’t recommend eating it cold straight from the fridge).

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