Cauliflower Chickpea Curry

Sometimes a single ingredient, a garnish, can turn a dish from meh to Wow. In the case of this cauliflower chickpea curry, that ingredient is cilantro. I’ve been meaning to experiment with a curry using cauliflower and chickpeas for months. When we finally got around to it, the result was okay, but nothing special. Frustrated, I tossed a handful of chopped cilantro into what we had made—a braise of cauliflower, chickpeas, onions, curry, and tomatoes. The ingredients that minutes before had failed to inspire were now dazzling. It’s as if the cilantro had woken everyone up and pulled them onto the dance floor.

What’s happening? I’m guessing one reason is that the cilantro is playing the role of a bitter, like parsley, kale, or green onion greens. The bitter greens fire up the bitter sensors in our mouths and the flavor of everything brightens. In any case, with the cilantro, this curry is fast, easy, and delightful. (Great with Basmati Rice with Peas and Mint.)

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Cauliflower Chickpea Curry Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

For those of you who simply cannot tolerate cilantro, I would recommend thinly slicing some kale and adding that to the curry as it cooks, or toss with fresh chives or thinly sliced onion greens. It won't be the same, but the greens will help brighten the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of yellow curry powder
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and then sliced across the grain (about 1 1/2 cups sliced onion)
  • 1-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated (1 teaspoon grated)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) (a 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cored, florets separated
  • 1 15-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (packed) roughly chopped cilantro (leaves and young stems)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh mint leaves

Method

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1 Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed pot (with lid) on medium heat. Add the curry powder to the oil and let cook for a minute until fragrant. Add the sliced onion, toss with the curried oil. Let cook until softened about 6 to 8 minutes.

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2 Once the onions have softened, add the ginger and the chickpeas, toss to coat with everything. Add the tomatoes, shredding the whole tomatoes with your fingers as you add them to the pot. Include any tomato juice from the can. Add the cauliflower florets, the salt, pepper, bay leaf, and water. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cover. Cook 15 to 18 minutes until the cauliflower is cooked through and tender.

3 Remove from heat. Toss with fresh chopped cilantro and minced mint.

Serve with rice or rice pilaf. If you want dollop a little sour cream or plain yogurt over it (non-vegan option).

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Links:

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Lemon-Dijon Dressing from Dishing Up the Dirt

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Harissa from Family Style Food

Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup from Dishing Up the Dirt

Cauliflower Chickpea Cashew Curry from The Curvy Carrot

28 Comments

  1. sue/the view from great island

    I’m a big fan of ‘firing up the bitter sensors’ and this looks really delicious. :)

  2. CarrieN

    I am one of those people that won’t touch cilantro with a 10 foot pole. I won’t even tell you what it tastes like to me. The recipe sounded great until i got to that point so i am glad you made a suggestion for a substitution so i can try it. Thanks!

    • lancemcphee@gmail.com

      For those commenting on cilantro’s terrible taste, it is apparently a genetic trait that it simply tastes like dish soap to some, just to clarify and to give you all a valid reason to omit it from recipes.

  3. Su

    I love your website. I’m Indian and my family’s prefers traditional ‘desi’ food but I love your writing, photography and the elegance of your recipes. This cauliflower-chickpea is very much like what we cook at home for a quick meal. The recipe is very accessible to the home cook who would want to try cooking curry without investing in a rack ful of Indian spices. Those who do want to take the complexity up a notch, you can sub the generic curry powder with a mix of cumin , coriander and turmeric powders. Maybe a tiny dash of garam masala too. Carnivores can sub the chickpea with medium shrimp ( added at a later step to prevent toughening). Cilantro haters, you could perhaps squeeze a lime slice to perk up the taste.

    • Jessica

      I haven’t made this yet, but I know exactly what Elise means when she says that a handful of cilantro can completely transform a dish. I think when I make it, I will take Su’s advice for kicking it up a notch with the cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala. I’m on a bit of a cumin kick these days and can’t do without.

      • Su

        Jessica, if you’re up to it, try making a paste of ginger, cumin seeds and a bit of dry red chilly (optional if you dislike spicy heat) in a spice blender. Fry tomatoes in a bit of oil and add the paste + turmeric, keep stirring and after a few mins add warm water. Very easy and fresh tasting ‘curry base’ which goes well with fish, potatoes, cauliflower,peas and such. Benefits enormously from a cilantro garnish as well.

        • Jessica

          Sounds delicious Su! I love Indian food and have all of the spices on hand, but can never quite get it the way it should be. Maybe this will be the trick!

          • Jessica

            I made it the other night with the spice substitutions. It was delicious, but I think next time I will increase the quantities of the spices that I put in, because it could have needed even more of a kick. But a really delicious, fast and easy recipe!

    • Bev

      Thank you for the curry powder sub. We just started cooking with Indian spices, and they make all the difference.

  4. Matt Robinson

    Love this so much, Elise! Wow.

  5. kimek

    Cilantro is a must when you are preparing Indian dish :) For those who cannot tolerate it – first try to add it to your dish and cook it just a little, so the taste of fresh cilantro blends with your curry.

  6. Tammela

    Cauliflower and chickpeas are a great combination. Here’s my curry using the two ingredients: http://taplatt.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/recipe-chana-cauliflower-masala/

  7. Annie

    I have never tried cilantro in a yellow curry but it probably would be good. I always put it in a red curry, so why not?

    However, I would guess part of the original problem was that it was underseasoned, and that amount of curry called for is just too small for this much volume. I would at least double that. A little turmeric or smoked paprika can be nice in a curry, too.

  8. Againstthegrain

    I nearly always have the necessary ingredients on hand for curries like this.

    We’re experiencing super hot, dry desert winds in San Diego at the moment, not to mention multiple brush fires around the county. The utility authorities have requested that county residents limit use of major appliances to ease the strain on the electric supply grid, so for the duration I’ve been making meals that minimize or avoid using the stove and oven. I was planning to cook some chickpeas in my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker to make hummus – I think I’ll make some extra chickpeas and adapt this for making in my Instant Pot, too.

  9. Lisa

    What brand of curry powder do you use?

  10. Jessica @FoodLuvBites

    This looks good! We been trying to eat a lot more healthy so I may make this soon. Will come back if I have any questions :D

  11. Deanne Bush

    I planned to make this dish tonight but discovered I was out of cilantro. Wanting to duplicate the recipe exactly, I asked my husband to drive the 6 miles to our closest store for the star ingredient. I had mint in my herb garden and used that with the cilantro as a garnish. We both found the Cauliflower Curry to be a wonderful dish served on top of a whole grain rice blend of Texmati, brown and wild rice. The addition of cilantro was well worth the trip to town.

  12. Carol at Wild Goose Tea

    Interesting about the cilantro being magic ingredient. I recently had curry cauliflower at a restaurant in Seattle that featured Asian fusion food. It was delightful and a real table pleaser. Too cool to find a tested recipe for it. Yay!

  13. Kristen

    I’ve never really been a huge fan of cauliflower but I might actually give this recipe a try since I love curry. With the weather warming up I need to have more meals I can prepare on the stove top. Thanks for the recipe and delicious looking pictures!

  14. Ashley

    I made this tonight and really liked it, as did my 4 year old son (he loves chickpeas!). I added light coconut milk to the broth, a bit more curry, and threw in a few other veggies and served over brown basmati rice. I look forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow! Thanks for an easy, healthy, and delicious recipe!

  15. Julie

    My husband would tell me “this tastes like soap” (cilantro aversion) I would say “that’s good, I’ll eat your portion too”!

  16. serena

    I wanted to try this dish ever since I saw the recipe and tonight was the night. I was tasting it as I was cooking and thought to myself, “This is great just the way it is”. Then I threw a handful of cilantro in and tasted it again. Omg, I thought I was in heaven! Trust me, don’t skip the cilantro unless you absolutely can’t stand it. Thanks for another great recipe!

  17. Emily

    This was so good! Even my three year old loved it. Will make this again very soon.

  18. Debra

    I just made this and it is wonderful. Love the flavors, but like most vegetarian dishes without any fat, I found it lacking a bit in satisfaction. Then I recalled a similar recipe which adds just a little sour cream at the end, so I tried that, and it blended in to make a nice, creamy sauce. Definitely a keeper. Yum!

  19. Dora

    Thank you for a wonderful recipe! I made this last night with great success. My modifications were: used garam masala spice instead of ginger, no mint or cilantro or bay leaf as I did not have it on hand. We loved it !

  20. Layla Grace

    Whoever said Cilantro tastes like dish soap, needs to get their taste buds tested. Are you kidding me? That is not a fair comparison at all.
    It tastes wonderful and is one of the most versatile herbs there is. Please don’t let a few comments deter you from trying / adding cilantro to your dishes.

    • Elise

      Hi Layla, everybody’s taste buds are different. It takes time to get accustomed to certain tastes, especially if you haven’t grown up with them. There’s some scientific evidence that for some people, genetically, cilantro will taste like soap. There are also contradicting studies saying that it’s just a matter of getting used to the taste. I grew up with cilantro so love it. But I didn’t grow up with saffron, and to me, that spice tastes like soap. I have a very hard time with it.

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