This vibrant Vegetable Curry Recipe from the tropical island country of Sri Lanka enchants with layers of exciting flavor and a good amount of heat. Cauliflower, sweet potatoes and green beans simmered in fragrant spicy coconut curry sauce with toasted cashews and cilantro. This makes a delicious, satisfying vegan meal.
Curry and rice is the staple food of Sri Lanka. Though similar to the curries of neighboring India, Sri Lankan curries have a couple of stand-out qualities. Firstly, they tend to be startlingly hot. Disclaimer: I’ve toned down this vegetable curry recipe to my preferred level of heat, which is about medium – maybe not authentic – however I can’t taste food when my mouth is on fire. Feel free to double or even triple up on the hot chilies if you want more burn.
Another unique feature of Sri Lankan curries is how the layers of flavor are added at different stages of the cooking process.
- The first round of herbs, spices and aromatics forms the flavor base of the curry.
- Another aromatic mix is fried up at the last minute and stirred through the finished dish to give it a fresh, exciting burst of flavor. It’s called tempering.
- The final layer of flavor is a generous garnish of chopped cilantro and toasted cashew nuts.
Sri Lanka sounds like an absolute dream destination – a small tropical Island country in the Indian Ocean, just south of India. It’s tiny, just larger than the state of West Virginia, but has lots going on: lush forests, national wildlife parks with elephants and leopards, ancient temples, beautiful unspoiled beaches, tea plantations (Ceylon), and fiery, flavorful curries that make use of delicious local spices, coconuts, and green chilies.
How to make this Vegetable Curry
There’s a fair bit of chopping and mincing required but once everything is sliced and diced, this curry comes together fast.
The aromatic vegetables – onions, garlic and ginger – are sautéed first, along with sliced jalapeño, herbs and spices. This creates the flavor base of the curry. Next, the sweet potatoes, cauliflower and green beans are added to the pot, along with coconut milk and water. The curry is simmered for ten minutes, until the veggies are just tender. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, a fresh sauté of aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices is prepared and stirred into the curry at the last minute, for a final layer of fresh exciting flavor.
What to serve with this vegetable curry
Divide the curry among bowls and garnish each bowl generously with cilantro leaves and toasted cashews. A side of steamed white rice, naan or Sri Lankan roti make perfect accompaniments – great for sopping up the delicious curry sauce.
You might also like
- My Favorite Vegetarian Chili (easily made vegan)
- Vegetarian Enchiladas Verdes
- Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole
Here’s the Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry Recipe. If you make this, I hope you’ll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I’d love to know what you think.Print
Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry
A beautifully spiced vegetarian curry of cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and green beans, topped with toasted cashews and cilantro.
- Prep Time: 25 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 45 mins
- Yield: 4-5 1x
- Category: Lunch or Dinner
- Method: Sauté
- Cuisine: Sri Lankan
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil or ghee, divided
- 2 yellow onions, one roughly chopped (for the topping),one halved and thinly sliced (for the curry)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 large cloves), divided
- 4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger root (from a 2-inch piece), divided
- 3 jalapeño peppers, one sliced thinly crosswise (for the topping), the other two cut in half lengthwise (for the curry)
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 8 whole cloves
- 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves or about 16 leaves.(see notes below for substitutions)
- 2 tablespoons good Indian curry powder, such as Madras
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more, to taste
- 1 ½ pounds yams or orange flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 13-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well before opening, divided
- 6 cups of cauliflower florets (about ¾ of a large cauliflower or a whole small cauliflower)
- ¾ pound green beans, stem end trimmed off
- Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons brown or black mustard seeds
- 1 cup toasted cashews
- ½ cup cilantro leaves
- white rice or naan or roti
- Set aside ingredients for the topping (final layer of flavor): In a small bowl, combine the thinly sliced jalapeño pepper with the chopped onions, 1 tablespoon of the minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of the minced ginger.
- Sauté the aromatics and spices: Heat 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced onion, garlic, ginger and the 2 halved jalapeños, along with the cinnamon stick, cloves and one sprig of curry leaves (about 7 leaves). Sauté, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Add curry powder (2 tablespoons), turmeric (½ teaspoon) and salt (1 teaspoon). Cook, stirring, for a minute, until fragrant.
- Add the sweet potatoes, water (1 ½ cups) and ½ cup of the coconut milk. When the pot comes to a simmer, add the cauliflower and green beans. Turn the heat up and when the pot begins to bubble turn the down to a simmer, cover the curry, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just tender.
- Remove from heat, stir in the remaining coconut milk, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove the cinnamon sticks and any curry leaves that haven’t dissolved into the sauce.
- Make the topping: Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil or ghee in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ingredients that you set aside: chopped onion, thinly sliced jalapeño, garlic and ginger, along with mustard seeds (2 teaspoons), and 1 sprig of curry leaves (7-8 leaves). Sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or so, until the onion is soft and starting to brown.
- To Serve: Stir the topping mixture into the finished curry. Divide the curry among bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves and toasted cashews. Serve the curry with a side of white or brown rice or naan or roti.
If you can’t find Curry Leaves: You can substitute bay or lime zest. Use the zest of one lime per 8 curry leaves.
Keywords: spicy vegan vegetable curry
This recipe first appeared on Panning The Globe on August 23, 2015. The post was updated on October 20, 2020 with new pertinent information in the written post, substitutions for curry leaves, and added nutritional information. Same delicious recipe!