Cabbage Thoran (Instant Pot and Stovetop)


Cabbage thoran, a classic Keralite side dish, is a simply spiced stir-fry made with coconut oil, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and grated coconut.

Cabbage Thoran

What is thoran?

Thoran is a South Indian side dish that means “stir-fry.” It’s a common method when preparing vegetables in Keralite cuisine (Kerala is a coastal state in India, where coconut is prominent).

Thoran is typically made by cooking a chopped vegetable with onions (or shallots), mustard seeds, grated coconut, spices, and curry leaves.

What I love most about thoran is that the cooking method and the ingredients used merely highlight the vegetable; they don’t overpower it. The vegetable still resembles itself and maintains some of its texture.

I’m sharing two methods of making this cabbage side dish, on the stovetop or in an instant pot. Either way, you’ll have a cabbage side dish with a slight bite to it.

Cabbage Thoran

Do I need to use curry leaves?

Curry leaves add a very distinct flavor (one that absolutely cannot be replaced with curry powder – they’re completely unrelated) to the dish. Please don’t skip curry leaves when making thoran.

If you can’t find fresh curry leaves at your local Indian grocery store, you can order them from amazon (though they’ll be much cheaper at your local store – around $1-2 per pack).

When I buy fresh curry leaves, I’ll typically buy a lot and store extra leaves in my freezer in a plastic ziplock bag.

Cabbage Thoran

Before dating Roby, I had never tried Keralite cuisine. Growing up, I primarily ate North Indian food at home, and while we’d eat some South Indian food – it was usually in the form of dosa, idli, sambar. Keralite restaurants aren’t typical, so the only way to eat authentic Keralite food is to make it yourself. The good news is that it’s simple to make if you have the right ingredients.

This cuisine is perfect for those with dairy allergies or special dietary requirements (gluten-free, paleo). That’s because Kerala is a coconut-rich region, and therefore, many recipes are made with coconut. You can find grated coconut in the frozen section of any Indian grocery store.

This vegetarian side dish goes well with any meal. Here are a few of my favorite Keralite main dish recipes. Make one of the recipes below along with this cabbage thoran and serve it with a side of rice (matta rice is great if you can find it), and you’ll have an authentic Keralite meal.

Serve thoran as a side to one of these main dishes:

Cabbage Thoran

Here are some more thoran recipes a try:

“Oh my goodness. I could not believe how good this was…its just cabbage after all. I’ve used so many of your recipes and they are always great but this one really surprised me. Ok. I figured its time to sign up. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your work is VERY much appreciated.”


Cabbage Thoran (Stir-Fry)

Cabbage Thoran

Cabbage Thoran (Stir-Fry)

5 from 4 reviews
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Cuisine Indian


  • 2 – 2½ pounds of cabbage sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves minced
  • 1 –2 serrano pepper minced
  • 15-20 curry leaves
  • ½ cup grated coconut I like the frozen brand Daily Delight*
  • 1 teaspoon salt adjust to taste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup water if making in an instant pot


Instant Pot

  • Press the sauté button and add coconut oil. Once it melts, add mustard seeds and when they begin to splutter and pop, add the onion, garlic, Serrano pepper and curry leaves. Stir- fry for 3-4 minutes or until the onions become fragrant and translucent.
  • Add the grated coconut, salt, turmeric and stir, then add half the cabbage and stir again. Add the remaining cabbage and ¼ cup water to the pot and give everything another good stir (the pot will be nearly filled up with cabbage).
  • Secure the lid, close the pressure valve, and cook for 1 minute at high pressure.
  • Quick-release pressure, give everything a good stir, and then quickly move the cabbage into another bowl to allow it to cool down and prevent it from cooking further.
  • Taste and adjust salt. This thoran tastes better when it’s a bit salty (I typically add an additional ¼ to ½ teaspoon at this point if needed).


  • In a bowl, combine cabbage, onion, garlic, serrano pepper and coconut.
  • Heat coconut oil in a pot (I use a “Dutch Oven“) on medium heat and add mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to splutter, add the curry leaves, turmeric, and salt (you may want to shield yourself for this part…).
  • Let spices bloom for a minute, then add the cabbage mixture and saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and cover, cook for 5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and stir fry for another 5 minutes.


The curry leaves impart their flavor in the coconut oil – I usually remove them before eating this stir-fry. Sometimes I’ll cut the leaves into little ribbons before adding them to the oil – makes it easier to eat with the stir-fry.
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Find out more about my cookbooks Indian Food Under Pressure and South Asian Persuasion.

About Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley. Thanks for being here! I truly believe that food brings us closer together. Gather around a table with good food and good people, and you’ll have the ingredients you need to create some happy memories. My hope is that you find recipes here that you can’t wait to share with family and friends.


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  1. naches says

    5 stars
    oh my goodness. I could not believe how good this was…its just cabbage after all.

    I’ve used so many of your recipes and they are always great but this one really surprised me. Ok. I figured its time to sign up. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your work is VERY much appreciated.

  2. Katie says

    My husband and I were big fans of this recipe. The kids aren’t huge fans of leafy vegetables and ate this without complaint, so I call that a win. I made a few changes…I left out the peppers (for the kids) and I sauteed the onions before adding the cabbage because ever since my pregnancies I can’t deal with raw or semi raw onions. This is the first time I have bought frozen fresh coconut. I bought mine at a large Asian/International Grocery near our house. The strands of coconut were very long maybe 3 inches or so. Is that what you are using? Should I thaw and chop it so it is in smaller pieces? I ended up putting the block of frozen coconut in the cast iron skillet and breaking it into pieces while it defrosted. I have a feeling this was not the strategy I was supposed to use.


  1. […] frozen coconut at your local Indian or Asian grocery store. Many south Indian recipes (especially Kerala dishes) call for coconut, so so pretty much every Indian store will carry this product. They also carry […]

  2. […] Cabbage Thoran (Stir-Fry) – My Heart Beets says: January 31, 2014 at 7:01 am […]

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