An insane amount of flavor is packed into this unassuming Vegetable Masala! This curry is creamy, comforting, hearty, and filling. It’s loaded up with tons of vegetables and an array of aromatics.
Try our original Chicken Tikka Masala recipe next time or for a creamy coconut-milk-based masala with chickpeas, you’ll love this Vegetarian Tikka Masala!
When my husband and I visited the Maldives, we were able to take an Indian cooking class at one of the restaurants on the island. It was such a unique experience, and definitely a highlight to cook in actual tandoor ovens! I’m still trying to convince my husband we need one in our backyard! 🙂
We made all kinds of dishes — including two types of naan. The garlic naan was definitely my favorite. (would you like to see that recipe?!)
While there were several stand-out dishes we made and sampled, I could not get enough of the Vegetable Masala! So this recipe I’m sharing today is adapted from that class, with some changes I made as I tested it back at home. I’ve changed out a few ingredients for ones that are more readily available in the US and swapped out a few of the veggies. I will say, this recipe does have a good amount of oil and ghee (or butter), but Indian cooking simply uses a lot of oil! It is what makes the curries so rich and indulgent.
So, while you may be tempted to reduce the oil and/or butter, note that it will make a difference to the flavor of this recipe. Additionally, keep in mind that while it seems like a lot, this dish also makes a lot, so you aren’t actually consuming all that much per serving.
Even though this dish sounds exotic, you can get the ingredients easily. No need to go to a specialty store or order anything online; you should be able to find everything at your local grocery store!
- Fire-roastedcrushedtomatoes. The tomatoes make a big difference flavor-wise, so I recommend good-quality fire-roasted tomatoes (such as Cento Marzano®, Carmelina Marzano Italian®, or Muir Glen®). This type of tomato is charred over a flame before being crushed and canned. Contact with the flame brings out the tomato’s sweetness and gives a distinct, smoky flavor. You get more flavor without any extra work.
- Fresh ginger and fresh garlic. I’ll be the first to admit, I often reach for jarred garlic, but in this Vegetable Masala, fresh garlic makes a big difference. Use fresh garlic and ginger for the best possible flavor.
- Spiceblend. This recipe calls for quite a few spices, but if you cook many Indian dishes, you likely already have them in your cabinet. The one spice that you may be unfamiliar with is garammasala. It’s a blend of spices — the whole spices (such as cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander seeds, mace, cumin seeds, and cardamom pods) are toasted over heat until the flavors are released and then they’re ground down to a powder. This spice blend makes such a huge flavor difference!
- Ghee. This used to be more of a specialty ingredient but has become much more readily available at mainstream grocery stores in the last few years. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that is thought to have originated in ancient India. Clarified butter has been simmered then strained to remove all water. So essentially it’s a richer, more delicious version of butter! Grass-fed milk will produce the best tasting (and most fragrant) ghee so check for that on the container. If you prefer, regular unsalted butter will work as well. You’ll find ghee in the baking aisle by shortening or in the ethnic food section of the store.
A fun fact we learned about garam masala in the class — every chef has their own garam masala blends which they tweak throughout their careers. The blends are completely unique to each chef and typically the blend ratios aren’t shared — it’s considered their “secret” contribution to dishes. In the back of the kitchen, there were bins of garam masala with each chef’s name on them!
Vegetable Masala Tips
- Play around with spice: If you want a spicier meal, add in more cayenne pepper (to your preference; start slowly and increase as desired) and/or some red pepper flakes. The recipe we made in the class called for chillipowder — not to be confused with American chilipowder. In India, chilli powder refers to unadulterated ground chilies which is similar to American cayenne powder. I call for cayenne in this recipe because it’s more accessible, but I do list this amount as optional. My kids like this dish best without the cayenne and I do like the cayenne added in (even a little more if it’s just for me!).
- A lot of salt: With so many strong flavors, we also need a good amount of salt. Don’t be afraid to add more until the flavors sing. We add a good amount to this Vegetable Masala — 1 and 1/2 teaspoons, but feel free to scale up or down to personal preference.
- Take the time to develop the flavors: While it may seem tedious to add just a few ingredients at a time (sauté, add a few more, sauté, etc.), we do this to layer the flavors in this meal. The spices get so much more flavorful by sautéing with the veggies, the tomatoes’ sweetness is accentuated, and the veggies will become tender quicker.
- Swap out veggies: I’ve added similar vegetables to the masala we made but changed out a few. The recipe we made had green beans and baby corn in it which you could certainly add in (near the end) or swap out another veggie for.
Vegetable Masala is amazing right off the stove, but adding a few finishing touches makes the flavors sing! We love a good squeeze of lemon and some more freshherbs added right before eating. Below are our other favorite accompaniments to serve with this masala:
- Cucumber raita: The contrast of the warm spiced veggies and sauce with a cooling yogurt is unbelievable! In fact, we made cucumber raita and served it with the vegetable masala in the class! My recipe for cucumber raita is in the “quick tip” section below.
- Basmatirice: We love basmati rice with this dish and it whips up so quickly! Check out the notes section of my recipe card for a quick, fool-proof way to cook it.
- Naan: If serving naan alongside this meal, I recommend warming it before serving. Either char the naan over the stovetop, heat it in the toaster oven, or warm it in the microwave.
Quick cucumber raita: Add the following ingredients to a medium-sized bowl: 1/2 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt (we love Greek Gods®), 1/2 cup finely chopped English or Persian cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chopped green onions, 1/4 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, and fine sea salt. Stir until combined and then refrigerate. Stir before adding to the Vegetable Masala.
More curry recipes
- Chicken Currywith coconut milk
- Sweet Potato Coconut Curry Soupwith chickpeas
- Curry Lentil Soupwith red lentils
- Butter Chicken Meatballsover basmati rice
- Curry Chicken Saladwith golden raisins
- 3tablespoonscoconut oil
- 5tablespoonsghee (or unsalted butter),divided
- 1-1/2cupsfinely diced red onion (~1 large onion)
- 1-1/2cupsthinly sliced carrots(~4 large carrots)
- 1cupdiced red pepper (1 pepper)
- 3cupsdiced Yukon gold potatoes(~4 potatoes)
- 1cupchopped cauliflower
- 1teaspoonwhite sugar
- 2-1/2tablespoonsfinely minced garlic (~4-5 cloves)
- 2tablespoonspeeled & finely minced ginger(~1-1/2 inch piece)
- 2tablespoonstomato paste
- 1can (14.5 oz)fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
- 1-2/3cupsvegetable stock (or broth)
- 1/4cup + 2 tablespoonsheavy whipping cream
- 1cupfrozen sweet peas
- 1/3cupfinely diced cilantro (or parsley)
- Serve with: cooked basmati rice (Note 1), cucumber raita (Note 2), lemon wedges, additional cilantro or parsley, and warmed naan (Note 3)
- 2teaspoons EACH:turmeric, coriander
- 1tablespoon EACH:sweet paprika, garam masala
- 1teaspoonground cumin
- 1/8teaspoon EACH:cardamom powder, cayenne pepper (optional)
- Fine sea salt and cracked pepper
VEGGIEPREP: Finely dice the red onion and red pepper or add to a food processor to quickly chop. Wash (no need to peel) and thinly slice the carrots (cut thick carrots in half lengthwise first then cut to create thin half moons). Wash and then dice (no need to peel) the potatoes into small 1/2-inch pieces. Coarsely chop the cauliflower into small pieces. Finely mince the garlic and ginger (or add to a food processor to chop along with pepper and onion).
VEGGIES: Add coconut oil and 2 tablespoons ghee or butter to a large cast iron pot, heated to medium-high heat. (A nonstick pot doesn’t hold heat the same as cast iron, so you may need to cook a bit longer.) Once the oil and ghee or butter is melted, add in the onion, carrot, diced red pepper, potatoes, and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt. Sauté for 8-10 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Add ginger, garlic, and sugar; sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
SEASONINGS: Meanwhile, measure out the seasonings. Add seasonings, salt & pepper to taste (I add another 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper) and tomato paste into pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes. Everything should be very fragrant and tomato paste should darken (reduce heat if needed; nothing should be smoking/burning).
TOMATOES: Add in the cauliflower and crushed tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute, stirring constantly and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the vegetable stock; press veggies down below the liquid. Bring to a simmer (should be bubbling at the edges) and then reduce the heat to a few notches above low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until veggies are fork-tender and liquid has significantly thickened (if it isn’t thickening/veggies aren’t getting tender, slightly increase heat).
FINISHING: Turn to lowest heat and add in the heavy cream and remaining 3 tablespoons ghee or butter. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in peas and cilantro and mix through. Taste the dish for any additional seasoning/salt. Depending on the tomatoes you use, you may need another 1-2 teaspoons of sugar to balance the acidity.
ASSEMBLY: Set out rice, top with the vegetable masala and add any additional toppings like a spoonful of cucumber raita, additional cilantro sprigs, and a good drizzle of lemon juice (we like a good squeeze of lemon on each bowl!) Enjoy with warmed naan.
- Measure the rice and rinse it in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear.
- Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with water to soak for about 5-10 minutes.
- While the rice is soaking, fill a large pot with water and set it to boil.
- Once the water is at a rolling boil, drain the rice and add it to the pot.
- Cook without reducing the heat, for 5 minutes and then drain and fluff with a fork.
Note 2: Completely optional, but we love the cooling contrast of cucumber raita on this masala. Add the following ingredients to a medium-sized bowl: 1/2 cup plain full-fat Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup finely chopped English or Persian cucumber, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, 2 teaspoons chopped green onions, 1/4 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, and fine sea salt. Stir until combined and then refrigerate. Stir before adding to the vegetable masala.
Note 3: Warmed naan is the best with this masala! Lightly spray both sides of the naan with cooking spray. «Grill» the naan on a gas stovetop over the open flame until slightly charred, about 10-20 seconds per side. Don’t have a gas stove? Here’s how to warm naan in the oven: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Stack the naan in a pile and wrap in foil. Heat in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes.
Nutrition information does not include rice or naan.
We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.