Cabbage Kootu is a delicious, healthy and comforting South Indian side dish made with cabbage, lentils, spices and herbs. This protein-packed dish goes well over steamed rice, quinoa, and millets or with roti and plain paratha. Kootu is a popular vegetarian dish from South Indian cuisines of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. A typical kootu has lentils, fresh coconut, spices, tamarind and vegetables, cooked till tender, lastly tempered with whole spices and curry leaves.
Kootu is made in many ways and every state and region has a different way of making it. This cabbage kootu is one such variation and tastes simply delicious and is aromatic. In this post I share the recipe to make cabbage kootu in a regular pot and in a pressure cooker. You can use a stovetop cooker or an electric cooker like an instant pot.
South Indian kootu can be made with many different kinds of vegetables like bottle gourd, drumsticks, snake gourd, Ash gourd, and pumpkin. There are also some versions made with mixed vegetables and leafy greens.
To make a kootu, you can use any lentils of choice like split skinned pigeon peas, yellow Moong dal or even whole legumes like chickpeas or Green Moong Beans. For this cabbage kootu, I have used toor dal, you can also use moong dal, Chana Dal or a mix of both.
I make a paste of roasted chana dal, red chilies, cumin and fresh coconut. This enhances a delicious nutty aroma and taste. If you do not have access to fresh coconut, you may use thick coconut milk.
To make this cabbage kootu, I prefer to cook the lentils first. Later add the chopped cabbage and simmer until it is tender. I don’t prefer pressure cooking cabbage as it can sometimes impart a sulfur smell to the dish. Overcooked cabbaged can impart a chemical like taste and flavor.
How to Make Cabbage Kootu (Stepwise Photos)
1. Cabbage can be cleaned in so many ways. You can quarter the cabbage and add them to warm salted water. Leave for a while and then rinse few times. Drain completely and chop. You can also chop it and add to salted water. Rinse well and repeat the rinse.
2. Soak 2 to 3 tablespoons tamarind in little hot water. Set aside. Add half cup toor dal to a pressure cooker or pot. You can use moong dal or toor dal or a mix of both.
2. Rinse it very well a few times until the water runs clear. Add 1 ½ cups water and pressure cook for 3 whistles on a medium heat, until the lentils are soft cooked. If cooking in a pot, bring the water to a rolling boil and reduce the heat, cook until tender adding more hot water if required.
3. While the dal cooks, chop 2 cups cabbage and add it to a pot of salted water. Drain off and rinse a few times. Set this aside. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a small tadka pan. Fry 2 to 4 red chilies and 1½ tablespoons chana dal, until the dal turns aromatic & deep golden. Cool and add them to a blender along with 3 tablespoons coconut (or ¼ thick coconut milk) and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds.
4. Add little water and make a smooth paste.
Make Cabbage Kootu
5. When the pressure releases naturally, open the lid and mash the dal slightly. Add chopped cabbage to the dal and cook until tender. Cabbage gets cooked in just 5 to 6 minutes. If it is not tender then 8 minutes would be enough. (If using Instant pot, cook on saute mode)
6. Add the ground kootu paste. If required pour more hot water. Cook for 2 to 3 mins.
7. Make sure the cabbage is tender, then add tamarind paste or water as required. Do not add tamarind before the cabbage is cooked. Stir and let it bubble. Taste test and add more salt or tamarind if required.
8. Heat a pan, add 1 tablespoon ghee or 2 tsps oil. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds, 1 dried red chili and 8 to 10 curry leaves. When the curry leaves turn crisp. off the stove and add 1 pinch of hing.
9. Pour it to the cabbage kootu.
Cabbage kootu is ready to be served with rice or phulka.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ cup dal (toor dal or moong dal, any lentils)
- 2 cups cabbage chopped
- 2 to 3 tablespoons dry tamarind (or 1 tsp tamarind concentrate, adjust to taste)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
To roast & grind
- 3 tablespoons coconut fresh or frozen, grated or ¼ cup thick coconut milk
- 2 to 4 dried red chilies (less spicy kind)
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 to 1½ tablespoons chana dal (bengal gram)
- 1 to 3 teaspoons ghee or 2 tsps oil
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 pinch hing (asafoetida)
- If using dry tamarind, soak it in ⅓ cup hot water and set aside. When it cools down, mash it with your fingers and keep ready.
- Add dal to a cooker or pot. Rinse it well a few times. Pour 1½ cups water and pressure cook for 3 whistles. If using a instant pot, set the timer to 10 minutes with pressure cook setting. If using a regular pot, cook on a medium heat until dal is soft and mushy.
- While the dal cooks, chop cabbage. Rinse it well and drain completely. Keep this aside.
- Meanwhile in a small tadka pan, dry roast chana dal and red chilies until deep golden and aromatic.
- Add cumin seeds and fry for 30 seconds. Turn off and cool. Later transfer to a grinder along with coconut. Pour little water and make a fine paste.
How to Make Cabbage Kootu
- When the pressure releases, open the cooker and check if the lentils are cooked. They should be really soft and mushy.
- Add chopped cabbage and turmeric. Stir and cook until the cabbage is soft and tender but not overcooked. (if using Instant pot, press the saute button)
- Add the ground kootu paste and cook just for 2 mins. If the kootu turns thick, pour little hot water and bring to consistency. It should be ideally thick but of pouring consistency.
- When the cabbage is cooked, add tamarind water or paste. I prefer to pass soaked tamarind through the strainer. Taste test and add more salt or tamarind if needed.
- Heat ghee or oil in the same tadka pan for tempering.
- Add mustard seeds, red chilli and curry leaves. When they begin to splutter, add hing.
- Switch off and pour this to the cabbage kootu. Give a good mix and serve with rice or roti.
- You may pressure cook the chopped cabbage with lentils but sometimes it imparts sulphur like smell.
- To make it a one pot dish, you may fry the ingredients for paste first in your cooker or pot. Remove to a plate for cooling. Make the tadka/ tempering in the cooker first, then add the lentils and cook till soft. Add the cabbage later and then the paste.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Cabbage kootu recipe first published in July 2015. Updated and Republished in June 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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