Weeknight Cooking

Julie Sahni's Curried Avocado with Garlic and Green Chiles

October 22, 2014

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Our new favorite thing to do to an avocado (plus a DIY curry powder to oust the faded jar in your spice drawer).

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Guacamole and avocado toast superfans, prepare to be delighted by this recipe from legendary author Julie Sahni. For one thing, you're going to cook a perfectly good avocado. But just a little. 

And you'll season it not with restraint, but at a full clamor: Chiles, cilantro, onions, and lime will feel familiar; less so the mustard seeds and curry leaves and seven different spices (assuming you go all the way and make Sahni's master curry blend, which I suggest you do).



But rather than muting or drowning out avocado's subtleties, these bold strokes frame and magnify them. Much like the guacamole we love most, a vibrant sauce gives avocado something to play against, while keeping it intact and fully present, not at risk of losing itself in the din.

You'll chop your avocado in big pieces; then, on the same board, gently blend in a few other fresh ingredients -- minced chiles, cilantro, curry leaves, and lime -- in the efficient manner of a knife pesto.


Next you'll sizzle mustard seeds, garlic, onion, and curry powder in rapid succession to make a lit-up curry and allium paste, then finally turn off the heat, scrape in your knife guacamole, and stir it around.

In this simple division of ingredients, you're seasoning the avocado twice -- first with the fresh, fiesty types, then the rich, meaty ones. The result, not surprisingly, is electric. Every element balances another: spice on cream, hot on cool, earthy and smoky on grassy and clean. The richness of the avocado, like a cooling yogurt raita or lassi, slakes the heat.

More: Next up -- try making your own paneer.

Even if you, like me, haven't been fond of cooked avocado in the past, you'll like this -- because you're not really cooking it, just letting everything latch on in a still-warm pan, fusing and melting it together at the edges. By the time you get the avocado back into a serving bowl, it will be at a very lively room temperature.

Sahni's master curry recipe will leave you with a bounty. We haven't had any trouble putting it to use. I sprinkled it into an olive oil-fried bread panzanella -- both in the lime dressing and with the toasting bread. Our Assistant Editor Sarah Jampel has roasted cauliflower with it, and substituted it into a sweet potato and tempeh curry -- omitting all the spices that were called for, adding only cayenne for extra heat. We also talked about stirring it into yogurt. And of course, having a ready supply of spice blend puts curried avocado within everyday reach.

Sahni recommends serving the avocado as a side with other southern Indian dishes, and it would be a vibrant spread for sandwiches or brunch with eggs and crispy roasted potatoes. And, true to its nature, it too would be good eaten with a spoon.

Julie Sahni's Curried Avocado with Garlic and Green Chiles

From Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking (William Morrow and Company, 1985)

Serves 4

Curried Avocado:

1 large ripe avocado
Juice of 1 lime or 1 small lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
8 curry leaves (fresh or dry, optional)
Coarse salt, to taste
1 tablespoon coconut oil, light sesame oil, or light vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Curry Powder Master Recipe (see below)
2 to 4 hot green chilies, minced

Curry Powder Master Recipe:

1/2 cup coriander seeds
15 dry red chili pods (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
15 to 20 curry leaves (fresh or dry, optional)
3 tablespoons turmeric powder

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to our Associate Editor Marian Bull and Heidi Swanson for this one!

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Supriya A. April 8, 2015
Wow . There are not many Indian recipies with Avocado. I am making this tonight.
Sarah J. February 18, 2015
This continues to be my favorite way to eat avocado. I still have the spice mix in my refrigerator and I love to use it to flavor plain yogurt, vegetable curries, scrambled eggs, and soups.
Anja H. November 10, 2014
This is fantastic! In the roughly two weeks since I first read this, I have made it six times. Avocados are in season at the moment and sold in 2 kg bags...
Jenisa P. October 24, 2014
Amazing! Had it topped onto a veggie open burger!
Catherine L. October 23, 2014
Totally definitely trying this.
Kristen M. October 24, 2014
You'll like it I think!
hardlikearmour October 22, 2014
Is this for real?!?
Kristen M. October 24, 2014
Bonafide for real.
Michele October 22, 2014
This looks so delicious.....and the naan has sealed the deal!! Thanks.
Kristen M. October 24, 2014
Yes! Naan will do that.
AntoniaJames October 22, 2014
Sahni's curry spice blend has been my go-to since I bought both her books when they came out in the mid-80's. Haven't tried this recipe yet, but I will, soon! ;o)
Kristen M. October 22, 2014
Hope you like this one! How else do you use the blend? I bet you have a few ideas...
AntoniaJames October 22, 2014
Well, here's a start . . . https://food52.com/recipes/search?q=antoniajames+curry
I use curry blends in most sauces involving mushrooms, as noted in several of the recipes linked.
Also, this fairmount_market autumn-perfect recipe (a new favorite . . . this one's good!) : https://food52.com/recipes/9585-shredded-carrot-and-parsnip-curry-soup (I just use the blend + ground coriander, no cumin, no paprika, no cayenne -- you can taste the parsnips better)
Plus many dals; another favorite, not a recipe really, just something I made up to serve with Merrill's Saag Paneer (which I usually make without the Paneer) is to sweat sliced onions in a big skillet, add cubed unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes, cauliflower florets and a big pinch of the blend, braise on the stove with a cup or two of water and a big pinch of salt; by the time the veggies are cooked, the braising liquid has reduced to a flavorful sauce (due the starch in the potato); splash with lime, grind lots of good black pepper, garnish with cilantro, etc. I often add blanched green beans at the end, if I have some on hand, which I usually do when they're in season.

This and the blend in Merrill's Saag Paneer recipe (which I regularly grind and keep in a jar labeled "White Curry Powder" -- to use when I don't want the yellow color of turmeric) are real workhorses in my kitchen. ;o)
Kristen M. October 24, 2014
Oh wow.
arasamoto October 22, 2014
this recipe seems great and i can't wait to make it but would you be able to tell me what the bread looking thing is on the side too?
[email protected] C. October 22, 2014
Looks like Naan to me!?
arasamoto October 22, 2014
that actually would make a lot of sense considering the curry aspect. that wouldn't be a bad way to gobble this up!
Kristen M. October 22, 2014
Yes! It is naan, and that was exactly how we ate the whole bowl.
arasamoto October 22, 2014
cool! looks like i'll have to make the naan too. :)