Cast Iron

Madhur Jaffrey's Stir-Fried Cabbage with Fennel Seeds

March 25, 2021
19 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 22 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Maybe the mistake we're making with cabbage is that we cook it to death or don't cook it at all. By skating somewhere down the middle, Madhur Jaffrey's stir-frying method crams in an incredible amount of flavor in very little time. Note: If you can't find garam masala, you can make your own with Jaffrey's recipe, or approximate it with pinches of ground cardamom, black pepper, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Recipe adapted very slightly from Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking (Chronicle Books, 2007). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 pounds green cabbage (half a large head)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 medium-large onion (about 7 ounces), peeled and cut lengthwise into fine half rings
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  1. Remove coarse outer leaves of the cabbage. If you have a cabbage half, cut it in half again lengthwise, and then core the sections. Cut each section lengthwise into very fine, long shreds. A bread knife or chef's knife is ideal for this. (You can also use a food processor.)
  2. Put the oil in a wide, preferably nonstick or cast-iron pan, and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin, fennel, and sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds begin to pop, put in the onion. Stir and fry for 3 to 4 minutes or until the onion has browned a bit.
  3. Put in the cabbage. Stir and fry for about 6 minutes or until the cabbage has browned somewhat. Put in the salt and cayenne. Turn down the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring now and then, for another 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions appear caramelized and soft. Note: you may need to do this in a couple batches.
  4. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Megan
  • rob
  • Terry A.
    Terry A.
  • Bri Lavoie
    Bri Lavoie
  • Idalu
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

50 Reviews

Megan November 24, 2020
Made this tonight (along with the genius cauliflower korma) and really enjoyed it. Very simple to make. I'll be making it again for sure!
rob October 1, 2020
This does as well as a quick veggie accompaniment to a meat main curry or quick lunch by itself at home.
Tom B. September 12, 2020
This is really simple and great as written (it's Genius, after all), but we also like it as a main with added chickpeas, served over brown rice, with a dollop of thick yogurt on top.
Terry A. January 24, 2020
Absolutely my & my family’s favorite cabbage recipe. Really different and so delicious.
Bri L. April 18, 2019
This recipe made me discover cabbage as something delicious to eat. Sometimes I add in grated carrots for color, sometimes some oil popped black mustard seeds for more crunch...sometimes I toss in cubed cooked potato to give it more heft. Always it makes me happy.
Idalu October 5, 2017
Delicious cabbage recipe. It's rather easy to put together, I cook the cabbage a bit longer than recommended, around 15 mins but I guess it depends how crunchy one wants it. Served with a rich macaroni and cheese with bacon. Yum.
Cheryl January 5, 2017
Delicious! Next time I'll tweak as follows: less salt, not so heavy-handed with the cayenne, which I didn't measure, and taste it before adding lemon. It might be even better without.
Betty March 5, 2016
We really loved this recipe, even my husband, who doesn't much care for spicy foods. The only real change I made, other than not measuring many of the ingredients, was to use anise seeds instead of fennel seeds, as I couldn't find the latter. Good stuff!
DC's P. January 25, 2016
Delicious. Madhur Jaffrey's use of spices is always spot on. I have made this several times and am just about to make it again. If I have any leftovers this go-round I will be adding a gently cooked add on top (per other 52ers) tomorrow for breakfast.
Renee B. November 17, 2015
Made this last night and wondered if my husband would eat it. Eat it he did! It was delicious. I added the equivalent of 1-2 extra tablespoons of lemon, didn't have cumin seeds so sprinkled ground cumin. Happy to have found this one. Absolutely delicious as is but I may try just a little less oil and salt next time. There will be many next times. Yum!
joannajw November 2, 2015
Delicious! I hada bag of shredded cabbage that I bought to make coleslaw....don't know why as I don't really like coleslaw! So as it was sitting there getting old I decided to make this instead. I didn't have garam masala so used tandori masala instead (not sure what the difference is). I ate half the pan (big pan!) and probably could have eaten it all if I didn't have such exceptional willpower :)
Crispin April 14, 2015
I love ALL veggies (okay, maybe not okra) but I admit I have narrow-mindedly pigeonholed cabbage in the coleslaw category. Decided to try this based on the reviews, and WOW! It is beyond expectations. My husband, a veggie hater if there ever was one, initially turned up his nose, then Wolfe it down and could not stop complimenting me on it. I used olive oil because I don't use vegetable oil. Make sure you have the spices called for in the recipe. I'm planning on making this again tonight, this time using red cabbage and I'm going to increase the amount of spices, just a little. Save time by shredding your cabbage and onion with a mandolin. I served this with brown rice that I sauteed with garlic, mushrooms and egg. SO good!!!
mdelgatty February 27, 2020
Not okra - a woman after my own heart!
Rhonda35 March 30, 2015
I tried this with bok choy last night - it was delicious!
Anne March 25, 2015
Delicious! I took the suggestion of several to "put an egg on it", which I don't regret. I'd second or third that recommendation. I'm keeping this recipe tucked away for the next time I have a head of cabbage in my CSA. Thanks for sharing!
marymary June 7, 2014
I doubled this recipe to serve with a tandoori whole roasted chicken today. Didn't have fennel, so I subbed parsley, per another website, and subbed red pepper flakes for the cayenne. Delicious! I'll definitely make this again and again and...
Vivi B. January 29, 2014
I make this all the time and I really love it. Last night I added chick peas towards the end as I needed a hit of protein after a later work out. It was as fabulous as ever with the chick peas. I added a bit more lemon and I also added nigella seeds.
JohnL January 12, 2014
If the dish tasted soured, it might have been caused by an ingredient other than the garam masala. I've never had a dish soured by that spice blend, especially in such a small quantity. But lemon juice, especially the kind that comes in the little yellow plastic squeeze bottle, can ruin a recipe, especially when its poured on right at the last second as it is in the recipe.
Girlfromipanema January 12, 2014
I made this leaving out the sesame seeds and substituting red pepper flakes for the cayenne. I also doubled the recipe. It was an exotic dish coming out of my humble kitchen, which was lovely, but I think the quality of my spices was a little poor- there was a sour taste.

I will certainly make this again however, and will seek out a better garam masala.
JohnL January 2, 2014
Maddhur Jaffrey is one of my favorites. I can't remember making anything of hers that wasn't scrumptious. In one of her books, she makes a distinction between her garam masala recipe and the store bought kind. Throughout the book, each recipe that calls for garam masala either specifies store-bought or her personal recipe, so apparently the two aren't interchangeable. Her attention to these details ensure fantastic food every time for me. I think she has a wonderful palate and a knack for writing well tweaked recipes. I love her food. Except for her recipe for American iced tea, which I thought was almost tasteless. Otherwise, Madhur Jaffrey RULES. I keep a crock of her Goan Style Dal in the fridge as a staple item. Its addictive. Its become a ritual to pull out my little 2-qt yellow Le Creuset Dutch oven and make a weekly supply. I think its her favorite dal recipe, too. Mmmm so good.
Kristen M. January 2, 2014
Thanks John -- excited to know about her dal!
JohnL January 4, 2014
Kristen, I had a little trouble getting the recipe onto the site (the ingredients list kept disappearing) but Goan-Style Dal Curry is finally up. I noticed Food52 already has two other dal recipes that look very similar, but I am anxious to try one of them anyway. Always looking to improve my recipes. Jaffrey also has an "everyday dal" recipe but I read that this one is her favorite. Sometimes I like to mix this dal with cooked rice when I am reheating it in the microwave. . When re-heating, I like to brighten it up with a nice pinch of fresh chopped cilantro.
Kristen M. January 11, 2014
Wow -- thanks John, and for including your tips. It looks great. I love the flavor of ton of curry leaves, but appreciate that it's still good without, since they're hard to find.
hannah January 1, 2014
I made this using red cabbage threw in some arugula at the end. It was easy, delicious, and rather beautiful! Two thumbs up!!