Cabbage Bake

July  9, 2021
20 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 3 to 4
Author Notes

When my parents first moved to Indianapolis, they—like the many people who also immigrated here from India—didn't have much of a community. As time passed, we built our own little Indian community, one that is as close-knit as ever today. On one occasion, we went to a family friend's house where a lady named Nandini (my mother's friend) made what she called a "Cabbage Bake." My mother had never seen nor heard of such a dish, and Nandini Aunty (as I call her) told her that it was something her housekeeper used to make for her family back in New Delhi.

My mother immediately asked her for the recipe, which she was kind enough to write on an index card (that we still have today). Ever since, Nandini Aunty rarely makes the dish, while my mother began to make it during Dussehra, a ten-day festival where we invite many women and children to our house to celebrate. We often put out a large spread of food and it always includes this dish. It's a dish from nowhere: Though it has South Indian flashes and contains many common North Indian spices, I've never come across anything quite like it.

While my mother will sometimes make it when we have extended family visiting or for a special occasion, the dish is still reserved for that ten-day festival and we make batches upon batches, as people flock to the dish like horses to water. It runs out almost instantly.

For more stories, memories, and extended histories behind your most-loved, treasured family recipes from the column, check out our new podcast My Family Recipe.Lavanya Narayanan

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The 'Cabbage Bake' That Brought Together a Community of Immigrants. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 3 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups gram flour (kadalai maavu)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pinch asafetida
  • 1 medium green chile, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red chile powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated
  • 1 small handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together cabbage, gram flour, and oil and let sit 5 minutes. Add buttermilk and all of the spices (save for the fresh cilantro), and mix well. If mixture is too thick, add water as needed. Batter should have the pourable consistency of cornbread batter.
  3. Bake 45 minutes, or until cabbage and flour are cooked through. Let rest, cut into squares, and garnish with chopped fresh cilantro. No condiments required—though you can serve this with cilantro chutney if you'd like.

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27 Reviews

Ro R. April 8, 2024
The result is like a pakora, casserole-ified. It was edible and not a total embarassment but drier and less infused with the piquancy that deepfrying helps precipitate in pakoras. I wouldn't make it again, but it was interesting.
Sarah D. December 13, 2023
I had some cabbage that I needed to use up. I had all of the ingredients, but made vegan buttermilk in place of the real thing. This turned out really delicious. Kind of like a large baked pakora. I cooked mine for the 45 min and it looked crispy, but after eating some I probably could have cooked it a little longer. I really love Indian food, and I would definitely save this recipe to make again some time.
pmporter March 1, 2023
I didn't have cabbage for some reason but had to try this immediately. Used thinly sliced brocolli instead (in the same family, cruciferous). Divine.
Kaiju April 24, 2022
I think I'll try this with coconut cream as rich dairy upsets my stomach. Looks delicious!
Cheryl T. October 14, 2021
Question - has anyone made this with red cabbage?
Kate July 9, 2021
Yummy healthy goodness! Next time I’ll use cashew milk with lemon in place of buttermilk so I can share it with my vegan friends. Will be on regular rotation
Kaite June 8, 2021
This was absolutely delicious! I added sauteed onion as I had half left in the fridge that needed used up. I too had to add more liquid than called for as my flour quickly soaked up the half cup. Next time I would make it in a small dish so it would be a little thicker. I am curious about how the photo for the recipe was achieved. Looks like the cabbage was cut thicker and with much less liquid added. And also baked in a smaller dish. I can't imagine that was pourable. It looks really good though! Like it may have more crispy bits. This recipe is getting saved to my favorites.
Susan F. March 25, 2021
Can you recommend a substitute for buttermilk to make this a vegan dish?
VA April 9, 2021
On Nandini's original index card is written "water or buttermilk". Though I'm wondering how this would taste with coconut milk.
scyudits December 25, 2020
Does this dish freeze well? Looking forward to making it!
Tam May 26, 2020
Wow it's a lot easier than I thought. I chopped all by hand and it was quick. I added about another cup of water in the soup, my risotto was old, so maybe tougher and took a little longer to cook. So yummy. I could see a thick slice of cheezy toast topping on this soup. Thank you.
Tam May 26, 2020
sorry my mistake, this was a review or the Marcella Hazan Smoothered Cabbage soup.
Sarah G. May 16, 2020
Interesting dish - not sure what I was expecting, but somehow, it surprised me. It tastes exactly like what I would imagine an Indian version of Thanksgiving stuffing would be, if they celebrated that holiday in India. I was amazed by how the cabbage kind of disappeared into the breading-pudding like dish. I will make again.
kathryn J. March 12, 2020
We like this a lot. My eyebrows rose at the amount of ginger, but it isn't overpowering. I do question the amount of buttermilk in the recipe. 1.5 c garam flour and .5 c buttermilk? I always end up doubling the buttermilk and probably adding a bit more. I don't think the oil adds much in the way of liquid consistency as it just coats the cabbage and then is absorbed by the flour. Just my experience. Lovely dish. I will sometimes add grated carrots for fun.
Margaret W. November 11, 2019
The recipe I have in front of me had no oil in the the ingredient list. Having no guideline, I guesstimated 1/4 cup and found the result dry but tasty. I note another reviewer indicates that 2/3 cup is called for. I’ll try again with the larger amount
JenJack November 8, 2019
Was not expecting this to be as delicious as it is. I had a bunch of shredded cabbage left over from another recipe, and needed something to use it up. I used buttermilk powder, and added jalapeno powder as I had no fresh green chili. Scrumptious! Will make again soon.
Rebtile October 11, 2019
What an amazing and unique recipe! It's very forgiving as well -- I had two old cabbages about to turn on me, and I threw them in this, recklessly and very disproportionately tripling the recipe, relying only on the directive to make the batter the "pourable consistency of cornbread batter." I also swapped the asafetida for a leek+garlic clove (per the internet).
Turned out great! I look forward to making it again as written.
Dana W. October 9, 2019
Don't mean to argue but 2/3 cup of oil sounds like a lot. Does it absorb into the cabbage? Can I skip the asafoetida as I don't cook Indian food very often?
eileen October 8, 2019
what is gram flour?
Eric K. October 8, 2019
Hi Eileen, it's chickpea flour, aka "besan flour." You can find it in Indian grocery stores or online:

Hope that helps!
susan November 17, 2019
Maybe you could add "chickpea flour" in parentheses to the ingredient list--it would save people from having to look it up.
NancyT44 May 7, 2022
For someone who can’t have any grains, would you be able to substitute cassava flour for the chickpea flour?
jenny May 7, 2022
Hi Nancy,
Chickpea is actually a bean, not a grain, so besan flour is gluten free! It can be used in place of regular flour in a lot of recipes (like fritters, for example). Hope that helps!
NancyT44 May 7, 2022
I know chickpea is a bean. I’m unable at the moment to eat beans also so that is why the question.
Ctgal May 9, 2022
I can't eat beans either right now. I was planning to use almond meal instead. Either that or a gluten free flour.
gorzd October 7, 2019
No oil is listed with the ingredients. Type and amount?
Eric K. October 7, 2019
2/3 cup vegetable oil! Thanks for catching-