Vegetable Kurma is a South Indian style curry of mixed vegetables cooked in a creamy coconut cashew-based sauce, lightly spiced with cinnamon and cloves, and fennel.
Kurma or Korma is a stew-like dish made with vegetables or meat braised in a creamy coconut, nuts, or yogurt-based sauce. In North India, the dish is referred to as Korma while in South India it’s known as Kurma. Both styles involve a mix of vegetables or meat with a delicious sauce varying from white, yellow to orange-ish color. Equally delicious, both recipes have a slight variation of spices and methods of cooking.
Here are two of my favorite North Indian style Korma recipes:
If you have a copy of my The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook, you will also find the recipe for delicious vegetarian Navratan Korma recipe in it.
I was first introduced to the South Indian Style Veg Kurma recipe in the restaurants here in the US and then subsequently enjoyed it at my friend’s home. After trying this recipe on my own a few times, I requested my friend, Indu Rajesh to teach me her recipe that I absolutely love. This recipe is Indu’s family recipe and I am so thankful that she not only shared her recipe but also explained to me how to adapt it to the ingredients you have on hand.
So although it may seem like a lot of ingredients, there are several ingredients that can be substituted and some are optional.
Here are the ingredients you need for South Indian Style Vegetarian Kurma:
- Whole Spices – cloves, green cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaf. These whole spices add light aromatic flavors to the kurma. Remember to pick out the whole spices before serving the dish or simply pick them out while eating.
- Spice Paste – Coconut, cashews, split roasted chickpeas, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, green chili, ginger, and garlic. Coconut, cashews, and poppy seeds add a creamy texture to the dish. You can skip cashews for a nut-free variation or skip split roasted chickpeas if you do not have them. Simply increase the other ingredients so you still have enough sauce. I LOVE the addition of fennel seeds that adds a slight anise-like flavor to the dish. Green chili can be added more or less depending on the spice level you like.
- Vegetables – Frozen mixed vegetables, potatoes and cauliflower, onions, and tomatoes. You can skip cauliflower and potatoes and the kurma will still be as delicious. You can use any combination of your favorite seasonal veggies.
Why I LOVE this South Indian style Instant Pot Vegetable Kurma
- Packed with flavors, creamy and delicious
- Not too overpowering with spices
- Uses vegetables that are easy to find
- The recipe can be easily adjusted based on the ingredients on hand
- Can be easily made spicy or mild
- Naturally gluten-free (served with rice) and vegan
- Ready in under 20 minutes
- Blend the spice paste as smooth as possible
- Finely dice onions and tomatoes so they incorporate in the sauce while pressure cooking.
- Make sure to cut the potatoes in small 1/2 inch cubes so they cook in 1 minute of pressure cooking.
- Skip ginger and/or garlic if you do not have it on hand or do not eat.
- Make sure to cancel the saute mode after adding the paste. This will prevent the spice paste from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Red chili powder is optional. I love that the mild Kashmiri red chili powder gives this curry a light orange hue without making it too spicy.
Step by step recipe for Instant Pot Vegetable Kurma:
In a small blender jar, add ginger, garlic, 6 cashews, dalia, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, coconut, green chili and 1/4 cup of water. Blend together to make smooth paste and reserve (photos 1 – 2).
Set the Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat oil. Add cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Saute for a minute or until aromatic. Add onions, turmeric and cook for 2-3 minutes. Place a nonlocking glass lid to speed up the process (photos 3 – 4).
Add tomatoes and the spice paste. Turn the Saute mode off and mix well deglazing the bottom of the pot (photos 5 – 6). Note – It is important to cancel the saute mode so the spice paste does not stick to the bottom of the pot. The pot is also hot at this point and the remnant heat is enough to cook the spice paste.
Add all the remaining vegetables, salt, 1 cup of water, and mix well. Add the optional red chili powder. Close the Instant Pot with pressure valve to sealing. Set the Instant Pot to Manual/Pressure Cook for 1 minute (photos 7 – 8).
After the pressure cooking cycle is complete quick release by moving the pressure value to Venting. Press Cancel. Open the Instant Pot and give a quick stir. Note that the vegetable kurma may look watery but will start to thicken in few minutes. Garnish with cilantro.
Did you enjoy this South Indian Vegetable Kurma? Here are some of my other favorite South Indian recipes:
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Instant Pot Vegetable Kurma
Ingredients for Spice Paste
- 4 tablespoons oil
- 5 cloves
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 Indian bay leaf
- 2 inch cinnamon
- 1 medium yellow onion finely diced
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 1 potato peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup cauliflower cut into 1 inch florets
- 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- In a small blender jar add ginger, garlic, 6 cashews, dalia, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, coconut, green chili, and 1/4 cup of water. Blend together to make a smooth paste. Reserve.
- Set the Instant Pot to Saute mode and heat oil. Add cloves, cardamom, bay leaf, and cinnamon stick. Saute for a minute or until aromatic.
- Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Place a non-locking glass lid to speed up the process. Add turmeric and tomatoes. Mix well. Turn the Saute mode off. Note – It is important to cancel the saute mode so the spice paste does not stick to the bottom of the pot. The pot is also hot at this point and the remnant heat is enough to cook the spice paste.
- Add the spice paste and mix well deglazing the bottom of the pot. Add all the remaining vegetables, salt, and 1 cup of water. Mix well. Close the Instant Pot with pressure valve to sealing. Set the Instant Pot to Manual/Pressure Cook(Hi) for 1 minute.
- After the pressure cooking cycle is complete quick release by moving the pressure value to Venting. Press Cancel. Open the Instant Pot and give a quick stir. Note that the curry may look watery but will start to thicken in few minutes. Garnish with cilantro.