Spiced Pan-Fried Cauliflower

David Tanis ensures sweet and nutty cauliflower with gorgeous and delicious browning by pan-frying it. He writes, "To get sweet caramelized cauliflower, pan-fried is the way to go. Some cooks make this dish with grated cauliflower, but I prefer to make irregular thin slices, which brown beautifully. Make it as spicy as you wish." Excerpted from David Tanis Market Cooking by David Tanis (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.

Indian Panfried Cauliflower
Photo: Evan Sung
Total Time:
30 mins
4 to 6


  • 3 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter or vegetable oil

  • 1 small cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh turmeric, or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 2 or 3 makrut lime leaves (optional)

  • One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and slivered or finely grated

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 serrano chiles, or to taste, finely chopped

  • 1 pound fresh English peas, shucked (about 1 cup), or 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

  • 2 or 3 scallions, slivered

  • Cilantro sprigs for garnish


  1. Put a large sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ghee, and when it is hot, add the cauliflower. Stir occasionally as the cauliflower begins to color, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and continue stirring until the cauliflower is half-cooked, about 5 minutes; lower the heat if necessary to keep it from browning too quickly.

  2. Tilt the pan to expose a small pool of hot ghee and add the cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, and makrut lime leaves, if you have them. When they begin to sizzle in the oil, add the ginger, garlic, and chiles, stir well, and then add the peas, if using, along with a sprinkle of salt. Cover to let the cauliflower (and peas) steam until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Transfer the cauliflower to a serving bowl, sprinkle with the slivered scallions and cilantro, and serve.

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