indian-spiced cauliflower soup

It’s not even October yet and my friends were already expressing pumpkin spice fatigue yesterday. I have just the antidote: ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, some lime juice and a chile. Who’s in?

what you'll need

I have only one cauliflower soup recipe on this site — I shared it over 10 years ago. It’s so good and so simple, no updates have been warranted. But flipping my way through Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian India for ways to sate my steadfast Indian cravings, I knew this would be the next addition to the category. A close cousin to these potatoes and cauliflower (aloo gobi) but formatted as a soup, this is my favorite kind, one that doesn’t expect you to have a quart of homemade or boxed stock at the ready, the kind that trusts it is intensely seasoned enough that just water will stretch the flavors into a full soup. More of these, please. (Here’s another, by the way.)

peeled tomatoes but you can use canned
a bit of prep, totally worth it
i put the cauliflower in too soon
all sauteed and smelling like heaven

As for meal strategies, well, this is so typical of me and almost exactly how I roll (except rolling would imply some kind of master plan, and nope, not that either) but I decided I was going to make two things for dinner yesterday, this soup and another even more fall-ish roasted vegetable dish with Indian spices. I made the soup first because it reheats the best and then I didn’t want to cook anymore because why cook two or more things when you can cook one? In the Tomato Rasam Soup in the same chapter, Jaffrey mentions that she likes occasionally likes to serve it with a dollop of plain rice in the center and this was my “a-ha!” moment. A swirl of plain basmati rice, a few toasted wedges of naan and a totally optional swirl of yogurt or cream — plus some cucumber spears on the side, somewhat in the spiced style in the book because I couldn’t resist — and suddenly our soup starter was more of a stew and this is pretty much what counts for dinner around here. A really, really good one.

indian-spiced cauliflower soup

Thank you: I hadn’t in the least expected such a warm outpouring on my last post. It means everything. I’m carefully reading my way through all of the comments and responding to questions. I love all of your stories.

This Friday afternoon, 9/30: To celebrate 10 years and for a long-overdue catch-up, I want to hang out on Snapchat (@smittenkitchen) and have a Q&A. Snap me all your questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them before my kids find me and demand food/attention.

Next Tuesday, 10/4, 6:30 pm: As part of the Food Book Fair, I’ll be chatting with Molly Yeh (My Name Is Yeh) about her first cookbook, Molly On The Range at the new West Elm in Dumbo. [This is a ticketed event. Details here.]

Every week: Every Monday morning, just when most of us are groaning our way back into the weekday grind, I send out a newsletter full of seasonal meal ideas and archive favorites, plus links from around the web and a round-up of anything you might have missed that week. I would never, ever torment us with one of those pop-up sign-up forms — I keep it instead in the sidebar (on desktop; bottom of the page on tablet and mobile) and everything and anything you’d need to know is on this page. Sounds good? See you next Monday!


One year ago: The Perfect Manhattan
Two years ago: Latke Waffles
Three years ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Four years ago: Crackly Banana Bread
Five years ago: Apple and Honey Challah
Six years ago: Beef Chili with Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits
Seven years ago: Date Spice Loaf
Eight years ago: Black and White Cookies and Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella
Nine years ago: Spaghetti with Chorizo and Almonds
Ten! years ago: Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Eggs in Purgatory, Puttanesca-Style
1.5 Years Ago: Baked Chickpeas with Pita Chips and Yogurt
2.5 Years Ago: Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread
3.5 Years Ago: Spinach and Smashed Egg Toast
4.5 Years Ago: Raspberry Coconut Macaroons

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower Soup

This recipe is adapted, just a little, from Madhur Jaffrey’s excellent Vegetarian India. She has nearly three different preparations for every vegetable in the book, and you should not miss it if you love Indian cooking. She describes this soup as a simple one she loved as a child. “It reminds me of Indian hotel soups in the waning years of the Raj,” she writes, which makes me want to sit down for tea with her and beg her for more stories. (Sadly, the times I’ve met her I’ve been too starstruck to say more than hello and a few squeaks about loving her work.)

Don’t miss the final squeeze of lime juice — it’s everything here.

Without a swirl of cream or dollop of yogurt (both optional and neither have any significant impact), this soup is vegan.

My sole regret is not doubling this. As in, I’ve already gone back to the market this morning for more potatoes and cauliflower so I can make more later. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • Soup
  • 2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato (about 6 ounces), peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 fresh hot green chili, chopped (more or less to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne (to taste)
  • About 3 1/2 cups cauliflower florets (from about 1/2 a large 2.75-pound head)
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste (we wanted more)
  • To finish (all optional)
  • A couple spoonfuls heavy cream or dollops of yogurt
  • 1/2 cup cooked basmati or other long-grain white rice
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lime wedges
  • Toasted pita or naan wedges

Heat oil in the bottom of a 4 to 5-quart pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and a few seconds later, the fennel seeds. Pause 2 seconds and then add the onions and potatoes. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and green chiles and stir for 1 minute more.

Turn the heat to medium low and add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric and red pepper. Stir for 1 minute. Add the cauliflower, tomatoes and salt and stir for 1 minute. Add 4 cups water, stir, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, lower the heat again, and simmer gently for 25 minutes.

Let the soup cool slightly, then blend it to your desired texture. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Ladle into bowls and add a dollop of yogurt or tiny swirl (about 1/2 teaspoon) heavy cream, if desired. Squeeze lime juice over, add a few grinds of black pepper and place 2 tablespoons cooked rice to the center of each bowl. Scatter with cilantro and serve with pita wedges on the side, if desired. Dig in.


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