South India has myriad ways in which it uses lentils and vegetables, just like the rest of India. Also, each region in South India has its own way of preparing dishes with dals and veggies being the hero ingredient in them. One such preparation is the kootu, which is typically a lentil dish with any vegetable, coconut, herbs and spices. This Cabbage Kootu is a delicious variation made with cabbage, moong lentils, coconut and spices.
What is Kootu
Call it ‘Kootu Curry,’ ‘kootukari’ or ‘kootu,’ this traditional dish from the South Indian cuisine simply means a thick vegetable and lentil/legume curry. When literally translated, ‘kootu’ means ‘a combination/mix.’
Hence, a typical kootu recipe would primarily mean a mix of veggies, legumes or lentils simmered in a lightly spiced coconut gravy. Kootu is a classic dish which is a part of many religious festivals and also special occasions like weddings, etc.
The vegetables range from cauliflower, cabbage, green beans to raw banana, elephant foot yam to White Pumpkin, yellow pumpkin, bottle gourd, snake gourd, chow chow. Various mix vegetables, leafy greens are also preferred to make kootu.
The lentils and legumes like black chickpeas, black eyed beans, chana dal, tur dal, moong dal, etc are some varieties that are commonly included. One of the variant is this Cabbage Kootu made with yellow moong lentils and cabbage.
Since the dish is South Indian in nature, the preferred cooking fat used for this dish is coconut oil. Along with this, other staple regional ingredients that are added in a kootu are fresh coconut, curry leaves and mustard seeds. The flavor profile of this dish is towards the non-spicy bit, sometimes slightly sweet too.
About Cabbage Kootu
This Cabbage Kootu, which also has a ground coconut paste and spices, is of thick consistency. Just like a kootu is supposed to be. I cook both the cabbage and the dal together, but you can cook them separately as well. You can cook both these in a pressure cooker with just 1.5 cups of water.
I also prepare the Cabbage Kootu with moong lentils. However, you can use tur dal (pigeon pea lentils) or half-half both of moong dal and tur dal as well. I would also mention that the taste of cabbage in this dal is not that prominent.
Cabbage Kootu is also a vegan recipe since all the ingredients used in preparing this dish are plant-based. In addition to this, another mix vegetables and lentil curry recipe that is common at my home is this Poricha Kuzhambu.
This recipe of Tamil Nadu style Cabbage Kootu is quite easy. You can cook the lentils and cabbage together in a pot on the stovetop (like in this recipe), Instant Pot or a stovetop pressure cooker. It tastes amazing with a basic steamed rice, a side of some veggie stir fry/roast, a pickle and some papadums.
How to make Cabbage Kootu
Cook Cabbage and Moong Dal
1. Rinse ½ cup moong dal a couple of times in water. Then, add the lentils in a thick bottomed pot or pan.
2. Next, add 2 to 2.5 cups chopped cabbage. Also, add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder.
If you prefer, cook the moong dal and cabbage in a 3 litre stovetop pressure cooker with 1.5 cups water on medium heat for 3 to 4 whistles. When the pressure falls naturally in the cooker, then only open the lid.
If you have instant pot, cook the lentils and cabbage with 1.5 cups water on manual mode on high pressure for about 10 minutes. After the pressure cooking is complete, let the pressure drop naturally – about 20 minutes and then open the lid.
3. Pour 2 to 2.25 cups water.
4. Place the pan on a stovetop. Cover it with a lid.
5. Simmer on medium or medium-low heat till both the moong dal and cabbage are cooked.
6. Check and stir at intervals, while the cabbage and dal is cooking. If required, you can add more water.
Make Coconut Paste
7. Take ¼ cup grated fresh coconut, 1 to 2 chopped green chilies (½ to 1 teaspoon chopped) and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds in a chutney grinder jar.
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons water. To make the kootu taste spicier, add 3 to 4 green chilies.
8. Grind to a smooth and fine paste. Cover and keep aside.
Make Cabbage Kootu
9. The moong lentils need to be softened well and become mushy. Mash the moong lentils with a spoon. There should not be any separately visible moong dal.
Cooking moong dal and cabbage takes about 40 to 45 minutes on medium-low heat in a pan on the stovetop.
10. Now, add the prepared coconut paste.
11. Season with salt.
12. Mix very well. Add some water at this step, if the dal looks very thick.
13. Simmer on low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Stir at intervals so that the dal does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
14. Then, add 2 teaspoons rice flour. Rice flour is optional and you can skip if you want. It is used for thickening.
15. Mix very well and cook the kootu for 5 to 6 minutes or till the dal comes to a gentle boil.
Stir while dal is cooking, so that the lentils do not stick to the base of the pan. Switch off the heat and cover the pan.
Temper Cabbage Kootu
16. In a small frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and ½ teaspoon urad dal.
17. Fry till the mustard seeds crackle and the urad dal turns golden. Instead of coconut oil, you can also use sesame oil (gingelly oil), peanut oil or sunflower oil.
18. Then, add 10 to 12 curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir and switch off the heat.
19. Pour the tempering with the oil in the Cabbage Kootu. Cover the pan for 5 minutes so that the tempering flavors infuse in the kootu.
20. Add 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves and mix well. Coriander leaves are optional and you can skip if you do not have.
21. Serve Cabbage Kootu hot with steamed rice.
- For the best flavor and taste, preferably make the cabbage kootu with unpolished moong dal. Make sure that the mung lentils are within their shelf life and not old.
- Instead of green cabbage, this recipe can also be made with purple cabbage.
- Cook the moong dal till it is nicely softened and becomes mushy. The lentil grains should not be separately visible.
- This recipe has the use of rice flour in it to thicken the curry. You can skip it, if you want.
- To make the tempering, you can also use sesame oil, peanut oil or sunflower oil in place of coconut oil.
- Garnishing can be done with some chopped coriander leaves. If it’s not there at your home, don’t add it.
Cabbage Kootu Recipe (Cabbage Dal)
Cabbage Kootu is a tasty Tamil Nadu style Cabbage Dal made with cabbage, moong lentils in a base of ground coconut and spices. Serve with steamed rice for a comforting meal.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
For cooking cabbage and moong dal
To be ground to a paste
Making cabbage kootu
Rinse ½ cup moong dal a couple of times in water. Then add the lentils in a thick bottomed pot or pan.
Next add 1 to 2.5 cups chopped cabbage. Also add ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder and 2 to 2.25 cups water.
Place the pan on a stove top. Cover it with a lid.
Simmer on a medium or low-medium heat till both the moong dal and the lentils are cooked.
Do check and stir at intervals, while the cabbage and lentils are cooking. If required you can add more water.
While the cabbage and moong lentils are cooking, you can prepare the coconut paste.
Take grated coconut, green chilies, cumin seeds in a chutney grinder jar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water for grinding. For spicy taste, add 3 to 4 green chilies.
Grind to a smooth and fine paste. Cover and keep aside.
The moong lentils need to be softened well and become mushy. Mash the moong lentils with a spoon. There should not be any separately visible moong lentils.
Cooking moong dal and cabbage takes about 40 to 45 minutes on a low heat.
Now add the ground coconut paste. Season with salt.
Mix very well. Add some water at this point if the dal looks very thick.
Simmer on a low heat for 4 to 5 minutes. Do stir at intervals so that the lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Then add 2 teaspoons rice flour. Rice flour is optional and you can skip if you want. Rice flour is used for thickening.
Mix very well and cook the kootu for 5 to 6 minutes till the dal comes to a gentle boil. Do stir while dal is cooking, so that the lentils do not stick to the base of the pan. Switch off the heat and cover the pan.
Heat coconut oil in a small frying pan. Keep heat to a low. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and ½ teaspoon urad dal.
Fry till the mustard seeds crackle and the urad dal turns golden. Stir often and fry these for even cooking.
Add 10 to 12 curry leaves and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir and then switch off the flame.
Pour the tempered ingredients in the cabbage kootu. Cover the pan for 5 minutes so that the tempering flavours infuse in the kootu.
Then add chopped coriander leaves. Mix well. Coriander leaves are optional and you can skip if you do not have.
Serve cabbage kootu with steamed rice.
- Preferably use unpolished mung lentils for better taste, flavor and nutrition.
- Adjust the consistency by adding less or more water.
- Instead of coconut oil, you can opt to use sesame oil (gingelly oil) or peanut or sunflower oil.
- Easily swap fresh coconut with desiccated coconut.
- You could choose to cook both moong dal and cabbage in stovetop pressure cooker or the Instant pot.
- For cooking in a pressure cooker, add 1.5 cups of water in a 3 litre pressure cooker together with the cabbage, moong dal, salt and turmeric powder. Pressure cook on medium heat for 3 to 4 whistles. Let pressure drop naturally in the cooker and then only open the lid. Later follow the recipe as is.
- If cooking in an Instant Pot, add 1.5 cups water together with the cabbage, lentils, turmeric powder and salt. Use the manual mode and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Once the lentils are cooked well, follow the recipe using the sauté function as needed.
Cabbage Kootu Recipe (Cabbage Dal)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 162 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Vitamin A 192IU4%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 29mg145%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 64mg78%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 27µg26%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 310µg78%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.