This recipe for Navratan Vegetable Korma is vegan-friendly, made with easy to find ingredients, and has step-by-step directions.
What do you order when you go to Indian restaurants? Do you stare in a panic at a list of unfamiliar food names, and then pick something at random? Do you stick to the buffet, and get a little bit of everything? The husband and I like to order one ‘safe’ meal, and one new, unfamiliar curry. My trusty, always delicious, go-to meal is Vegetable Korma, a creamy curry filled with roasted spices, blended cashews, and seasonal vegetables. One of my favorite things about korma is that, depending on who prepares it, variations in spice choices, and what vegetables are in season, the dish changes from kitchen to kitchen. That means, of course, that Vegetable Korma is NEVER boring.
Searching for perfect korma
Recently, while happily devouring a plate of korma in Cincinnati, I found raisins (or, tiny bits of sweetness that exploded in my mouth!) and chunks of cashews in my curry. As I ate, I thought, ‘this is fantastically amazing, and I must try making my own korma more like this korma!’ I then, of course, promptly forgot about it. Later, however, I ordered korma again in South Dakota, and was thrilled, THRILLED, to once again find fruit and nuts in my korma. This time, however, the korma was labeled ‘Navratan,’ and when I left, I was on a mission. A food mission, to be more specific, to make this nutty, sweet, creamy bowl of happiness appear in my home kitchen.
Making Navratan Vegetable Korma
This recipe for Navratan Vegetable Korma is simple– especially if you’ve already made my other korma. Navratan means ‘nine gems,’ and refers to dishes that use nine main ingredients. From what I understand, the nine ingredients don’t include the spices or milk, but honestly I wasn’t terribly concerned about having exactly nine main ingredients. I just wanted the yumminess. Just in case you are concerned about the math here, and do want exactly nine main ingredients, I have included, you guessed it, nine.
To start making this korma, gather spices and milk (or a vegan milk substitute). You’ll also need vegetables and nuts– I used onion, garlic paste, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cashews, dried fruit, sweet bell pepper, peas, and shiitake mushrooms. Feel free to substitute these vegetables for ones you have on hand, but don’t mess with the onions, garlic, or tomatoes. If you’re making substitutions, try to stick with sweeter vegetables.
Dry roast the spices in a small pan on low heat, and then grind them.* If you’re using mushrooms, which aren’t very common in Indian food, but are incredibly tasty in this dish, go ahead and sauté them in the pan you used for spices. Set them aside. Sauté the onions, then add garlic paste and sauté a little longer. Add the tomatoes (I use canned fire roasted, but fresh work too), and let them simmer for about 5 minutes. Next, add the rest of your vegetables and nuts (except for the mushrooms). Cover the pan, and simmer until the veggies are cooked through (about 10 minutes, depending on how big or small your potatoes are diced). Once everything is cooked through, stir in the mushrooms and the turmeric. Add the milk and cream, and serve with rice. Dig in, and sigh with happiness as you eat.
*Note: This recipe uses whole spices, but you could substitute ground spices. Don’t skip the dry roasting. If you use whole spices, you’ll need a way to grind them up. You can use a spice grinder if you have one, or you can use a coffee grinder or small food processor. To clean out the spice flavors from your coffee grinder / food processor, you can blend uncooked rice after the spices and it should absorb a lot of the scent and oils. If you’re going to use it to grind spices on a regular basis, however, you may want a grinder dedicated to spices. I use a coffee grinder that we no longer use for grinding coffee beans
Want more Indian food? Try these:
Navratan Vegetable Korma
Garam Masala (or substitute pre-made spice mix AND dried chilis)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 5 whole cloves
- 5 black peppercorns
- 5 green cardamom pods
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- •1-4 dry green or red dried chilies of any variety. (I typically use chilies de arbol for less heat, and japones for more heat).
- •(Vegetables can be substituted for what you have on hand, but try to use sweet vegetables)
- 1 TB olive oil OR ghee
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 1 TB garlic paste OR minced garlic
- 1 15oz fire roasted tomatoes OR 2 fresh tomatoes, diced
- 2 sweet potatoes, diced
- 1/3 cup roasted cashews, diced
- 1/3 cup dried fruit (pineapple, raisins, golden raisins)
- 1/2 sweet bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup peas
- 8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 3/4 cup milk OR coconut milk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream OR 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk OR 2-3 TB coconut cream
- 1 tsp salt, to taste
- To Serve: basmati rice or jasmine rice (Optional- add 2 bay leaves to rice while cooking, discard leaves before serving)
Begin cooking rice according to package directions.
Place all ingredients for garam masala on a non-stick pan and dry roast over low heat, until spices become fragrant (about 5 minutes). Grind spices and set aside.
Sauté the mushrooms in the same non-stick pan, and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil on medium heat in a large sauté pan or wok. When oil begins to shimmer, add onions and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and let them simmer 4-5 minutes.
Add spice mixture, potatoes, cashews, dried fruit, bell pepper, and peas, and cover pan. Cook on medium until potatoes are cooked through (this will depend on the size of your potatoes, but about 10 minutes). Add mushrooms and turmeric, then stir. Reduce heat to low and add milk and cream. Salt to taste.
Serve with rice