Cauliflower Masala Soup

31st March, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Soups, easy

This soup is dead simple, delicious, delightfully fresh and aromatic, and wonderfully healthful. It’s a fantastic way to add another veg to your day without having to chew it. The secrets to this recipe are the spices, and the freshness of the ingredients. Don’t overcook, or the cauliflower will lose some of its delicate sweetness.

Cauliflower is a member of the Brassicaceae family, along with cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and some leafy greens, like kale and collards. It’s high in vitamin C and folate, and is loaded with phytonutrients believed beneficial to human health. To top it off, its delicious raw, cooked, or pickled.

When choosing your cauliflower, look for one that’s tight, bright, firm and evenly colored. Medium sized heads are best, as they can become tough and strong tasting when they get too large. Remove the leaves and stems, and either discard, or put in the freezer for use later in a vegetable stock.

On to the soup!

Ingredients – Serves 4

  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1/2″ length of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. garam masala [1]
  • 0.5 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1-4 dried red chili pods, crumbled – to taste [2]
  • Salt – to taste, 1-2tsp
  • 1qt Water or stock
  • Greek style plain yogurt
  • Fresh cilantro

Method – About 45 minutes

In a small stockpot, over medium-high heat, add about a tablespoon of butter, ghee or olive oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, sautéing until softened, translucent, and fragrant. Add the ginger, and sautée until fragrant.

Reduce the heat to medium, sprinkle in the garam masala, and add the chilies if using them, stirring to roast the spices. As the heat does its work, the aromas will be fantastic, but be careful not to burn the spices.

Add the cauliflower, and toss in the pot to coat with the spices.

Add water or stock and the turmeric. Water will make a very delicious soup, but chicken stock adds greater richness. Increase heat, and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat, put the lid on, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until cauliflower is cooked through and tender, but not mushy. We want to retain its wonderful, fresh flavours, and overcooking will drive them away.

In a blender, food processor or using a stick mixer (off the heat!), blend the soup thoroughly to a smooth consistency. Adjust the thickness as necessary with additional liquid. This is not a thin soup, so dilute carefully, and in small measures.

Bring the soup back to a gentle simmer, and adjust seasoning. Serve in small bowls, topped with a teaspoon of yogurt, and garnished with lovely fresh cilantro.

For a bit of buttery goodness, I like to add a little ghee just before serving, but the soup is still fantastic without it. Of course, you can add cream, or sour cream, or buttermilk, or coconut milk instead of water to adjust the consistency, but try it our way, first. It’s really good just the way it is!


1. Garam Masala translates roughly to “warming spice mixture.” There are many regional and family variations of this universal spice, and it’s worth exploring them, not only in this dish, but in general. It forms a backbone for much of India’s cookery, and is far more interesting than the ubiquitous, ambiguous, and relatively useless “Curry Powder” from the supermarket spice aisle.

It is commonly available in Indian groceries, or you can make your own. There are many great recipes. The Punjabi version will tend to be a little spicier, the Maharashtrian style adds sesame seeds and a wonderful hint of coconut. A Fijian version that I particularly like is loaded with character, but lacks the pungency of hot chilies, as does the delightful Kashmiri style. Experiment!

2. Some words on the chilies: I really like chiltepin or pequin chilies for this. The soup is meant to be spicy, not a source of blisters. Some may like it hotter than others, but don’t overwhelm the wonderful flavors with too much fire! Personally, I like it with three dried pequin pods, crushed.

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