Vellai Kurma| White Vegetable Kurma

Vellai Kurma refers to a mixed vegetable gravy that is quite popular in Tamilnadu eateries. The dish gets its name from its whitish colour (‘vellai‘ is ‘white’ in Tamil), which comes from the freshly ground coconut paste that goes into it.

This Vellai Kurma tastes extremely delicious, and makes for a wonderful side dish for things like rice, parathas, rotis and rice. It is not a very difficult dish to put together either.

Let me take you through the process of preparing Vellai Kurma at home.

Vellai Kurma or White Vegetable Kurma

What goes into Vellai Kurma?

This Vellai Kurma is made using assorted vegetables like onion, carrot, potato, beans and green peas. This is a delicious way to make use of the fresh winter veggies we are getting this time of the year.

The flavour comes from the whole spices that are used in the tempering as well as a freshly ground paste. The paste is prepared using coconut, green chillies, ginger, garlic, cashewnuts, poppy seeds and fennel. Spices like cinnamon, bay leaves, star anise, cardamom and kapok buds are used in the tempering.

A splash of milk is added in at the end, for extra creaminess and taste. I also use a wee bit of jaggery.

I had shared the recipe for Pattani Kurma some time ago, which is made slightly differently from this one. I will be sharing a couple more variations of kurma in the times to come.

How to make Vellai Kurma

Like I was saying earlier, this Vellai Kurma or White Vegetable Kurma is not very difficult to put together. Here’s how we make it.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1. 3 cups of mixed vegetables, like carrot, potato, beans and green peas

2. 1 medium-sized onion

3. 3/4 tablespoon oil

4. Salt to taste

5. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder (optional)

6. 1/2 cup of milk

7. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

To grind together:

1. 1/2 cup coconut pieces

2. 6-7 cashewnuts

3. 2 green chillies

4. 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (khus khus/gasagasa)

5. 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf/sombu)

6. A 1-inch piece of ginger

7. 4 cloves of garlic

For the tempering:

1. A sprig of curry leaves

2. 1 star anise

3. 1 kapok bud (Marathi moggu)

4. 2 green cardamom

5. A small piece of cinnamon

6. A small piece of stone flower (dagadphool/kalpasi)

7. 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera/jeeragam)

8. 2 small bay leaves

9. 2 pinches of asafoetida (hing/perungayam)


Top left, centre and right: Steps 1, 2 and 3, Bottom left and centre: Step 4, Bottom right: Step 5

1. Prep the vegetables first. Peel the carrot and potato and chop into large pieces. Remove strings from the beans and chop into large pieces too. Keep the green peas ready.

2. Transfer the chopped vegetables (carrot, potato, beans and carrot) to a wide vessel. Add in about 2 tablespoons water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 2 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. Chop the onion finely and keep aside. Wash the curry leaves and keep them ready.

4. Put together all the ingredients for grinding. Transfer to a mixer jar and grind everything together to a smooth paste, using a little water. Keep aside.

5. Put together all the ingredients for the tempering.

Top left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Centre left and right: Step 8, Bottom left and right: Step 9

6. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, get the cooked vegetables out. Do not drain out the water.

7. Now, we will start preparing the Vellai Kurma. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in all the ingredients for the tempering. Saute for a few seconds.

8. Now, add in the chopped onion. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the onion starts browning.

9. Add the ground paste to the pan at this stage. Wash out the mixer jar with about 1/4 cup water and add it to the pan as well. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the raw smell of the paste goes away.

Top left and right: Step 10, Below top right: Step 11, Bottom right: Step 12, Bottom left: Step 13

10. When done, add salt to taste. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Add in the cooked vegetables, along with the water they were cooked in.

11. Add in about 3/4 cup of water or as needed to adjust consistency. Add in the jaggery powder, if using. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the mixture thickens and comes together as a whole.

12. Still keeping the flame at medium, add in the milk. Cook for a minute more, then switch off gas. Remember to keep the mixture slightly runny as it thickens up with time.

13. Mix in the finely chopped coriander. Your Vellai Kurma is ready. Serve hot or warm with rotis, plain parathas, pooris or rice.

Is this recipe vegan and gluten-free?

This White Vegetable Kurma recipe is completely vegetarian but not vegan (plant-based) because of the use of milk. Personally, I think the milk contributes to the taste of the kurma, but do skip it if you want to make a vegan version.

If you want to make this dish gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most Indian brands of asafoetida available commercially contain wheat flour, and are therefore best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.

Tips & Tricks

1. ‘English’ vegetables like carrot, peas, beans, turnip and potatoes go well in this kurma. I usually stick to only these veggies. Make sure you don’t miss the potato as it helps in adding body to the kurma. I have used fresh green peas here, but you could just as well use frozen ones.

2. Don’t chop the vegetables too small. Make slightly big pieces.

3. Do not overcook the vegetables. 2 whistles on high flame works perfectly for us.

4. I have used boiled and cooled full-fat milk fr Akshayakalpa here.

5. The jaggery is optional, but I would highly recommend it. It doesn’t make the kurma overly sweet, but balances out the other flavours nicely.

6. Adjust the quantity of green chillies you use, depending upon your spice tolerance.

7. Remember to keep the Vellai Kurma on the runnier side. It thickens up on cooling.

8. You may skip the garlic and onion if you do not prefer using them.

9. I have used poppy seeds and cashewnuts for thickening the gravy. You can use almonds in place of the cashewnuts and fried gram (pottukadalai) in place of the poppy seeds.

10. If you don’t have all the spices used in the tempering, that’s okay. Do try to use at least cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon and cardamom.

11. Grated fresh coconut can be used in place of the coconut pieces I have used here.

12. Coconut oil goes best in this Vellai Kurma. However, if you don’t prefer it, any other variety of oil can be used instead.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

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