Vegan Creamy Cashew Mushroom and Green Pea Masala is rich and satisfying and full of exotic spices.
I’m an Indian food junkie, never seeming to be able to satiate my craving for the exotic spices and complex layers of flavor in a good Indian dish. I make a lot of different Indian recipes: Biryani, Lamb Tikka Masala, Naan, Butter Lentils, and even Indian-inspired fusion foods like Easy Turkey or Chicken Masala Wraps. But when I’m looking for comfort food, aromatic Indian spices enrobed in a velvety sauce always hits the spot. (Which is why I love Butter Chicken so much!)
This creamy mushroom masala is pure comfort food, and I’d wager a guess that if someone tasting it didn’t already know it was vegan, it would come as quite a surprise. Cashews give the sauce body and creamy texture and also bump up the protein, and mushrooms mimic the heartiness of meat with their texture and umami flavor.
Garam masala spice mix is the main spice blend used in this recipe; it’s pretty easy to source at specialty spice shops, Indian grocery stores, and even many regular grocery stores. I enhance the spice mix with just a couple other additions; cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne pepper are probably present in most well-stocked pantries, but the most interesting addition is fenugreek, a classic spice added to many Indian curries.
If you’ve never experienced fenugreek, you’re in for a treat. It has an intense aroma that’s similar to maple syrup, with a sort of complex bittersweet burnt sugar flavor. It’s such a unique spice I haven’t found a good single substitute that will hit all the same bells and whistles, but it’s worth tracking down if you make a lot of Indian recipes at home. Just a little bit adds so much flavor to a dish.
And as an interesting side note, fenugreek is often used by lactating mothers to build their milk supply (no joke; Google it and you’ll get a ton of articles on the topic)!
This dish is an easy one to keep paleo. The only ingredient that isn’t completely paleo-friendly are the peas, due to the fact that there is some debate in the paleo community as to whether they’re part of a paleo diet (although peas are thought to be quite benign compared to other legumes and are also nutritious, so many paleo folks enjoy them in moderation; you can read more about peas and whether they’re paleo on Original Eating, and read about peas and whether they’re primal on Mark’s Daily Apple). Skip the peas or not in this recipe, it’s totally your call.
You can serve this dish along with basmati rice or Cauliflower Rice, or along with flatbread for dipping. To keep this paleo-friendly, I made my Paleo Flatbread batter, thinned it out with about 1/2 cup water, and cooked the batter the same way I would cook crepes. These flatbread cook up nice and crispy this way and are perfect for dipping in curry!
- 1 cup (115 g) raw, unsalted cashews
- 6 tablespoons cold filtered water, plus more for soaking
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil, divided (see Note)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tablespoon fresh-grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 1½ teaspoons garam masala spice mix
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground fenugreek seeds
- 2 (14.5 oz/411 g) cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juices
- 1 cup (240 ml) water or low-sodium vegetable stock
- 24 oz (680 g) button mushrooms, quartered
- 1 cup (135 g) frozen green peas, thawed, rinsed, and drained
- Fresh cilantro, for garnish
- Fresh lemon wedges, for serving
- Prepared basmati rice or flatbread, for serving (see Note)
- For the cashew cream, add the cashews to a medium-sized bowl and cover by 3 inches with cold filtered water. Cover the bowl and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse and drain the cashews, and then puree them with 6 tablespoons cold filtered water until smooth and creamy.
- For the curry, add 2 tablespoons coconut oil to a 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until starting to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, and then add the salt, coconut sugar, garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and fenugreek and cook 30 seconds more, continuing to stir constantly.
- Add 1 can of tomatoes and the water, and bring up to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to simmer, and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 tablespoons coconut oil to a large, deep skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they’re soft and the water they release evaporates off, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside for now.
- When the curry has simmered for 20 minutes, turn off the heat, let it cool slightly, and then carefully puree it using an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Pour the curry back into the pot along with the remaining 1 can of tomatoes, mushrooms, green peas, and cashew cream.
- Heat over medium-low heat until hot, stirring frequently.
- Serve garnished with fresh cilantro, along with fresh lemon wedges to squeeze on top and prepared rice or flatbread.
To Thin Out the Curry: This makes a super thick, creamy curry. If you want to thin it out (which I usually do, just a bit), just add water until it reaches your desired consistency. Also note that it will thicken in the fridge so you might want to add a splash of water if you have to reheat it.
Paleo-Friendly: I made my Paleo Flatbread to serve with this curry. I thinned out the batter with about ½ cup water and cooked the batter like I would crepe batter; they turned out great – nice and crispy and perfect for dipping!