A uniquely flavorful way to enjoy cashew nuts; creamy, nutty, spiced Sri Lankan Cashew Curry that’s full of great flavor. Gluten free and vegan too!
While Sri Lankan chicken curry is legendary (recipe coming soon!), curries from the island nation go way beyond just that. The vegetarian cuisine of Sri Lanka is also one that’s full of flavor and creativity. Growing up, my family would eat entirely vegetarian meals on one day every week, but even on other days our traditional rice and curry spreads would often feature vegetarian dishes. Plus, there was a phase when I was pescatarian and that made me appreciate vegetarian dishes a whole lot more.
One of the dishes that I would absolutely flip for as a kid was Cashew Curry (cashew nut curry). As it turned out, it’s one of Mr K’s all-time favorites too! We didn’t make it often, in fact it was a special occasion curry that made an appearance only on, well…. special occasions. My grandmother and mother both had a signature cashew curry dish that was just so creamy and flavorful. I have also made the crunchier version where the cashews still have some “bite” to them. I personally prefer the creamier version. This creamy cashew curry is pure comfort food that’s full of delicious flavor and spices (like Sri Lankan curry powder, turmeric and chili powder), plus it’s gluten free and vegan too!
It’s really easy to make, but you must have a little patience, grasshopper. The step where you soak the cashew nuts in salt water is really important – so don’t skip it. It plumps up the cashew nuts as they absorb the brine solution and leaves them well seasoned, inside and out! Otherwise it’ll be just bland cashew nuts floating in a flavorful curry sauce. For the sauce, use good quality coconut milk. Please read the label when buying coconut milk, because more often than not, you’re just buying water with coconut extract. You want the kind that has actual coconut milk in it (maybe with some guar gum as well that emulsifies the mix). This makes it so much creamier and more flavorful, and that’s crucial for a creamy cashew curry like this since the curry sauce is a critical component.
Traditionally, a Sri Lankan cashew curry is cooked with only cashew nuts, but some people also love to add peas! I don’t have a preference there, but Mr K does, so we add peas whenever we make this curry.
This Sri Lankan cashew curry is creamy, soft, nutty and spiced. We usually pair it with Sri Lankan spicy green apple curry (which is sweet, spicy and tangy) with some fried papadums for crunch. It’s vegan, and you’ll never miss meat with a spread that includes this dish. If you do like a meat curry however, check out this spicy black pork curry that’s smoky, tangy, peppery and of course spicy!
So go ahead and add this to your curry repertoire and wow your friends and family. Even kids LOVE this dish! How do I know? Because I used to be a fussy eater, but would NEVER pass up a chance to eat this! There’s a reason why a lot of people choose to roast their cashew nuts with curry powder, the flavors work really well. I hope you guys enjoy this cashew curry just as much as we do! 🙂
Sri Lankan Creamy Cashew Curry (Vegan)
- 10 oz raw cashews
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 2 heaped tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp sugar
- Curry leaves if you can get your hands on them OR 1 - 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups of good quality coconut milk
- 1 cup of frozen peas you can add extra if you like - I prefer a low peas to cashew nut ratio
- Salt to taste
- Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with room temperature water. Add a tsp of salt and mix to dissolve. Cover and leave the cashews to soak overnight (up to 24 hours).
- When ready to cook the cashews - drain them and leave aside.
- Heat about a tbsp or two of oil (you can use coconut oil or a neutral tasting oil) on medium heat.
- Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent.
- Add the bay leaves/curry leaves and saute for a few minutes until it becomes fragrant.
- Add the cashews, curry powder, cayenne pepper, sugar and a generous pinch of salt and the coconut milk. Mix to combine.
- Cover and let it simmer for 45 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure there's enough liquid in the saucepan - add water if needed. Add salt to taste.
- The cashews should be firm, but not too crunchy - almost al dente. Add some water if the gravy is too thick (I added about ½ cup of water). Add the frozen peas and cook until the peas are heated and cooked through and the gravy is simmering - about 10 more minutes.
- Serve immediately with rice. This can be made a couple of days ahead and it actually tastes better on the second day.
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