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)
- 300 g raw cashews
- 1 tsp salt for the brine
- ½ medium onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 2½ tsp Sri Lankan curry powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp sugar
- 8 curry leaves if you can get your hands on them, OR 1 - 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 ½ cups good quality coconut milk
- 1 cup frozen peas you can add extra if you like (I prefer less peas in my cashew curry)
- Salt to taste
- Place the cashews in a bowl and cover with room temperature water. Add the salt and mix to dissolve. Cover and leave the cashews to soak overnight (up to 24 hours).300 g raw cashews, 1 tsp salt
- When you're ready to cook the cashews, drain them and set aside.
- Heat about a tbsp or two of oil (you can use coconut oil or a neutral tasting oil) in a medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent.½ medium onion
- Add the garlic, bay leaves/curry leaves and saute for a few minutes until it becomes fragrant.2 cloves garlic, 8 curry leaves
- Add the soaked and drained cashews, turmeric, curry powder, cayenne pepper, sugar and a generous pinch of salt and the coconut milk. Mix to combine.300 g raw cashews, 2½ tsp Sri Lankan curry powder, ½ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp sugar, 1 ½ cups good quality coconut milk, Salt, ¼ tsp turmeric powder
- Cover and let it simmer for 45 - 50 minutes. Check from time to time to make sure there's enough liquid in the saucepan - add water if needed. Add salt to taste.Salt
- When the cashews are cooked, they should be firm on the outside, but not crunchy when eaten. They should be almost al dente in texture but be creamy when eaten.
- Add some water if the gravy is too thick (I add 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.1 cup frozen peas
- Serve warm with rice. This can be made a couple of days ahead and it actually tastes better on the second day. Leftovers can be reheated.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”