Flip Cookbook

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Onion Subzi – A Desert Tradition

Wow, what a non-stop month October has been. Sorry for being away so long! Between working, a broken foot, a wedding, a reunion, multiple out of town trips and a half marathon; I barely had time to cook a meal let alone take pictures and blog about it. Last weekend, I finally got a chance to catch my breath and decided to cook a little something for my blog. I cranked opened up my refrigerator to the sight of a ghost town. I’m pretty sure a tumbleweed fell out and roll across the kitchen floor. I definitely had the enthusiasm to cook but no way, no how, was I about to muster up any energy to go grocery shopping. As always, I found the answer to my cooking dilemma in the past… my ancestral past actually.

Onion subzi has it’s roots in Rajasthani cooking. Rajasthan is a massive state in India. It is famously known for a colorful history as well as its desert climate which is a big deviation from the typical “tropical” climate one imagines when thinking of India. I’m talking about sand dunes with camels!

One thing that used to be common across desert climates across the globe was the minimal access to fresh vegetables or anything that had a low shelf life. A lot of the cooking that comes from the Rajasthani region revolves around grains and long lasting vegetables like the onion.

This vegetable dish is perfect if you happen to live in a desert or your kitchen essentially is devoid of anything that requires refrigeration. It’s also great if you want something that has a lot of flavor but takes a fraction of your time to make. This has been cooked in my family since my wee days.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and the little trip down my ancestral roots.

Onion Subzi

Makes: 4 servings
Ready in: 20 minutes


  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds (raii)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon gaaram masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt to taste


1. Slice the onions into about 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices. Do this by first cutting off the edges of the onions and discarding the outer skin. Then cut the onion in half by slicing it end to end. Slice each half into thin slivers.

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a couple of mustard seeds into the oil. The mustard seed should sizzle. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds. Allow them to fly for about 10 seconds.

3. Add the turmeric powder, coriander powder and cayenne powder to the oil. Stir and allow it to fry for a few seconds.

4. Stir in the sliced onions. Add the salt. Cover and allow to cook on medium-low.

5. Using a blender or processor, chop the peanuts into small chunks. I used unsalted nuts. If you used salted instead, just adjust the amount of salt you add in the end.

6. After the onions are mostly transparent; about 5 minutes, add the chopped peanuts.

7. Stir in the gaaram masala and salt. Cook longer if you wish the onions to be softer otherwise serve hot with naan, roti, rice or by itself.

This recipe has been linked at: Let’s Do Lunch, Just Another Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Gluten Free Wednesdays

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15 Responses to Onion Subzi – A Desert Tradition

  1. Oh man, I bet this makes the house smell amazing…Well, if you like onions, which I do, hehe. I’ll keep this dish in mind next time I make Indian.

    • Raj says:

      It really does make the home smell wonderful Jenn! I’m an onion lover myself, so this is really perfect. Definitely keep me posted on how it turns out for you.

  2. Tracee says:

    I’ve put up a SCD for the Holidays page for everyone to put links to holiday recipes. I hope this will help everyone find plenty of SCD recipes, especially those who are new to the diet. If you want to add any links of your great recipes: http://mrsedsresearchandrecipes.blogspot.com/2010/11/scd-for-holidays.html

  3. Devang says:

    Wonderful recipe! I added green chili and garnished with cilantro to the mix and it turned out fabulous. Thanks.

  4. Chaya says:

    I love onion dishes, the more onions, the merrier. Thanks for linking such a intriguing dish to Let’s Make Lunch. It looks like a winner to me.

    • Raj says:

      Thanks Chaya. I’m in the same boat as you — LOVE onions. Raw, cooked, caramelized, yellow, red.. oh.. it’s all so good.

  5. You came up with a great solution to the “fridge is bare” problem. Looks like a great dish and thanks for sharing something about your background with us.
    Sue 🙂

  6. Linda says:

    I’m an onion lover and this sounds wonderful. The problem is my husband can’t eat peanuts. I wonder if another nut would do. Maybe cashews?

    • Raj says:

      Linda, cashews should work – make sure to roast them so that they are a little crunchy.. I would try roasted almonds too if he can have that.

  7. Melissa says:

    Wow what a lovely recipe…I can’t wait to try this…please if you have a moment, you mention cayenne and garam masala in the directions but they are not included in the ingredients list – I could guess but would prefer your guidance! I just found your site from the site Finding Vegan – what a joy! Thank you and Joyous Peaceful Holidays to you and yours.

    • Raj says:

      Good eye Melissa! I’ve updated the recipe with the amounts I used. A lot of times spices should be tuned by your tastes — especially gaaram masala and cayenne since they both add to the “spicyness” of the dish.

  8. AJ says:

    Childhood memories!!!

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