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Thoran: Plantain and Coconut Kerala Stir Fry

Kerala Stir Fry: Plantain and Coconut Thoran

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5 from 7 reviews

  • Author: Siri Pulipaka
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


An integral part of Kerala cuisine, Thoran, is a lovely stir-fry made with grated coconut and minimal spices. Try it with plantain, served with rice as a delicious main course.


Units Scale
  • 2 green plantains
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 12 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste

For Tempering

  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon split white urad dal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 dry red chili, broken into halves
  • A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • A few curry leaves
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil


  1. Prep the Plantains:
    • Cut the plantains into halves with the skin on.
    • Boil in water until tender—about 10-15 minutes; or pressure cook for one whistle and let the pressure release naturally.
    • Once cooled, peel and dice the plantains into small cubes.
  2. Tempering the Spices:
    • In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.
    • Add the mustard seeds, urad dal, and cumin seeds. Wait until the mustard seeds start to pop and the dal turns golden.
    • Add the dry red chili, curry leaves, and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir for a few seconds until aromatic.
  3. Cook the Onions and Spices:
    • Add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt to help them cook faster. Sauté until they turn translucent.
    • Mix in the ginger-garlic paste and green chilies, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Combine and Cook the Plantain:
    • Stir in the turmeric powder and salt.
    • Add the diced plantains to the skillet and toss gently to mix with the spices.
    • Cook on a low-medium flame for about 4 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
  5. Finish with Coconut:
    • Add the grated coconut and stir well.
    • Continue to cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat.


  1. Green Plantains:
    • Description: Green plantains are starchy and less sweet compared to ripe plantains. They are used similarly to potatoes in various cuisines.
    • Alternative: If green plantains are unavailable, you can use green bananas or even potatoes as a substitute, although the texture and flavor will slightly differ.
  2. Urad Dal (Split White Urad Dal):
    • Description: Urad dal, also known as black gram, is a small, skinned, and split white lentil used frequently in Indian cuisine for tempering dishes.
    • Alternative: If you can’t find urad dal, you can omit it or use chana dal (split chickpeas) for a similar textural purpose in the dish.
  3. Mustard Seeds:
    • Description: Mustard seeds are a common tempering spice in Indian cooking, adding a nutty and aromatic flavor when popped in hot oil.
    • Alternative: A suitable substitute for mustard seeds can be cumin seeds or a pinch of dry mustard powder to mimic the tangy, peppery flavor.
  4. Asafoetida (Hing):
    • Description: Asafoetida is a resinous gum derived from ferula plants, known for its strong onion-garlic flavor, used primarily as a digestive aid and to add depth in flavor.
    • Alternative: If unavailable, you can use a small pinch of garlic powder and onion powder as a replacement.
  5. Curry Leaves:
    • Description: Curry leaves are aromatic herbs used in South Indian cooking, providing a unique flavor that is irreplaceable.
    • Alternative: While there’s no perfect substitute, you can use bay leaves or lemon zest to add a different dimension of flavor, though it won’t replicate the original taste entirely.
  6. Cumin Seeds:
    • Description: Cumin seeds are used in Indian cuisine for their distinctive earthy and warming flavor when added to hot oil.
    • Alternative: If cumin seeds are not available, you can use ground cumin, but add it directly to the dish instead of in the oil to prevent burning.
  7. Turmeric Powder:
    • Description: Turmeric is a bright yellow spice, commonly used in Indian dishes for its color and health benefits, offering a warm, bitter taste.
    • Alternative: Although unique, a mix of ginger and mustard powder can be used in a pinch to try and mimic some of turmeric’s flavor profile.
  8. Coconut, Grated:
    • Description: Freshly grated coconut is often used in South Indian cooking for its sweetness and texture.
    • Alternative: Unsweetened desiccated coconut or canned coconut milk can be used if fresh coconut is not available.

Recipe Notes

  • Ensure to soak the plantains if they are very starchy, which helps in removing some of the starch and prevents them from becoming too hard when cooked.
  • The key to a good thoran is the tempering; make sure your oil is hot enough before adding the mustard seeds to ensure they pop and release their flavor.
  • Be gentle when mixing the grated coconut into the cooked plantains to maintain the texture of the dish.
  • Adjust the amount of green chilies based on your heat preference. The dish should have a balance of spicy, salty, and the natural sweetness from the coconut.
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stir Frying
  • Cuisine: Indian
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