Thai Inspired Broccoli in Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Jade-green broccoli vies with red and yellow bell peppers for center stage in this exotic Asian stew. For relatively little effort, this recipe rewards you with a sophisticated sauce reminiscent of Thai restaurant fare.

NotesThe only ingredient you may not recognize here is seitan, a dense, high-protein meat substitute made of wheat gluten. Seitan plays a big role in the Buddhist vegetarian kitchen and is traditionally seasoned with soy sauce (and sometimes ginger); its flavor contributes nicely to the sauce.

You’ll find seitan in the refrigerated section of health food stores. Don’t be discouraged when you open the plastic tub and discover large, strange-looking chunks. Once chopped finely, the seitan adds real substance and a delightfully chewy texture.

Lime juice is needed to balance the sauce, but it quickly dulls the sprightly color, so serve wedges of lime on the side and let everyone squeeze to taste. I like to serve this dish in large, shallow soup bowls over Thai jasmine or basmati rice.

4 servings

Cooking Methodstewing



Total Timeunder 30 minutes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, healthy, kosher, peanut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentfood processor

Mealdinner, lunch


Taste and Texturecreamy, herby, hot & spicy, umami

Type of Dishhot soup, soup


  • 2 pounds broccoli (3 large stalks)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 inch chunk ginger, trimmed and cut into eighths (peeling is not necessary)
  • 1 medium shallot (about 2 ounces), peeled and quartered
  • 1 or 2 jalapenos (depending upon desired heat), halved and seeded
  • 1 good-sized bunch cilantro (about 4 ounces; include stems and roots, if available, but rinse thoroughly to remove sand)
  • One 13.5 ounce can coconut milk (not light)
  • ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 to 12 ounces seitan (wheat gluten)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼-inch strips
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce (Tamari or Shoyu)
  • A few basil leaves, shredded, for garnish (optional)
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges


  1. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, and separate them into small pieces. Trim the stalks, and use a paring knife or peeler to remove the fibrous outer layers. Cut the stalks into ½-inch chunks, set the florets and stalks aside.

  2. With the motor of the food processor running, pop the garlic and then the ginger, shallot, and jalapeno(s) into the feed tube, and chop finely. Reserve ½ cup tightly packed cilantro leaves. Chop the remaining cilantro a few times, add to the processor, and chop finely. Add the coconut milk, sugar, and salt, and process to blend thoroughly.

  3. Transfer the coconut milk mixture to a 4- or 5-quart pot, and bring to a boil. Boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, remove the seitan from its tub. Reserve any marinating liquid if you like its taste, and add enough water to equal a total of 1 cup liquid. Stir this liquid (or 1 cup plain water) into the coconut milk mixture. Chop the seitan finely in the processor, and add it to the pot along with the reserved broccoli.

  5. Cover and cook at a moderate boil for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers, cover, and continue cooking, stirring once or twice, until the broccoli is tender but still bright green, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add more water during this time if the mixture becomes dry.

  6. Just before serving, coarsely chop the reserved cilantro leaves and stir them in. Add enough soy sauce to create a good balance of flavors. Ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with basil, if you wish. Accompany each portion with a few lime wedges.

  7. Other Ideas:

  8. Toss with cooked rice noodles, season with additional soy sauce and garnish with chopped roasted peanuts and bean sprouts.

  9. Substitute Smart Ground for the seitan. Smart Ground, crumbles made of soy protein concentrate and wheat gluten, is available in health-food stores and some supermarkets.

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