July 19, 2024


Simply The Best Food

The unmissable Pongal food, with recipes

6 min read

a bowl of food: Sakkarai Pongal is the sweet version of the traditional Pongal dish.

Sakkarai Pongal is the sweet version of the traditional Pongal dish.

Pongal is around the corner and of course, there is a lot to look forward to. Also known as the harvest festival, Pongal is observed at the start of the month Thai according to the Tamil solar calendar and is dedicated to Lord Surya.

After offering prayers to Sun God, families in South India, particularly in the Tamil community, enjoy a delicious spread for lunch and also exchange gifts with friends and relatives to make the most of the harvest festival.

In this piece, we list five dishes that are specifically prepared on Pongal but before proceeding with the recipes, here are some interesting facts about the festival.


Pongal refers to “boil, overflow.” To mark the festival, a traditional dish is prepared with the new harvest of rice boiled in milk with jaggery. Families consume the sweet after offering it to the Gods and Goddesses.


Pongal is celebrated widely in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry in India. It is also a major Tamil festival in Sri Lanka.


Pongal will be celebrated on January 14 this year. It will conclude on January 17.


Take a look at the five dishes that are prepared on Pongal:


Pongal is basically a porridge that is made with rice and moong dal. It can be made in both ways – as a sweet dish or as savoury. Ven Pongal is the ‘namkeen’ version of the dish that contains delicious flavours of cumin, curry leaves, ginger, and primarily, ghee.


a bowl of food on a metal pan

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Ven Pongal (Photo: Getty Images)

To make Ven Pongal or Khara Pongal, dry roast one-fourth cup of moong dal in a pan after removing stones from the lentils. Roast until you get a whiff of the aroma. Do not brown the lentils. Remove from flame. Next, add half cup of rice to the pan containing the roasted moong dal. Rinse the rice and lentils and put them in a pressure cooker.

In it, add hing, crushed cumin seeds, a teaspoon of chopped ginger and salt to taste. Pour water based on the consistency of the dish that you would prefer. Pressure cook on medium heat for around 10 minutes. Let the pressure settle and remove the lid.

To temper the dish, add three tablespoons of ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds, cashews, and fry. After the nuts turn golden in colour, add a teaspoon of whole black pepper and curry leaves. Fry the mixture well. Pour into the cooker and mix well. Cover the dish with the lid and let the flavours infuse with the Pongal. Serve hot.


This is the sweet version of the traditional Pongal dish and is made with rice, moong dal, jaggery, cardamom and nuts. In Telugu, Sweet Pongal is called Chakkara Pongali and in Tamil, it is known as Sakkarai Pongal. In several South Indian households, Sweet Pongal is made on Tuesdays and Fridays apart from on festival days.


a bowl of food on a table

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Sakkarai Pongal

Dry roast one-fourth cup of moong dal in a pan for 5-6 minutes. Take off the flame. Add ¾ cup of rice to the roasted dal and rinse well. Next, add the rice and lentils in a pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and 1 cup of milk. Skip the milk if you wish to, and in that case, use 4 cups of water. Cook for 3-4 whistles on medium flame. Till the rice cooks, make jaggery syrup. Add half a cup of water and one cup jaggery in a pan. Let the jaggery melt. Strain the syrup and set aside. Once the rice is done, mash it softly.

Pour the jaggery syrup over the rice. Mix well and put the cooker on medium heat on the flame again. Add cardamom powder to the rice and jaggery mixture and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Next, in a pan, put three tablespoons of ghee, and add cashewnuts, some crushed cloves and raisins. You may add coconut slices as well. Fry until the nuts release an aroma. Pour this over the rice and mix well. Serve.


Pongal or not, Medu Vadas are an absolute favourite. It is served for breakfast in several parts of the country and is also prepared on festivals. Medu Vadas are disc-shaped, crispy, deep fried savouries. Just so tasty.


a close up of a doughnut on a plate

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Medu Vada (Photo: Getty Images)

Wash one cup of Urad Dal in a large bowl and remove the dirt from the lentils. Rinse well. Next, soak the dal in fresh water for at least five hours. Before making the vadas, discard the water from the dal and rinse the lentils again.

Now, add the dal in a blender with some salt. Put some chilled water in the grinder and blend for 30 seconds.

Repeat the process until you get a fluffy, aerated batter. Pour the batter in a bowl and beat well for about a minute. To prepare the batter for the vadas, add chopped onions, ginger, coconut slices, green chillies, curry leaves, crushed coconut and salt to taste. Mix well. Add a pinch of baking soda. Mix. Dip your hands in water and make balls with the batter. Flatten the ball slightly and make a hole in the centre to make the vada. Fry the vadas in hot oil and serve with sambhar and coconut chutney.


Kootu, a preparation similar to Sambar, is such a versatile dish. You can enjoy it with crispy vadas, soft idlis, delicious dosas or even with a plate of hot rice. Also known as Pongal Kootu or Kadamba Kootu, it is prepared on Pongal with seven seasonal vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, broad beans, raw bananas, pumpkin, ash gourd and lima beans.


a close up of a bowl of soup

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Kootu (Photo: Getty Images)

Begin with chopping the vegetables into considerably big pieces. Meanwhile, pressure cook half cup of Toor Dal. Next, in a pan, heat oil. Add coriander seeds, channa dal, red chillies and fenugreek seeds. Fry till the dal turns brown. Add grated coconut and fry. Take off the flame and allow it to cool. Next, add the ingredients in a blender jar with some water. Grind into a paste.

In a pan, add the chopped vegetables and some water. Add tamarind juice and salt to taste after the vegetables are half-cooked. Once the vegetables are cooked, mash the toor dal and add in the pan. Mix well. Next, add the paste and stir well. Let it cook on high flame for about five minutes.

For the tempering, heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. As the seeds splutter, add hing and fry for ten seconds. Next, add chopped curry leaves, red chillies and stir well. Pour the mixture over the Kootu, and mix well. Remove from flame. Serve hot.


Rasam translates to juice in Tamil and Telugu and is served with rice or before the first course of a South Indian meal. It aids in digestion as well.


a bowl of soup

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Rasam (Photo: Getty Images)

To make Rasam, begin with grinding cumin seeds, black pepper and garlic cloves into a coarse paste. Also, make a puree of two tomatoes and set aside. In a pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, hing, dry red chillies and curry leaves.

Fry for a minute and add the garlic paste. Saute for a minute. Next, add tomato puree and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Add chopped coriander leaves. Put red chilli powder and salt to taste. Mix well and add chopped tomatoes. Cook for two minutes. Add less than two cups of water. Bring it to a boil. Reduce flame. Add some more chopped coriander leaves. Remove from flame. Serve hot.

Happy Pongal!

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