Pongal Recipe

Pongal, often referred to as the "Harvest Festival," is a Tamil Nadu celebration that takes place in mid-January. This auspicious day marks the end of the winter solstice and is a moment to express gratitude to the sun god, Surya, for a bountiful harvest. The name "Pongal" itself signifies the overflow of happiness and abundance.

During this festival, households across South India prepare a special dish also called "Pongal." It's a delicious concoction of newly harvested rice, lentils, and a symphony of spices, symbolizing unity and the essence of the harvest season.

The Origins of Pongal

The history of Pongal dates back over a thousand years when it was prepared as an offering to the sun god during the Pongal festival. The dish has evolved over time, incorporating various spices and ingredients, and has now become a staple in South Indian cuisine.

Types of Pongal

1. Sakkarai Pongal (Sweet Pongal)

Sakkarai Pongal is a sweet delicacy prepared with rice, jaggery (unrefined sugar), and ghee (clarified butter). It's adorned with cashews and raisins, making it a sweet treat to savor.

2. Ven Pongal (Savory Pongal)

Ven Pongal is the savory counterpart to its sweeter sibling. Made with rice and split yellow moong dal, it's spiced with black pepper, cumin, and ginger, creating a mouthwatering dish.

3. Milagu Pongal (Pepper Pongal)

Milagu Pongal is a variant that emphasizes the bold flavor of black pepper. This spicy dish is not for the faint-hearted and is best enjoyed with coconut chutney.

4. Ghee Pongal

Ghee Pongal, as the name suggests, is rich in ghee and is a savory delight. With a generous amount of ghee, it's known for its creamy texture and decadent taste.

The Recipe: How to Prepare Pongal

Let's dive into the heart of Pongal by discovering how to prepare this delectable dish.

Pongal Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of rice
  • 1/4 cup of split yellow moong dal
  • 1/4 cup of cashews
  • 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin seeds
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 3-4 tablespoons of ghee
  • Salt to taste


  1. Rinse and Soak: Begin by rinsing the rice and moong dal together. Soak them in water for about 15 minutes.
  2. Roast Cashews In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat a tablespoon of ghee. Roast the cashews until they turn golden brown. Remove them and set them aside.
  3. Add Spices: In the same pan, add another tablespoon of ghee. Toss in the black peppercorns, cumin seeds, ginger, and asafoetida. Sauté until the aroma fills the kitchen.
  4. Drain and Cook: Drain the soaked rice and moong dal and add them to the pan. Sauté for a couple of minutes.
  5. Pressure Cook: Transfer the contents of the pan to a pressure cooker. Add water, salt, and cook until you hear two whistles.
  6. Temper with Ghee: Once the pressure subsides, open the cooker, and add the remaining ghee. Stir well.
  7. Garnish: Garnish your Pongal with the roasted cashews and serve hot.

Your Pongal is now ready to be served. It's often served hot withcoconut chutney and sambar, but you can enjoy it with other side dishes of your choice as well.

Regional Variations

Different regions in South India have their unique take on Pongal. For instance, in Tamil Nadu, it's often served with coconut chutney and sambar, while in Andhra Pradesh, it takes the form of 'Ven Pongal' and is paired with a tangy tamarind sauce. These variations make the Pongal experience diverse and exciting.

Pongal, a festival and dish deeply embedded in South Indian culture, is a true celebration of nature's blessings. Its historical significance and diverse variations make it a must-try for anyone seeking a taste of South India. Whether you prefer the sweet notes of Sakkarai Pongal or the bold flavors of Milagu Pongal, Pongal offers a culinary adventure that resonates with the spirit of gratitude and unity.