Ven Pongal | Savoury Pongal | South Indian Kitchari | Ghee Pongal

A dish loved throughout South India.

Ven Pongal

I have been involved in one of the most joyous activities for someone who loves cooking and loves Indian food – testing and proofing Indian Festival recipes for a publication soon to be released.. The publication will outline 15 Indian festivals and associated activities, including traditional foods that are cooked by families during the festival. The publications are aimed at Western audiences, and for media, ideal for when they want more information about Indian traditions. It will also be perfect for those who have lost touch with or are curious about the traditions of India and want more information.

I was involved in testing a number of dishes, including this one which did not make the final cut. Never mind, it is your gain! I hope to bring you the other dishes once the publication is released.

Really, there is nothing like Ven Pongal with hot sambar and some coconut chutney on the side. Add a cup of hot coffee and life is perfect.

There are all sorts of Rice+Mung Dal dishes in India. Try Bisibelebhath, Parsi Kitchari (a very simple kitchari) and Sakkarai Pongal.

Are you looking for Indian Rice recipes? Try Pepper Rice, South Indian Coconut Rice, Balinese Coconut Rice, Masala Lemon or Lime Rice, Tamarind Rice, and Urad Dal Garlic Rice.

Browse all of our Pongal recipes, all of our Kitchari recipes (there are many), and all of our Rice recipes here. Or be inspired by our Late Summer recipes.

For some reading, explore different kinds of rice, and the Difference between Kitchari and Risotto.

Ven Pongal


Pongal is one of those dishes that tastes so much better than it ought. You read the recipe and (unless you are South Indian) you go, “Nah”, and move on. Rice based, it sounds as though it could be bland.

Please think again. There is nothing not much simpler and tastier than this. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper or a snack. Eat it hot or room temperature, although it will thicken up if left to stand. It is the most consumed breakfast dish in Tamil Nadu (South India).

Pongal is the South Indian answer to the North Indian Kitchari. It is mung dal and rice cooked together, and quite often it is made as a sweet dish. Ven Pongal is a savoury variety of Pongal, cooked with black pepper and cumin.

The sweet variety (Sakkarai Pongal) is often cooked with milk, and also sugar and sweet spices. It is a wonderful dish served traditionally at Thai Pongal, the traditional Indian festival similar to Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving held in other parts of the world. It is a time where the sun and the gods that oversee the land and growth are thanked for the abundance that has been provided. Sakkarai pongal is cooked under the first rays of the morning sun, outside in a tall pot over a fire. But that recipe another time.

The key to Ven Pongal, the savoury dish, is its wonderful buttery texture achieved because the rice and dal are cooked until very very soft, mixed with spices and often topped with cashew nuts. It is a wonderful, nurturing, comfort food.

Ven Pongal is a great dish to cook during Navratri, the 9 day Festival dedicated to the Goddess.


Ven Pongal | Ghee Pongal

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30 or so mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it

1 cup raw pooni rice or sona masori, or use what you have
0.5 cup split mung dal
4 cups water
1 Tblspn fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tspn whole black peppercorns
2 Tblspn raw cashew nuts, unsalted

1/5 tspn cumin seeds
4 – 5 curry leaves
2 Tblspn ghee
salt to taste

Cook the rice and dal together in the water until very very soft. Perhaps use 4 cups to begin with and add more if required. It will take around 30 minutes to cook, maybe more, depending on your cooking methods, pan and heat level. The final result will be thick, not liquid, so ease off on adding water at the end of the cooking time.

While the rice and dal is cooking, finely chop the ginger and roast it in 1 Tblspn ghee.

Add the cumin, whole black pepper and curry leaves. Sauté a little without burning, to release the flavours. Set aside.

Roast the cashews in the remaining ghee until golden brown but not burnt.

When the rice and dal mixture is cooked, mix vigorously, mashing the dal and rice together. You want a buttery texture.  Mix in the spices with the ghee that they were sautéed in.

Place in a serving dish and top with the roasted cashews. Enjoy!

recipe notes and alternatives
Add about 0.25 tspn turmeric as you cook the rice.

Use a ratio of 2:1 rice and mung dal.

Roast dal before cooking.

Add mustard seeds to the tadka.

Ghee is MUST while making Pongal. The flavour and taste of Pongal depends on the amount ghee you use.

Serve on its own, or with Sambar, coconut chutney and hot coffee. Goes well with Gosthu and/or chutney.

29 thoughts on “Ven Pongal | Savoury Pongal | South Indian Kitchari | Ghee Pongal”

  1. Sounds gorgeous to me.
    It was good to read about the project you took part it! Sounds very interesting. Let us know when the publication is out, please.

    The photos of the grasshopper are amazing, btw!

  2. Interesting new header! 🙂
    One of our ultimate comfort foods, this one. The book sounds good. Is it being published in Australia?

    1. Hi Aparna, no it will be published in the US, and I am not sure of the final form, but it may be in broadsheet form, suitable for providing information on individual festivals to media etc. Although the people putting the information together I know are adept at producing things that will suit a range of formats. Who knows, it might come out in book form one day too.

  3. Dear Ganga, our food can’t be more fortunate than having you as an ambassador for its divinity!..Pongal, a dish that can steep into your self with the way it lends itself…Never mind this didn’t make it to the final cut, it looks so good. I am looking fwd to read more on the publication you are proofing!..

  4. Yep I agree, I just saw the header, lovely..but somehow I loved the previous one better..:) is like that can never be satisfied!..Ah..

  5. The VegeYum, I really enjoyed reading your post on dumplings. I’d never even heard of bread and butter pudding until just the other day when vegeyum mentioned them as one of the things she cooked when she was first starting out.

  6. VegeYum. I really enjoyed reading your post on dumplings. Quite a while to set up a new blog. Word press is a good choice,

  7. Oh the South Indians at the hotel were very impressed when I went back for seconds, thirds, fourths even of the magical pongal for breakfast every morning.

  8. I have just found your blog – what great photos! I really appreciate your perspective on my city, and your photography makes me look again at it.

  9. I know that it is tasty because of the herbs and spices in it but I have one question, what is that on top of the rice? Is it a shrimp or the photo of the praying mantis above. I’m sorry for asking but I am just curious about it.

    thanks also for posting this new recipe.

  10. Just stumbled on your site via twitter. Great writing and recipes. You just reminded me that I haven’t made pongal in a long time. Will surely fix that today.

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