Moth Beans (Matki) and Horse Gram – Different lentils that look similar

Moth Beans (Matki) and Horse Gram

There are 2 lentils, less well known outside of India, that look similar at first glance but are quite different. Even in India these two lentils are confused, with many writers and bloggers thinking they are the same.  Similar in colour, both are grown in dry almost inhospitable land on vines. Both have an earthy taste and require good soaking before cooking. They are even used to make similar dishes. However, they are different, with different shapes, colours, textures and tastes.

Horse gram

Horsegram is called Kulthikalai (Bengali), Kulthi (Hindi), Ulavalu (Telegu), Kollu (Tamil), Hurali (Kannad), Kadthi dal (Gujarati), Kolatha( Oriya), Kulith (Marathi), Gahat (Kumaoni) and Muthira (Malayalam). It is a less known, humble lentil that gets its English name from the fact that it was fed to horses and cattle. Horse gram is a small flattened bean, multicolored with beige to dark coffee brown colourings, and has been widely grown and consumed in India since 2,000 BCE. It truly is an ancient grain, and a super food.

Horse gram is the most protein-rich lentil found on the planet. It is surely a superfood and plays an important part in Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India. However, it has never made it into chic Indian restaurants or the urban homes of the Indian middle and upper classes. But out in the villages where this tough little legume grows in dry conditions without fertilisation, it features in the home kitchens.

Horsegram heats the body, so is a good Winter food.  It is often sprouted for delicious and healthy sprouts. It is also commonly used in soups, dals, rasams, sundals, masiyal, vada and kitchari. It is also used in thorans, dosa and chutneys. Horse gram does not disintegrate or have a mushy texture when cooked – it retains a nice bite and a little chew. A tspn or two of cooked  horse gram sprinkled over other dishes is really good – salads, appetisers, Indian and non Indian dishes. Why not try it?

Moth Beans (Matki) and Horse Gram

Moth Beans | Matki

Matki is a small, drought-resistant, bullet-shaped bean which ranges in colour from light brown through to tan. The inner part of the bean is yellow. It is native to India and Pakistan and very common in Indian cuisine where the high  protein content  makes it a staple in many vegetarian diets. The flavour is earthy and somewhat nutty.

Matki can be eaten as sprouts and as split or whole beans. It is commonly used in Maharashtra to make Usal, a stirfried dish of sprouts. It is also used in dals, uttapam, cheela, subzi, pulao, kitchari, sundals and chaat.

Moth Beans (Matki) and Horse Gram

Similar, but Different

You can see that both Horse Gram and Matki have many similarities – they both grow in very dry areas, and are small and beige-brown in colour. They both require soaking before cooking, and have an earthy taste. It is easy to get confused, and many have. But the key is in the shape – Horse Gram are little flattened discs and Matki are tiny bullet shaped lentils. Horse Gram has more colour variation. Those are the best ways to tell them apart.

Horse Gram Sprouts

Matki Bean Sprouts


Dal with Moth Beans

Matki Moth Bean Dal


Usal with Horse Gram and Matki Moth Beans

Moth Beans Kitchari

Matki Moth Bean Kitchari

Moth Bean and Golu Kola Salad

Matki and Gotu Kola Salad with Coconut | Pennywort and Moth Beans

Matki Sprouts Misal

Matki Sprouts Misal

Horse Gram Vada

Horse Gram Vada

Horse Gram Sprouts Sundal

Horse Gram Sundal

Horsegram Thoran

Muthira Upperi | Horse Gram Thoran

Horsegram Lentils with Feta and Tomatoes

Horse Gram Lentils with Tomatoes and Feta

Horsegram Lentil Stew with Aubergine

Puy Lentil and Aubergine Stew

Horsegram Rasam

Horse Gram Rasam

Horsegram and Pomegranate Salad


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