Puliyodarai – Tamil Iyengar Style (Tamarind Rice)
Ah! What can I say about puliyodarai that hasn’t been said. It’s a kind of mixed rice, what we call “kalanda sadam” in thamizh. The gravy that it’s mixed with is made up of tamarind extract and a spice mix that has chana dal, red chilies, coriander seeds, a little bit of black pepper, and most importantly, sesame seeds. These spices are toasted in a bit of oil, preferably sesame, and made into a powder. The tamarind juice is boiled with a bit of oil, hing, chana dal, red chilies, and curry leaves and made into a thick paste – this is called pulikachal. It’s then mixed with rice, a bit of the spice powder, and tempered with more hing, curry leaves, and roasted peanuts. Heaven! It’s a very popular prasad in many temples, travels really well, and is part of the meal on one of the pongal days along with coconut rice, and yogurt rice, and fried papads, vathals. The most important thing to note about puliyodarai is that it needs sesame oil, and sesame oil only. None other will do if you want authentic puliyodarai. This specific version is the Iyengar version as I’ve learned. The Iyer version stops with making the puli gravy with chilies, curry leaves, methi powder and hing. At that stage, it can be mixed with rice and eaten. The Iyengar version goes one step further and adds this beautiful spice powder, the dominant flavor there being sesame seeds. To summarize, there are 3 steps in making puliyodarai: 1. Make the pulikachal paste (this will stay in the refrigerator for a couple of months, so make a good quantity) 2. Make the spice powder 3. Make the rice, and mix, add tempering
Servings Prep Time
10 cupsof rice 30mins
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
10 cupsof rice 30mins
Cook Time
  • 1/2slab tamarind blocksoak in warm water for a few hours
  • 3tbsp sesame oil
  • 4-6dry red chilies
  • 2tbsp chana dalsoak in a bit of water for about 20 mins
  • 4tbsp Salt
  • 1cube jaggery/gudif using powder, roughly 2 tbsp – this is also optional, but gives a rounded taste
  • 1/2tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1tsp Hing
  • 1tsp methi seedsvendhayam/whole fenugreek seeds. Can also add methi powder instead
To Mix The Rice
  • 1cup rice
  • 2tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4cup Raw peanuts
  • 2tsp Salt
  • 1/2tsp Hing
  • 1/2tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2tbsp puliyodarai podi (spice powder)see notes for link to puliyodarai powder recipe
  1. Step 1: Make the pulikachal: Extract juice from the soaked tamarind
  2. Heat the oil in a big kadai, and add the methi seeds, chana dal, curry leaves, hing, turmeric powder, and fry. Then add the puli extract and boil with salt
  3. Once it’s boiled well, lost the raw flavor, and reduced in volume and become thick, add the jaggery, add a few spoons of the puliyodarai podi, mix well and cook on low heat for a few minutes. The mix will become thick and pasty. Take off the heat, and transfer to a glass bottle once cooled enough. Your pulikachal is ready.
  4. Step 2: When you want to make the puliyodarai: Make rice, using a bit less water than usual so that the grains are separate. Spread on a wide bowl, drizzle some sesame oil on it, sprinkle salt, and turmeric and let it cool
  5. Toast the peanuts – or use dry roasted peanuts. Today, I dry roasted them, and removed the skin. But I have also used them with skin. Both work.
  6. Add some pulikachal mix to the rice, and mix. Place the washed curry leaves, hing on the rice in the middle
  7. Heat oil, splutter mustard seeds, chana dal and swirl it over the rice
  8. Add the roasted peanuts
  9. Add the puliyodari podi and mix gently without breaking the rice grains. Adjust for pulikachal (add more if it needs more tang), spice powder (if needs more spices), and salt if needed.
  10. Yummy puliyodarai is ready! As part of the mixed rice thali, with coconut rice and curd rice. With appalam (papad), vadam, a salad, and marinated sun-dried chili
  11. Puliyodarai tastes much better after it rests for a couple of hours as it absorbs the flavor of the tamarind, spices, and the sesame oil. It’s served best at room temperature.
Recipe Notes


  1. The pulikachal mix comes in handy for days you don’t have time for an elaborate meal. I always keep some on hand.
  2. The spice powder I made has black pepper. You can also make it without it. The spice powder also has a good shelf life of about a month. It won’t go bad after that, but may lose its potency and freshness. It can also be used as a final touch to many curries such as eggplant and potato curries.
  3. The Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane in Chennai, (and typically most Vishnu temples) is very famous for puliyodarai. When my (now) husband and I were engaged and dating, we would go there every saturday, and get this prasadam, which was also popular with my sisters.
  4. The Iyengar puliyodarai is very famous in the south. I have tried to make it this way since I got married to an Iyengar. My mom’s puliyodarai, which I also love, doesn’t add the spice powder but is also delicious but I can’t make it like her!
  5. I have deliberately not mentioned specific measurements for how much podi to add because it can done as per your taste. I also keep adjusting it until I get the exact taste.

Instant puliyodarai:

When my kids were in middle/high school, and I had a busy full time job, some days I would make this version – basically dry roast all teh spices (chana dal, coriander seeds, methi, red chilies, sesame seeds) and add a goose berry sized tamarind ball to the hot pan at the end. I’d then make a powder of it, and mix with rice, and just add sesame/gingelly oil and roasted peanuts. No need to make pulikachal, etc.


Finishing Touches to Puliyodarai

Puliyodarai Podi Recipe