Pongal. South Indian Tamil Rice and Lentil “Risotto”

Pongal is a South Indian Tamil rice dish made with rice and lentils that are cooked like a thick porridge.


About the recipe

Pongal is a popular South Indian rice dish similar to risotto. In this recipe rice and lentils are cooked together with salt and turmeric until tender and then mixed with ghee and toasted black peppercorns. A


The pure clean flavors of pongal tastes wonderful with a side of spiced tomato sauce called gotsu.


Made with white rice, lentils, turmeric, and the lovely fragrance of toasted black pepper and ghee, this rice dish will have you wanting more than you expected.


Rice plus lentils equals pongal

Pongal can be made with a wide variety of lentils, in this recipe I have chosen to make pongal with small dry orange moong lentils as they cook faster than most other dry lentils.


Mom’s recipe

Mom used to make her savory pongal often and she usually topped the pongal with cashews toasted in ghee, but funnily I was never a fan of nuts and dried fruits in savory dishes, so I always set the cashews aside.


 If you like cashews and would like to add cashews as garnish, go ahead and toast a few cashews in ghee and add it on top of pongal as a delectable garnish.

Pongal. Tamil Rice and Lentil “Risotto”
serves 2-4


  • 1 cup long grain rice like Basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup orange moong lentils
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp asafetida powder
  • 2 tbsp ghee plus extra for garnish


  • I used the Instapot to cook the rice and lentils.  Just add all the rice and lentils with 4 1/2 cups water, turmeric, and salt.  Place in the Instapot and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.  If making this on the stove, bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and cover and cook until lentils and rice are tender – almost 30 minutes. Once the rice and lentils are cooked, set aside.
  • In the meantime toast cumin seeds and black peppercorns on a pan for about 2-3 minutes until the aroma of cumin and pepper comes through. Cool and grind into a coarse powder in a spice mill.
  • In a pan heat 2 tbsp ghee. Add 1 tsp asafetida powder and the cumin black pepper blend. Toast for 3-5 seconds in the ghee. Next add the pongal and mix into the spice mixture.
  • Pongal is ready!
  • Serve pongal with extra dollop of ghee and a side of yogurt or tomato gotsu.

14 thoughts on “Pongal. South Indian Tamil Rice and Lentil “Risotto””

  1. Enjoyed the article.

    We make chikki and khichdi made with 7 grains – almost the way you make Pongal, for Sankranti or Uttrayan .

  2. Happy Pongal Dolly to you and your family . I also add a sprig of Fresh Curry Leaves to Ven Pongal and do not add Turmeric Powder ( although Healthy) to Make the Pongal look White ( Ven in Tamil means White) … my mom used to make a special Sambhar with Seven Vegetables ,,,, The idea is to celebrate all of Nature’s Bounties- Grains , Lentils , Vegetables and Fruits too … Your Mom made the best Pooran Poli and your Uma Aunty makes the Best Sarkarai Pongal . Pongal is our version of Thanksgiving . Enjoy !!!!!

    1. Also, i recall your Blog on Pongal 2017 , and a grandfeast was hosted by Uma, Nando’s Wife , Uma had made all the traditional dishes including Ezhu Curry and the images were so captivating …

      1. Yes, Uma and Nando hosting pongal again this year only we are having a post-pongal dinner next week! It is always fun and Uma makes delicious food! I will post the pics once I take them.

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