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Kerala-style masala kichidi

I am very partial to kichdis, and Indian cuisine has an unlimited number of them from every region and community. See more on the history of khichdis in the fabulous recipe of Amaranth leaf kedgeree on this blog.

This kichdi is quite spectacular. The recipe calls for chana dal (Bengal gram dal) which is quite

unusual, but with the cconut milk it gives the dish a very creamy and rich texture and palate feel. The dish is loaded with spices that make the palate tingle with joy and the whole shallots and greens add texture and sweet nuances of flavor.

I make this dish healthier than usual by changing the ratio of lentils to rice to 50% of each and adding greens. Both these changes are minor but decrease the carbohydrate amounts and absorption of sugars.

This little cookbook that I picked up in Cochin many years ago is one of my favorites for Kerala cuisine. The recipes are packed in, this is not the glossy picture recipe book, but it makes up with its depth of wonderful and authentic recipes. It is also so cheap, you cannot resist but buy it, if you can find it after all these years. You will definItaly see me publish from here more, as I have cooked a large part of this book over the decades.

For more wonderful recipes from this cookbook, click here.


4 tablespoon ghee or a mix of ghee and oil

8 green cardamom pods

1 2-inch cinnamon stick

8 whole cloves

10-12 black peppercorns

2 onions, finely sliced

4-6 green chiles, cut into thin circles, or to taste

8-10 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon ginger paste

1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

2 cups basmati rice

1 cup split chana dal

14-16 shallots, peeled but left whole

1 can coconut milk

4-5 cups greens, spinach, or any greens of choice, larger leaves chopped

Salt, to taste

1/2 bunch cilantro + for garnish

Water, as needed

Wash the rice and lentils together throughly and soak in water for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil/ghee in a pan large enough for all the ingredients. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns and sauté for 30 seconds till the cardamom pods have taken on a light color. Add the onions and green chiles and sauté till the onions are lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and ginger and toss for 1 minute till the garlic no longer smells raw. Add the chili powder and toss well. Add the drained rice, lentils and shallots and cook for 5 minutes to sauté the rice. Add the coconut milk, greens and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes till the rice is very mushy and the the lentils have cooked and are soft. Keep an eye on the pan topping it with 1/4 cup water as needed. The mixture should always be wet and almost runny.

When the rice and lentils are cooked, take the mix off the stove and add the cilantro and mix in. Taste and adjust salt as needed.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro and extra ghee on the side.

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