Pongal Recipes: Like most harvest festivals across India, Pongal coincides with the beginning of the six-month northward journey of the sun. The festival is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ (pronounced thigh) and is often referred to as Thai Pongal. The entire festivities last for four days (January 15-18), and just like the extended Puja weekend in West Bengal, the entire state of Tamil Nadu gets into festive mode. With about half its population in urban centres, Tamil Nadu is India’s one of the most urbanised large states and yet Pongal always conjures up images of rural Tamil Nadu, where this is by far the biggest festival.

(Also Read: Pongal 2018: 5 Traditional Pongal Recipes That Are A Must Try This Festive Season)

It’s Pongal Thirunaal (falls on January 15th this year) or Pongal day that is the most important day of the festivities. In many ways this festival is a ‘thanksgiving’ to the Sun god for an abundant harvest and begins with cooking Pongal in large earthen pots outdoors. Pongal is a play on the Tamil word ‘Pongu’ (to boil over). Many households prepare Ven Pongal (a popular breakfast item across Tamil Nadu) – spiced with whole peppercorns and curry leaves, and sweet (Sakkarai) Pongal, which is also a delicacy at popular Chennai restaurants like Murugan Idli shop.

(Also Read: Pongal 2020: Date, Time, Significance, Rituals And Foods To Eat)

While Pongal is easily the most significant event on Tamil Nadu’s festival calendar, the state has also seen the rise of another major food trend that’s changing the way many people eat their Pongal. From Chennai to Coimbatore and even many of the smaller towns, there’s a growing awareness around millets. The mushrooming of organic stores is creating more platforms for millets as many people across the state are rediscovering diets – all thanks to India’s green revolution when polished white rice replaced traditional rice varietals and millets, especially in urban homes. Most nutritionists concur that millets are nutritionally superior to rice and wheat. They contain large amounts of proteins, dietary fibres, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin B, and essential amino acids.

While it’s likely that most homes in Tamil Nadu will opt for the regular rice-based version of Pongal for this year’s festival, millet-based Pongal versions – both the Venn Pongal and Sakkarai Pongal – are beginning to see resurgence both in diet-conscious homes and select restaurants.

Healthy And Delicious Millet-Based Pongal Recipes:

Aintharisi Pongal

(Also Read: Having Guests Over? 6 Delicious Recipes For A Typical Pongal Lunch Meal)

Arisi Pogal is a sweet delicacy made in Tamil Nadu during Pongal

Recipe Courtesy – Sheik Mohideen – Corporate Chef, Savya Rasa

Sakkarai (Sweet) Pongal

(Also Read: Temple Food in Tamil Nadu: 8 Unique Dishes That Are Delicious & Divine)

Sakkarai is a sweet pongal recipe

It is one of my favourite sweet dishes from Tamil Nadu. It’s also a dish that is intrinsically connected to temple kitchens across the state, including the Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, Chennai, that makes a version which can be best described as ‘divine’. Savya Rasa that operates fine-dining south Indian restaurants in Chennai, Gurgaon and Pune has just added a bunch of millet-based dishes to its menu. This millet version of the Sweet Pongal is not just delicious but combines the goodness of three types of millets and two rice varietals (hence, the name aintharisi for five grains). The dish also leans on edible camphor – a unique flavouring agent that is traditionally used in sweet Pongal, for its distinct flavour.


  • Hand Pounded Rice (kai kuthal Arisi): half cup
  • Little millet (samai Rice): half cup
  • Raw Rice: half cup
  • Kuthiraivali (Barnyard Millet): half cup
  • Jeeraga Samba Rice: half cup
  • Jaggery 3 cups
  • Moong Dal: half cup
  • Edible camphor 1 no
  • Ghee: half cup
  • Cardamom Powder 1 tsp
  • Cashew nuts 25 nos
  • Raisin 25 nos

Pre – Preparation:

  1. Wash and soak the rice and lentil for minimum one hour.
  2. Make jaggery syrup and strain it.
  3. Crush the edible camphor.


  1. In a mud pot or a deep thick bottomed vessel, add the rice and lentil with required water cook it covered till the rice and dal becomes mushy.
  2. Pour jaggery syrup, crushed camphor powder and cardamom powder.
  3. In pan, heat ghee and add Cashew nut, Raisins and allow it to brown.
  4. Add the roasted cashew nuts and raisins in to the cooking mixture and allow the mixture to become thick.

Little Millet Pongal

(Also Read: Dalia Pongal Recipe)

Little Millet Pongal is a healthier alternative to its original recipe 

Recipe Courtesy – Jaffar Ali, Executive Chef, The Gateway Hotel IT Expressway Chennai

I’ve always believed that substitution is a smarter way to add wellness to your diet instead of turning to fad diets that are as fickle as fashion trends. One of the easiest ways to incorporate millets to your diet is apply the same rule of substitution. This recipe incorporates little millet (Samai in Tamil and Kutki in Hindi) instead of rice and is equally scrumptious.


  • Little millet 150 gm
  • Moong dal 30 gm
  • Pepper corn whole 5 gm
  • Whole jeera 5 gm
  • Olive oil (or any other oil) 25 ml
  • Ginger 10 gm
  • Curry leaf 5 gm
  • Salt 15 gm
  • Water 500 ml


  1. Wash the rice, dal and add 500 ml of water and boil it separately.
  2. Prepare a tempering with whole jeera, whole pepper corn, curry leaf and ginger.
  3. Add the rice, dal to this mixture and cook well. Check seasoning.
  4. Garnish with curry leaves.

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Source: food.ndtv.com