South Indian Tamarind Rice (Pulihora/Iyengar Puliyodharai) Recipe

Its been ages since I made Puliyodharai (Tamarind Rice, Puliyogare, Pulihora etc etc ) - in the authentic traditional way. Actually echoing my better half's smart pants comment 'In fact I don't remember having made it at all!' (#$#). Have to say, its not true - I do recall making this couple of years ago and then gave up cos for me it was hassle! Prepare the spiced tamarind paste and then mix it with rice and temper it with few more spices and blah and blah some more! Well, I don't call myself lazy without reason. For those who thought "What, its not that difficult?!!!" - well its not in the strictest sense. I will tell how.When you have a remarkable cook for a mother - it can be a boon as well as a sore point! She is so good that she measures through her instincts!

(Frantic phone call) - *ringggg...."

Mum: "Hello?.."
Me: "mom.....its meeeeeee!"

Mum: " Tell me sweetie..."
Me: " I am thinking of making this  (traditional recipe)..give me measurements..."

Mum: "Oh thats easy - take bengal gram, take rice, take.... (6 more things), cook (this and that) this way, make sure that it cooks well and reddens nicely, grind that - the house should be filled with aroma at this point..and serve it(in some manner)
Me: (all excited) wow! sounds great - now give me the recipe, I will write it down.

Mum: "What were you doing all this while I was telling you the recipe???????????"
Me: (flabbergasted) told me the directions - you did not give me the measurements!! How much of each should I use...

Mum: (hesitating)..aaah! Cant you figure it out while you are cooking??? mmm..Let me try - Take a handful of (3 ingredients), pinch of (2 more ingredients), you can eye ball (the remaining 3). I just put it while cooking! Who knows all these measurements..
Me: ....................................

Mum: "What happened? Are you still around?"
Me: "What in God's name am I supposed to say? How am I going to make this if you dont give me proper measurements?!!!!!! Its your duty as a mom to give me correct measurements!"

Mum: "And it was your duty as a daughter to learn cooking when I asked you zillion times to!!! Working was a convenient excuse then, now see this is what happens....."
Me: ".............................."

Mum: ".............................."And this is how our conversation ends (or carries on if topic changes...;))

Only God knows how with all her "handful", "pinch", "dash" measurements, her dishes always turn out to be mindbogglingly delicious! My "pinch" and "dash" only results in making throwing away the dishes a "cinch" and getting me verbal "bash"es!

South Indian Tamarind Rice (Pulihora/Iyengar Puliyodharai) Recipe
Hence blindly making the Tamarind paste was not in my 'to-do list'. But with Pongal festival making an appearance soon, I thought of trying it again and this time, my mom instead of giving me her dashes and pinches recipe - gave me a recipe from a famous cook who specializes in Iyengar cooking for marriages. Iyengar community specializes in this rice and is famous among South Indians (and few North Indians too!!) There are like 100,000 variations of this rice and this is one among many! Again she included elements of the eyeballing - though I have tried to work around it and given you measurements - I would appreciate if you could use your discretion while making this recipe. But I have to warn you - this is a cholesterol heaven (or should it be hell?!) and if you think the measurement of the oil that I gave is typo - no it isn't. In fact I have tried to be conservative here! South Indian Tamarind Rice (Pulihora/Iyengar Puliyodharai) Recipe
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Serves: 2 people
  • Yields: The rice serves 2 ppl but the paste serves more than 10+ ppl
  • For the Tamarind Paste (shelf life 1-2 months (could be more..)
  • 200 grams (7 oz) - Tamarind (seedless variety makes life easier)
  • 20-25 dried red chillies
  • 50 grams (around 2 oz) Bengal gram (channa dal)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 cup sesame oil (not the toasted variety)
  • salt to taste (using rock salt is traditional)
  • For the Powder (shelf life -"ever?")
  • 5 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 10-15 dried red chillies (optional)
  • small sized Asafoetida (I eyeballed the powder)
  • For the rice (at the time of preparation)
  • 1 cup rice, cooked (make sure the strands are separate - Leftover rice works great)
  • 1 tsp split black gram
  • 1/4-1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cashew
  • few sprigs of curry leaves
  • 2-3 dried red chillies (optional)
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • salt to taste
1. Soak the tamarind in 2  cups of hot water for around 30 minutes.
2. Take this in a food processor
3. and process it few times until it becomes thick
4. Strain this mixture to discard any lumps. The result should be a thick paste - if it is too thick for the strainer, add a little more of hot water, give it a whirl in your processor and strain again. The consistency should neither be too thick nor too watery.
5. Meanwhile make the powder. Dry roast the coriander seeds and fenugreek seeds seperately (or red chillies if you are using. I did not)
6. Grind them seperately.

Until ground fine. Mix them together and store them in a plastic container. They keep well and are handy while making the rice. Use this powder carefully. Too much of it will give a bitter taste to the dish.


You can alternativly grind only little of these (seperately, of course) at the time of making the rice and add it towards the end since the aroma that this imparts to the dish is mind blowing. But take care, esp. with fenugreek seeds powder since it can give a bitter taste if added even a little bit in excess. I followed this method and grind it only as and when needed! I don't make this that often to require making a large amount or storage.


Now lets make the paste. Take a skillet and add the oil. Add the red chillies, then mustard seeds and then bengal gram.


I had some oil warming on the side hence added just a little to temper and then added the oil in the next step. It was simply for my own convinience and is not done this way. I am saying it since I wanted to explain the obvious lack of lots of oil in this picture :)

9. Next add the Tamarind water(or sauce!)
10. Now starts the slow cooking process. Keep the heat at simmer and let it cook. You know its done when the raw smell of the tamarind is gone, the water reduces and thickens into a paste like consistancy and the oil oozes out on the surfaces. You can at the point do two things optionally -  add 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds or the powder. This is to give it more aroma. The recipe given my mom did not do this.

remove from heat, cool it well and store it in a glass container. Keeps very well for a loooong (!!) time and requires only a wee little bit (depending upon your taste) at a time to be mixed in the rice.


The more solid the Tamarind paste , lesser is the amount required to be mixed. If you make sure to keep the paste within the oil, then it would last longer. If your mixture is dry, then it naturally reduces its shelf life. Use it sooner in that case.To prepare the rice, in 1 tsp of oil, temper the lentils, along with red chillies and curry leaves (or you can use fresh without tempering in oil) and then add in the peanuts and cashew (you can roast them seperately too).

12. Meanwhile cool the rice on a plate. Add 1 tsp of sesame oil and the required Tamarind Paste along with the tempered ingredients. Add the powder in pinches along with little salt. Adjust the powder and salt according to your tastes. Mix until well combined and serve
These are mostly served with Papads and Chips South Indian Tamarind Rice (Pulihora/Iyengar Puliyodharai) Recipe

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1 Member Reviews

By Viji on Sep 30, 2011

It came out excellent. Small change I made, since I had heard about ellu (sesame seeds) in Iyengar Puliyodharai. So, I added 1 tbsp dry roasted sesame seeds to the powder mix and powdered it along with the rest of the ingredients.

Another thing for next time that I will do is, thetemperin that is added at the time of mixing the rice, I will add it to the tamarind mix. I like my peanuts well soaked in the tamarind paste. It has a unique taste of its own.

But other than these 2 changes, I kept everything the same and it was great!


By Bharati on Sep 14, 2015

What if use remade a Tamarind paste ? Which steps u skip ?? Thanks Bharati x

By christy on Feb 10, 2014

Whats in DK 's recipes? Years of resesch and expertise! For an average cook,her recipes are full of details. For them the details will do. For an above average and the good cooks, her ingredients column and tips will do.For the best cooks,those few lines under the pictures will do! And for those super cooks,just her pictures will do! There is something for everyone! To me....just the bliss of basking in the thought that her recipes are available,all time,every time i invite a someone over to my house! Security! If a specific recipe that i am looking for is not available ,i search for the nearest match in Dk s blog and modify it. Never in a neighbouring blog though!! :roll: 8)

By christy on Feb 10, 2014

The amount of tamarind paste does get a mention in the recipe. Please re read carefully as DK is a person of mini details. It s mentioned in the recipe given by DK ' required amount' meaning each family has a given amount of tolerance. Some homes are really tangy. DK probably did not want to mention like one ,two teaspoon coz she did nt want to fix the amount of paste as one size(spoon!)does nt fit all. Besides we cant and (should nt for the matter )faithfully follow any recipe. And even a gifted cook like DK cant dictate such a recipe for anyone. Individual skills and variations count too. For an average cook just the outline of DK s recipes will do. If you added too much of paste your rice would have become soggy too. That you will learn over experience. Not from recipes. Not even from our mother s recipes can we learn such fine nuances which are taken care of only by experience and individual skills. And about your fenugreek over powering,5 tsp of coriander anf 15chillies can never be 'defeated' by 2tsp of fenugreek. All regular cooks will agree with me. Unless you over fried or slightly burnt them making them a bit bitter. Dk s recipes have made a champion of mediocre cooks like me. They will make you a super cook too,if you are already not one! Cheers!! :roll:

By Chaitra Yadavar on Feb 9, 2014

Hi. I liked the attention to detail in this recipe. Please mention the point- That add only one tablespoon or two tablespoons of the tamarind paste in the rice. This one crucial point is not mentioned properly. Therefore my tamarind rice became very sour. The only intention of commenting here is so that others don't get confused about this. Otherwise it was nice. Also in the powder which was made, even though the amount of fenugreek seeds were less, it overpowers the taste of coriander and chilli powder. Any solution for this?

By Gayatri Johnston on Dec 3, 2013

Must make this.... I remember my mother cooking this many years ago

By nirmala on Aug 1, 2013

My son just.... loves puliyodharai :-P.So planing to do day after tommorrow.

By radhika on Apr 20, 2013

i really love this recepie

By Lakshmi on Mar 27, 2013

I've never tried this recipe from scratch although my mother does so. As another poster had mentioned, I've always used the readymade paste. Today, I was suddenly inspired to cook something traditional and went searching on the net. Glad I found this website. Thanks for sharing it so precisely with pictures to boot. Your sense of humor adds the extra spice to the post:).

By pinky on Mar 1, 2013

:-P :-P :-P :-P :-P :-P thanks for sharing this recipe i prepared it today and it came so welll.....

By bharathi priya on Sep 27, 2012

:wink: i just love love love puliyodharai.and if it is iyengar's no words to say.this recipe is truly awsome. i'm gonna try this today :-P

By Meera on Aug 16, 2012

hahaaa DK when I read what you had written about the conversation, I am chuckling to death ..the same keeps happening with my amma n me most she has supposedly bought a South indian recipe book for me (in english of course) and bringing it for me.. thanks for ur wonderful southie recipes...mouthwatering and reminds me of my amma all the while

By no counterspace » Blog Archive » Hazelnut Tamarind Rice on Mar 12, 2012

[...] Now let me link you to a more detailed version of a Tamarind Rice recipe. [...]

By Aisha on Feb 25, 2012

Do you have to use sesame oil?

By An Indian Dish for Every Occasion | Indian Cooking Lessons on Feb 12, 2012

[...] Celebrations: Besan Ke Ladoo, Kajoo Burfi, Karanji, Modak, Moongdal ka Halwa, Motichoor ke Ladoo, Puliyodarai, and Puran [...]

By KEERTHY on Jan 13, 2012

:-D it was superb my dad mom every one was shocked that i cooked, the expries was very good it is rocking i love it

By Viji on Sep 12, 2011

Planning to try this in the next week or so. Quick Q though - what about Ellu? Thought typically Iyengar Puliyodharai had Ellu? Can you clarify when you get a chance please?

By Ranjani on May 24, 2011

Thanks for the wonderful recipe. However my puliyodharai got little sour. What should I do to correct it? I added more water and then boiled again but it remains the same. Please advise

By Thakkudu on Jun 7, 2010

nice post!!! :-P

By bharathi on Jan 12, 2010

wow!just love puliyodharai but alwys thought it was a biiiig process .wonderful post wit lovely pics looks easy!gotta try it.thanks. :-P

By Priya on Jan 11, 2010

I can have this delicious tamarind rice anytime...thanks for sending to CWS..Enjoyed the conservation part..

By Johanna on Jan 9, 2010

sounds fascinating but a bit complicated - I have a tub of tamarind in the fridge so maybe could use it for this

By Indhu on Jan 9, 2010

Whenever I speak to my mother about a recipe, I have the same problem. Her favorite phrase is "kannalavu paathu kai podanum".. and I am like "????" I love puliyodharai...looks delicious!

By Jagruti on Jan 9, 2010

I have heard many times about this rice, never eaten..Please correct me if i am wrong can u keep this rice about2-3 days? because tamarind in it... Please visit my blog if you can, i've started this week. Thanks

Yes its true - if you have not touched the rice with your hands/fingers, then u can store it in the fridge for 2-3 days :) --DK

By Jayashree on Jan 9, 2010

I tried making this from scratch once and since then, have pretty much stuck to MTR. Like your step by step pics.

By prathibha on Jan 8, 2010

We love this at home...Done for almost every festival...

By Jyothivalaboju on Jan 8, 2010

Wonderful post. Even i feel it difficult to give measurements for any recipe. I just use my hands to add spices and all ingredients. When i am writing in my blog i have to think how much my hand would weigh for tht particular item added in the recipe...I feel it more easy to prepare a dish instead of telling the process or writing... :wink:

By sathya sankar on Jan 8, 2010

Wonderful puliyodharai, loved the conversation part! :wink:

By Sharmilee on Jan 8, 2010

Hmm nice step by step pics!

By shyam on Jan 8, 2010

I love love LOVE puliyodharai. After photos like that, I HAVE TO make it too... the sudden craving for spicy puliyodharai is overwhelming! :) Beautiful photos as usual, Dhivya.

By mridhu on Jan 8, 2010

I love this recipe!!!!reminds me of home :( and my mom. My mom does the same thing!! handful of this,1 karandi of that(which karandi??!??),lil bit of that. I will make her repeat the whole thing again with proper measurements!. I guess its a mom thing!