13 Recipes from Kerala You Won’t Believe You’ve Been Missing All Your Life

There's a reason Kerala is called God's own country. One look at how beautiful it is, and one taste of their food, and no one will ever question it. Malayali food is a glorious combination of all the different cultures that live there, along with using the fresh produce the region is famous for. While Keralite Hindus give us the rich repository of vegetarian food, Muslims ensured that their influence is felt in the breads and biryanis, and the Christians' impact is evident in the liberal use of fish and meat in the food. What ties all these different influences together, is the way the food is cooked. Served mostly with rice, a staple of the region, the food is mostly cooked in coconut oil, and flavoured with a variety of ingredients, from spices like nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, to raw mangoes, tamarind, and coconut milk.

There's no end to the amazing food of Kerala, but we've compiled some of the best dishes from this region for your culinary delight.

Malabari Biryani

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1kg jeerakasala rice or basmati rice

1kg chicken, cut into medium-sized pieces

10 green chillies

2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste

A handful of coriander leaves

A few sprigs of mint leaves

1/2 cup curd

150gms tomatoes, sliced

1kg onions, sliced

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds

2 medium-sized cinnamon pieces

2 bay leaves

50gms cashew nuts and raisins

5 cardamoms

14 tablespoons ghee

2 tablespoons coriander powder

500ml milk

A pinch of saffron, mixed with 1/3 cup milk

1 litre water


Biryani Masala Paste:

Take 50gms each of green chillies, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seeds, cardamom, and peppercorns. Blend together, and use 4 tablespoons for the recipe.


Soak the rice in the water for 10 minutes, drain well, and set aside.

In a saucepan, add 4-5 tablespoons of ghee. Once it's warm, add half the chopped onions and saute till they're golden-brown. Add tomatoes and saute as well. Add the ginger-garlic paste, curd, biryani masala, turmeric, and coriander powder. Add the chicken and simmer till the chicken is semi-cooked. Set aside.

In a separate deep-bottomed saucepan, add 4-5 tablespoons of ghee, add the rest of the spices, onions, coriander leaves, cashew nuts, raisins, bay leaves, and saute till they're brown. Add the milk and the water. Once it comes to a boil, add the rice. Turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.

In a saucepan, spoon half the cooked rice into it. Then add a layer of all the cooked chicken on the rice. Top off with the remaining rice, and spread to make sure there's an even layer. Spoon the saffron milk over the rice. Add a few knobs of ghee over this, cover tightly, and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.

Serve hot, with fried onions, and the fried cashew nuts and raisins sprinkled on the top.

Karimeen Pollichathu

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1 pearl spot fish

2 red chillies

1/4 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon green chillies, chopped

1/2 tablespoon ginger, chopped

1/2 tablespoon garlic, chopped

3-4 curry leaves, chopped

3-4 spring onions, chopped

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 large banana leaf

1 thin soaked banana tree stem

1 tablespoon coconut oil


In a bowl, add red chillies, turmeric powder, green chillies, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, spring onions, salt, and lemon juice. Grind to a coarse paste.

Apply a thick layer of the paste on the inside and outside of the fish. Then wrap it up in the banana leaf, and tie it with the banana tree stem. If you do not have the stem, you can use strong string.

Heat the oil in a skillet, and place the wrapped fish in it. Cook for 5-6 minutes on each side.

Serve hot, with rice.

Meen Moilee

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1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons urad dal

1 teaspoon curry leaves

2 tablespoons ginger, julienned

1 tablespoon green chillies, julienned

2 medium onions, sliced

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 tomatoes, blanched and chopped

6 pieces pomfret fillet, without skin

2 tablespoons coriander, chopped

1 pinch sugar

Salt to taste


In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds, urad dal, and fry till the dal is golden-brown. Add curry leaves, ginger, green chillies, onions, and saute till they turn golden. Add the coconut milk, turmeric powder, and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fish fillets, salt, sugar, and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander, and simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Serve hot with rice.

Note: The fish can also be substituted with prawns.

Ulli Theeyal

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25-30 small onions, sliced

1 cup grated coconut

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

3-4 fenugreek seeds

A small piece of tamarind

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

Salt to taste

A few curry leaves

Coconut oil


In a frying pan, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil and fry the coconut, stirring continuously, till it turns a dark brown. Remove from the heat, and add all the spices. Return to the fire and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and let it cool. Once cool, grind to a smooth paste.

Soak the tamarind in 1/4 cup warm water, and set aside.

In a frying pan, add 3-4 tablespoons of oil, add the onions, curry leaves, and cook till the onion browns. Add the coconut paste, tamarind, and salt. Add 1/2 cup hot water, and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat, and cook for 4-5 minutes.

In a separate pan, add 1 tablespoon oil. Once hot, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. Once they splutter, add to the theeyal.

Serve hot, with rice.

Erachi Ularthiyathu

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1/2kg mutton/pork/beef

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

3 tablespoons thin coconut slices

1/4 cup ginger and garlic, julienned

10-12 small onions, sliced lengthwise

2-3 green chillies, slit lengthwise

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

A handful of curry leaves



1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste

1 tablespoon vinegar

2 tablespoons small onions, minced finely

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

3/4 teaspoon garam masala powder

1 tablespoon fennel seeds, dry roasted and pounded coarsely

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon pepper powder

A few curry leaves

Salt to taste


Wash and drain meat well. Marinate it for at least 1 hour. Pressure cook the meat, with 1/4 cup water, for at least 4-5 whistles.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Once hot, add mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add coconut slices. Add the ginger, garlic, onions, green chillies, and curry leaves. Saute till the coconut, ginger, and garlic are toasted, and the onions are golden. Add the meat, and the water from the pressure cooker.

Cook on a medium flame for 3-5 minutes, till the water reduces. Add a little more water. Add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder. Make sure you keep turning the meat to ensure even cooking. Once the meat is cooked, and has turned dark brown, take it off the heat.

Serve hot with porotta.

Kozhi Porichathu

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4 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

4-5 spring onions, minced

1 tablespoon meat masala

1 and 1/2 tablespoons red chilli powder

1/2 tablespoon coriander powder

1/2 tablespoon black pepper powder

1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon rice powder

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

A few curry leaves

Coconut oil, for deep frying

For Meat Masala:

1 medium-sized piece of cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

5 cardamoms

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds


Make a few slits in all the chicken pieces, and set aside.

In a bowl, add all the spices, the ginger-garlic paste, onions, rice powder, lemon juice, salt, and mix to make a thick paste. Place the chicken pieces and make sure you rub on the marinade well. Marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours in the fridge.

In a deep-bottomed pan, add enough for deep frying. Place the chicken pieces in the oil, and fry on medium heat. Sprinkle the curry leaves in the oil. Remove from the oil once cooked and crispy, and drain on paper towels.

Serve with crispy curry leaves on it, and with hot rice.

Chemmeen Pollichathu

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500gms prawns

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon fennel powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic paste

Salt to taste

3-4 tablespoons oil

A handful of curry leaves

2 cups onions, sliced

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

2 green chillies

1-inch piece of ginger

15 garlic cloves

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

1/4 teaspoon fennel powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon pepper powder

1 teaspoon vinegar

3 tablespoons coconut milk

Banana leaves


In a bowl, add salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, fennel powder, pepper powder, and garlic paste. Marinate the prawns in this mixture for at least 30 minutes.

In a blender, add ginger, garlic cloves, and green chillies, and grind.

In a frying pan, add oil, and add the marinated prawns to it. Cook the prawns on high heat, and then drain, and set aside. In the same pan, add the onions, and curry leaves. Saute till the onions are slightly brown, and then add the ginger-garlic-chilli mixture. Saute till the masala is cooked. Add the chilli powder, fennel powder, pepper powder, and turmeric powder, and fry it for a minute. Add the tomatoes, and fry till the oil separates. Add salt and coconut milk, and cook till the prawns have absorbed the coconut milk. Add the vinegar, mix well, and turn off the heat.

Clean the banana leaves, and hold it over a flame to slightly wilt it. Spread a little bit of oil on the leaf, and place some of the masala and the prawns in the centre of the leaf. Add some masala on the top, and fold the leaf. Tie it with string. Make more parcels using the same method. In a pan, add a little oil, and place all the parcels on it. Cover and cook for 5 minutes on low heat. Flip, and do the same.

Serve hot.

Cheera Thoran

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1 cup chopped spinach

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 tablespoon mustard seeds

2 tablespoons red chillies, chopped

7 to 8 curry leaves

2 tablespoons green chillies, chopped

1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons coconut, grated

Salt to taste


Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard, red chillies, and curry leaves. Once they splutter, add the green chillies, turmeric powder, garlic, and spinach. Once the spinach has wilted, add the coconut. Season, and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Garnish with grated coconut, and serve hot.

Chicken Stew with Appams

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Chicken stew:

1/2 kg chicken

4 tablespoons coconut oil

2 onions finely chopped

1 red chilli, chopped

2 green chillies, chopped

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 potatoes, diced

Coconut milk



1 lemon

Small bunch of coriander


1 cup soaked rice

3 tablespoons grated coconut

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cooked rice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar


In a deep-bottomed frying pan, add some coconut oil, and fry onions, red chillies, green chillies, ginger-garlic paste, till the onions are soft and golden. Add the chicken to this, and fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, and mix well. Add 1 cup of coconut milk, and season the chicken with salt, pepper, and add 2 cups water. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Now add 1/2 cup of coconut milk, coriander, lemon juice, and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

In a blender, add the cooked rice, the grated coconut, and the soaked rice. Blend till it's a smooth paste. Leave it overnight to ferment.

Add baking soda, salt, sugar, water, and blend to a smooth consistency.

In a small wok, pour 1 ladle of the appam batter, and swirl it so the mix spreads out evenly. Cover for 1-2 minutes. Cook till holes appear all over the appam, and the edges brown.


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1 cup pumpkin

1 cup yam

1 cup colocasia

1 cup raw plantain

1/2 cup ash gourd

1/2 cup chopped snake beans

1/2 cup chopped cluster beans

2 stalks of curry leaves

1 and 1/2 cup grated coconut

2 green chillies

1 teaspoon cumin

2-3 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2-3 dry red chillies

1 cup beaten curd

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

3 cups water

Salt to taste


In a blender, add the grated coconut, green chillies, and cumin, with a teaspoon of water, and make a coarse paste.

Chop all the vegetables, and cook them in a covered saucepan, with the curry leaves. Make sure you season the water as well. When the vegetables have been half-cooked, add turmeric, and stir to mix well. Cook for a minute, and add the coconut paste. Mix well, and simmer till the vegetables are cooked. Add the curd, simmer for 1-2 minutes, and take off the heat.

In a pan, heat some coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds and broken red chillies. Once they start to sizzle, step away. Once the sizzling is over, pour into avial, and cover for 5 minutes. Stir, and serve hot with rice and sambar.

Pazham Pori

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2 ripe bananas, sliced

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon rice flour

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt to taste

1 cup water


Make a batter with the whole wheat flour, rice flour, sugar, salt, and water.

Add oil in a wok, and let it get hot. Dip the sliced bananas in the batter, and place them into the wok. Fry till they're golden-brown.

Drain the excess oil, and serve hot.

Pineapple Sago Pudding

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500ml milk

1 cup condensed milk

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sago

1 medium-sized pineapple, peeled, and chopped

2 tablespoons sugar


Add the pineapple to a shallow pan. Add sugar, and cook for a few minutes, till the pineapple turns slightly mushy. Let it cool, and set aside.

Dry roast the sago in a pan for 2 minutes. Wash it, and set aside. Boil 2 and 1/2 cups of water in a deep saucepan, and add the washed sago to this. Stir to ensure there are no lumps. Cook for about 20-25 minutes till the sago turns soft and transparent. Drain the water from the sago, and run it under water, to get rid of all the starch.

In a saucepan, add the milk, condensed milk, and bring it to a boil. Turn the flame to low, and keep stirring to prevent the milk from caramelising at the bottom. Add the cooked sago after it boils, keep stirring for about 10-15 minutes till it thickens. Turn off the heat, and let it cool completely.

Once it cools, add the cooked pineapple, and mix well. Place it in the fridge for 3-4 hours, and serve chilled. 

Kadala Parippu Pradhaman

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1 and 1/2 cups chana dal (Bengal gram)

500-550 gms jaggery

4 cups thin coconut milk

3 cups medium thick coconut milk

1 and 1/2 cups thick coconut milk

1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut bits

3 crushed cardamoms

1/2 cup cashew nuts

3-5 tablespoons ghee


Wash the dal well. In a pressure cooker, add 2 tablespoons ghee, and add the dal. Roast it on a low flame for about 4-5 minutes, till you get a nutty aroma. Add 3 cups of water and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles, till cooked. Mash it well with a wooden spoon.

In a saucepan, add the jaggery and 1/2 cup water, and melt it over a low flame. Strain the jaggery, and add it to the mashed dal.

Add the melted jaggery and dal mixture to a large and deep-bottomed pan, and cook on a low flame. Cook till it thickens, and the jaggery looks nearly dried. Keep stirring at intervals, to ensure it doesn't stick. Add 2 tablespoons ghee, and mix well. Add the thin coconut milk to this gradually, and bring to a boil. Simmer on a low flame, till the mixture is reduced to half. Add the medium thick coconut milk, and stir well. Bring it a boil, and reduce the flame. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, till the mixture thickens. Add the thick coconut milk, stirring well. Cook on a low flame, and do not bring to a boil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Add the crushed cardamoms.

In a separate pan, heat the ghee, and brown the cashew nuts. Remove the cashews and drain on a paper towel. In the same pan, add some more ghee if required, and fry the coconut bits till they're golden-brown. Top the payasam with the cashews and coconut bits, and serve.

Which are your favourites? Tell us in the comments below.





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