Sweet Pongal (Sweetened Rice & Lentil Pudding)

This is a great favorite in the south of India, and every home has it's own unique approach, often leading to spirited discussions on the merits of every family's recipe for Sweet Pongal. It is hearty, full of goodies, moist and delicious. .

By Meera Vasudevan

Serves 6 


  • 1 cup raw rice (can be short or long grain), rinsed and drained dry
  • 1 cup yellow split lentils (mung dal), rinsed and drained dry
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups raw brown sugar (called 'jaggery' in Indian stores)
  • 1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tablespoon cashew nuts, broken in half
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron (optional - adds fragrance)


  • Add 1/2 teaspoon ghee to a deep pan, add the rice and lentils and roast lightly on low heat for 2 minutes.
  • Add the milk and water, cover and let it cook on low heat until the rice and lentils are fully cooked and soft.
  • Mash well with a spoon, add the powdered brown sugar and stir continuously until fully mixed in. Keep on low heat, stirring now and then, for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from stove.
  • In a small saucepan, add 1 tablespoon of the ghee. Lightly fry the cashews, raisins and cardamom powder in this until the nuts are light golden in color and the raisins begin to plump. Do this all on low heat, as otherwise the nuts tend to burn.
  • Add to the hot pongal mixture, stir in gently, add the remaining ghee and stir through. Add the saffron, if using, at this stage, while the pongal is still hot and stir though.


  1. If I would like to make a vegan version,do you think coconut milk and oil would work or would it change the taste profile too much?

  2. Hmmm. That's an inspired vegan alternative! Here is a slightly different suggestion.

    Traditionalists will tell you Pongal's top note comes from clarified butter. So instead of oil I might try it with vegetable oil spreads like Benecol. Its non-dairy and has a butter flavor. I think the milk can be easily substituted with coconut water or coconut milk. Personally, I think Coconut milk would change the flavor if not used in small amounts. I might go with a blend of coconut water and coconut milk. Am certainly going to try a vegan version. In the meantime, if you try it, let us know how it came out


  3. very useful really good information thanks for posting such a good information it will hepls the people a lot keep it up , Regards,
    chakkara pongal recipe