6 Coconut-Based Dishes Popular In South India
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In the southern part of India, coconuts hold a very special place and are utilised in various ways, plenty of which are used for cooking. The humble yet versatile fruit is almost stable in south Indian flavours, from grated coconut to coconut milk, and makes the star ingredients of several dishes. Whether you are from Kerala, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu, the dishes are influenced by coconut, especially in curries. 

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The process of integrating coconut into Southern Indian curries is a meticulous art form that has been perfected over generations. Freshly grated coconut is a common starting point, its sweet aroma and creamy texture forming the foundation of many curry bases. The preparation often begins with extracting thick coconut milk from the grated flesh, which imparts a rich, luscious consistency to the curry.

Here are some coconut-based dishes from South Indian cuisines that you should know about.

Meen Kuzhambu

This flavourful dish features tender fish simmered in a tangy gravy of coconut milk, tamarind, and a blend of spices like fenugreek, coriander, and turmeric. Its vibrant reddish-brown hue comes from the addition of fiery red chillies and aromatic curry leaves. Meen Kuzhambu's taste is a harmonious balance of spicy, tangy, and creamy notes, making it a beloved dish in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Vegetable Kootu

Vegetable Kootu, a beloved coconut curry from Kerala, blends a variety of vegetables like pumpkin, carrots, and beans with lentils. Its creamy texture comes from grated coconut and ground spices like cumin and black pepper. The dish offers a balance of mild sweetness from coconut and a hint of tanginess from tamarind. Tempered mustard seeds, curry leaves, and asafoetida enhance its aromatic profile. Served with steamed rice or chapati, Vegetable Kootu delivers a comforting, nutritious meal rich in South Indian flavours.

Chemeen Curry

Chemeen Curry, a beloved coconut-based dish from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, features succulent prawns cooked in a rich, aromatic gravy. It combines fresh coconut milk, curry leaves, and a blend of spices like turmeric, coriander, and red chilli powder for a vibrant flavour profile. The dish often includes tomatoes, onions, and garlic, adding depth to its tangy and slightly sweet taste. Served hot with steamed rice or appam, this curry exemplifies the coastal flavours of Kerala and Karnataka.


Avial, a signature coconut curry from Kerala, harmonizes an array of fresh vegetables like carrots, beans, and drumsticks, simmered in a creamy coconut yoghurt base. Its vibrant flavour stems from a blend of curry leaves, cumin, and turmeric, highlighting the region's culinary diversity. The dish's creamy texture and mild spiciness, coupled with a hint of tanginess from yoghurt, create a satisfying balance. Originating in Kerala but beloved across South India, Avial showcases the region's rich agricultural bounty and is enjoyed both as a main course and a side dish.


Erissery, a coconut curry from Southern India, blends hearty vegetables like pumpkin or beans with a rich coconut base. This traditional dish boasts a creamy texture enriched by coconut milk and a hint of spice from mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chillies. The sweetness of the vegetables contrasts beautifully with the earthy undertones of turmeric and cumin. Erissery is a staple in Kerala's Onam Sadhya, where its vibrant colours and aromatic flavours showcase the region's culinary diversity. 

Gongura Chicken Curry

Infused with the tangy punch of gongura leaves or sorrel leaves, this curry features tender chicken simmered in a coconut-based gravy. Originating from, Tamil Nadu, it blends spices like coriander, cumin, and red chilli powder lending it a robust flavour profile with a hint of sourness from the gongura. Garnished with fresh cilantro, it pairs perfectly with steamed rice or fluffy rotis, offering a satisfying balance of heat, tanginess, and creaminess.