Chana Dal Payasam: Sweetness And Happiness In Every Spoonful

An extremely popular South Indian dessert recipe made with chana dal, jaggery and coconut milk. The recipe is known for its creamy and subtle sweet taste due to the combination of coconut milk and jaggery. It is ideally made as part of the celebration feast or festival lunch and dinner and served just before finishing the meal. Payasam is the South Indian version of kheer made with coconut milk as the main ingredient.

Paysam or kheer are traditional South Indian desserts but It is extensively prepared in all other states too and is often served as part of a celebration of festival. It may be cooked with several kinds of lentils, but the chana dal payasam recipe is the most prevalent in southern states due to its delicious and rich flavour.

A Story Of Sweetness 

Payasam is said to have originated initially in South India thousands of years ago. Due to an ancient legend, it is served at temples as part of a treasured tradition. The story originates from the Ambalappuzha temple and describes how Lord Krishan cleverly disguised himself as an old sage and challenged a local king to a chess match. The king accepted the offer and for the bet, the king would owe a grain of rice for each square of the chessboard, but with one Twist—each subsequent square would have double the grains of the previous. The sage wins and the king realises his mistake as he owes trillions of grains of rice. Krishna reveals himself and instead of forcing payment he institutes a tradition that at the local temple, kheer shall be served freely to anyone who enters.

Ingredients :

  • ½ cup chana dal (husked and split bengal gram)
  • ½ cup thin coconut milk
  • ¾ cup jaggery powder 
  • 1 cup thick coconut milk 
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
  • 12 to 15 cashews
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom powder or seeds of 4 to 5 green cardamoms, crushed in a mortar pestle

Instructions :

Cooking Chana Dal

  • Rinse ½ cup chana dal a couple of times in water and then soak chana dal for 2 to 3 hours
  • Then drain all the water from the soaked chana dal
  • Take the chana dal in a pan or vessel which will fit inside the pressure cooker
  • Add 1.5 cups water in the pressure cooker, then place this pan or vessel in the pressure cooker
  • Pressure cook the soaked chana dal for 4 to 5 whistles or for 9 to 10 minutes on medium flame
  • When the pressure settle down on its own, remove the lid of pressure cooker and check the chana dal, the lentils should be cooked well (the chana dal should not be too pasty or lumpy)

Making Chana Dal Payasam

  • Pour the entire contents of the small vessel (cooked chana dal) in another pan or kadai
  • Mash the chana dal with a spoon
  • Add ½ cup thin coconut milk
  • Next add ¾ cup jaggery powder, for a less sweet taste, you can add ½ cup grated jaggery or jaggery powder, stir well
  • Keep the pan or kadai on stove top on a low flame and begin to heat this mixture
  • Mix well and stir so that the jaggery dissolves
  • Once all the jaggery dissolves, then add 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • Mix very well and gently heat for a minute or two, then switch off the flame and place aside, do not over heat or boil as the coconut milk might curdle

Tempering For Chana Dal Payasam

  • In a small pan heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil and fry 12 to 15 cashews till golden brown
  • Add 1 tablespoon raisins and ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • Fry the raisins till they plump and swell.
  • Now pour the entire content of the pan in the chana dal payasam
  • Mix very well and serve chana dal payasam

Leftover payasam can be refrigerated once it comes to room temperature and can be enjoyed chilled.