8 Must-Have South Indian Dishes For Your Pongal Celebrations

Dedicated to the sun god, Pongal in South India marks the celebration of an abundant harvest that will bring prosperity to farmers and their families. The three-day-long festival is known as Sankranthi (Sankranti) in Karnataka, Pedda Panduga or Sankranthi in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Pongal in Tamil Nadu, and Pongala or Makara Sankranthi in Kerala. Tamilians celebrate it for four days, and each day has a name – Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal. Much like any festival, the celebration of Pongal is also incomplete without food. 

The culinary extravaganza associated with Pongal is what excites young, adults, and elders to participate in the vibrant rituals across South India. As households come lively in the morning, the entire house gets filled with the fragrance of spices and sweet flavours of Pongal dishes. 

This year, hop on the gastronomical journey to explore various dishes associated with the harvest festival celebrated in South India. From traditions to textures, walk through the culinary delights without which the festival seems incomplete. 


YouTube Credit: Vismai Food

Payasam is a sweet rice pudding that is prepared with the fresh harvest of the season. It is one of the most crucial dishes offered to the gods as prasad or prasadam. Made with jaggery, rice, coconut, and ghee (clarified butter), the sweet delicacy is usually prepared in an earthen pot that combines all five essential elements of existence – fire, water, land, sky, and air. 

Puliyodharai (Tamarind Rice)

Puliyodharai is a sacred offering made to the gods in the temples of South India. Its tangy and spicy flavour makes this delicacy a must-try if you are travelling across the southern region of the country. There are two approaches to bringing this dish to life: you can prepare the rice and mix the cooked grains with pulikachal (tamarind sauce) or cook the rice in pulikachal so that the grains absorb all the flavours. 

Khara Or Ven Pongal

Ven or Khara Pongal is a South Indian dish prepared with rice and moong dal to elevate the nutrition quotient. It is a savoury version of Sakkarai Pongal. Ven refers to the white, while Pongal means abundance. The grains are tempered with spices like cumin seeds, asafoetida, black pepper, ghee, curry leaves, ginger, etc. It is usually made on the fourth day of the celebrations. 

Bisi Bele Bath

Bisi Bele Bath is a spicy dish originating from southern Karnataka. It is prepared for Pongal and other auspicious events. The best part of the dish is it will instantly resonate with your comfort food. Chickpeas, toor dal, rice, peas and urad dal are cooked in ghee and with spices, like asafoetida, red chillies, cloves, and curry leaves. You can garnish the dish with freshly chopped coriander leaves and cashews. 

Sakkarai Pongal

Made with rice and moong dal, Sakkarai Pongal is a popular sweet dish in many states of South India, predominantly Tamil Nadu. It is offered to the sun god as a part of a thanksgiving ritual in which devotees show their gratitude for the harvest they have received. The grains are cooked in ghee, coconut, jaggery, and milk. It is later garnished with cashews and raisins. 


Avial is a one-pot recipe in which you cook the fresh harvest or vegetables of your choice in yoghurt and coconut-based gravy. The medley of flavours makes this dish wholesome and a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. As Pongal is around the corner, invite your friends, family, and loved ones for a larger-than-life meal and show gratitude to god for what you have been blessed with.