Olan is a dish that is part of the Kerala cuisine of the state of Kerala in South India. It is a light and subtle-flavored dish prepared from white gourd or ash-gourd, black-eyed peas, coconut milk, and ginger seasoned with coconut oil. It is usually served as part of a Sadhya. The Nambudiri variety of Olan is slightly different.

Benincasa hispida, the wax gourd, also called ash gourd, white gourd, winter gourd, tallow gourd, ash pumpkin, winter melon, Chinese preserving melon, and Puhul, is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable when mature. In addition to vitamin C, ash gourd is a good source of flavonoids and carotenes, two antioxidants believed to help protect your body against cell damage and certain conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.


The cowpea is an annual herbaceous legume. A high level of morphological diversity is found within the species with large variations in the size, shape, and structure of the plant. Cowpea seeds provide a rich source of proteins and calories, as well as minerals and vitamins. This complements the main cereal diet in countries that grow cowpeas as a major food crop.  

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4


  • ½ cup red cowpeas
  • 2 cups ash gourd (cubed)
  • 4 green chilis (slit)
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk
  • ¼ cup thick coconut milk
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil


Preparing Cowpea:

  • In a bowl, soak cowpeas in clean water for at least 8 hours (overnight)
  • The next day, drain water and wash cowpeas
  • Add ½ salt
  • Transfer to a cooker and add a cup of water
  • Pressure cook over 1 whistle 
  • Once done, release pressure and set aside

Preparing Vegetables:

  • Peel the skin of the ash gourd (white pumpkin)
  • Cut into medium-sized cubes
  • Transfer to a bowl and add water

Preparing Olan: 

  • In a pan add Karamani (prepared cowpeas)
  • Add ash gourd cubes
  • Add thin coconut milk
  • Mix once then cover with a lid and cook on medium flame (allow the vegetable to cook in the coconut milk)
  • Open the lid and stir at regular intervals to avoid drying
  • Add water to this mixture as required
  • Once the vegetable has cooked through add the split green chilis
  • Add the sprig of curry leaves 
  • Mix well
  • Add salt and stir again
  • Let this mixture cook for 2-3 mins
  • Add thick coconut milk, and stir this mixture on low flame for 2 minutes
  • Do not bring the mixture to a boil
  • Once done, turn off the flame 
  • Add coconut oil and a few curry leaves 

A typical Sadya can have about 24–28 dishes served as a single course. In cases where it is a much larger one, it can have over 64 or more items, such as the Sadya for Aranmula Boat race (Valla Sadya). During a traditional Sadya celebration, people are seated cross-legged on mats. Food is eaten with the right hand, without cutlery. The fingers are cupped to form a ladle.