Onam 2022: Ulli Theeyal is Vegan’s Solution on Onam

Theeyal is a South Indian dish originating from the Indian state of Kerala. It has a soupy consistency and is made from a mixture of spices comprising roasted coconut, coriander, seeds, dried red chili, and fenugreek. All spices are ground to a paste and cooked in tamarind water with vegetables. When completed it looks like a rich medium brown gravy and is normally served with rice.

Theeyal, which means ‘burnt dish’, is a typical Kerala dish featuring roasted coconut and is usually dark brown in colour. It gets its colour from the toasting of grated coconut and also from tamarind. In some parts of Kerala, Theeyal is included in a traditional sadya menu. The most popular Theeyal is prawns. Vegetables used for Theeyal include pearl onion or shallot, bitter melon, potato, eggplant, okra, cucumber, and raw mango. 

Kerala cuisine offers a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry, and red meat with rice as a typical accompaniment. Kerala - the ‘Land of Spices’ traded spices with Europe as well as with many ancient civilizations with the oldest historical records of the Sumerians from 3000 BCE.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Servings: 3


  • 1 cup  baby onions (or shallots)
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • A pinch asafoetida
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 7 red chilies
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • 7 to 8 black peppercorns
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • Salt to taste


  • In a pan, add 1 tbsp of oil
  • Add grated coconut and saute till it turns golden brown
  • Add 5 red chilies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns
  • Fry this mixture till it emits an aroma, then add turmeric 
  • Stir fry for 3-5 seconds, set aside to cool
  • Once cool, grind it into a coarse powder
  • In a pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds and let them sputter
  • Add curry leaves, red chilies, asafetida, onions
  • Saute for five mins on medium flame, and add the prepared powder 
  • Cook this mixture for 2-3 minutes, add water and mix well
  • Once done, add and tamarind powder, salt, and sugar and mix well
  • Bring this mixture e to a boil, simmer for a few minutes
  • Turn off the heat

The many benefits of shallots make them an attractive addition to your diet. Shallots are related to onions and garlic and are packed with vitamins A, B6, C, and minerals like potassium and manganese. In addition, shallots contain powerful antioxidants, which help improve diabetes and heart health. They also contain antiviral properties that help prevent infection.