Vegan Friendly Traditional Dishes From Kerala

Kerala, located in the southern region of India, is renowned for its vibrant culture, scenic landscapes, and culinary richness. The region's cuisine is a reflection of its diverse history and cultural heritage, featuring a myriad of flavours, textures, and spices. While seafood and meat play a significant role in Kerala's culinary traditions, the region also boasts an abundance of plant-based dishes that cater to diverse palates.

Kerala's vegetarian cuisine is not only delicious and healthy but also mostly vegan, as it primarily features fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes infused with aromatic spices and coconut-based curries. Moreover, Kerala's cuisine is heavily influenced by Ayurveda, a traditional and holistic medicinal system that emphasizes the importance of balancing one's diet and lifestyle for optimal health and well-being. The traditional Kerala meal is called a sadya, which is vegetarian and mostly vegan. It is served during festivals like Onam, Vishu, and other celebratory occasions. This meal provides diverse and delicious plant-based options while representing the rich cultural heritage of the region.

From traditional staples like rice and coconut to a wide array of curries, stir-fries, snacks, and desserts, Kerala's vegan preparations offer a perfect blend of flavours, textures, and nutrition. Some of the vegan dishes include: 


Avial, a cherished vegan dish from Kerala, is steeped in history and cultural significance. Legend has it that Avial was created by Bhima, a prominent character in the Indian epic, the Mahabharata. This traditional dish is a medley of vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, beans, raw banana, and ash gourd, cooked with grated coconut and tempered with curry leaves and coconut oil.

Packed with an assortment of nutrient-rich vegetables, it provides essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, promoting overall well-being and digestion. The inclusion of grated coconut adds both texture and nutritional value with its medium-chain fatty acids and beneficial compounds like lauric acid, known for its antimicrobial properties. Seasoned with curry leaves and coconut oil, avial is best served with steamed rice and brings additional health benefits, such as antioxidants, improved metabolism, and support for heart health, while being a wholesome meal.


Thoran, a delectable vegan dish originating from Kerala, holds a special place in the region's culinary traditions. Typically prepared as a dry vegetable stir-fry, thoran showcases the harmonious blend of grated coconut, turmeric, mustard seeds, and curry leaves combined with a variety of vegetables.

The roots of thoran can be traced back to the agricultural heritage of Kerala, where locally grown produce like fresh vegetables, fruits, and spices were abundantly available. The dish gained popularity due to its simplicity, vibrant colours, and ability to showcase the natural flavours of the vegetables.

Thoran offers several health benefits. The inclusion of an assortment of vegetables ensures a diverse range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to overall well-being. The grated coconut in thoran not only enhances the taste but also adds healthy fats, dietary fibre, and essential nutrients like manganese and copper. Moreover, the combination of spices used, such as turmeric and mustard seeds, provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These spices not only enhance the flavour profile of the dish but also support digestion and immune function.

It serves as a nutritious and satisfying accompaniment to rice or flatbreads, making it a popular choice among vegans, whether it's a comforting home-cooked meal or a part of a festive feast exemplifying the vegan-friendly side of Kerala cuisine.

3. Puttu and Kadala

Puttu and kadala curry are a classic vegan-friendly combination that represents the essence of Kerala cuisine. Puttu, a steamed rice cake, is made by layering rice flour and grated coconut, which are steamed to create a unique cylindrical cake. And kadala curry features tender black chickpeas simmered in a fragrant blend of spices, coconut milk, and onions. The combination offers a perfect balance of textures, flavours, and nutrients.

The protein-rich chickpeas in kadala curry, along with the carbohydrates from the puttu, create a well-rounded dish, making the duo a wholesome and satisfying meal. Additionally, the inclusion of coconut in both dishes adds a delightful taste and brings health benefits, including healthy fats and essential nutrients. Puttu and Kadala Curry are commonly enjoyed as breakfast or brunch options in Kerala. Apart from being served with puttu, the curry makes a great accompaniment for other breads like patthiri, idiyappam, and more.

4. Idiyappam And Coconut Milk

Idiyappam, also known as Noolappam or String Hoppers, is a beloved vegan dish originating from Kerala. Made from rice flour, water, and salt, the name "Idiyappam" is derived from the Malayalam words "idi," meaning "pressed," and "appam," meaning "pancake," reflecting the traditional preparation method.

To make idiyappam, a smooth dough is formed by mixing rice flour with hot water and salt. This dough is then pressed or melded into thin strands using a brass mould, which are later steamed until they become soft and tender. The result is a plate of exquisite white, noodle-like Idiyappam, which is served with fresh coconut milk. Sometimes, a pinch of cardamom and jaggery are mixed with the milk, which makes for a hearty breakfast or a mid-day snack.

Idiyappam is also commonly served with accompaniments such as coconut chutney, kadala curry, or spicy gravies. This flexibility allows for a range of flavours and combinations, appealing to both vegans and non-vegans. Being primarily composed of rice flour, it is a good source of carbohydrates, providing energy. Furthermore, Idiyappam is gluten-free, making it suitable for individuals with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.

Whether enjoyed as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner option, idiyappam represents the vegan-friendly side of Kerala cuisine with its delicate texture, versatility, and ability to complement diverse flavours.


Unniyappam, a traditional vegan snack from Kerala, holds a special place in the hearts of its people. Made from a batter consisting of ripe bananas, rice flour, jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), and cardamom, Unniyappam is a delightful treat with a unique taste and texture.

The preparation of Unniyappam involves mashing ripe bananas and combining them with rice flour, jaggery syrup, and aromatic cardamom. This mixture is then fried in a special pan with small, round cavities, giving Unniyappam its characteristic shape. The result is a golden-brown, crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside snack.

Unniyappam not only satisfies sweet cravings but also offers nutritional benefits. Ripe bananas provide natural sweetness and essential nutrients like potassium and dietary fibre. Jaggery, a healthier alternative to refined sugar, contains iron and other minerals. Additionally, the use of rice flour contributes to a gluten-free snack.

Unniyappam is often enjoyed during festivals, family gatherings, or as an everyday snack. This vegan-friendly delicacy exemplifies the culinary diversity and rich heritage of Kerala, leaving a lasting impression with every bite.

Ela Ada

Ela Ada is a steamed rice pancake filled with a mixture of jaggery and coconut and wrapped in a fragrant banana leaf before steaming to cook. This traditional sweet treat is loved for its unique combination of flavours and textures.

To prepare Ela Ada, a dough is made by combining rice flour and spreading it onto a banana leaf. It is then filled with a sweet coconut-jaggery mixture and folded into a neat parcel, which is then steamed until the rice pancake is cooked and the flavours meld together.

The use of rice flour provides a gluten-free option, while coconut and jaggery add natural sweetness and essential nutrients. Coconut contains healthy fats and minerals, while jaggery offers iron and other trace elements. Ela Ada is often enjoyed during festivals like Vishu or Onam, religious occasions, or as a special treat. The distinct aroma of the banana leaf, the tender rice pancake, and the sweet coconut-jaggery filling, whether served as a snack or dessert, create a delightful culinary experience.


Olan, a traditional vegan dish from Kerala, is a mild and flavourful preparation that combines ash gourd, cowpeas, coconut milk, and spices. To make olan, tender ash gourd and cowpeas are cooked in a coconut milk-based broth. The dish is then seasoned with coconut oil, curry leaves, cumin seeds, and green chilies, resulting in a creamy and aromatic stew.

Apart from its delicious taste, olan offers nutritional benefits. While ash gourd is low in calories and packed with fibre, vitamins, and minerals, cowpeas add plant-based protein and dietary fibre, contributing to a well-rounded meal. Olan is often enjoyed as a side dish with steamed rice during festive occasions and family gatherings. Its simplicity and use of locally available ingredients highlight the vegan-friendly nature of Kerala cuisine.