Homemade “Instant” Pongal

“Mom, what’s for ………………?”

How many of you dread this question? (Fill in the blank with breakfast/ lunch/ snack/ dinner.)

It’s not so much the cooking that bothers me; rather, it’s the planning, pulling out everything needed, cooking, cleaning up, and putting the stuff away, only to do it all over again in a few hours. It’s nice to have a couple things handy to just pull out of the pantry or refrigerator, and do the final touches. No dealing with chopping boards, peeling onions, spice containers, or dirty dishes (well, atleast, not as many).

I make instant upma mix at home for breakfast several times a month. All it requires at meal time is a HOT cup of water. Just stir water and mix, allow it to sit covered for few minutes, and your hot meal is ready. I wanted to try some more recipes like this and played around with a few ideas. Pongal / kichidi was something that seemed possible. After two attempts, I finally arrived at the recipe below. While not as simple as the instant upma, this pongal mix is ready to be cooked. Just add water, mix and salt to a pressure cooker, and your meal is ready in a few minutes. Give it a try.

Quick, easy and satisfying. For a healthy meal, serve with a side of coconut chutney  and a vegetable.

NOTE: For a lower carb version, check out the recipe for Savory Quinoa Pongal.

Homemade “Instant” Pongal

(Entire recipe serves atleast 10-12 people)

  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup split yellow mung dal
  • 4 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into large pieces)
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 red chillies (snap in half)
  • 1/2 cup cashew pieces
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (stripped, washed, and dried)
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper corn
  • 3 Tbsp cumin/jeera seeds
  • 3/4 cup grated coconut, optional

1) Roast dal on a medium-high flame for a few minutes, stirring often. Make sure it does not brown. Cool.

2) In a large pan, heat ghee on medium flame, making sure it does not smoke.

3) Add the cinnamon and cloves and fry for a few seconds.

4) Add the red chillies and curry leaves; partially cover lid so it does not splatter out of the pan.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden.

6) Add the pepper and jeera and fry for a few seconds.

7) Add the rice & dal and mix well. Turn off heat and cool completely. Store in an airtight container or in the fridge for a few weeks.


1) Add 1 cup of the pongal mix, 3 cups water & 1 tsp salt to a pressure cooker pan, and stir well.

2) Cook on a medium flame for 2-3 whistles and turn off stove.

3) Allow the pressure to release and remove pongal; stir again and serve hot with ghee and coconut chutney.

4) Serves 3-4

NOTE: Many variations of pongal exist, and the ingredients in this recipe can be adapted to suit your taste. You may also reduce the amount of water in the final round of cooking to 2 1/2 cups. Just remember that the pongal will absorb water as it cools, making it thicker.

To make a vegan version, skip the ghee and use a few spoons of oil.

“Instant” Plain Pongal (Milder version)

This version is good for kids or for those who like milder food.

  • 2 cup rice
  • 1 cup yellow split moong dal
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp ghee or oil (ghee preferred)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 sprig curry leaves

1) On medium flame, dry roast the moong dal for a few minutes, stirring constantly, about 2-3 minutes. Do not brown. Turn off stove, stir in rice and set aside.

2)In a saute pan, heat the ghee / oil.

3) Add pepper & cumin seeds and allow to pop.

4) Add the curry leaves and cover partially with a lid. The moisture in the leaves will make them crackle and pop, and it might splatter out.

5) Add cashews and roast till light golden in color.

6) Turn off stove and add the rice & dal mixture. Stir well and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator.

To Prepare Pongal:

1 cup rice & dal mix
2 1/2 – 3 cups water
1 tsp salt
Add all ingredients to a pressure cooker and cook on medium for 2-3 whistles. Allow to cool few minutes and remove. Serve with coconut chutney.

Savory Quinoa Pongal

Savory Quinoa Pongal

Comfort food!! – traditional pongal made with rice. I had tasted this ‘lighter’ version at a friend’s house, and liked how the quinoa didn’t bring on carb-coma. Simple & quick, typically a breakfast dish, it was a hit at dinner last night (and husband ate the last bit for breakfast this morning). It tastes delicious with a simple coconut chutney. I remember seeing a recipe for the rice version online, and the author called it “rice and lentil risotto’ 🙂).

I hate to start cooking first thing in the morning, and try to keep things atleast half-prepared / prepped, so I can enjoy my morning tea without rushing to get breakfast on the table. Besides pancakes, muffins, etc., I keep a batch of homemade “Instant Upma” and “Instant Pongal” handy. Check out these recipes and see how easy they are to make.

Savory Quinoa Pongal

(Makes 5 one-cup servings)

  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup yellow split moong dal
  • 1 Tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp ghee or oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1 small sprig curry leaves
  • 1-2 whole red chillies (optional)

1) On medium flame, dry roast the moong dal for a few minutes, stirring constantly, about 3-4 minutes. Do not brown. Pour into a pressure cooker pan.

2) Add rinsed and drained quinoa, ginger, water and salt. Stir well.

3) Cook on medium-high flame till the pressure cooker whistles thrice. Let it sit for a few minutes so the pressure is released and the lid can be opened.

4) Meanwhile, in a small saute pan, heat the ghee / oil.

5) Add pepper & cumin seeds and allow to pop. (Add chilli if using, and roast few seconds).

6) Add the curry leaves and cover partially with a lid. The moisture in the leaves will make them crackle and pop, and it might splatter out.

7) Add cashews and roast till light golden in color.

8) Add this seasoning to the quinoa & dal mixture and mix well. Serve hot topped with ghee and a side of coconut chutney.

NOTE: To make the traditional version of pongal, substitute quinoa with white rice.  

If you do not have a pressure cooker, add the first 5 ingredients in a pan with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a rolling boil uncovered. Stir and reduce heat to low. Cook covered for about 25-30 minutes till the quinoa / rice and dal is soft. Add another 1/2 cup water in the end if needed and cook few minutes. Mix in the seasoning and serve.

Coconut Chutney

Coconut Chutney
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 Tbsp fried gram
  • 3 green chillies
  • 1 inch ginger (cut to small pieces)
  • 1 small sprig curry leaves
  • few stalks cilantro
  • salt
  • lime juice to taste – optional
1) Coarsely grind all the above ingredients with a few spoons of water. Remove to a serving dish. Can be served at this point.

2) In a small pan, heat oil and roast mustard seeds till they stop popping.

3) Add the curry leaves and roast few seconds.

4) Add the udad dal and roast till light golden brown. Pour over the ground chutney and mix.

Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins





Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins


I made these muffins a few weeks ago on a whim – I was growing tired of the same old flavors and wanted something different. They turned out alright – tasted better fresh than thawed from the freezer ( I tend to bake a big batch of muffins and freeze them for breakfast / snack on other days). I plan on tweaking the recipe soon, and will post updates on how it turns out. Till then, happy baking.


Low-fat Mango Coconut Muffins

(Makes 1 dozen)

  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted & cooled
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cup mango pulp (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or regular all purpose flour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes

1) Heat oven to 325* F

2) In a medium bowl, melt butter and cool (adding egg to hot melted butter will scramble them).

3) Whisk in the egg and mango pulp and mix well.

4) In another large bowl, mix flour, salt, sugar, cardamom powder, baking soda, and coconut flakes till well incorporated and set aside.

5) Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently till just blended.

6) Spoon into 12 muffin cups (about 1/4 cup mix in each) and bake about 25 mins, till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7) Remove from oven, cool for 5 minutes in pan, and then cool completely on a wire rack.

Savory Rice Krispies Chivda

Savory Rice Krispies Chivda

Savory Rice Krispies Chivda

  • 4 cups rice krispies
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 garlic pods (crushed) – optional
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • scant 1/4 cup roasted channa dal
  • 3 dry red chillies – broken in half
  • 1 medium sprig curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp amchur powder / citric acid**
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

1) In a large wide pot, heat oil on medium flame.

2) Add mustard seeds and let it pop. Cover pan partially to keep from splattering.

3) Turn flame to medium low. Add the crushed garlic pods and fry till just starting to brown (if using; if not, skip to next step).

4) Add the peanuts and roast for about 30 seconds; add cashews and roast approximately another 30 seconds; add channa dal and red chillies and roast further till everything is light golden.

5) Add the curry leaves and cover the pan partially to avoid splattering; let it pop and crisp for a few seconds.

6) Stir in raisins and fry for few seconds till puffy.

7) Turn flame to low, and pour in the rice krispies.

8) Add all the powders and mix well, making sure it does not burn. Alternately, close lid and shake the pot vigorously till everything is mixed well.

9) Remove from stove and cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.