Puli Kuzhambu Recipe (South Indian Style)
Do you love trying new dishes from around the world? Or you’re looking for a delicious and spicy side dish to add to your repertoire? If so, then definitely consider adding Puli Kuzhambu recipe to your list of favorites!
It might look intimidating at first, but this Puli Kuzhambu recipe is actually quite easy to make. And the best part? It’s perfect for any occasion! Whether you’re looking for a hearty meal to warm you up on a cold day or something to spice up your next party, Puli Kuzhambu is sure to please. So why not give it a try?
About Puli Kuzhambu
Puli kuzhambu is a delicious and healthy dish of South Indian cuisine. Here ‘Puli’ refers to tamarind and ‘kuzhambu’ is the spicy curry that’s made with tamarind, lentil, vegetables, and some spices.
It’s really easy to make. All you need is a few easily available ingredients and more or less 50 minutes of your day. The end result is a flavorful and hearty dish that’s perfect for any occasion.
Out of many versions, my mother used to make it with coconut and urad dal. I just love the beautiful aroma, tangy flavor, and thick gravy of Puli Kuzhambu. It was better than any restaurant dish we could order, perhaps due to the love she put into it while cooking.
You can make it with coconut or without coconut, with urad dal or without urad dal. On top of that, you can customize the flavor by adding the vegetable of your choice.
Variations of this Puli Kuzhambu Recipe
This dish is a staple in South Indian cuisine, and there are all sorts of variations in the recipe of this popular dish.
Generally, Puli Kuzhambu is made with tamarind paste, lentils, and a variety of spices. But the exact ingredients can vary depending on the region. Some people add coconut milk, while others add vegetables like eggplant (brinjal) or spinach.
There are also different ways of making Puli Kuzhambu. Some people fry the spices before adding them to the dish, while others just let them simmer in the sauce.
Dal (Lentils) are not a primary ingredient in Puli Kuzhambu and is skipped by some chefs, like in the Kara Kuzhambu recipe. There’s even a variation where the lentils are replaced by cooked hot rice.
Also, vegetables are not mandatory to add. But every vegetable, when added, needs to be dealt with differently so to ensure delicious results.
Okra (Vendakkai, bhindi, Ladyfinger)
You need to sauté these lady fingers in some oil at low flame before adding them to the mixture.
Potato (urulai kizhangu, aloo)
You need to peel, chop, and boil the potatoes first.
Drumstick (murungakkai, sahajana, moringa)
You need to cook finely chopped drumsticks in some water on medium heat till almost done.
Eggplant (brinjal, kathirikkai, baingan, aubergines)
Use some oil to sauté your brinjals. Then slit brinjals in a cross before putting them in the curry.
Taro roots (seppankilangu, arbi, arvi)
These should be boiled, peeled, and chopped before adding to the Kuzhambu.
Spinach (Keerai, palak)
First chop these leaves and then blanch them. Then put it in the blender to mash before adding it to the mixture.
Based on all these and many other variations, there exists more than 75 kuzhambu recipes. Some of these South Indian recipes are Kara kulambu or kara kuzhambu recipes, vatha kuzhambu or vathal kulambu recipes, mor kuzhambu recipes, kathirikai puli kuzhambu recipes, malli kuzhambu recipes, chettinad kara kuzhambu recipes, thalippu vadagam, urulai kizhangu, etc. There are different South Indian kuzhambu varieties of each of these recipes. Every chef will create a subtly different tasting dish, even using the same recipe.
How to Make This Puli Kuzhambu Recipe
Welcome to our step-by-step guide on how to make this Puli Kuzhambu recipe. We’ll show you the step pictures for easy understanding.
Making Puli Kuzhambu is not difficult, but it does require a little bit of preparation. This dish is made with easy-to-find ingredients, especially in a South Indian kitchen. All you need is a little bit of patience and a happy mood. We are making a serving for four people. Adjust accordingly.
Ingredients for Puli Kuzhambu Recipe
½ tsp Puli (Tamarind paste) or small ball of tamarind pulp: Tamarind is the key ingredient in Puli Kuzhambu as the dish got its name from tamarind. It is rich in tartaric acid which is principally involved in imparting a tangy and sour taste to the dish. The sweetness comes from the sugar it contains, thus best described as sweet and sour fruit. You can use a tamarind paste or tamarind extract by dissolving it in warm water. This tamarind extract is watery in consistency, but it contains all the goodness of soaked tamarind.
1 tsp – Lentils (Urad dal, Toor dal, moong dal, or Chana dal): I’m typically a fan of using urad dal but you can use any of these. Fresh lentils become sticky when cooked. This pasty texture will give thickness to your curry, that’s not only rich in nutrition but has a distinctive and earthy flavor.
10 small onions (Pearl onions): Onions are used in almost every savory dish to balance the taste. It is considered a staple ingredient in almost all cuisines, where it acts as a practical base for curries. It adds a mildly sweet flavor with delicacy. An equivalent amount of normal-sized onions or shallots can be used.
1 tsp – Garlic paste: Garlic adds a unique mustardy flavor to your dish due to the presence of sulfur compounds in it. Your taste buds can feel the presence or absence of this pungent acidic flavor easily.
1.5 cups – Vegetables: You can pick any vegetable from the above-mentioned list. The one I love the most is okra. Then comes the eggplant or drumsticks.
1 medium – Tomato: Tomato is used to balance the tanginess of curry. This hearty fruit imparts a sweet and tangy tone in an appropriate ratio.
2 tbsp – Sesame / gingelly oil: Using the gingelly oil made from raw sesame seeds gives an authentic flavor.
½ tsp each – Spices: Spices like salt, black pepper, dry red chili powder/sambar powder, and turmeric enhance the flavor to complement the dish. You can use commercial or homemade sambar powder depending on the availability.
8-10 – Curry leaves: Curry leaves possess a highly aromatic aroma that will freshen your soul.
½ tsp – Mustard seeds: Use it as a whole or in the form of grounded powder. Either way, it adds a kick of heat to the dish. It adds more depth to the spicy curry flavor.
1 tbsp – Jaggery: Adding a bit of jaggery at the very end will balance the sweet and sour taste. Light brown sugar can be substituted for this.
2 cups of Water: For simmering the mixture and making gravy.
Ingredients for Tempering
½ cup – Coconut paste or coconut milk: You can either use the paste of powdered coconut or coconut milk in your dish. The purpose is to add a sweet thickness and nutty flavor. It helps control the power of spices. If you made a very spicy curry by mistake, you can simply balance the taste by adding a small amount of coconut to cover up.
3 tsp – Coriander powder: Another culinary spice used to add a pretty aroma and a distinct flavor.
¼ tsp – Fenugreek seeds: Bitter when eaten raw but sweet when cooked in a saucy dish. Its sweet nutty flavor balances the spices of your dish.
½ tsp – Cumin seeds: Cumin seeds are a very powerful spice. Less than a teaspoon of cumin seeds adds a distinctive spicy-sweet aroma and warmness to the dish.
½ or ¾ cup of Water for making a paste.
2 tbsp – Spice powder: Most of your dish’s flavor is set by the spice powder. You can use Kulambu Milagai Thool powder which is available commercially. It is a mixture of spices used for tempering. This powder will not only save you time but also give you a nice taste. Alternatively, you can also use sambar powder which is a common practice.
Finding most of the ingredients at home just works as a kick to muster up the courage to go into the kitchen and start cooking. If you don’t have everything, a quick trip to the Indian store should provide you with everything you need. We made cooking easier by adding step pictures side by side for proper illustration.
- Start the process by roasting some spices in a small pan on low flame. Put coriander powder, black pepper, fenugreek seeds, and cumin seeds and roast them while stirring frequently. They start drying, and you smell a nice fragrance when done. Take them off the stove and set them aside to cool.
- If you run out of tamarind paste, you need to squeeze all the goodness of tamarind into water. For this purpose, soak tamarind in hot water for half an hour. Deseed the soaked tamarind, and then squeeze the pulp out into the water using your hand.
- Once cool, put your roasted spices in a grinder or blender. Add half a cup of water and coconut paste / coconut milk to the grinder. Make a smooth paste and set aside.
- Treat your vegetables in the manner mentioned above. Whether you are using okra, eggplant, or drumstick, you’ll end up making a yummy curry.
- Now take a small pan and heat the gingelly oil (sesame oil) in it. Put the lentils (dal) and half a teaspoon mustard seeds and let them turn brown while stirring slowly. Add finely chopped small onions and garlic. Sauté the onions until they become soft. Add the curry leaves and sauté for a minute more. Enjoy the fresh aroma of curry leaves!
- Now put diced tomatoes and sauté till soft. Mash them with a spoon and stir well. Now, add vegetables, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, and (dry red chili powder or homemade sambar powder) while cooking the veggies on low heat. Just give it a good stir and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Now add salt to a pan along with 2 cups water. Cover the pan and let the vegetables simmer on medium heat. Add the tamarind extract and the spiced coconut paste mixture once the veggies are cooked. Stir everything well.
- Simmer again with the uncovered pan on low flame for 6 to 7 minutes until the gravy thickens. Put a small amount of jaggery or brown sugar in the last minute of cooking. Set aside and drizzle in a small amount of sesame oil to cover the top layer. Serve with hot rice!
Puli Kuzhambu Recipe Serving Suggestions
This curry is popularly served as a main or side dish with hot rice. People enjoy this delectable curry on hot rice for breakfast or lunch and then use the leftover with idli or dosa for dinner. It can be enjoyed with chapati. You can add more variety by serving it with coconut or onion chutney or as a side dish with dal fry or sambar. This dish is sure to satisfy your taste buds, and it is easy to make at home.
Tips for Making the Perfect Puli Kuzhambu
When it comes to making Puli Kuzhambu, there are a few tips that will help you make the perfect dish.
Make sure you use fresh coconut milk for the best results.
Don’t overcook the vegetables – you want them to be slightly crunchy.
Add the spices at the end to get the perfect flavor profile.
Make the tamarind extract by using old tamarind so to add more depth to the flavor.
If you want to use sambar powder, sizzle it in oil first to unleash its flavor.
Try using gingelly oil purely extracted from sesame seeds to sizzle your spices.
Try to cover the top layer with a thin layer of oil for week-long storage in the refrigerator. Also, put it in an airtight container.
To get more thickness in gravy, you can add rice flour accordingly.
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Hi! I’m Ravi Kumar.
I am a husband, father of 4, board certified neurosurgeon, and a lover of South Indian Food!
I created PaattisKitchen.com to memorialize the most delicious foods on earth. South Indian food is easy to make and hard to mess up. So pull up your sleeves, and come with me as we explore the vibrant spices, colors, aromas, and flavors of South Indian culinary tradition.