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Easy, Savory Ven Pongal (South Indian Dish)

Ven Pongal is a rice dish cooked with moong dal and spiced with black pepper, cumin, ginger, and curry leaves. The spices are tempered in ghee and give a rich aroma to the dish.
Servings 4 people


For Pongal:

  • Rice - ½ cup
  • Moong dal - ¼ cup
  • Asafoetida - a pinch
  • Ginger finely chopped - 1 tsp
  • Water - 3 cups
  • Salt as needed

For Tempering:

  • Ghee - 4 tsp
  • Black Peppercorn - 1 tsp
  • Cumin - ¼ tsp
  • Curry leaves - 8 to 10
  • Cashews - 6


Pressure Cooker Method

  • Wash rice and dal well separately and keep aside.
  • Heat 1 tsp of ghee in a pressure pan or cooker, add chopped ginger and saute for few seconds in low flame.
  • Turn stove to high, add 3 cups of water, rice, dal, asafoetida, salt and cook for 4 whistles.
  • Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and check the consistency.
  • Pongal should be soft and smooth, like oatmeal or porridge would be. When you scoop a ladle of Pongal into a bowl or plate, it should not stick to the ladle. That’s when you know you’ve done it right!
  • If Pongal is dry or thick, add hot water or milk, about ½ a cup, cook on low flame until it gets soft and smooth. Stir occasionally and gently. We do not want a gooey, sticky Pongal here.
  • Heat 1 tsp of ghee* in a small fry pan, add black pepper, cover the pan with a lid and lower the flame. When the pepper begins to splutter, add cumin. Cumin will immediately begin to splutter, add curry leaves and pour the sizzling spices onto Pongal and mix well.
  • Fry cashews in 1 tsp of ghee in low flame until light golden.*
  • Garnish Pongal with the cashews and 1 or 2 tsp of melted ghee on top for that yummy, extra rich flavor!

Instant Pot Method

  • Wash rice and dal well separately and keep aside.
  • Select the saute mode and add ghee. Roast cashews until golden brown in the ghee, and take out of the Instant Pot to set aside.
  • Continue in saute mode and add the ginger. Saute with the remaining ghee for 1 minute.
  • Add rice, moong dal, salt and asafoetida. Stir for one minute.
  • Pour in the water and stir to combine, and then secure the lid.
  • Make sure the pressure valve is set to the Nature Release, Sealing position. Press the Pressure mode and set the time to 10 minutes.
  • Let the Instant Pot naturally release steam. Once you hear the noise, open the lid. Add the cashews back, and add the tempering (tadka) from the sauce pan.

Tempering (Tadka)

  • Once the Pongal has finished cooking, start on the tempering.
  • In a separate small fry pan, heat 1 tsp of ghee* in medium heat.
  • Add black peppercorns and cover the fry pan with a lid. Lower the flame.
  • Once the peppercorn begins to splutter and pop, open the lid and add cumin. Cumin will immediately begin to splutter.
  • Add the curry leaves and turn off the flame. Stir everything together, and immediately pour the sizzling, tempered spices onto the cooked Pongal and mix together.


  • Always wait until oil or ghee heats up before you add spices. When we add spices to hot oil or ghee, the spices will crackle and pop, burst out with their rich flavor and aroma, and impart them to the oil or ghee used to fry them.
    The order in which the spices are added is important. The spices that are hard go in first.
  • Here, add black pepper first. It is important that the pepper crackles and pops fully. When it crackles, it release its bold flavor, adds nice little crunch to the dish, and tempers the heat down.
  • Then add cumin. Cumin will immediately begin to crackle, so add curry leaves right after adding cumin, turn the stove off, and pour the spices onto the Pongal. This ensures the cumin seeds do not get scorched.
  • To get nice, aromatic and crunchy golden cashews, do not wait until ghee heats up. Add ghee to the fry pan, add cashews and fry in low flame.