Six millet-based recipes to try this Pongal

This pongal, help yourself to healthy servings of Foxtail Poli and Little Millet pepper pongal

January 13, 2023 07:32 pm | Updated January 16, 2023 01:34 pm IST


Millets | Photo Credit: SAMPATH KUMAR GP

The United Nations has declared 2023 as the year of the millet. Once called “cereals of the poor”, in 2018 the Indian government gave this superfood a face-lift and renamed it ‘nutricereals’. Ever since, millets have become a popular alternative to rice and wheat.

Experts believe that millets are one of the oldest foods known to humans, also the first among cereals to be domestically cultivated. A rich source of nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, dietary fiber, good-quality fat, the grain contains high quantities of minerals and is gluten-free.

Millets benefit the consumer, cultivator, and climate. These rain-fed crops require minimum water, are climate-resilient and can be grown among other crops as well. Their growing season is much shorter than that of rice and wheat.

Celebrate this uzhavar thirunaal (farmer’s festival) with these millet-based recipes.


Foxtail millet (Thinai) sweet potato Poli

Serving size: 5-6 Polis

Sweet Potato millet poli

Sweet Potato millet poli | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Thinai millet flour - 1 cup

Sweet potatoes - 2 small tubers

Country sugar- 1/2 cup

Cardamom - 2 pods

Coconut oil to cook the Poli


  • Steam the sweet potatoes and mash them with a fork or masher (Note: If you boil the sweet potatoes, make sure they don’t retain any water)
  • Mix the sweet potatoes with the millet flour, country sugar and knead it into a dough, using as little water as possible.
  • Split the dough into 6 balls
  • Roll into thick rotis with a rolling pin
  • Place the poli on a tawa or non-stick pan with one teaspoon of coconut oil
  • Allow the poli to cook on both sides and serve hot

Little millet (Saamai) pepper pongal

Serving size: 2-3

Pepper Pongal

Pepper Pongal


Little millet (Saamai) - 1 1/2 cups

Whole or broken green gram - 1/2 cup

Whole black pepper - 1 tsp

Cumin (Jeera) - 1 tsp

Ghee / coconut oil - 5 tsp

1 inch ginger - finely chopped

Handful of curry leaves


  • Dry roast both the little millet and green gram separately, until they turn light brown
  • Soak the roasted little millet and green gram in water for four hours
  • Once soaked, discard the water and add four cups water and cook the little millet-green gram mixture until they are soft in an open pot
  • You can also cook it in a pressure cooker for three-four whistles or until they turn soft
  • Heat the ghee/ coconut oil in a small ladle. Coarsely grind the pepper and cumin and add it to the ghee / coconut oil along with ginger and curry leaves
  • Pour this mixture over the softened little millet and green gram mix
  • Add salt to taste and mix it well
  • Serve hot with chutneys and sambar

Recipes by Seethalakshmi M. Organic Farmers Market, Chennai


Mixed vegetable sambar millet (Kadhamba sambar millet)

Serving size: 4

Kadhamba Sambar

Kadhamba Sambar | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Lemon size tamarind - lemon size ball

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon

Asafoetida 1/2 teaspoon

Sambar powder 1 1/2 tablespoon

Tomatoes 2 medium size

Lima beans or broad beans seeds ( mochai/ avarai ) 3/4th cup

Fresh peanuts 1/2 cup

Chopped yardlong beans (Karamani kai) 1/2 cup

Chopped broad beans 1/2 cup

Elephant yam 1/2 cup

Ash gourd/ white pumpkin (with skin) 1/2 cup

Yellow pumpkin (with skin) 1/2 cup

Sweet potato 1/2 cup

Toor dal 1 1/4 cups

Salt as required

Ghee or sesame oil, as required for tempering

Mustard 1/2 teaspoon

Cumin 1/2 teaspoon

Curry leaves two sprigs

Minced coriander leaves - 4 teaspoons


  • Soak the tamarind in three fourth cup hot water. Set it aside for 20 mins and then extract the pulp.
  • Chop all the vegetables and keep aside. Pressure cook 250 grams, mash well and keep aside.
  • To thick bottom vessel, add the chopped tomatoes, and cook on medium flame, for about three minutes.
  • Once the tomatoes are soft add turmeric power, asafoetida powder and mix it in.
  • To this, add the tamarind extract, and bring it to boil. Let it boil for three minutes and bring it down to a simmer.
  • Then add the vegetables one-by-one with a minute gap between each addition. Start with the beans, then peanut, yam, sweet potato and so on
  • Add water, just enough for vegetables to immerse completely. Let the vegetables boil for five minutes, then add the sambar powder mix well and add salt as required.
  • Let this cook for three to five minutes, and then add the cooked and mashed toor dal. Don’t let the sambar be thick, adjust the consistency by adding water as needed.
  • Now, taste and check for salt or if more sambar powder is required. You can also add more tamarind extract if required. After checking for flavour and adjusting, cook on low flame for 10 minutes, but keep stirring every two minutes so that it does not get burnt. Switch off.
  • For tempering, heat ghee or sesame oil in a pan. Once it heats up add mustard and cumin. When it splutters, add the curry leaves and asafoetida, and pour it over the sambar. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and immediately close with a lid. Let it rest for an hour and then it will be ready for serving.
  • Serve over millet of your choice with a side of crisps.

Recipe by N.S. Krishnamoorthi

Foxtail millet (Thinai) sweet pongal

Serving size: 2-3

Sweet Pongal

Sweet Pongal | Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Foxtail millet (Thinai) 1 cup

Dry Mung beans (Moong dal) 1/2 cup

Powdered Jaggery 1 3/4 cups

Chopped cashews 1 tablespoon

Raisins 1 tablespoon

Cardamom 2 pods

Ghee or coconut oil for tempering


  • Dry roast the millet in low flame for a few minutes and set it aside
  • Dry roast the moong dal till u get a good aroma and set it aside
  • Roast the cashews and raisins in ghee or coconut oil and set it aside
  • In an open pot, add one litre of water and bring it to a boil
  • Once it boils simmer the flame and add the roasted millets and moong dal
  • Once the millet and moong dal turn soft, add the powdered jaggery and keep stirring.
  • Once the powdered jaggery has been completely incorporated, allow the mixture to thicken
  • Add cardamom, roasted cashews and raisins to the pongal
  • Serve hot

Recipe by Seethalakshmi M. Organic Farmers Market, Chennai

Kanu Pongal / Kaanum Pongal

Millet Lemon Rice

Serving size: 3

Millet Lemon Rice

Millet Lemon Rice | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


Kodo Millet (Varagu) 1 cup

Lemon (medium size) 2

Sesame oil 4 tablespoons

Mustard seeds 1 tablespoon

Channa dal 1/2 tablespoon

Urad Dal 1/2 tablespoon

Chopped Green Chilli 1 1/2 teaspoon

Finely chopped Ginger 1 1/4 teaspoon

Raw peanuts 3 tablespoons

Curry leaves 2 sprigs

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon

Chopped coriander 1 1/2 tablspoons

Salt to taste

Preparation of lemon-mix

  • Squeeze the juice of two lemons and add salt to it.
  • Add sesame oil to a pan and once the oil heats up add the mustard seeds.
  • When the mustard seeds sputter, add bengal gram and urad dal. Saute it until it turns golden brown.
  • Add the chopped green chilli, peanuts, curry leaves, turmeric powder to the above mixture and saute it well. Add this mixture to the prepared lemon juice.

Preparation of Kodo Millet (Varagu Rice)

  • Wash the raw kodo millet with clean water three to four times.
  • Soak in water for 15 minutes.
  • To an open pot add one and a half to two litres of water and bring it to a boil.
  • Bring the water to a boil and then few crystals of rock salt, followed by the washed millet.
  • Once it begins to boil, reduce the flame to simmer.
  • Cook it for three to five minutes or till the millet absorbs the water and turns slightly transparent.
  • To avoid overcooking, switch off the flame and add two cups of cold water to the cooked millet.
  • Strain the millet and allow the water to drain completely. Spread it on a large plate and allow it to cool.
  • Sprinkle sesame oil over the millet to prevent the grains from sticking with one another and spread it evenly.
  • Add the lemon-turmeric mixture to the cooked varagu and add salt or lemon to taste.
  • Serve with pickle or chutney.

Recipe by Adhi Eswari, Founder of Millet Maagic Meal restaurant, Chennai

Curry Leaves Kodo Millet (Kariveppilai Varagu Sadam)

Serving size: 3

Curry Leaves Kodo Millet

Curry Leaves Kodo Millet | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement


Kodo millet 1 cup

Curry leaves 3 cups

Urad dal 1 teaspoon

Channa dal 1 teaspoon

Dry red chillies 4 to 6

Peanuts or cashews 1 tablespoons

Tamarind - one gooseberry sized ball

Cumin (Jeera) 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Ghee or sesame oil 1 tablespoon


  • Roast the millets in two teaspoon of ghee and soak it water for 30 minutes
  • Add the soaked millets to an open pot with two cups of water or in a pressure cooker for two whistles.
  • Now, spread this rice on a flat wide plate and allow it to cool. Ensure it is not soggy or sticky but must be grainy.
  • To a wide pan, add ghee or sesame oil add the urad dal, channa dal and dry red chillies and fry them in medium flame.
  • After two minutes, add the tamarind and curry leaves. Stir it gently and and swtich off the stove. Let it cool completely and then grind it to a powder.
  • Add two to three tablespoons of water and grind it further to a chutney-like consistency.
  • To the same kadai, add two teaspoons of sesame oil add ground nut or cashew fry till light golden.
  • Then add cumin, and when it splutters, add the ground chutney and cook for a minute. Add salt and lower the flame and then add the cooked millet. Gently mix till the rice is completely mixed with chutney.
  • Check for salt. You can add chilli flakes (optional)for extra spice and taste.

Recipe by N.S. Krishnamoorthi

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