Eating Better, Quick & Easy, Recipes

Quick & Easy – Staple Podis/South Indian Spice Mixes

Back with another post for the Quick & Easy series and this time it’s something I absolutely love and is a kitchen staple for me at all times.

I’m not all fancy as some people seem to think I am going by my food posts on social media. I do love my South Indian food as much as I love my salads and smoothies. When I was still new to the kitchen, various podis were the saviors one too many days. Days when things got burnt or just didn’t taste edible, podis are what helped us survive. My husband will vouch for it.

In case you didn’t know, a podi is a spice mix. Some of these are made specifically to be had with dosai/idli and some made to be had with rice. I use these interchangeably though.

These are also the perfect solution for days when you want something comforting but don’t have the time or patience or the mood to cook anything elaborate. My favorite meal on such days is rice with ghee/coconut oil, podi and something crunchy like appalam/pappadam/papad or potato chips.

My son would eat thaenga/coconut podi with practically anything. He has even sprinkled some on pasta (don’t ask!). We’ve also had meltdowns at restaurants because they didn’t have thaenga podi. We’ve also so far managed to make him eat different podis by calling them different variations of ‘thaenga podi’ like curry leaves/karuveppilai podi or moringa podi is ‘green thaenga podi’, paruppu podi is ‘light brown thaenga podi’ so on and so forth.

I usually make Amma and my mother-in-law make all sorts of podis and bring them back after our vacation or they make/bring some when they visit. But with the quarantine and no clear idea of when I’d be able to make it home next, I had to resort to making my own this time and they all turned out amaze because I followed my Amma’s recipes to the T.

If you like vegetarian South Indian cuisine or would like to give it a try, you definitely should follow my Amma on Instagram. She posts everyday meals on her feed and shares fail-proof recipes for these. Nothing fancy but meals that will take you back to your childhood or remind you of your Amma or a special memory from long ago or just something that could offer comfort on a hard day. I may be biased but it’s true and so, to summarize, she’s a rockstar and you’ve gotta follow her if you don’t already.

Today, I’m sharing my Amma’s recipes for a few staple podis that are sure to be life savers for a meal or ten. Before we go ahead with the recipes please take a note of the following:

  • C = cup
  • T = Tablespoon
  • t = teaspoon

World-Famous on Instagram Aadhvik’s Thaenga Podi

You will know what I’m talking about if you’ve been following me on Instagram for a few years. In case you haven’t had that good fortune (lol), then this is nothing but the coconut podi that my paati and amma make for which my son would trade his life. He eats it with pretty much everything or even as-is and this has been the case for over 4 years now.

View this post on Instagram

Evening snacks. 😎

A post shared by Madhumitha (@madhumitharam) on

  • 1.5T coconut oil
  • 2t mustard seeds
  • 7-8 dried red chilies (add more or less as desired)
  • 2.5T urad dal
  • 2.5T chana dal
  • 1 cup fresh grated coconut
  • 1 marble sized ball of tamarind
  • 1t asafetida/hing
  • Salt, to taste
  1. Add 1T oil to a kadai and pop the mustard seeds. Then add the dried red chillies, urad, chana dal and fry/roast until everything is fragrant and the dal is golden. Remove and keep aside to cool.
  2. In the same pan add the rest of the oil and roast the grated coconut until uniformly golden brown. Ensure it doesn’t get burnt. Once done, remove and cool down.
  3. To a mixer jar, add the dried red chillies, the tamarind, required salt and the coconut. Pulse a couple of times.
  4. Now add the dal + mustard seeds, hing and pulse a few more times until everything comes together as a coarse powder.
  5. Adjust salt if needed.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

This can be mixed with rice + ghee or sesame/coconut oil or can be eaten with idli/dosai or as a side for curd rice. I love mixing some into curd/yogurt and using it as a side for idli/dosai/kuzhi paniyaram etc. This also can be added to stir-fries/kari/poriyal for vegetables like ladies finger/okra, brinjal etc. or to sundal.

Paruppu Podi

  • 1t oil
  • 1c fried gram dal/dalia dal/pottu kadalai
  • 6-8 garlic cloves (optional but recommended)
  • 2-3 dried red chillies/kaanja milagai
  • 1t black peppercorns/milagu
  • 1t hing/asafetida/perungaayam
  • salt, to taste
  1. In a kadai, roast the garlic in oil until fragrant and golden. Keep aside.
  2. To the same pan, add the dried red chillies and pepper and roast until the chillies turn just a tad darker. Keep aside to cool.
  3. Add the gram dal to the pan and turn off the flame.
  4. Now, add the chillies and peppercorn, hing and salt to the mixer jar and pulse a couple of times.
  5. Now add the gram dal, garlic and pulse again to a coarse powder.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

This goes really well with rice and ghee with avakkai oorgai and applam on the side. But I personally love it a tad bit more with coconut oil. My Amma also recommends adding some of this while making puliyodharai/puliogare.

Multi-Purpose Podi

  • 1T coconut oil or any other neutral oil
  • 0.5 cup/8T dhania/coriander/kothamalli seeds
  • 2T chana/kadalai dal
  • 2T tur/thuvaram dal
  • 1T urad/ulutham dal
  • 8-10 dried red chillies/kaanja milagai
  • 4-5 dried kashmiri or byadgi chillies
  • 1t black peppercorns/milagu
  • 1/4t methi/vendhayam/fenugreek seeds
  • 4 to 5 one inch chunks of dry coconut/kopparai OR 2-3T freshly grated coconut
  1. In a kadai, heat the oil and then add the dhania, all the dals and sauté for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the dried red chillies and roast until the dal is golden and the chillies are a tad bit darker. Be careful not to burn them.
  3. Now add the peppercorn and methi and roast for another minute. Remove everything and set aside to cool.
  4. In the same kadai, add a tsp more of oil and the coconut chunks and roast until they turn golden. If using freshly grated coconut, roast it until everything is uniformly golden and all the moisture is gone. Set aside to cool.
  5. Once cool, add everything to a mixer jar and grind to a moderately coarse powder.
  6. Store in an airtight container.

We call this multi-purpose podi because it can be added to vegetable stir-fries/kai (brinjal tastes absolutely smashing with this podi) or can be used to make arachuvitta sambar. This can also be used to make bisibelebath.

Milagu-Jeeraga Podi

  • 1/2 cup cumin seeds/jeera/jeeragam
  • 1/4 cup peppercorns/milagu
  1. Dry roast the cumin seeds/jeera and the peppercorns and make a coarse powder.
  2. Store in an airtight container.

This is barely a recipe but growing up, I’ve absolutely loved having this mixed with hot rice, salt and ghee. It tastes absolutely divine! Especially soothing when you have a sore throat or cold. We also sprinkle this on cucumbers or kachumber style salads.

These are staples in my kitchen along with a few others like curry leaves/karuveppilai podi, moringa podi, molaga podi. Yep, this is where I slyly plug-in my previous post for you to get the recipe of the moringa podi. You can easily replace the moringa leaves with curry leaves.

I hope these recipes help you put a few low-effort but happy meals out on the table. If you try any of these, do let me know how you like them. And as always, share it with the ones who’d appreciate some help making their time in the kitchen easier or the ones who are new to the kitchen or just about anyone who you think would enjoy these.

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