Tamarind Rice Recipe | Flavor


Depending on where it comes from in South India, tamarind rice is known as puliyogare, pulihora, puliyodarai or puli sadam. Although its registers may change – fewer ingredients, fluctuating amounts of spices, the addition or subtraction of cashews and coconut – the dough is traditionally built on tamarind, chili pepper, mustard , coriander, curry leaves and dal. Most Indian homes use block tamarind paste which still contains pulp and needs to be soaked, but tamarind concentrate can also be substituted. Medium-grain rice, like sona masoori, is preferred here, whether freshly cooked or even leftovers from a previous meal.

This version is by Mumbai-based writer Meher Mirza, who adapted her own recipe from one she learned from a friend; adding jaggery is entirely optional. Chana dal and urad dal bring body to the dough, and a warm, savory crunch to the rice when it is thatched with the tempered spices. Find these ingredients at your local Indian market or order them online from Kalustyan’s.

Featured in: “From chutneys to curries, tamarind has enlivened Indian dishes for millennia.”

Tamarind rice

A nice balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy makes this traditional Indian dish shine.

Yield: for 4


20 minutes

For the rice:

  • 1½ cups medium grain rice

  • 1 tbsp. rapeseed or other neutral oil

For the tamarind water:

  • ½ cup block tamarind paste

  • 1 tbsp. jaggery or brown sugar (optional)

For the spice paste:

  • 1 tbsp. Sesame oil

  • ½ cup whole cashews

  • 1 tbsp. URAD dal

  • 1 tbsp. Chana Dal

  • 2 tbsp. coriander seeds

  • 1 C. black mustard seeds

  • 1 C. cumin seeds

  • 1 C. fenugreek seeds

  • 1 C. whole black pepper

  • 3 Byadgi peppers

  • ¼ tsp. asafoetida powder

  • Kosher salt

For the tempered spices:

  • 1 tbsp. Sesame oil

  • 1 C. black mustard seeds

  • ¼ cup raw peanuts

  • 1 C. URAD dal

  • 1 C. Chana Dal

  • 5 Byadgi peppers

  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves


  1. Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water runs clear. Drain well, then transfer the rice to a medium bowl, cover with cool water and let soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

  2. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water, add canola oil and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Drain rice (discarding soaking liquid), then transfer to boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the rice again, then spread the grains out on a large rimmed baking sheet to cool to room temperature.

  3. In a small bowl, add the tamarind, jaggery and ¾ cup boiling water, making sure the tamarind is submerged. Let soak until pulp is soft, about 30 minutes. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a second small bowl and strain the softened tamarind mixture and all of its soaking liquid through it. Discard any remaining solids, then set the tamarind liquid aside.

  4. Meanwhile, prepare the spice mix. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the sesame oil; when the oil just begins to shimmer, add the cashews and cook, stirring frequently, until toasted and golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a blender or small food processor, then, in the same pot, add the urad dal and chana dal and cook, stirring constantly, until toasted and fragrant, about 1 minute. Place the dals in the blender. In the same pan, add the spices one at a time and toast until fragrant, transferring them to the blender as you go: coriander (about 30 seconds), black mustard seed (about 1 minute ), cumin (about 30 seconds), fenugreek (about 30 seconds), black pepper (about 1 minute) and chillies (about 30 seconds). Add the asafoetida powder to the blender, then process into a loose paste, adding 1 to 1 ½ cups of water as needed to reach your desired consistency. Reserve the dough.

  5. In the same pot over medium-low heat, add the reserved tamarind liquid and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture darkens and thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir in reserved spice paste and bring to boil, stirring frequently, until mixture reduces to a moist paste, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt, then one cup at a time, gently begin to incorporate the reserved rice, taking care to evenly distribute the tamarind spice paste without breaking up the grains. Transfer to a large dish and keep warm.

  6. Temper the spices: in a small skillet over medium heat, add the sesame oil; when it shimmers, add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to crackle, about 1 ½ minutes. Add peanuts and dal and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes longer. Add the chiles and curry leaves and continue cooking until the leaves are crispy and shiny, about 30 seconds. Pour the tempered mixture over the tamarind rice and serve hot.


Comments are closed.