Onam on Your Plate: Must-Try Recipes for a Festive Affair

Onam, the most auspicious festival in Kerala is just around the corner, and preparations are all set to commence! 

Onam is mainly the ‘rice harvest’ festival mainly celebrated in Kerala. It is also known as ‘Thiru-onam’ or ‘Thiruvonum’, one of the state’s biggest festivals. Though Onam may seem like a ‘one-day’ festival, the festivities commence about 10 days prior.  

Traditions festivities include the boat race known as ‘Vallamkalli’, ‘Pulikali which is an enactment of actors dressed as tigers and lions etc. Pookkalam is a floral pattern that is made outside homes. It also includes many traditional games, sweet preparations, home decorations and much more. 

But the highlight of Onam, undoubtedly is the Onam Sadhya or in simple words the Onam feast. The highlight of Onam Sadhya is a meal extending to several courses, that are pure vegetarian served on a banana leaf. Most of the ingredients of the meals are traditional and locally sourced so that meals are as authentic as they can be!  Ingredients include use of coconut, coconut oil, lentils, jaggery and seasonal vegetables. The best part is that the menu for the Onam Sadhya is elaborate and includes over 25 dishes and can even be as long as 60 dishes! 

The Sadhya menu often covers all flavour profiles include, sweet, sour, spicy and savoury. And so is a treat for one and all. While most families have their generations-old recipes that are used, you can give them a try too! 

Here are a few traditional yet special recipes that you can try out this Onam.


This grand recipe is one of the highlights of the Onam Sadhya. It is a rich amalgamation of vegetables and lentils, which even makes this recipe a gluten-free and vegan recipe. If you planning on preparing Onam Sadhya this year, you cannot miss this delectable recipe. This is how you can make it. 

  • Total Cooking Time: 40 minutes
  • Serves: 4 people


  • ½ bowl black grams (boiled with salt)
  • 1 cup raw banana (plantains) 
  • 1 cup suran (elephant yam) 
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp black pepper powder
  • 1.5 cups water
  • Salt as per taste
  • 1 tsp jaggery
  • 1 cup fresh grated coconut 
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 whole red chillies

For Tempering

  • 2 tablespoons oil (preferably coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp mustard and cumin seeds mix
  • ½ tsp urad dal 
  • ½ cup fresh grated coconut
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1 whole dry red chilli


  • Heat a medium size pot and add some water to boil. In it add some turmeric, salt and black pepper powder. Now add the suran and raw bananas and cook them on low flame until the rawness is gone but they are still firm. Take care to use a very limited quantity of water, so after the vegetables are cooked, there is not a lot of water remaining in it. 
  • At the same time prepare the coconut paste. Take a blending jar, add ½ cup fresh coconut, 1 dry red chilli and the cumin seeds. Blend to make a fine paste and keep aside. 
  • Now in the same pot where the vegetables were boiled, add the coconut paste and stir well. Because of very little water remaining, the mixture will be a bit thick, but that is fine. Now add the black grams. And mix once again. 
  • Keeping the flame low, add the jaggery and allow it to melt into the gravy. Add very little water if the gravy gets too thick to handle. 
  • Now take a tempering pan and add oil to it. Once heated, add the urad dal until it turns golden, now add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the curry leaves. Now break the dry chilli into 2 pieces and add it to the tempering. 
  • Finally, add the coconut to the tempering, and wait for it to turn golden. Now add this tempering to the curry and mix well. 
  • Serve hot with steamed rice. 


Yet another signature Onam Sadhya recipe, that ensures the ‘sour’ flavour profile of the feast is completed. This curry is yoghurt based and is a delicious addition to your Sadhya. Check out the recipe. 

  • Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 4 people


  • 1 bowl suran (elephant yam) cut into small cubes 
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¾ tsp black pepper freshly crushed
  • Salt as per taste
  • ½ cup water
  • ¾ bowl of freshly grated coconut
  • 2-3 green chillies 
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Water
  • 1 cup curd (preferably sour)

For Tempering:

  • 2 tablespoons oil (coconut oil)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2-3 dry red chillies 
  • 8-10 curry leaves


  • First, wash and clean the yam and add turmeric, salt, and black pepper to it. Now add this to a pan and add just enough water to cover the yams (you may even add plantains if you like). Cover the pan with a lid and on a low flame allow the yam to cook until it is tender. 
  • While the yams cook, make a coconut paste, by adding fresh coconut, green chillies, cumin and little water to a blender. Grind until you get a smooth paste. 
  • Transfer the curd to a big bowl and whisk the curd to get a smooth consistency. 
  • Once the yams are cooked make sure there is little or no water left in the pan. In the same pan, add the coconut paste and stir, then add the smooth curd and stir some more. If the gravy gets too thick to handle, add very little amount of water to it. 
  • Take a tempering pan and heat some oil in it. Add the fenugreek seeds and allow them to darken slightly. Now add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds crackle, add the curry leaves and add the dry chillies as well. 
  • Finally, add the coconut to the tempering and allow it to turn lightly golden. 
  • Pour the tempering into the Kalan and mix very well. 
  • Serve this Kalan with hot steamed rice and enjoy. 

Ulli Theeyal

Also known as ‘Onion Theeyal’ is an appetising curry made using shallots, the smaller onion variant. This recipe is simple and delicious to eat. It is a great addition to the Onam Sadhya. 

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Serves: 4 people


For Masala Paste

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 5 dry red chilli
  • ¼ black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut

For Curry

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 15-20 shallots cut into halves
  • 1 cup tamarind extract
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp jaggery
  • Salt
  • 1 cup water 


  • Heat a pan and add some oil, to it add the coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, dry red chillies and ¼ tsp pepper and allow it to sizzle. Now add the grated coconut and allow it to roast until golden brown. 
  • Cool this mixture and blend to form a fine paste by adding little water. The next step is, to take a kadhai and heat some oil in it. Add the fenugreek seeds, and mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. Now add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Now add the cut shallots, turmeric, and salt and cook until the shallots shrink in size. Now add the tamarind extract and jaggery and little water and cook for 10 minutes. 
  • Now add the coconut paste and mix well. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add some water and allow it to cook for another 10 minutes until the oil separates. 
  • Serve hot with steamed rice. 

Paal Payasam

A perfect end to the Onam Sadhya is a rich and comforting dessert. The Paal payasam is exactly that! 

  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Serves: 4 people


  • 3 tablespoon basmati rice
  • 1 litre of whole milk
  • 4 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ghee


  • Take a large kadhai and add some ghee to it. To the melted ghee add the basmati rice. Sautee the rice grains for a few seconds until the rice is aromatic. Take care not to brown the rice.
  • Add boiled milk to the rice and stir well. Allow the rice and milk to boil on low flame, and take care to stir so that the rice grains do not stick to the bottom of the pan. 
  • Cook until the rice is softened and the milk thickens. Now add the sugar and stir so that it dissolves completely. 
  • Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Optionally you can garnish this with dry fruits or saffron or simply serve as it is.

1 comment on “Onam on Your Plate: Must-Try Recipes for a Festive Affair

  1. Mrs. D P Bhat

    Mouth watering healthy dishes. Happy onam to big basketeers.

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