Friday, January 15, 2010

Dairy free Sakkarai/Sweet Pongal

Sakkarai or sweet pongal is my all time favourite sweet dish. I have always believed that the milk and loads of ghee that goes into the pongal makes it such a divine dish, until I made a dairy free version of it for Pongal/Sankranthi festival. It was tastier and healthier than the ghee loaded version. I have been using a traditional pongal recipe from my grandmother which I made vegan. I was not sure about substituting ghee. (I used to add almost 1/4 cup of ghee for pongal.) Checked out Vaishali's blog and was suprised to see that she overall used just a tsp of oil, that too to fry the dry fruits. I used a tsp of vanaspati for the same.

Talking about Pongal festival, it is basically a harvest festival when we(especially the farmers) thank the sun god for giving a good harvest and to give many more prosperous years. It is a grand affair in villages. For city dwellers, it is basically making pongal and vada, buying sugar cane and turmeric and doing some puja at home.
The pongal recipe here does not use pressure cooker to cook the rice. Instead, rice and moong dal are cooked in a vessel(directly kept under the stove) by adding water and milk. Once it is cooked thoroughly, jaggery is added. Finally it is garnished with cashew and raisins and flavoured with cardomom powder.
Here is the recipe..
Ingredients for pongal to serve 8 adults for dessert

Raw rice: 1 cup(not basmati or atleast I have not tried with Basmati) Yellow moong dal: 1/4 cup Water: 2 cups or more Almond milk: 2 cups(I used homemade, recipe below) Jaggery: 2 1/2 cups Vanaspathi/Vegetable Oil: 1 tsp(I used sunflower brand vanaspathi) Cashew and raisins: 1 or 2 tsps of each Cardomom powder: 1/ tsp

1. Dry roast moong dal for 1 or 2 minutes and keep aside. 2. Wash rice and drain water(it is OK if some water remains) 3. Add rice and dal in a thick bottomed vessel(it is preferred to use thick bottomed narrow mouthed vessel. I used "vengala paanai", which translates to bronze pot) 4. Add 2 cups of water to the rice and keep the vessel in the stove and set the flame to medium. 5. While rice is getting cooked, stir occasionally so that it does not get stuck at the bottom. 6. Once the water is evaporated and the rice comes to semi solid consistency, add 2 cups of almond milk and allow to boil. 7. Check if rice is cooked after around 15 to 20 minutes. If it is still not cooked and water content is less, add some more water, not more than 1/4 cup at a time. 8. Once rice is completely cooked(it would take around 30 minutes), add jaggery and stir well. 9. When jaggery is melted, it again comes to a watery consistency. 10. Set the flame to low and allow it to boil for sometime. 11. After around 5 to 10 minutes, pongal would come to a semi solid consistency. 12. Put off the stove at this point. 13. For garnishing, heat vanaspati/oil in a pan. Add raisins. Once it becomes fluffy, add it to pongal. In the remaining vanaspati, add cashew. Once it turns golden brown, transfer it and the left over vanaspati to pongal. 14. Add cardomom powder to pongal and mix well. 15. Serve it warm.
Jaggery should be added only after the rice is cooked completely. When a small quantity of rice is put in a bowl and pressed with the fingers, it should get mashed easily.
When the rice is completely cooked, it should be of semi solid consistency and not watery. Adding jaggery would make the rice a bit watery again. So before adding the jaggery if the rice is watery, heating for more time might not bring it to the right consistency. So, care should be taken not to add excess water when the rice is getting cooked. 
Recipe for almond milk

I first made almond milk at home for this Bread pudding recipe. 1. Soak half cup of almonds in 2 cups of water and keep in the fridge overnight. 2. The next day grind the almond in a mixer by adding 1/2 cup water(which was used for soaking) until it is smooth. 3. Add the rest of the water and grind just for few seconds. 4. Strain the blended almond and almond milk is ready. For pongal, I soaked almonds for just 3 hours. I also did not strain the blended milk.

Do have a look at Vaishali's blog for pressure cooker version of dairy free pongal which is much easier to make than this tradional method.


  1. Wow,What a Delicious way to start the Festival...Looks awesome and I am sure It tastes heavenly along with ghee and nuts..

    Happy Pongal...

  2. The Pongal looks yummy and healthy...
    Happy Pongal!

  3. this looks wonderful!! I was trying to buy the special pongal rice at my local Indian market awhile back but they were out. I'll have to try this!

  4. This dairy free pongal is surely fantastic! No need to feel guilty n can eat lots of it :D

    Happy Pongal dear!!


  5. The pongal looks very festive & healthy too..

  6. nice variation with almond sure must have tasted great..

  7. Wow...nice to know that it is vegan....pongal looks extremely yum...

    I left mail in Facebook...check out when u got time...

  8. dairy free recipe..that's neat idea to celebrate..

  9. Nice recipe and sure looks mouthwatering Priya!

  10. Definitely a fantastic vegan pongal, love the addition of almond milk...looks yummm!!

  11. Sweet Pongal looks so inviting,nice pic,Belated Pongal wishes,first time here,will be back often...

  12. interesting piece of information, I had come to know about your web-page from my friend pramod, jaipur,i have read atleast eight posts of yours by now, and let me tell you, your blog gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for, i'm already your rss reader now and i would regularly watch out for the new posts, once again hats off to you! Thanks a million once again, Regards,
    chakkara pongal recipe

  13. very useful really good information thanks for posting such a good information it will hepls the people a lot keep it up , Regards, sakkarai pongal recipe


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