12 Traditional Foods of Kerala
The state of Kerala is also known as God’s Own country for its beautiful green landscape & the crisscross of rivulets known as backwaters. It is also popularly known as the Land of Spices, as all the spices that enhance a dish are grown here locally. Used in the traditional foods of Kerala.
The cuisine of Kerala is highly influenced by its location- being a state with a large coastline, rice, coconuts & seafood are the staple ingredients used.
Spices like mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind, black pepper, cardamom, clove, ginger, cinnamon, and asafoetida are used to bring out the flavours in the food.
You might be able to taste coconut in most dishes in Kerala, owing to the fact that mixing grated coconut and its milk in food for thickening and flavouring is a common culinary practice here in India.
The variety of rice used is healthier- red semi polished parboiled rice, so one can eat guilt free.
For those not counting calories, the cakes here are excellent- especially the plum cake at Christmas time is a must have if you are around.
Me being a pure vegetarian, I can vouch that the vegetarian food is just as mouth-watering so make sure you try it.
Kerala Sadya is an elaborate vegetarian lunch feast prepared during festivals and celebrations & is served on a banana leaf. It is an assortment of hot steaming red rice served with thoran, aviyal, pachadi, pulissery, olan, sambar, varavu & payasam for dessert. Pappadam & banana complete the meal.
Sadya is a special feast. During major festivals like Onam, Vishu, its spread can go up to 30 dishes at a time!
While the most extensive sadya is served at festival or marriage occasions, there are quite a few restaurants who serve the sadya with an assortment of 10-12 items on banana leaves on a daily basis.
Appam and Stew
Appam with stew, one of the most traditional Kerala dishes is light, flavoursome and yummy. Made from fermented rice flour, coconut milk & coconut water, it is a rice pancake with a soft and thick centre and a crispy, paper thin outside. Whatever you eat it with, appam will increase that dish’s taste value beyond hundred! However, it is usually paired with a southern style stew where vegetables or meat is cooked in a rich, creamy coconut curry which will leave you asking for more! It most certainly makes me wish I had a bigger stomach to fill it with all of this deliciousness.
Appam can be eaten with vegetarian gravies such as stew, and can also be a wonderful sidekick for non-vegetarian fare such as chicken curry, mutton, and Kerala’s favourite, beef.
Best when consumed fresh, appam can lose its taste as it cools down.
Idiyappam with curry
A slight variation to the appam is idiyappam- made of rice flour, salt and water with a number of thin strands or sevai entwined together to make the lovely texture that this dish bears.
Idiyappam is prepared with rice flour, water and salt. For this version of appam, numerous strands of vermicelli are entwined together. Commonly known as noolappam, this Kerala dish can be paired with almost any curry and still taste great!
You can eat it with all kinds of curries, but it tastes best with Egg Curry. A spicy curry with boiled eggs forms the perfect foil to the otherwise bland Idiyappam.
Idiyappam can alternatively be teamed up with stew as well.
Food connects us all so if you are looking to eat the best food in Kerala then do try dosa Ghee roast with Sambar which will get you lost in its amazing flavours. Counted amongst the ‘World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods’, dosa and sambar make for a kickass combination!
Prepared with fermented rice and lentils, the ghee roast dosa is first cooked to the t in pure ghee, and then roasted till it gets as crisp as it can. Simple yet scrumptious.
Idli Sambhar is one of the best foods in Kerala which is good to go for breakfast and is a rather healthy choice as well. Perhaps the most popular breakfast option, idli-sambar are fondly eaten in not just all households in Kerala, but everywhere else in India too!
The perfect combo of fermented rice cakes and a yummy tangy curry of aromatic spices and vegetables along with lentils. Apart from being a favourite of foodies for its taste, idli sambar is also a nutritious combo.
Despite being north Indians I think it’s safe to say that idli-sambhar is my family’s favourite breakfast! And can you even blame them? Nothing beats a plate of soft warm idlis with steaming sambhar and just a little dollop of chutney. Perfect.
Puttu and Kadala curry is considered to be one of the most popular authentic Kerala dishes. This dish isn’t as common as dosas or idlis in the other parts of India.
A popular breakfast preparation out of the many Kerala dishes, Puttu is a cylindrical shaped steamed rice cake that is cooked in a mould with grated coconut. It can be eaten with ripe bananas, grated coconut, and kadala curry
A widely loved combination, Puttu and Kadala curry is a common vegetarian breakfast savoured in homes and restaurants alike, across Kerala. Puttu is cooked with rice powder mixed with coconut and water, which is then steamed in cylindrical steel or coconut shaped mould. Kadala curry (also known as Chole or Chana) is a slightly spicy curry of black chickpeas cooked in thick, aromatic coconut gravy. The combo is easy to cook and therefore is the best recipe for a quick and healthy breakfast.
One of the most nourishing vegetarian dishes, Avial is made with mixed vegetables cooked in a paste of ground coconut and flavoured with coconut oil. It is an essential component of the traditional Kerala feast, called sadya. This is a comparatively dry dish which is eaten with rice. An interesting story behind the origin of Avial is that it was originated by Bhima (from Hindu mythology). Who chopped up all vegetables he could find and then cooked them together. When he was forced to cook during his exile.
Parotta is bread made from flour. The dough is divided into long strips, which are then rolled together and flattened to form a multi-layered base.
This is a delicious street food originating from the Malabar region of the coast. It has a crumbly and flaky texture which melts in your mouth and leaves behind a unique taste. It is loved by everybody!
Parippu Curry (Dal Curry)
If you are searching for some good easy on the stomach foods in Kerala then you must try out this curry. Though simple, it is actually one of the yummiest & healthiest Kerala food items. The Dal served in Kerala is made of small gram and ghee with a decent amount of spices and chillies.
A very famous dish among the Malabari Muslims is this variation of Biryani that originated in Kerala. Although the elements of meat and spices are similar to the other varieties, how this biryani stands out from the others is by the choice of its rice. They use a unique type of rice grain known as Khyma, a small- grain thin rice. A good portion of spices are used in the preparation with very little chilli. The biryani is then cooked on the traditional dum post being sealed, and the top of the pot is layered with hot charcoal.
A traditional dessert, prepared during the festival of Onam or any other special occasion. Is a simple rice pudding or kheer, made in almost all the households across Kerala. The most real version of this dish is made from rice ada (which is easily available in any local Kerala grocery store), sugar, milk and ghee. After all, any occasion is incomplete without the tasty payasam!
Banana chips are a favourite not only amongst Malayalis but also people from around the world. These crunchy yellow chips are made from raw plantains which are thinly sliced. Left to dry in the sun, and then deep fried. A regular in all households, it is one of the most famous tea-time snacks served around Kerala.
This is the fourth post in our food from different countries series, the third was about Bulgarian Foods. Now I just want to go to Kerala to try and taste these all for myself. When in India, I’ll will make a stop at some of the waterfalls in Asia and Forts of the world. Nilima has done a good job in introducing us in traditional foods of Kerala.
I am Nilima Gautam, also known as The Traveling CA.
A Chartered Accountant and Banker by profession but a traveler by passion.
I’m always cooking up plans for my next trip. Or reading about a new place to eventually plan my next trip. 🙂
Find me on Instagram @thetravelingca and Pinterest for more!
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Rob + Ann @TravelLatte
Oh, yum yum YUM! Biryani is one of our favorites, but we had no idea it was from Kerala! Everything in this story looks SO good, but we’ve only been able to try a few so far. We look forward to finding and eating the rest!
Yes, Biryani is delicious.
I am a fan of Indian food and it is rather plentiful here in New Zealand. Most of what I ge tis Northern but occasional I come across a restaurant that has dosa or idli sambhar. They are a real treat.
I think here in The Netherlands it’s also more Northern Indian food than from other regions.
Oh I’m drooling now!
When I was in Bangalore we ate at some typical South Indian restaurants and all the food (vegan) was simply amazing!
Must be delicious to try it in the region itself.
All of these dishes look absolutely amazing! Now I’m craving Indian food. A new restaurant just opened in my area. 🙂
Lucky you, that a new restaurant just opened in your area 🙂
These all look delicious! I adore Indian food, I’ve been fortunate to find a tasty place in Romania, but I can’t wait to get there and actually try the truly authentic stuff! Thanks for sharing, I’m starved now! :))
Yes, I’ve found a few great places here in the Netherlands for Indian food, but to taste it in India must be so fantastic.
Lots of yummy food here – Biryiani is a personal fave!
Yes, Biryani is so delicious.
All food looks so delicious. When I was in Kerala I’ve tried some of dishes you’ve mentioned and enjoyed the most dosas and Idli 😀
Lucky you, that you have been to Kerala and have tried a few of these dishes.
I’ve heard of a couple of these dishes before but I had no idea about the rest. They look very nice and fully of fantastic flavours.
Yes, they all look and sound so flavorful.
I don’t think anyone can read this post without drooling! Would love to go to Kerala to at least try some of these delectable traditional dishes, and of course explore a bit too.
Food and exploring are main reasons for visiting a certain region or country. And yes food posts gets everybody drooling.
Your post really made me hungry now….YUMMY! Sadya sounds incredible….not only healthy but also, a beautiful presentation. Thanks for sharing this and introducing incredible dishes that I never heard of before, a very educational post also.
Sadya sounds good and looks good.
I really want to try payasam. I’ve seen a couple of variations of it recently and I’m interested in trying it. I also love the look of the sadya. As vegetarian that looks amazing. And who doesn’t love a dosa?! So much good food here I’d like to try
Yes, it makes you want to catch the first plane to Kerala to eat it all.
My mouth is watering as I read this post. Thanks for summing up all the yummy food from kerala, I need to visit that place someday and try all of the goodies in traditional style on a banana leaf 😃
Yes, to have them all on a banana leaf would be perfect.
I am such a sucker for desserts, so the Payasam is right up my alley! This looks way better than the boring rice pudding that my mum used to make.
Yes, it does look more interesting than the rice pudding I know from my youth.
I absolutely love Dosas and banana chips! I need to try some of the other foods you have mentioned on the list – love trying new cuisines and new recipes! <3
Dosas and banana chips are indeed delicious and the rest also looks delicious.
I loooove Indian food! Unfortunately haven’t been to India yet, so have to rely on the Indian restaurants on my travels… 😉 Always keep my eyes open for great places to eat.
Same for me, haven’t been to India yet, but I know I’m going to try it all when I finally get there.
Sadya! I miss pongal and sadya sooo much! And Payasam!! It is my absolute favourite sweet dish in the whole world! You post got me so hungry and nostalgic!
Glad the post brought back good memories of the dishes.
Drool!! OMG I am so hungry now, and I really want to visit Kerala. Thanks for sharing <3
Ye,s that’s what food posts do to you, they make you hungry.
These look delicious! I’ll keep an eye out for some of these dishes when I am next in an Indian restaurant- especially the Idli Sambhar and Payasam, they sound amazing.
Hope you can try them in an Indian restaurant!
So many new foods here for me but they are found incredibly delicious. I like the intricate descriptions that help me understand the culture behind the food. The photos make me hungry.
This food looks so good! Thanks for all the tips.
Yes, it looks delicious.
YUM!! Biryani and dosa are my favorites from this list!
I also love Biryani a lot. It’s so tasteful.
All of this looks amazing, but the Biryani is calling to me more than anything! Thanks for the new dinner ideas.
Yes, the Biryani is also nmy fav!
Wow, I hadn’t even heard of these foods before! However, Idli Sambhar sounds pretty good. Thank you for sharing!
Oh wow everything looks and sounds so delicious. I love that there are many vegetarian options. Thanks for sharing.
Oooh these all look fabulous! I’ve had some of them (and enjoyed them) before, but I have never seen appam with stew or Idiyappam with curry. I would looove to try both of those! And then eat piles of dosa (I always love that!!)
Wow, what a culinary paradise! I really hope I can get to Kerala one day to eat all these foods.
I have never been to India, but I would love to visit it one day and try all these delicious dishes. I would love to try biryani and dosa.