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11 April, 2010

Sarkarai Pongal / Sweet Pongal

Posted in : Breakfast, Desserts & Sweets, Indian, Instant Pot Ultra, Kerala, Pongal, Rice, South Indian, Tamil Nadu, Vegetarian on by : sujeesha Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Festive celebrations from childhood are such fond memories. When I think of Pongal, I remember my childhood when my mom used to wake up at 3 am and slave in the kitchen with her freshly-washed damp hair wrapped in a towel, to make delicious Pongal breakfast for us. Menu is simple and authentic. Its always ven pongal, sarkarai pongal, medhu vadai, coconut chutney and sambar. Though we are from Kerala where Pongal is not a big festival, since we lived in Chennai, my mom made sure we learnt cultures of both the states and she always made dishes specific to each festival and being a fantastic cook, every single dish she made had authentic flavors.

Roasted skinned mung bean

Since I grew up watching my mom make festivals very special for the family, I try to do the same. Living in the USA there are times when I’m travelling or too busy with work and unable to keep up the tradition but for the most part, I make sure I celebrate in the little way I could. Sometimes I celebrate during weekends or Pongal celebration is always during dinner instead of the traditional breakfast. But it doesn’t really matter when I do it, its all about getting together with loved ones and celebrating the festival when we could, isn’t it?

Jaggery syrup
Frying cashews

Sarkarai pongal is a more like rice pudding, only that it is wayyyyyy more delicious with complex flavors. Slow cooking rice and roasted lentils with jaggery syrup, coconut milk, ghee and nuts does so much justice to the ingredients by making this a rich dessert that you would crave for.

Caramelized raisins

This year I used my Instant Pot Ultra to make Sarkarai pongal and it came out soooooo well. My friend Sathya Vikashini gave me instructions on using instapot to make pongal as I wasn’t having much success with instapot since the time I got it as Christmas present. I followed her instructions to the T and voila! Success!!! And I could keep it warm until serving time, which made life so much easier.

Almost ready! 😀

I substituted coconut milk for regular milk to give it a fantastic flavor. I also make my own ghee and made fresh ghee the day before just for Pongal. Nothing like some home-made ghee to flavor your food. But feel free to use store bought ghee made with cow’s milk.

PS: Name of the festival and name of the dish are the same. to differentiate, I write “Pongal” for the festival and “pongal” for the food. 😀

Ready to be devoured!

Things to remember:

  1. Roasting the lentil is important to give pongal a nice fragrance.
  2. Soak rice and lentil for atleast half hour for even cooking.
  3. You can make pongal without adding any kind of milk.
  4. Good quality ghee is the key to a good pongal. Buy ghee from Indian stores only or better yet, make it yourself to make sure you know there is no contamination. Its pretty simple to make and here is the recipe to make ghee using unsalted butter.
  5. Caramelizing the raisins by frying until they puff up is key to bring out the rich sweetness.
  6. If you do not have edible camphor don’t sweat it. It’s an optional ingredient, but definitely adds that touch of flavor that you will only find in pongals offered in temples in India. It’s a nostalgic feeling for me, hence I add it.
  7. Do not walk away while making jaggery syrup. You just want it to completely dissolve and just start boiling. If it boils too much, it will turn hard or worse yet can easily get burnt.
  8. Set a timer and stir the pot when instant pot is in warm setting. Last thing you want is BBQ flavor in your pongal. 😛

Sarkarai Pongal

By sujeesha Published: April 11, 2010

  • Yield: 5 Servings
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Ready In: 40 mins

Sarkarai pongal is a more like rice pudding, only that it is wayyyyyy more delicious with complex flavors. Slow cooking rice and roasted lentils with jaggery syrup, coconut milk, ghee and nuts does so much justice to the ingredients by making this a rich dessert that you would crave for.



  1. Dry roast lentil in a frying pan until golden and let cool in a plate or a news paper sheet. :- Cooling in newspaper makes it easier to transfer to the pot later.
  2. Once cool, transfer it to the instapot and add rice.
  3. Wash rice and lentil mix nicely with generous amount of water. Measure 3 cups of water into the pot and let soak for atleast half hour.
  4. Cook rice and lentil in the instapot on pressure cook mode for 10 minutes.
  5. While rice/lentil is cooking, make jaggery syrup by boiling jaggery powder in ½ cup water on medium heat on stove top.
  6. You can add cardamom powder to the jaggery syrup. I forgot to add it at this stage, hence added it to the rice mixture.
  7. Once pressure releases naturally, open the instapot lid and cancel the setting. Turn on sauté mode and strain jaggery syrup into the rice mixture and mix well.
  8. Add 1 cup coconut milk if adding, mix well and simmer with no lid on.
  9. Add 3 tbsp ghee into the mixture and mix well. Stir the bottom of the pot every now and then to avoid burning.
  10. Now heat 1 tbsp ghee in a little frying pan and fry cashews till golden. Transfer cashews to the instapot.
  11. To the same frying pan, add 1 more tbsp of ghee and when hot, throw in the raisins. When raisins puff up, tip the whole thing into the instapot, ghee and all. Add a pinch of edible camphor if using.
  12. Stir well and simmer for 5 more minutes. At this stage, pongal would come together nicely into a gooey mixture.
  13. Cancel sauté setting and set the pot to warm mode until serving time with lid on to avoid drying out the top. Make sure to stir the pot every 20 minutes to avoid burning the bottom of the pot.
  14. Enjoy sarkarai pongal nice and hot!

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