Instant Pot recipes for Tamil food

Here are some recipes for Tamil food using the Instant Pot. They represent the way I’ve been making these dishes recently for myself.

One example of how I’ve customized my recipes for myself, compared to the “typical” style, is that I have been replacing chili peppers (மிளகாய்) with black pepper (மிளகு). The reason is that peppers were “only” introduced to Asia within the last 500 years, and மிளகு was likely what it replaced, which has a history of cultivation and use in Tamil areas for more than 2000 years. But an argument of authenticity based solely on antiquity is not a good argument and is not useful. What is interesting is ancedotal evidence of how chili peppers are not good for your body, based on complications from people who eat too much. Personally, my stomach and guts don’t feel good from eating too much chili spice. People say black pepper has more medicinal properties, and the research of how black pepper activates turmeric’s anti-inflammatory properties confirm this. Look at any bottle of turmeric pills in the store — they now always contain an amount of black pepper’s active ingredient. Most Tamil dishes have turmeric, and if all the chili “spice” (காரம் / உறைப்பு) was converted into black pepper, then you can imagine the hidden health benefits. Plus, you won’t have indigestion from too much black pepper. (But if you need to build up more tolerance to chili spice, the trick is to soak a handful of fenugreek (வெந்தயம்) seeds in water until they absorb the water, and then swallow them with the water, and do this daily.)

Also, I like grains thoroughly cooked and moist. I don’t necessarily like cooked grain (சோறு) to be so moist that it is wet, but I prefer that to it being undercooked and dry. To underscore the point, I’m not sure if I’ve ever eaten quinoa made in stores or restaurants that was cooked nearly enough.

சிறுதானியங்கள் / Traditional grains

Instant Pot cooking instructions for grains:

  • Rinse the grain two times over
    • A rinse is pouring water into the grain so that the water submerges the grain, and stir the grain with your fingers to release dust, impurities, starch, etc. into the water, then draining the water
  • Use “Pressure Cook” mode
  • Select “Pressure: High”
  • Select “Keep Warm: Off”
  • Add the appropriate amount of water needed for cooking
  • TBD: determine how to best prevent the result (சோறு) from drying out — allow the pressure to release on its own (don’t use manual steam release)? or use a higher water ratio like 1 : 2.5?
பெயர் (Tamil name)TransliterationEnglish translationRatio of grain : waterInstant Pot cook timeNotes
கம்புkambupearl millet
தினைthinaifoxtail millet1:212 minsBecomes dry and hard after it cools off, may consider 1 : 2.5 water ratio
குதிரைவாலிkuthiraivaalibarnyard millet
சாமைchaamailittle millet
வரகுvarahukodo millet
கேழ்வரகு / கேப்பை / குரக்கன் / இராகிkEzhvarahu / kEppai / kurakkan / raagifinger milletN/AN/A
பனிவரகுpanivarahuproso millet
Instant Pot & Tamil traditional grains (சிறுதானியங்கள்)

Without an Instant Pot

  • Cook in a pot with a lid
  • An Instant Pot grain : water ratio of 1 : 2 will become 1 : 3 in a regular pot in a lid, or 1 : 4 or 1 : 5 in a pot without a lid

பருப்பு குழம்புகள் / கறிகள் / Lentils & Curries

These recipes will use Instant Pot to boil the lentils separately from the tempering ingredients. The timings are for the plain lentils to boil them to a fully mushy consistency, which is how I like them for “typical curries”. Dishes like koottu (கூட்டு) need to retain texture of the lentils somewhat, so they are different than “typical curries” like paasi paruppu and sambar.

பெயர் (Tamil name)TransliterationEnglish translationRatio of lentil : waterInstant Pot cook time
பாசிப் பருப்புpaasi paruppupaasi paruppu aka moong dal (split, hulled)1 : 218 mins
துவரம் பருப்புthuvaram parupputhuvaram paruppu aka toor dal (split, hulled)

பாசி பருப்பு மசியல் / pasi paruppu (moong dal) masiyal

பருப்பு வேகவைப்பது (boiling lentils)

  • Put dry lentils into empty pot on low heat
  • Stir often until the lentils are hot enough to release their smell clearly
  • Remove from heat; stir to release heat?
  • Rinse in water two times over
  • Add the appropriate amount of water needed for cooking pasi paruppu
  • Use “Pressure Cook”
  • Do not select “Keep Warm”
  • Press “Start”
வேகவைத்த பருப்பு

தாளிப்பு (tempering)

  • These instructions are written for 2 cups of dry pasi paruppu lentils
  • The தாளிப்பு (tempering) can be done simultaneously while the lentils are cooking in the Instant Pot
  • In a pan, add 3+ tablespoons of oil, turn to medium-low heat
  • Add a 1/3 tablespoon of mustard seeds (கடுகு), heat until they begin to dance / pop
  • Add a 1/2 tablespoon of cumin seeds (சீரகம்) for only 15 seconds
  • Add 4-5 cloves of minced garlic (I like garlic, so I add a couple more cloves)
  • Add 1/2 big onion diced up
  • Stir around to ensure the cumin seeds don’t burn
  • Coarsely grind black pepper (மிளகு) on top
  • Optionally add a little salt to ensure the onions sweat and mix with the ingredients
  • Add more oil if the pan doesn’t have enough and the ingredients are sticking to the pan
  • Let sit on heat until onions translucent, stir only occasionally


  • Add tempering (தாளித்த பொருள்) to the boiled lentils in the Instant Pot
  • Use “Satué Mode”
  • Set temperature for Low (even Medium heat is way too hot and causes the lentils to boil again)
  • Set time for 5 minutes (don’t scale this time up for larger quantities of lentils)
  • Press “Start”
  • Stir in the tempering
  • Add 1 tblsp of turmeric power (மஞ்சள்)
  • Add in salt until it’s “enough” (4 tblsp?)
  • Finely grind black pepper if desired
  • Put in a modest amount of clarified butter (நெய்)
    • A tiny amount makes a huge difference in taste
  • Stir some more
பாசிப் பருப்பு மசியல் in InstantPot

காய்கறிப் பொரியல் (மரக்கறி வறுவல்) / sauteed vegetables

Most vegetables will have the same recipe. Different vegetables will have slight embellishments.

அடிப்படை செய்முறை / basic recipe

The following recipe is probably better using a regular pot because you can adjust the temperature up and down quickly and precisely. Also, using a regular pot allows the Instant Pot to be used for cooking grain simultaneously.

(Increasing temperature saves time after adding the vegetables to cook down / release the water content from the vegetables. Decreasing the temperature helps at the end once most of the water is released so that the vegetables do not dry out, stick to the pot, and burn.)

Instant Pot method for sauteeing vegetables:

  • The following instructions are for roughly 1 pound of vegetables (or an amount that cooks down to the size of a large onion)
  • Add 3 tbsp of oil to the pot
  • Add 1 tbsp of mustard seeds (கடுகு)
  • Turn on pot to Saute Mode on Low heat for 12 mins
  • Once the mustard seeds start to “pop” (jump out of the oil), the oil is hot enough to start cooking.
  • Add 1 tbsp of uLunthu (உளுந்தும் பருப்பு, “urad dal”)
  • After a short time (ex: 30 seconds), the uLunthu will become golden brown
  • Add 1 tbsp of pottu kadalai (கடலை பருப்பு, “bengal gram”), wait until the pottu kadalai is golden brown
  • Add a few leaves (6?) of curry leaves (கறிவேற்பிலை), fresh or dried
  • Add 1/2 large onion, diced. Optionally sprinkle a little bit of salt to help the onions to sweat
  • Wait until onion become translucent
  • Turn pot on Saute Mode on a custom temperature for 24 mins (290 degrees F)
  • Add vegetable
  • Add a small amount of salt (1 tbsp of salt) to help vegetables to sweat
  • Wait until water content of vegetable is cooked out.
  • Add remaining amount of salt (2 tbsp of salt?). Or, iteratively add salt until adequate. (Not enough salt does not bring out good taste, but can aways be adjusted afterwards, but too much salt is too salty and cannot be adjusted. Adding too much salt may not be obvious when water content is still high, but will taste salty after water content has full left.)
  • Reduce heat when most of water content has left (rate of water loss from vegetable decreases) to avoid drying out or burning vegetable.

If not using Instant Pot, a regular pan can be used for 1-3x amount of vegetables. A large pot makes it easy for 3x times of vegetable or more.

கீரை / spinach

Spinach is the same as the basic recipe, with the following additional step:

  • Before adding onion, add 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • Optional: I find adding 1/3 tsp of turmeric at the end makes it taste better to me. Turmeric is very strong, so adding any more will be too much because it will overpower other flavors

It’s easier to cook spinach using 1 lb blocks of chopped frozen spinach isntead of cooking down raw loose leaf spinach.

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