Vegan Pongal

This Vegan Pongal recipe is a part of the Culture Tuesday column, in which Best of Vegan Editor Samantha Onyemenam explores different cultures’ cuisines across the globe through a plant-based and vegan lens. This week’s column on vegan South Indian cuisine (and Tamil breakfast dishes in particular) was written in collaboration with Supriya Raman of and @supriyaramankitchen on Instagram. All photographs are by her and each recipe developed by her based on the dishes she grew up eating in Tamil Nadu. Read more about this dish and discover more vegan Tamil breakfast recipes here.


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vegan south indian cuisine: pongal

Vegan Pongal


  • 2 cups rice
  • 1 cup moong dal
  • 7 cups water
  • 1.5 tsp coarse salt
  • ½ tsp asafoetida powder
  • ¼ cup plant-based butter
  • 2” piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 tbsp whole black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 15 curry leaves (about two sprigs)


  1. To a sauté pan, add rice and moong dal. Dry roast over medium-high heat until rice is opaque and moong dal starts becoming fragrant and lightly golden. This will take about 6 to 8 minutes. 
  2. Transfer this to a pressure cooker, I use the Instant Pot. Pour in measured water, salt, and asafoetida powder. Stir. Close the Instant pot, seal the vent and set manual high-pressure cooking for 12 minutes. 
  3. If you do not have a pressure cooker, you could do this on the stove top, but to get a creamy tender consistency, you will need low heat cooking for at least double the time, maybe more. Highly recommend a pressure cooker.
  4. In the meanwhile, add ginger to a mortar and pestle. Pound and crush into a coarse paste. Set aside. 
  5. Heat a sauté pan and add cumin and black pepper. Dry roast over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until spices are fragrant and cumin turns a deep golden brown. Transfer the roasted spices into the mortar and pestle with the ginger. Continue pounding and crushing together into a coarse mixture. Set aside.
  6. Melt plant-based butter over medium heat using the same sauté pan. Once melted add the crushed cumin-pepper-ginger mixture along with hand torn curry leaves. Fry everything together for two minutes and remove from heat.
  7. Once the rice and lentils are cooked, carefully open the instant pot and stir, folding the rice mixture from the edges in. Make sure they are mashed, use a few tablespoons of water if necessary. The mixture should be the consistency of cooked oatmeal or grits. Add the fried spice & herb mixture into the rice and lentils. Continue mixing and add an additional tbsp of plant-based butter for extra unctuousness. And it is done. Serve with coconut chutney and sambar.


Find more of Supriya’s recipes on her website.

vegan tamil pongal
Making vegan pongal.

vegan south indian cuisine: pongal
Vegan Pongal serving suggestion.


If you loved this Vegan Pongal recipe, you might also like…

Culture Tuesday: an Exploration of South Indian Cuisine

Vegan Upma Pudi Kozhakattai & Upma Vadai

Vegan Godhumai Dosai



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