Pongal (lit. 'to boil over') is a South Indian and Sri Lankan dish of rice cooked in boiling milk.[1][2] Its preparation is the main custom associated with the Pongal festival. It is also eaten as a breakfast food.[3] A part of Tamil cuisine, varieties include venn (hot) pongal, sakkarai (sweet) pongal, kozhi (chicken) pongal, and sanyasi pongal. It has been described as "very dear to (the) Tamil people."[2]

Pongal cooking in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India
Place of originIndia, Sri Lanka
Region or stateSouth India
Associated cuisineTamil cuisine
Main ingredientsRice, milk
VariationsVenn pongal, sakkarai pongal, kozhi pongal, sanyasi pongal


Pongal on Indian postage stamp

Pongal is associated with the Pongal festival, whose name means "to boil over" or "overflow." The festival thanks the Sun deity for the sunlight that makes the rice harvest possible. Therefore, the tradition calls for offering the fresh harvest of rice cooked in boiling milk to the deity.[1] While the pongal is cooking, onlookers sometimes shout with joy, "Pongalo pongal!" ('Let the pongal rise up!').[2]



All pongal varieties are made with cow's milk.[4]

Venn pongal

Venn (hot) pongal

Venn or ven (hot) pongal has been described as a rice and lentil porridge similar to the South Asian staple khichdi. It is made with black pepper, ginger, turmeric, and sometimes asafoetida, cashews, cumin, curry leaves, ghee (clarified butter), mung beans, and salt. In South India, it is commonly eaten for breakfast with coconut chutney and Indian filter coffee.[2][4][5]

Sakkarai pongal

A plate of sakkarai (sweet) pongal

Sakkarai (sweet) pongal is made with jaggery, cardamom, cashews, and sometimes ghee, golden raisins, nutmeg, and salt. It is served after being offered to the deity.[2][4]

Kozhi pongal


Kozhi pongal is made with chicken and spices.[2]

Sanyasi pongal


Sanyasi pongal is made with vegetables.[2]


  1. ^ a b Verma, Priyanka (2014). Pongal: Festival Of India. Diamond Pocket Books Pvt Ltd. p. 4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Shanmugalingam, Cynthia (2022). Rambutan: Recipes from Sri Lanka. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 210.
  3. ^ Everyday Ayurveda Cooking for a Calm, Clear Mind: 100 Simple Sattvic Recipes. Shambhala. 2018. p. 261.
  4. ^ a b c Monks Of Kauai Aadheenam (1997). Monks' Cookbook. Himalayan Academy Publications. pp. 91–92.
  5. ^ Singh, Manali (2018). Vegetarian Indian Cooking with Your Instant Pot: 75 Traditional Recipes That Are Easier, Quicker and Healthier. Page Street Publishing. p. 93.