Kollu Masala Usili| Spiced Horsegram Stir-Fry

Kollu Masala Usili is a delicious, mildly spiced stir-fry that is made using horsegram. A big-time favourite at our place, this usili pairs beautifully with rotis as well as rice dishes. Let me share with you today how I go about making this dish.

Horsegram – ‘kulthi‘ in Hindi, ‘kollu‘ in Tamil – is a powerhouse of health benefits. This legume gets its name from the fact that it was widely fed to horses and other livestock in the olden times, but is nothing short of a superfood. Low in fat and high in calcium, protein and iron, horsegram has been known to aid in reducing one’s cholesterol levels, digestive disorders, asthma, bronchitis, urinary issues and kidney stones. It is believed to be an excellent food for diabetics and for those who want to lose weight.

‘Elaithavanukku ellu, kozhutavanukku kollu’, goes an old Tamil saying. This literally translates into ‘Sesame for the one who has lost weight, horsegram for the one who has put on weight’. Yes, sesame has always been recognised as a food that helps one in building body weight, while horsegram is believed to be an ally for someone who wants to lose weight. Now, I’m no nutritionist and use both of these ingredients in moderation – I love cooking with both of these ‘opposite’ ingredients equally. πŸ™‚ I think this Kollu Masala Usili is a great way to use horsegram!

I soak the horsegram overnight and then pressure cook it, to make the Kollu Masala Usili. The water in which the horsegram is cooked is full of nutrients, and I drain and reserve it for use in a gravy-based curry, soup or rasam. Here’s how we make Kollu Rasam from the water left over after cooking the horsegram. It’s a lovely, lovely thing – this rasam – I tell you.

For now, here’s how you go about making Kollu Masala Usili.

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  1. 3/4 cup horsegram (aka kollu or kulthi)
  2. 1 medium-sized onion
  3. 1 sprig curry leaves
  4. 2 green chillies
  5. 1 tablespoon oil
  6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  7. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  8. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  9. 2 dry red chillies
  10. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  11. Salt to taste
  12. Red chilli powder to taste
  13. 1 teaspoon chana masala or to taste
  14. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste (optional)
  15. 1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  16. 1/4 cup fresh grated coconut or as per taste
  17. A dash of lemon juice (optional)


1. Wash the horsegram thoroughly under running water, a couple of times. Then soak it for 8-10 hours or overnight in just enough water to cover it.

2. When the horsegram is done soaking, drain out all the water from it, and discard it. Transfer to a wide vessel and add in about 2-1/2 cups of fresh water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 5-6 whistles or till the horsegram is fully cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

3. In the meantime, chop the onion finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise. Keep aside.

4. When the pressure from the cooker has fully gone down, open it and get out the cooked horsegram. Strain out all the water from it – don’t throw it out, just reserve it for later use. Keep the drained cooked horsegram ready.

5. Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard and allow it to pop. Next add the cumin, dry red chillies, asafoetida, slit green chillies and curry leaves. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.

6. Add the chopped onion to the pan. Cook on medium flame till it browns.

7. Now, add the cooked horsegram to the pan. Also add in salt and red chilli powder to taste, turmeric powder, jaggery powder and chana masala. Mix well. Cook uncovered on medium flame for about 2 minutes. Switch off gas.

8. Mix in lemon juice (if using), chopped coriander and grated coconut. Serve the Kollu Masala Usili hot, warm or at room temperature with rotis, dosas or a rice dish of your preference.


1. Some people do not soak the horsegram and pressure cook it directly. I prefer soaking it overnight and then cooking it in the morning – it turns out much softer and delicious by doing so.

2. Always use soft water to soak the horsegram and to cook it.

3. Make sure the horsegram is well cooked before proceeding to use it in making this Kollu Masala Usili. The time needed for pressure cooking the horsegram might differ from one person to another.

4. I like using chana masala in the above recipe, but it can easily be substituted by garam masala or any other masala of your preference.

5. I use coconut oil or sesame oil to make this Kollu Masala Usili, usually. You can use any oil of your preference.

6. The jaggery powder adds beautifully to the flavour of the Kollu Masala Usili, and I would not really recommend skipping it. However, you may skip it if you are not too fond of a sweetish taste in your food.

7. Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder and grated coconut as per personal taste preferences.

8. I wouldn’t suggest skipping the lemon juice in the above Kollu Masala Usili recipe either. It rounds up the dish in a lovely way.

9. Ginger-garlic paste and/or chopped tomatoes can be used in the Kollu Masala Usili too. I usually don’t.

10. Like I was saying earlier, the water in which the horsegram is cooked is full of nutrients. Don’t discard it. Drain out the water from the horsegram after it is cooked, and reserve it. Use only the cooked and drained horsegram in the above Kollu Masala Usili recipe. Our family recipe for Kollu Rasam requires about 2 tablespoons of the cooked horsegram as well – if you plan to make the rasam our way, do make sure you reserve a little of it too.

11. This is a vegetarian dish, completely plant-based and suitable for those who follow a vegan diet. It can easily be made gluten-free by omitting the asafoetida added in the tempering. For a Jain version, skip the onions.


This recipe is for the A-Z Recipe Challenge group that I am part of. Every alternate month, the members of this group showcase recipes that star ingredients in alphabetical order of their names.

The letter for this month is H, and I chose ‘horsegram’ as my star ingredient.

I’m also sharing this with Fiesta Friday #283. Your co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.


Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!

35 thoughts on “Kollu Masala Usili| Spiced Horsegram Stir-Fry

    1. I have never tried horsegram, but after knowing so much about its health benefits i am surely going to try it soon. First thing will be the stir fry prepared by you, such an easy recipe but full of flavors. Loved the preparation !!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Horsegram is very nutritious but never used it before… the curry recipe sounds so rich in flavours and comforting!!


  2. Kollu usili was the dish I tried after kollu kadhan ( thin soup like rasam but with buttermilk) and since then I make it regularly. I even make sprouted horsegram stir-fry in a similar manner. I love your version with fresh coconut. The usili looks inviting and makes a lovely side dish with chapati.


  3. I’ve not used horse gram before but looking at your dish would definitely like to make it. I think I would enjoy the dish on its own as a healthy meal option. Sounds so flavorful with coconut and curry leaves.


  4. Kollu is such a powerhouse ingredient and so underrated. Great way to use horsegram, Priya. I like the addition of Chana Masala to this traditional dish. Will certainly up its taste quotient.


  5. Totally new recipe for me, but it sounds so flavourful, healthy & delicious too! We usually make simple dal from horsegram, I never knew that we can make in this way also. Thanks for sharing.


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