Vepampoo Pachadi| Dried Neem Flower Relish

Vepampoo Pachadi, the recipe I am going to share with you all today, is a classic from the state of Tamilnadu. It refers to a relish (pachadi) made using neem flowers (vepampoo). Yes, you read that right. The bitter flowers of the neem tree are used to make this traditional Tamilian dish. And I must tell you, it tastes absolutely brilliant!

Delicious dried neem flower relish!

This Vepampoo Pachadi is really an explosion of tastes. It is sweet and sour mostly, with hints of bitterness and spiciness. It works wonderfully as an accompaniment to several South Indian dishes.

What goes into this Vepampoo Pachadi

Like I was saying earlier, this relish is made using the flowers of the neem tree. Either fresh or dried neem flowers can be used – I use the dried version since I do not have access to fresh ones where I live. Sun-dried neem flowers are quite commonly available in ‘naatu marundhu‘ (herbal medicine) stores in Tamilnadu, which is where I source them from.

Dried neem flowers

Neem flowers, fresh or dried, have a bitter taste to them. To balance out their bitterness, tamarind, jaggery and chillies are used in the relish. In fact, this Vepampoo Pachadi falls under the category of ‘Arusuvai‘, i.e. food that combines all six classic tastes as per Tamil cuisine experts – sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty and spicy. Consuming foods like this with all tastes included is believed to be very good for the body.

Did you know that the neem tree is considered to be sacred among Hindus? The flowers and wood of the tree are important from the Ayurvedic standpoint too, both possessing several health benefits.

The significance of consuming Vepampoo Pachadi on Tamil New Year

It is a tradition to consume dishes containing all six tastes, in Tamilian households, on the occasion of Puthandu or Tamil New Year. This is to remind oneself that life is a mix of sweet and bitter and many other shades in between. This Manga Pachadi or raw mango relish made with neem flowers is another dish that is commonly consumed on Tamil New Year’s day.

My parents grew up having this Vepampoo Pachadi at least once every week, considering the many health benefits of neem flowers. Somewhere down the line, however, this dish went on to the back burner. I hardly ever make this pachadi, and am so glad I recreated it for the blog recently. I will definitely make it a point to make it more often.

Vepampoo Pachadi for the A-Z Recipe Challenge

I’m sharing this recipe for Vepampoo Pachadi for the A-Z Recipe Challenge. This challenge was initiated by Vidya of Masalachilli and Jolly of Homemade Recipes.

For the challenge, the members share recipes prepared using key ingredients in alphabetical order, one alphabet and one ingredient per month. The alphabet for this month is N, and I chose to cook with ‘neem flowers’ for the same.

Vidya has also used dried neem flowers in her dish for the challenge – take a look at her lovely Vepampoo Thogayal. Also, do check out this beautiful Nutmeg & Cinnamon Banana Bread that Jolly baked for the challenge!

How to make Vepampoo Pachadi

This is a family recipe I learnt from my mom. It is fairly easy to prepare this pachadi, especially if you have dried neem flowers on hand, and can be put together in a matter of minutes.

The detailed proceedure follows.

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

  1. A lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  2. 3/4 tablespoon rice flour
  3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  6. 2 dry red chillies
  7. 2 green chillies
  8. A sprig of fresh curry leaves
  9. 1 tablespoon dried neem flowers
  10. Salt to taste
  11. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  12. 2 tablespoons jaggery powder or to taste


1. Soak the tamarind in a little hot water for 10-15 minutes. Allow it to cool down a bit.

2. Meanwhile, mix the rice flour with about 2 tablespoons water in a small cup. Make a lump-free slurry. Keep aside.

3. When the tamarind is cool enough to handle, extract all the juice from it. Add water little by little to do so. I got about 1-1/2 cups of semi-thick tamarind extract. Keep aside. Also, slit the green chillies length-wise and keep them ready.

Top: Step 1, Bottom left and right: Steps 2 and 3

4. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Now, add in the curry leaves, asafoetida, slit green chillies and dry red chillies. Let these ingredients stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Now, add in the dried neem flowers. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute the neem flowers on medium flame for 5-6 seconds.

6. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind goes away. Stir intermittently.

7. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder and jaggery powder. Mix well.

8. Immediately add in the rice flour slurry. Mix well.

9. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the mixture thickens up. Switch off gas when the mixture has thickened, but is still quite runny. It thickens further upon cooling. Your Vepampoo Pachadi is ready. Allow it to cool down fully, then serve as an accompaniment to rice, upma, Ven Pongal, etc.

Top left and right: Steps 4 and 5, Centre left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Bottom left and right: Steps 8 and 9

Is this Vepampoo Pachadi vegan and gluten-free?

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet. It can easily be made gluten-free by avoiding the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most commercial Indian brands of asafoetida include wheat flour, to a lesser or greater extent, and are therefore best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, please do go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. If the tamarind has seeds or impurities, make sure you remove them before use. You could also use a strainer to filter out the impurities from the tamarind extract.

2. Don’t make the tamarind extract too watery.

3. Wheat flour can be used to make the slurry, instead of rice flour. Avoid using wheat flour in case you are following a gluten-free diet.

4. Adjust the quantity of green chillies, tamarind, jaggery and salt as per personal taste preferences.

5. I have used store-bought dried neem flowers here. If you have access to fresh neem flowers, you can use them instead.

6. I have used jaggery powder in this Vepampoo Pachadi. You can use jaggery pieces too.

7. Remember to cook only till the Vepampoo Pachadi thickens, and to keep it runny. It thickens further upon cooling.

8. If the Vepampoo Pachadi gets too thick, add a little water and simmer for a minute or so.

9. If you are not planning on serving the Vepampoo Pachadi immediately, allow it to cool and then transfer to a clean, dry, air-tight bottle. The Pachadi can be stored refrigerated for at least 4-5 days.

10. Sesame oil aka nalla ennai works best in the making of this Vepampoo Pachadi. However, if you don’t have it, you can use any other variety of oil you prefer. Ghee can be used too.

11. Don’t over-fry the neem flowers, as this might cause the pachadi to get overly bitter. Just a few seconds of sauteing is enough, after which the flowers will cook further in the tamarind extract.

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


41 thoughts on “Vepampoo Pachadi| Dried Neem Flower Relish

  1. Could you kindly share which shop you source it from? Your neem flowers are without how you have balanced the bitterness beautifully


  2. That pachadi looks super delicious. I am in awe with all the neem flower recipes I have seen in this series… so interesting… This would be apt with some boiled rice and sauteed vegetables on the side…


  3. I never used neem flowers but looks at so many different recipes, want to give all these a try.. this looks and sounds so delish and flavourful and good to know it has many health benefits too.


  4. I always love your traditional recipes. This recipe is a keeper. Healthy and delicious. In Bengali cuisine we also follow these all the taste to make a complete meal. And start with something bitter, followed by other tastes finish with sour and sweet. Awesome share.


  5. this is soooo delicous ! perfect clicks… we too make it every tamil new year, in fact my (late) MIL made this so well we used to wonder if every fetival cudnt be a new year feast!


  6. This is made at home during Tamil New Year but like you, I love relishing it throughout the year with dried neem flowers stocked in the pantry. The tangy, sweet, spicy and bitter all combined is everything your taste buds long for. The image is beautiful. Loved the clarity and the glossy texture of the pachadi.


  7. I have never used neem flowers in cooking . Reading about its various health benefits I feel the urge to get hold of it. The pachadi sounds absolutely flavorful.


  8. An interesting recipe using neem flowers as I’ve never used them in cooking. Our grandmothers knew the full benefits of many naturally found ingredients and hence the use as medicine in various ways. I would love to try using neem flowers just to know how they really taste.


  9. Neem flower recipe with so many health benefits. the pachdi looks great, Priya. I would like to try this one as and include the use of neem flowers in my cooking.


  10. Pachadi with neem flower sounds very healthy and your beautiful image makes it more interesting and urge to make it. Lovely recipe with detailed description.


  11. I love coming across new recipes using dried neem flowers. I like jaggery and tamarind combo in my chutneys too but I’ve never come across neem flowers before, sounds so delightful. I would love to try this. Where did you get these neem flowers?


  12. This is a traditional recipe a friend of mine used to share during ugadhi. her mum used to make the most delicious pachadi. The images here reminded me of those lovely days when we just gobbled everything her mom put in front of us.


  13. I have heard a lot about this traditional recipe and your pictures are tempting me to try soon. Looks so delicious and love the glossy finish of the pachadi.


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