Masala Erra Karam Dosa| Masala Dosa With Spicy Tomato Paste

Erra Karam Dosa, also called Ulli Karam Dosa, is a hugely popular type of dosa in parts of Andhra Pradesh. The dosa gets its name from the fiery red-coloured paste that is spread inside it – the term ‘Erra Karam‘ literally translates into ‘red spice paste’, while ‘ulli‘ refers to the onion used in the paste. Different versions of this dosa reign in Andhra Pradesh, from what I understand. The recipe I am going to share with you all today is that for Masala Erra Karam Dosa, the way I learnt making it from a Telugu family friend, years ago. Let me tell you it is an explosion of flavours!

Masala Erra Karam Dosa – ain’t it pretty?!

What goes into this Masala Erra Karam Dosa?

I have used regular home-made dosa batter here, made with rice and urad dal. This can easily be substituted with a healthier batter which is wheat- or millet-based.

There are three other components in this dosa – an onion-and-potato filling, as is used in regular Masala Dosa, the red paste or Erra Karam, and a lentil powder called Pappula Podi. All put together, the dosa tastes absolutely brilliant and super-duper flavourful! This might look similar to the Mysore Masala Dosa, but the two taste completely different.

Like I was saying earlier, this dosa is made in different ways. Some use tomatoes in the Erra Karam, some don’t. Some keep the Erra Karam raw, only adding a hot tempering to it. Some add coconut and a bit of jaggery to it, some don’t. The Pappula Podi is also made in different ways by different people; some even do away with it altogether. I make the Erra Karam with tomato, onion, garlic and a few other ingredients, ground together and then cooked till thickened. It is supposed to be super fiery, but I keep it moderately spicy keeping in mind my family’s taste preferences. The Pappula Podi here is made using fried gram or pottukadalai, with a couple of other ingredients added in.

How to make Masala Erra Karam Dosa

Here is how I go about it.
Ingredients (for about 10 dosas):

For the dosas:

  1. About 10 big ladles of dosa batter, salted and fermented
  2. Oil, as needed to make the dosas

For the potato stuffing:

  1. 6 medium-sized potatoes
  2. 1 medium-sized onion
  3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  4. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  5. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
  6. 2 green chillies
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. Salt to taste
  9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  10. Red chilli powder to taste
  11. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

For the Erra Karam:

  1. 2 big tomatoes
  2. 2 small-sized onions
  3. 4 garlic cloves
  4. A 1/2 inch piece of ginger
  5. 6 dry Bydagi chillies
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  9. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

For the Pappula Podi:

  1. 1/4 cup fried gram (pottukadalai)
  2. 2 cloves of garlic
  3. 1 tablespoon dry coconut powder
  4. Salt to taste


Start by preparing the potato stuffing.

1. Wash the potatoes thoroughly, removing all traces of dirt from them. Chop them into halves.

2. Place the chopped potatoes in a wide vessel. Add in enough water to cover the potatoes fully.

3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles or till the potatoes are well cooked. Let the pressure release naturally.

4. Meanwhile, chop the onion finely. Slit the green chillies length-wise and keep them ready.

5. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the potatoes out and drain out the water. When they are cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and mash them roughly.

6. Now, we will start making the potato stuffing. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida, curry leaves and green chillies. Let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

7. Add the chopped onion to the pan. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the onions start browning.

8. Add the mashed potatoes to the pan, along with turmeric powder, salt and red chilli powder to taste. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes until everything is well incorporated together. Switch off gas at this stage.

9. Mix in the lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Your potato stuffing is ready.

Now, we will make the Erra Karam.

1. Chop the tomatoes and onion roughly.

2. Peel the ginger and garlic cloves. Chop the ginger roughly.

3. Take the chopped tomatoes, onion, ginger and garlic cloves in a mixer jar. Add in salt to taste and dry red chillies (broken up). Grind everything together to a smooth paste. Adding water is not necessary.

4. Heat the oil in a pan. Add in the mustard, and let it sputter. Add in the cumin seeds, and let them stay in for a couple of seconds.

5. Now, add the ground paste to the pan. Mix well. Turn the flame down to medium.

6. Cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the mixture goes away and it starts thickening. Switch off gas at this stage. Your Erra Karam is ready.

Next, prepare the Pappula Podi.

1. Peel the garlic cloves needed for the Pappula Podi.

2. Take the garlic cloves in a small mixer jar. Add in the fried gram, dry coconut powder and salt to taste.

3. Grind to a powder, as fine as you can. Stop at intervals to open the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixer. Your Pappula Podi is ready.

Now, we will start making the Masala Erra Karam Dosas.

1. Heat a thick dosa pan. Wait till it gets nice and hot.

2. Now, turn the flame down to medium. Pour a ladleful of the dosa batter in the centre of the pan. Spread it out into a large circle, using the back of the ladle.

3. Drizzle some oil all around the circle. Let it cook on medium flame till it starts browning on the bottom and there are no spots of raw batter on the top.

4. At this stage, turn the flame down to the lowest. Drop about a tablespoon of the Erra Karam we prepared earlier on top of the dosa cooking on the pan. Spread it out evenly. Now, drizzle some of the Pappula Podi we prepared earlier all over it. Place some of the prepared potato stuffing in the centre of the dosa.

5. Now, gently loosen the dosa from the bottom using a spatula. Fold the dosa into half and transfer to a serving plate. Serve hot.

6. Prepare all the Masala Erra Karam Dosas in a similar manner.

Are these dosas vegan and gluten-free?

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suited to those following a plant-based diet.

Simply skip the asafoetida used in the potato stuffing here, to make the dosas completely gluten-free too. Most Indian brands of asafoetida do contain wheat flour to a lesser or greater extent and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet.

Tips & Tricks

1. For best results, the dosa batter should be slightly thick and not too watery.

2. I have used Bydagi chillies in making the Erra Karam, which is what gives it a lovely bright red colour. You may soak them for 20-25 minutes before starting to make the Erra Karam, but I usually don’t. These chillies are not very spicy, and the six I used yielded a moderately spicy Erra Karam. Adjust the number of dry red chillies you use, depending upon your personal spice threshold.

3. I have used country (Nati) tomatoes in making the Erra Karam, which gave it a nice tangy taste. If the tomatoes you are using aren’t tangy enough, you can add some tamarind paste while cooking the Erra Karam.

4. A bit of jaggery can also be added while cooking the Erra Karam. Here, I haven’t.

5. The type of dry red chillies you use in the Erra Karam will determine its colour. You can use Kashmiri red chilli powder instead, too.

6. Some families do not cook the Erra Karam. Once the paste is ground, it is directly used for spreading on the dosas. However, I prefer the above method, since we are not too fond of the raw smell the Erra Karam has otherwise.

7. Make sure the dosas do not burn from the bottom while you are spreading the Erra Karam, then the Pappula Podi and potato stuffing on them.

8. Remember that these dosas are not flipped over and cooked on the other side. Make sure they are fully cooked before starting to spread the Erra Karam on top.

9. Sometimes, when I am too lazy to prepare the Pappula Podi, I use the Garlic Paruppu Podi from Sakthi brand instead. It works awesomely well, too.

10. You can skip the potato stuffing altogether and simply make the dosas with the Erra Karam and Pappula Podi. They would be simply Erra Karam Dosas in that case.

11. Using sesame oil (nalla ennai) to make the potato stuffing and the Erra Karam adds a lovely flavour to the dosas.

12. The potato stuffing, Erra Karam, and Pappula Podi can be made in advance. In that case, making these dosas would be a breeze.

13. Butter or ghee can be used to make these dosas, instead of oil. Avoid butter or ghee in case you are making a vegan version.

14. Do not be intimidated by the long proceedure listed here. The ingredients required are fairly common in a typical South Indian household, and the process is really simple too. I have merely tried to outline the proceedure in great detail so that it is easier for you all to get the perfect outcome.

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

9 thoughts on “Masala Erra Karam Dosa| Masala Dosa With Spicy Tomato Paste

  1. OMG this is irresistible, specially for people like me who love spicy food. I am going to make it for myself. I always end up making bland food as hubby cannot eat spicy one.


  2. This looks so delicious. I love spicy food so this is something I would love to try. I am not very good at making dosas but following your instructions of leaving the batter slightly thicker makes me feel I can manage this.


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