Ellu Kozhambu| Tamilnadu-Style Sesame Seed Gravy

Happy new year, folks! May 2021 bring all of us good health, love, light, peace, happiness and prosperity. May this year be kind to us.

Today, I bring to you the recipe for Ellu Kozhambu, a heritage dish from Tamilnadu.

Ellu Kozhambu or Tamilnadu-style sesame seed gravy

What is Ellu Kozhambu?

Ellu Kozhambu refers to a gravy made using sesame seeds (which are called ‘ellu‘ in Tamil). It is a fragrant and absolutely delicious confection, which goes beautifully with steamed rice. It also makes for a great accompaniment to curd rice, idlis, dosas, ven pongal and upma.

Like I was saying earlier, Ellu Kozhambu is a traditional recipe from Tamilnadu. A close cousin of the Vattalkozhambu, this dish too is made with tamarind extract. Sesame seeds, lentils, coconut and dry red chillies (among other ingredients) are roasted, ground and added to the tamarind extract to give the Ellu Kozhambu its gorgeous taste.

Recipes with #SesameSeeds at Foodie Monday Blog Hop

I’m sharing this recipe in collaboration with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop.

The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. The theme for this week is #SesameSeeds, apt for the upcoming Pongal/Uttarayan celebrations.

It was Mayuri ji, an extremely talented cook and baker and the author of Mayuri’s Jikoni, who chose the theme this Monday. She suggested we make anything with sesame seeds, and I decided on this family favourite Ellu Kozhambu. The Biscotti Regina or Italian Sesame Seed Cookies Mayuri ji has shipped up for the theme look so delicious – I wish I could grab some of those beauties straight off the screen!

How to make Ellu Kozhambu?

Here is how I make it. This is our family recipe, the way we have always made Ellu Kozhambu. It is a super simple recipe, but the end result is definitely wonderful!

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

To dry roast:

  1. 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
  2. 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

To dry roast:

  1. 1/2 tablespoon urad dal
  2. 1 tablespoon toor dal
  3. 1 tablespoon chana dal
  4. 1 teaspoon raw rice
  5. 1 teaspoon cumin (jeera) seeds
  6. 2 Bydagi dry red chillies
  7. 2 Salem Gundu dry red chillies
  8. 1/4 cup fresh coconut

Other ingredients:

  1. A big lemon-sized ball of tamarind
  2. 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  3. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  4. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  5. 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  6. 2 dry red chillies
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or as needed
  10. About 2-1/2 cups of water or as needed


1. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for at least 15 minutes, for it to soften. Set aside.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pan, dry roast the white and black sesame seeds on medium flame. They will start popping. Roast them till the popping ceases, taking care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer the roasted sesame seeds to a plate, and allow them to cool down fully.

3. In the same pan, add in the urad dal, toor dal and chana dal, along with the dry red chillies. Dry roast on medium flame till the lentils getting aromatic and turning brownish.

4. Add in the raw rice, cumin and fresh coconut at this stage. Continue to dry roast the ingredients on medium flame for about a minute more, then switch off gas. Ensure that the ingredients do not burn.

5. Transfer these dry-roasted ingredients to a separate plate. Allow them to cool down fully.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Above leftmost bottom and leftmost column: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom right: Step 5

6. When the tamarind has completely cooled down, extract all the juice from it. Add water little by little to help with the process of extraction. I had 2 cups of semi-thick tamarind extract. Keep aside.

7. When the roasted ingredients have completely cooled down, grind to a slightly coarse powder. Keep aside.

8. Now, pulse the roasted sesame seeds together to a slightly coarse powder. Keep aside. (I ground them a bit too fast and they became pasty!)

9. Now, we will start making the Ellu Kozhambu. Heat the sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Add in the asafoetida, curry leaves and dry red chillies, and allow these ingredients to stay in for a couple of seconds.

10. Add the tamarind extract to the pan. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has completely gone.

Top left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Above leftmost bottom and leftmost right: Steps 8 and 9, Bottom right: Step 10

11. Add in the salt and turmeric powder.

12. Add in the water.

13. Also add in the coconut mixture we ground earlier, as well as the jaggery. Mix well.

14. Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the gravy starts to thicken. Taste and adjust salt and spices if needed.

15. Add in the sesame seed powder at this stage. Mix well.

16. Simmer for a minute or so, then switch off gas. Your Ellu Kozhambu is ready to serve.

Top left and right: Steps 11 and 12, Centre left and right: Steps 13 and 14, Bottom left and right: Steps 15 and 16

Is this Ellu Kozhambu vegan and gluten-free?

This is a completely vegetarian preparation, which is vegan as well. It is suitable for those following a plant-based diet.

To make the Ellu Kozhambu gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. Most brands of asafoetida available in India do contain wheat flour and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.

Tips & Tricks

1. Black sesame has a more concentrated flavour and slightly more bitterness than the white ones. I have used a mix of both types here. You may use only black or white sesame to make this kozhambu too. The colour of the Ellu Kozhambu will be different in that case.

2. I have used a mix of the spicy Salem Gundu and the less spicy Bydagi dry red chillies. You can use more or less of them, depending upon personal taste preferences.

3. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon the consistency of the Ellu Kozhambu you require. It is supposed to be slightly thick – not overly so – and not too watery.

4. Make sure the roasted ingredients have completely cooled down, before grinding them.

5. I have encountered versions of Ellu Kozhambu without jaggery, but I personally prefer the addition. We have always used a bit of jaggery in this kozhambu in our family, and I think it evens out the other flavours beautifully. I would highly recommend using it.

6. Pulse the roasted sesame seeds for a few seconds, a couple of times, to get a slightly coarse powder. Do not grind it at one go, as it might turn sticky that way.

7. Sesame oil (aka gingelly oil, ‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil) goes best in the making of this Ellu Kozhambu.

8. You may add in a tablespoon of sesame oil after the Ellu Kozhambu is ready and the gas has been switched off. This adds a lovely taste to the dish.

9. If the tamarind has seeds or impurities, do filter the extract before using it to make the Ellu Kozhambu.

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

14 thoughts on “Ellu Kozhambu| Tamilnadu-Style Sesame Seed Gravy

  1. This is one flavorful kuzhambu. I can totally imagine and drool over the nutty flavor of freshly powdered ellu that has gone into the making of the kozhambu . Totally droolworthy


  2. Can feel the aroma and taste of ellu kozambu Priya. I tasted it once in my friends home but never tried. Now I have your, surely will try this soon.


  3. Very interesting recipe using sesame seeds, a complete new one for me.. with all the spices along with sesame it must be such a flavorful and delicious gravy.


  4. Ellu kuzhambu looks so flavorful and delicious with the freshly grounded masala. Thanks for sharing the traditional recipe. can’t wait to try it out soon.


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