Nuchinunde| Karnataka’s Steamed Lentil Dumplings

Nuchinunde is a Karnataka specialty that I make often. It is a super healthy and delicious thing, and quite easy to put together, though it needs a bit of prep. It is perfect for breakfast, as a snack or light dinner. This is one of the dishes I learnt to cook from my sister-in-law soon after my wedding, and we love it so much that I have continued to make it over the years.

When I recently posted about making Nuchinunde for dinner in my Instagram stories, I had several people pinging me to ask for the recipe. So, here I go. 😊

A close-up of Nuchinunde, Karnataka’s steamed lentil dumplings

What is Nuchinunde?

Like I was saying earlier, Nuchinunde is a traditional recipe from the state of Karnataka. In Kannada, ‘Nuchu‘ means ‘broken’ and ‘unde‘ means ‘balls’. So, Nuchinunde refers to balls or dumplings made from broken grains – the ‘broken grains’ here refer to lentils that have been coarsely crushed.

A few other ingredients and finely chopped vegetables are mixed with broken lentils to form balls, which are then steam-cooked. That’s Nuchinunde for you! A bit similar to the Pidi Kozhukattai of of Tamilnadu, but quite different too.

Nuchinunde is not one of those dishes you would readily find on restaurant menus, but it is prepared quite often in Kannadiga households. It is commonly prepared on festive occasions like Ganesh Chaturthi and Naga Panchami.

What’s the big deal with Nuchinunde?

– They are made using lentils and a few vegetables, hence full of protein. A great way to sneak in some veggies!

– They are steamed, and need zero oil. Super healthy!

– They are completely vegetarian and vegan, and can easily be made gluten-free too.

– They are fairly easy to make, with a little bit of prep work.

– Quite a few variations are possible. Every time you make these, you can try out something new!

– Making them needs just a few ingredients commonly found in a typical Indian kitchen. There are no fancy ingredients in there.

– They taste absolutely delicious!

– They don’t really need an elaborate side dish. They can be served with a simple coconut chutney or a tangy tomato gojju. We like having these with leftover Morekozhambu or Vattalkozhambu too.

– They are quite filling and hearty.

Nuchinunde can be used to make a few other heritage Karnataka dishes, like Unde Huli and Majjige Huli – will share recipes for these dishes shortly.

How to make Nuchinunde

Here’s how I make them.

Ingredients (makes about 10 big balls):

  1. 1 cup toor dal
  2. 1/4 cup chana dal
  3. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  4. 3 green chillies or as per taste
  5. Salt to taste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  8. A small piece of cabbage, about 1/4 cup when finely chopped
  9. 1 medium-sized carrot
  10. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  11. 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
  12. 2 sprigs of curry leaves


1. Wash the toor dal and chana dal well under running water. Now, soak them in enough water for about 4 hours.

2. When the toor dal and chana dal are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Add the soaked and drained dal to a mixer jar.

3. Chop the chillies roughly. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Add the chopped chillies and ginger to the mixer jar.

4. Add in salt to taste as well.

5. Grind all the ingredients in the mixer jar to a coarse paste. Do not add any water while grinding.

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

6. Now, transfer the coarsely ground mixture to a large mixing bowl. Chop the coriander, dill, curry leaves and cabbage finely, and add to the mixing bowl too. Peel the carrot, grate medium thick, and add to the mixing bowl as well.

7. Mix all the ingredients in the mixing bowl well, using your hands. Then make oval-shaped dumplings out of all the mixture. The mixture will be moist enough for you to be able to shape the dumplings easily. You should get about 10 dumplings.

8. Arrange all the dumplings in a colander, leaving some space between them and not overcrowding them.

9. Take 1 cup of water in a pressure cooker bottom and place it on high heat. Allow the water to start boiling. Now, place a stand inside the pressure cooker, then place the colander with the dumplings on top of the stand. Ensure that no water enters the colander. Close the pressure cooker – do not put the whistle on. Steam the dumplings on high flame for 12-15 minutes after this or till they are fully cooked.

Top left and right: Steps 6 and 7, Bottom left: Step 7, Bottom right: Step 8

10. Wait for 7-10 minutes before opening the cooker. Your Nuchinunde are ready. Serve them hot with a chutney of your choice.

Variations to the Nuchinunde

1. I have used 1 cup of toor dal and 1/4 cup of chana dal here. Instead, you could skip the chana dal entirely and use 1-1/4 cup toor dal to make the dumplings. Both versions taste equally lovely.

2. You can skip the dill leaves completely, and increase the amount of coriander that you use.

3. About 1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut can be added in to the dumplings too. I usually don’t.

4. Instead of the dill, fresh mint leaves can be used.

5. The above is a no-onion, no-garlic recipe. You may even add in some finely chopped onion, if you prefer. I usually do not. Skip the onion if you are preparing the Nuchinunde for a festive occasion.

6. Finely chopped fenugreek leaves can be added to the Nuchinunde too.

Tips & Tricks

1. The above recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suitable to those following a plant-based diet.

2. To make this recipe gluten-free, simply skip the asafoetida. This is because most commercial brands of asafoetida available in India contain 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, you can definitely use it.

3. The above recipe yields about 10 big dumplings, which serve three. You may make smaller dumplings, if you so prefer.

4. Adjust the number of green chillies you use, as per personal taste preferences.

5. Go easy on the dill, if using it. A little goes a long way, as far as fresh dill leaves are concerned. Dill has an overwhelmingly strong fragrance and we don’t prefer using more than the above quantity. However, if you are a dill-loving family, you could definitely go ahead and use more of it.

6. I have used a large, 8-litre pressure cooker to steam the Nuchinunde. You may use a steamer instead, too. I have used a colander here; you can use idli plates as well.

7. Make sure there is enough water in the pressure cooker bottom to last the length of the steaming process.

8. Make sure you steam the Nuchinunde in a colander, so they are evenly cooked. Don’t forget to place the colander on top of a stand, so there’s no water entering it.

9. Make sure the vegetables you use are not chopped/grated too thick, to ensure they are thoroughly cooked.

10. Make sure you grind the lentils coarsely. Do not make a fine paste. Do not add any water while grinding.

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

2 thoughts on “Nuchinunde| Karnataka’s Steamed Lentil Dumplings

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