Beetroot Vattalkozhambu| Beetroot Puli Kozhambu

Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is a flavourful gravy that is an integral part of Tamilnadu cuisine. It refers to beetroot cooked in tamarind, along with a few other spices, till it is silky-smooth and absolutely delicious. The beetroot adds a lovely mild sweetness to the dish, which is beautifully offset by the tamarind and spices in there, as well as a pretty colour.

Usually a great accompaniment to hot rice, Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is bliss when had with a drizzle of sesame oil. In my family, we love having it with curd rice too. I adore it as a side to hot steamed rice mixed with cooked and salted toor dal – rustic and oh so sastifying!

Let’s go through my family recipe for Beetroot Vattalkozhambu today.

Beetroot Vattalkozhambu or Puli Kozhambu

What Is Vattalkozhambu?

We will start with understanding what ‘kozhambu‘ is – it is a term used for a broad category of gravies, which can be paired with rice or with idlis, dosas and other ‘tiffin‘ items, usually made with tamarind or other souring agents like tomatoes. ‘Vattalkozhambu‘ is a type of kozhambu, a gravy that commonly has a tamarind base, which can be made using a variety of fresh or dried berries/greens/vegetables. Beetroot Vattalkozhambu, like I was saying earlier, is made using beetroots, which are cooked in a tamarind gravy, with some flavouring agents added in. It is also referred to as ‘Beetroot Puli Kozhambu‘ in some parts of Tamilnadu, ‘puli‘ being the local word for tamarind.

I have several other kozhambu recipes on my blog, which you might be interested in taking a look at:

What Goes Into Beetroot Vattalkozhambu – The Ingredients

Beetroot and tamarind are the two major ingredients used in this dish.

The dish is flavoured with sambar powder (I have used home-made) and some jaggery, in addition to the usual suspects like salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.

I have used jaggery powder here, which is nothing but powdered jaggery. I prefer using jaggery powder in my daily cooking, as opposed to the jaggery that is sold in blocks. Jaggery powder is commonly available in several departmental stores here in Bangalore. There are many organic, zero-chemical small brands of jaggery available, and they work well for me in all the cooking that I do. I find jaggery powder very convenient to use, much more so than jaggery blocks which are sometimes quite sticky and have to be broken down into granules manually. But then, do what works for you!

There is a simple tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds in sesame oil. Sesame oil, referred to as ‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil, is what is traditionally used in several foods from the state. This oil is not to be confused with the toasted sesame oil that is used in Asian dishes – the flavour profile of the two oils is completely different. I prefer using sesame oil from the Idhayam brand (not sponsored).

Rice flour has been used to thicken the gravy here, as is done traditionally. See the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section of this post for alternatives.

How To Make Beetroot Vattalkozhambu

Here’s how to go about it.

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind

2. 1 medium-sized beetroot

3. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sesame oil (nalla ennai)

4. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

5. 2 pinches of asafoetida

6. A pinch of fenugreek seeds

7. A sprig of curry leaves

8. Salt to taste

9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

10. 1-1/2 tablespoons sambar powder or to taste

11. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste

12. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)

13. 1 tablespoon rice flour


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left and right: Steps 3 and 4, Bottom left and right: Steps 5 and 6

1. Soak the tamarind in about 1/2 cup of boiling hot water, for it to become soft. Let it cool down enough to handle.

2. In the meantime, wash the beetroot well to remove all traces of mud from it. Remove the top of the beetroot and chop it into quarters.

3. Take the chopped beetroot in a wide vessel, along with about 1 cup of water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Allow 5 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure come down naturally.

4. While the pressure cooker is cooling, extract the juice from the soaked tamarind. Use water as needed. Keep the extract thick and not too watery. I had about 1-1/2 cups of tamarind extract.

5. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, get the cooked beetroot out. Drain out all the water from it and reserve. Let the beetroot pieces cool down enough to handle.

6. Once the cooked beetroot has cooled down, remove the skin from the pieces and discard. Chop the beetroot into smaller cubes.

Top left and right; Steps 7 and 8, Centre left and right: Step 9, Bottom left and right: Steps 10 and 11

7. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then add in the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves, and allow them to stay in for a few seconds.

8. Add the beetroot cubes to the pan. Saute for a minute.

9. Add in the tamarind extract, along with the turmeric powder and some salt. Mix well.

10. Cook on high flame for about 5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has completely gone. Stir intermittently.

11. At this stage, add in the reserved water from cooking the beetroot. Mix well.

Top left and right, Centre left and right: Step 12, Bottom left and right: Steps 13 and 14

12. Taste and adjust salt. Also, add in the sambar powder, jaggery powder and red chilli powder (if needed). Mix well. At this stage, you may add in 1/2 to 1 cup more water if you wish to adjust the taste/consistency. Let everything cook together on medium flame for 4-5 minutes. Stir intermittently.

13. Make a slurry of the rice flour with about 2 tablespoons of water. Make sure there are no lumps. Add this slurry to the pan with one hand, constantly stirring with the other. Allow the mixture to cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes more or till it thickens and attains a silky consistency. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas at this stage.

14. Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil at this stage. Mix well. Your Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is ready. Serve it hot/warm with rice.

Related Event: Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

This post is brought to you in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a group of passionate food bloggers that I am part of.

The members of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge share recipes based on a particular theme, every month. Participants are divided into pairs, and each pair secretly exchanges two ingredients, unknown to the rest of the group. Each member then uses their secret ingredients to cook a dish that fits into the theme for the month. Upon completion, they are required to post a picture of their dish in the group, and other members try to guess what the secret ingredients used in the food could be – therein lies the challenge. 🙂

The Shhh group had the theme ‘Cook Whatever You Like’ for the month of May 2023, a wonderfully elastic guideline that gave free rein to the participants to whip up anything they wanted, within the scope of the secret ingredients assigned to them. Renu, the versatile blogger at Cook With Renu. She prepared this yummy Besan Pithla for the theme – you guys must definitely check it out!

I was paired with Seema, fellow food blogger at Mildly Indian, for the theme. I suggested Seema make something with ‘coconut’ and ‘cumin seeds’, and she prepared this unique South Indian dish, Aviyal Kozhambu. She, in turn, assigned me the ingredients ‘curry leaves’ and ‘jaggery’, and they fit right into this Beetroot Vattalkozhambu that I had wanted to blog about for quite some time.

Dietary Guidelines

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

It contains beetroot (which is believed to have a high sugar content) as well as added jaggery, so you might want to exercise caution while serving this to a diabetic or to people with similar health conditions.

To make this recipe gluten-free, avoid using asafoetida in the tempering. Most branded asafoetida powders 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. I have used home-made sambar powder here. You can use a store-bought version as well.

2. Using red chilli powder is optional. If the heat from the sambar powder is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.

3. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon the consistency of the Beetroot Vattalkozhambu that you require.

4. Remember to keep the tamarind extract on the thicker side and not too watery.

5. I have used a slurry of rice flour and water to thicken the Beetroot Vattalkozhambu, as it is done traditionally. Alternatively, a mix of wheat flour and water can be used. Avoid wheat flour if you wish to keep the recipe gluten-free.

6. Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

7. I have pressure-cooked the beetroot before adding it to the pan. You can cook it in a pan separately as well. Make sure the beetroot is completely cooked before using it in making the Vattalkozhambu.

8. Make sure the flour-water slurry is completely free of lumps, before adding it to the pan. If this is not the case, there are chances of lumps forming in the Vattalkozhambu.

9. Make sure you add in the flour-water slurry while constantly stirring, otherwise lumps will form in the Vattalkozhambu.

10. Sesame oil (‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil) goes best in this Beetroot Vattalkozhambu. However, if you do not prefer using it, you can use any other neutral-flavoured oil.

11. Do not skip the jaggery. There is only a small amount of jaggery used in this recipe, which does not make the vattalkozhambu overly sweet. Rather, it balances out the other flavours beautifully.

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


Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu| Lentil Balls In Tamarind Gravy

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is a traditional recipe from Tamilnadu. It refers to lentil balls cooked in a tamarind-based gravy. It is an absolutely delectable thing, especially blissful when mixed with some hot rice, drizzled with sesame oil (‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil).

This is an interesting dish, full of flavours and textures. Just the right amount of sour, mildly sweet and spicy, Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is a real treat to the tastebuds. The coarseness of the lentil balls contrasts beautifully with the smooth texture of the tamarind gravy. You must try it out to truly understand what loveliness this dish is!

Different families make different variations of the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu. Today, I am about to share the way it is made in my house.

Delicious Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu

Looking for other heritage recipes from Tamilnadu? Check out this Vepampoo Pachadi, Elumicchaipazham (lemon) Rasam, Thavala Dosai, Vendhaya Dosai, Sigappu Keerai Kootu, Ezhu Thaan Kootu and Paal Payasam.

Ingredients used in Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu

The lentil balls here are made of chana dal. Unlike koftas or pakoras in gravy, though, these balls of lentils are steamed and not deep-fried.

The steamed balls are cooked further in a gravy made using tamarind. We use home-made sambar powder to spice it up, along with freshly ground coconut and a dash of jaggery.

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is quite similar to the Vattalkozhambu that we make, yet different in taste.

Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu recipe

Here’s how we make it.

Don’t be daunted by the long-winded recipe. It is fairly simple to follow. I have broken down the proceedure into sections, so it becomes easy to understand and replicate.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

1. 1/2 cup chana dal

2. 3 dry red chillies + 2 more for tempering

3. A small gooseberry-sized ball of tamarind

4. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander (optional)

5. Salt to taste

6. 1 tablespoon sesame oil

7. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

8. 1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

9. 1 sprig curry leaves

10. 2 pinches of asafoetida

11. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

12. 1 tablespoon sambar powder or to taste

13. Red chilli powder as needed (optional)

14. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or as needed

15. 3 tablespoons fresh coconut pieces


Top left, centre and right: Steps 1, 2 and 3, Bottom left and centre: Step 4, Bottom right: Step 5

We will begin by doing some basic prep work needed for the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu.

1. Wash the chana dal well under running water. Drain out all the water.

2. Soak the washed and drained chana dal and 3 dry red chillies in enough water to cover the lentils completely, for 2-3 hours.

3. In the meantime, soak the tamarind in some boiling hot water to soften it. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.

4. When the chana dal and dry red chillies have soaked, drain out all the residual water from them. Break up the dry red chillies roughly with your hands. Transfer the drained chana dal and broken dry red chillies to a mixer jar. Grind these together coarsely, without adding any water.

5. Transfer the coarsely ground mixture to a mixing bowl. Add in salt to taste and finely chopped coriander (if using). Mix everything well together.

Top left: Step 6, Top centre and right: Step 7, Below top right: Step 8, Bottom left: The lentil balls, after steaming, Bottom centre and right: Step 9

Next we will prepare the lentil balls and do some more prep work.

6. Keep water in a steamer and place it on high flame. Let the water come to a boil.

7. When the steamer is ready, make small balls out of the lentil mixture. Place the balls in the steamer. Steam on high flame for about 12 minutes. Switch off gas.

8. When the tamarind has cooled down enough, extract all the juice from it. You can add more water as needed to help with the extraction, but don’t make the extract too watery. I had about 1 cup of semi-thick tamarind extract.

9. Take the coconut in a small mixer jar, along with a little water. Grind together to a mostly smooth, slightly coarse paste.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 10, 11 and 12, Below top right: Step 13, Bottom right: Step 14, Bottom left and centre: Step 15

Now, we will start preparing the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu.

10. Heat the sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard, and allow it to sputter. Then add in the asafoetida, fenugreek, curry leaves and 2 dry red chillies for the tempering. Let these ingredients stay in for a few seconds, without burning.

11. At this stage, add the tamarind extract to the pan. Mix well.

12. Add a little salt and the turmeric powder. Mix and cook on medium flame for 4-5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has gone completely.

13. Add in about 1-1/2 cups of water, or as needed to adjust the consistency of the gravy. It should be slightly watery at this stage – the gravy will thicken up later as the lentil balls cook in it.

14. Add sambar powder and red chilli powder, if needed. Mix well.

15. Mix in the jaggery powder. Taste and adjust salt, red chilli powder, sambar powder, jaggery and/or water as needed. At this stage, the mixture should taste tangy (but not overly so), fragrant from the sambar powder, as spicy as you want it, and mildly sweet.

Top left and right: Steps 16 and 17, Below top right: Step 18, Bottom right: Step 19, Bottom left: Step 20

Now, we will cook the lentil balls in the gravy.

16. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Add the steamed lentil balls to the pan, gently.

17. Let the balls cook in the tamarind gravy for 7-8 minutes on medium flame. By this time, the gravy would have started to thicken and the lentil balls would have been cooked and floating on the surface.

18. At this stage, add the coconut paste to the pan, constantly stirring with one hand. The flame should still be at medium. Mix gently.

19. Cook the mixture for a minute or so more, on medium flame. Switch off gas. The Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu is ready. Keep it slightly runny at this stage – it will thicken up further with time.

20. Serve the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu when warm, along with rice and sesame oil.

Is this recipe vegan and gluten-free?

Many South Indian dishes are inherently vegan, like this one. There are no animal products used in this dish, thus making it suitable for those following a vegan (plant-based) diet.

If you want to make this Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu gluten-free, skip the asafoetida used in the tempering. The sambar powder I use contains asafoetida – you need to make sure you use one without. Most commercially available Indian brands of asafoetida contain wheat flour to some extent, and it is therefore better to avoid the same when one is following a gluten-free diet.

This is a no-onion no-garlic recipe too.

The Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge

I’m part of this wonderful group of food bloggers called the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, and am sharing this recipe in association with the same.

The members of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge showcase recipes based on a pre-determined theme, each month. The theme this month is ‘Vegan Dishes’, chosen by Radha of Magical Ingredients. She prepared this divine Vegan Jackfruit Kofta Curry for the challenge.

The group members are divided into pairs for the challenge. Each pair decides upon two secret ingredients which they will use to make their dish of the month. A picture of the completed dish is posted in the group, and all the other members try to guess the two secret ingredients each pair has used.

My partner for the month was Rafeeda of The Big Sweet Tooth. Rafeeda suggested I use the ingredients ‘curry leaves’ and ‘coconut’, and I decided to make this vegan Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu. Rafeeda made this amazing-looking dessert, Mango Bango, using the two secret ingredients of ‘coconut milk’ and ‘sugar’ that I gave her.

Tips & Tricks

1. Some families use a mix of chana dal and toor dal to make the lentil balls. We use only chana dal.

2. The use of red chilli powder is completely optional. If the sambar powder you are using is spicy enough, you can omit the red chilli powder completely.

3. Adjust the quantity of water depending upon how thick you want the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu to be. It might initially look watery, but tends to thicken up with time.

4. I have used a steamer to cook the lentil balls. You could also do the same in an idli steamer.

5. Do not grind the chana dal into a fine paste. For best results, it needs to be coarsely ground. Do not add any water while grinding.

6. Adjust the quantity of tamarind as per personal taste preferences. A small lemon-sized ball of Double Horse tamarind (which is quite sour) works perfectly for us.

7. Don’t miss the jaggery. It doesn’t make the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu overly sweet, but rounds off the other flavours beautifully.

8. Do not overcook the lentil balls, or they tend to become hard. Steaming for about 12 minutes and then cooking in the tamarind gravy for 7-8 minutes is good.

9. Ensure that you keep the flame at medium while adding the coconut paste and stir constantly, so that it gets mixed evenly into the tamarind gravy.

10. You may drizzle some sesame oil over the Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu, once it’s ready. This takes the flavour quotient up by several notches.

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