Bisi bele bath is a flavorsome, spicy and slightly tangy meal made with lentils, rice, mixed vegetables and a super aromatic spice powder known as bisi bele bath powder. Packed with plant-based protein, fresh veggies and plenty of South Indian flavors, this makes for a hearty and wholesome meal that will soon be your family favorite. It’s gluten-free, can be made vegan plus it’s easy to make! You can also make it in the instant pot!
About Bisi bele bath
Bisi bele bath is a traditional dish from Karnataka, a Southern Indian state. The term “Bisi bele bath” translates to “Hot lentil rice dish”. “Bisi” is a Kannada word meaning “Hot” (temperature), “Bele” translates to “Lentils” and “Bath” is a word that denotes a “gooey dish cooked by immersing the ingredients in water”.
This gooey goodness tempered with pure ghee is amazingly delicious and is hugely popular in the restaurants and tiffin centres of Karnataka.
Bisi bele bath is a regular food made in a lot of households in Karnataka. So each family may have a different recipe that uses many different ingredients.
Short grain rice, toor dal, tamarind, jaggery, carrots, peas, beans, bell peppers and bisi bele bath pudi form the base of most versions.
My recipe will help you make bisi bele bath that has the same flavors and taste as you find in any good restaurants and tiffin places in Karnataka, such as MTR. This recipe has been a huge hit in my home for the past 2 decades and we have never made bisi bele bath any other way. This is the ultimate recipe to make the best Bisi bele bath!
In this post I have also shared the recipe to make your own the spice powder. It is made by roasting various spices and lentils. These are then cooled and ground to a fine powder.
This spice powder is the main ingredient that builds your dish. If you do not have time to make your own bisi bele bath powder, you may use a store bought powder which is easily available in Indian stores.
I personally prefer the homemade powder and on occasions I have also made this with MTR powder which works well.
Bisi bele bath is a favorite with my family so I make it often in the instant pot too. I have shared 2 ways to make it in the IP. For more details my notes in the recipe card.
How to make bisi bele bath (stepwise photos)
1. I prefer to cook rice in pressure cooker. If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook rice and dal together or separately until the dal turns completely mushy. If using pressure cooker, rinse ¾ cup rice in a bowl. Then pour 1 & ¾ cup water. Place this bowl inside your cooker.
2. I cover the rice bowl with a plate. Then pour ½ cup toor dal to another bowl. Rinse well a few times and pour 1 cup water. Cover the dal as well. Pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles on a medium flame. Both rice and dal must be soft and fully cooked.
Make bisibelebath powder
Skip this section if using MTR powder. These proportions work great hence I suggest sticking on to the quantity mentioned. These spices and lentils have to be roasted on a medium to low flame to get a deep color without burning. This gives a good color to the final dish.
3. While the rice cooks, Make the bisi bele bath powder. On a low flame, dry roast 1 teaspoon chana dal, 1 teaspoon urad dal & 4 red chilies (low heat variety) until dal turns golden.
Then add 1½ tablespoons coriander seeds, 1 inch cinnamon, 2 cloves & 1 marati moggu (optional). When they turn aromatic remove to a plate.
Add 1 pinch methi seeds & fry. When they turn aromatic, add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and 1 tablespoon dried coconut (optional). Roast these until aromatic and turn off.
4. Cool them completely and add to a grinder jar.
5. Make a fine powder. Your bisi bele bath powder is ready. Set this aside. You can also make this in advance and store in a air tight jar for about a month.
using the powder
6. Soak 3 tablespoons tamarind in half cup hot water. Set this aside to cool and prepare the vegetables.
7. Squeeze the soaked tamarind and extract the tamarind water. Keep 2 to 3 tbsps of this aside little. In case we need more it can be used later. Add ½ teaspoon salt, 1½ teaspoons jaggery and stir well until the jaggery dissolves. I prefer to filter it to a bowl to remove debris from tamarind or jaggery.
8. Add the ground bisi bele bath masala powder and mix well. Set this aside. Adding the dry powder directly to the pan usually ends up in lot of lumps. So I mix it well with the jaggery and tamarind water then pour it.
9. When the rice and dal are cooked. Mash the dal well. This gives a creamy & nice texture to the bisi bele bath.
10. This step is optional. Mix together rice and dal. Set aside.
Making bisi bele bath
11. Add 1 teaspoon ghee or oil to a hot pan. When the ghee turns hot, add
- 8 shallots (or 1 medium cubed onion)
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 4 french beans chopped to 1 inch
- ¼ cup chopped capsicum
- ¼ cup green peas. Then fry all of them on a medium high flame together for 3 to 4 minutes until the raw flavors goes off.
12. Pour 1 cup water to the pan and cook till the veggies are just done. Do not over cook, keep them slightly crunchy.
13. Pour the tamarind jaggery mixture to the pan.
14. Allow the entire mixture to boil for a while to bring out the flavors from the spice powders.
15. Then add the rice & dal to the pan.
16. Add 1 ¼ cup water to the pan. Stir and mix everything well. Taste test this and add more salt, bisibelebath powder, jaggery or tamarind as needed. Simmer on a low flame until slightly thick yet of pouring consistency. This is the right consistency of bisibelebath.
17. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a pan. Add 10 cashews, 1 broken dried red chili, ½ teaspoon mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to splutter, add 1 sprig curry leaves and 1 pinch of hing.
19. Pour this to the cooked rice dal and stir. Karnataka style bisibelebath is ready. As the name says bisi – meaning hot, this has to be served hot. It will thicken upon cooling, so to adjust the consistency you can pour some hot water.
Usually bisi bele bath is served hot with papads and a generous amount of ghee topped.
1.To make bisi bele bath, you can use store bought powder or make your own. MTR brand works the best. I am also sharing an easy bisi bele bath powder recipe that smells great and is aromatic to give that authentic touch.
You can also make this powder good enough for a month or two by following this bisibelebath powder recipe.
2.Rice and dal can be cooked together or separately. I like to make my dal mushy but not the rice, so i cook the rice grainy but fully cooked.
I also cook them separately so that the rice doesn’t get mushy but the dal is cooked to smooth which gives the creamy & smooth taste to the bisi bele bath. If you like to have both mushy, then you can cook rice and dal together.
3.Bisi bele bath is one of those special vegetarian dishes which is made even on occasions like festivals or when we have guests home. If you are making it for a crowd prepare the bisibelebath powder 1 to 2 days ahead. Make the dish very gooey as it thickens over time.
4. If it turns too thick after few hours. Then bring some water to a rolling boil, then add 1 tbsp ghee to it. Pour this to the bisi bele bath and stir. If needed heat it. This helps to bring the dish to right consistency. Avoid pouring cold water.
Instant pot Bisi bele bath
I have shared 2 methods for the instant pot version & both have been tested in a 6 Qt IP. I have tried making bisi bele bath several times in the instant pot following the one pot method shared in the recipe card. But the taste and texture is not the same as of the original dish. So I have shared a different method here below which comes close to the stovetop version.
- Soak tamarind in little hot water.
- Add rice, dal and 4 cups of water to the inner pot of the Instant pot.
- Secure the instant pot with the lid. Position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Press PRESSURE COOK OR MANUAL button and set the timer to 8 minutes.
- Once the IP beeps, press cancel and turn off. Wait for natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Then release the rest of the pressure manually.
- Meanwhile in a different pan heat ghee and fry cashews until golden. Remove and set aside.
- Add mustard, red chilies, curry leaves and hing. When the mustard pops, add onions and fry for 2 mins.
- Then add all the veggies and stir fry for a minute.
- Add bisi bele bath powder, salt, tamarind water & jaggery. Pour 1.5 cups water and mix well.
- Boil all of this until the veggies are slightly tender.
- When the pressure releases open the Instant pot lid and pour all of the veggies along with water. Stir well. Press SAUTE button and simmer for 2 mins until thick. If needed you can pour another half cup hot water if it is too thick.
- Taste and add more salt and ghee. Sprinkle coriander leaves. Garnish with cashews and serve bisi bele bath hot.
Bisi bele bath recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
bisi bele bath powder or use 2 to 3 tbsps MTR powder
- 4 red chilli
- 1 inch cinnamon piece
- 2 cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (skinned black gram)
- 1 teaspoon chana dal (bengal gram)
- 2 pinches fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- 1 ½ tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 small marati moggu (optional)
- 1 tablespoon dried coconut (optional) or poppy seeds
for bisi bele bath
- ½ cup carrots diced
- ¼ cup green peas
- 5 french beans (or ¼ cup avarekalu)
- 8 shallots (or 1 medium onion) (optional)
- ¼ cup capsicum cubed (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoon ghee
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 10 cashews broken
- 1 Pinch asafoetida (hing, use gluten-free if needed)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 red chili broken (deseeded)
Making bisi bele bath powder (or use MTR powder)
- You can skip this section and just use ready made bisi bele bath. On a low flame dry roast red chilies, chana dal & urad dal until golden.
- Then fry coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon & moggu. When they turn aromatic remove to a plate.
- Add methi seeds & roast. When the seeds turn aromatic, add in cumin and coconut.
- Next when these turn aromatic turn off and cool all the ingredients. Make a fine powder & set aside.
- Add rice to a bowl and rinse it well a few times. In a separate bowl wash dal a few times.
- Pour 1¾ cups water to the rice bowl & 1 cup water to the dal bowl.
- Pressure cook both of them in a cooker in pot-in-pot method for 3 to 4 whistles. The rice and dal must be cooked soft.
- While the rice & dal cooks, soak tamarind in half cup hot water. Squeeze it and filter to a bowl. Keep 2 to 3 tablespoons of this aside for later use.
- To the remaining tamarind water, add the bisi bele bath powder, jaggery & salt. Mix well to remove lumps. Set aside.
- Mash the dal to smooth and add to rice. If desired can mash rice as well.
How to make bisi bele bath
- Heat a pan with 1 teaspoon ghee & add the vegetables.
- On a medium high flame saute for 3 to 4 mins to bring out the flavors.
- Pour 1 cup of water and cook the veggies till they are ¾ done. This way they retain the crunchiness.
- Pour the tamarind mix and stir well. Allow it to boil for few minutes.
- Add the mashed rice dal and mix well. Next add ¾ to 1 ¼ cups water and stir well.
- Let the rice come to a boil on a medium flame. This takes around 4 to 6 mins.
- Cook till the rice reaches a desired thick consistency. Taste test this. If needed, add more tamarind water, salt and jaggery.
- Bisi bele bath usually turns thick upon cooling so remove it a bit early.
- Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a small pan.
- Add cashews and fry them until light golden. Then add mustard and red chilli.
- When the mustard splutters, add curry leaves. When the leaves turn crisp, add hing.
- Pour the seasoning over the bisi bele bath. Top bisi bele bath with a generous amount of ghee before serving. It is served hot with papad.
Instant pot bisi bele bath
- Soak tamarind in half cup hot water.
- Press saute button on the instant pot and pour ghee or oil to the inner pot of the Ip.
- Then fry cashews until golden and set aside.
- Add mustard, red chilies, curry leaves and hing.
- When the mustard pops, add onions and fry for 2 mins.
- Then add all the veggies and stir fry for a minute. Add bisi bele bath powder, salt, half of the tamarind water & jaggery. (I usually mix the jaggery with tamarind water and filter both together)
- Mix well and pour 7 cups water. Add rice and dal. Stir well and scrub the bottom to deglaze.
- Press cancel button. Secure the instant pot with the lid. Position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Then press pressure cook button and set the timer to 9 minutes. Once the IP beeps, press cancel and turn off.
- Wait for natural pressure release for 10 minutes. Then release the rest of the pressure manually. Open the lid and stir well. Taste test and add more tamarind water, salt and jaggery is needed.
- Add additional ghee and sprinkle coriander leaves. If desired you can also make a fresh tadka and pour on the bisi bele bath.
- If using store bought Bisi bele bath powder, please use with caution. The spice level in the BBM powder varies from one brand to the other.
- Bisi Bele Bath usually thickens upon cooling. To bring it back to consistency, bring half to 1 cup water to a rolling boil. Stir little ghee and pour it to the bisibelebath and mix well. You can do this 1 to 3 times without altering the taste.
- I have shared 2 methods for the instant pot version & both have been tested in a 6 Qt IP. I have tried making bisi bele bath several times in the instant pot following the one pot method shared in the recipe card. But the taste and texture is not the same as of the original dish. So I have shared a different method above the recipe card which comes close to the stovetop version.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Recipe first published in October 2012. Updated and republished in July 2021.