Sweet pongal is a delicious South Indian dish made with rice, moong lentils, ghee, jaggery or sugar, cardamoms and nuts. It is traditional dish mostly made to offer the gods on special occasions & festivals. Sweet pongal is known as chakkara pongali in telugu & sakkarai pongal in tamil.
Sweet pongal is made in many traditional south Indian homes on the day of Makara sankranthi or pongal festival. This dish is said to have been prepared by our ancestors to signify and celebrate – abundance and prosperity after the harvest.
After preparing sweet pongal it was offered as naivedyam to the Sun God as a part of the Thanksgiving ritual or puja.
There are so many pongal recipes that are followed in South India based on the family traditions, customs, taste and main importantly region where they live.
So one may find sweet pongal recipes with varying ingredients like moong dal, Cow’s milk, Cow’s ghee, jaggery, sugar, coconut etc.
Sweet pongal is mostly made on Fridays or Tuesdays in Goddess Lakshmi & Durga temples as these are the special days the goddess is worshiped.
So many traditional South Indian households too have this tradition of making them on every friday or tuesday apart from the festival days like pongal & varalakshmi pooja.
This sweet pongal recipe I have shared is a traditional one that is prepared in my home during most festivals including Dasara Navratri or Varalakshmi pooja and Sankranti or Pongal festival.
This is one of the Naivedhyam dishes we offer to the Gods or Godess Durga Devi and Lakshmi during the pooja.
How to make sweet pongal
1. Add half cup moong dal to a heavy bottom pot or cooker. Dry roast them on a medium flame till you get an aroma & the dal turns slightly golden. Keep stirring for even roasting. This takes around 3 to 4 mins.
2. Add half cup rice to the roasted dal. Pour water and rinse them well a few times. Be careful as the pot is too hot here. Drain the water and pour 2 ¾ cups fresh water. The quantity of water may vary slightly depending on the kind of rice.
You can also cook the rice and dal in a pot-in-pot method in the pressure cooker. Place the bowl of rice, dal & water in a cooker. or You can even cook in a pot till soft.
3. Since I added the rice and dal directly in cooker, I cook for 2 whistles on a medium flame. If you place the rice and dal in a separate bowl in the cooker then pressure cook for 3 to 4 whistles. Rice and dal both have to be soft cooked.
Making jaggery syrup
While the rice cooks, make the jaggery syrup.
4. If your jaggery is free from impurities, you can skip this step and add it directly to the cooked and mashed rice. Otherwise add ¼ cup water & half cup grated jaggery to a small pot. Heat this on a low flame to dissolve the jaggery.
5. Let the syrup begin to bubble up well. It must turn slightly sticky, but no string consistency is needed. Set this aside.
6. Once the pressure has released open the cooker. Both rice and dal should be soft cooked. Mash the rice slightly.
7. Filter the jaggery syrup to the rice and mix. Some people like to thicken the jaggery syrup first and then add to the sweet pongal. If you want to do that, filter the syrup to a separate pot and boil it till it thickens and then add it to the rice.
8. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon cardamom powder. Begin to cook on a medium flame till the jaggery blends well with rice and begins to bubble up. This takes around 5 minutes.
Tip: At this stage if you feel it is too thick add some boiling hot water to bring to gooey consistency & then cook for 3 to 5 mins. Off the heat.
9. Heat 2 to 3 tablespoons ghee in a small pan. Add 12 cashew nuts (split them and clean before adding. Lightly crush 2 cloves and add. (crushing avoids spluttering). Fry them till the nuts become slightly golden. Then add the raisins and mix until they plump up. If using coconut, slice them thinly and golden fry first stirring often till they turn aromatic.
10. Then add 1 pinch of edible camphor (optional) and pour this over the sweet pongal and mix well.
Offer sweet pongal to the Godess Lakshmi or Durga.
Tips to make sweet pongal
- Roasting moong dal well on a low to medium flame until aromatic & golden brings out the aroma of the dal. This roasting part can be done ahead of time, cooled and stored in air tight jar. This saves some times on the day you plan to make the sweet pongal.
- Jaggery or sugar: Sweet pongal can be made either with jaggery or sugar. However traditionally jaggery was used especially for naivedyam. The chakkara pongal made with sugar lacks the flavor & does not taste the same as the one made with jaggery. Some people also use kalakandu or rock sugar.
- Ghee: Good quality desi cow’s ghee is the key to the unique aroma. Traditionally cow’s ghee is preferred to prepare any naivedyam foods. Do not skimp on the amount of ghee used to make sweet pongal. Use a generous amount of ghee as mentioned in the recipe.
- Flavoring : Cardamom powder, cloves and pacha karpooram or edible camphor are used to flavor the sweet pongal. If you do not like, you can skip the camphor. These 3 ingredients remind me of the divine aroma from Tirupathi Venkateshwara Swamy’s Boondi Ladoo prasadam, so I love to use these any time in my sweet pongal.
- Sweet pongal made in temples has lot of ghee. A generous amount of ghee helps to maintain the slightly gooey consistency for longer. So if you are making ahead for some occasion consider adding more ghee.
- Some people also use little amount of milk while cooking rice and dal. This adds a flavor but we do not use it.
- For healthier options, you can also use brown rice, millets, quiona or steel cut oats. Soaking them for a while helps to cut down the cook time.
- If you are a vegan just substitute it with mild flavorless oil.
You can also check this collection of pongal festival recipes or sankranti recipes. This may help you to decide on your festival menu.
This is a family recipe which I have been following for the measurements & the method as well. You may adjust the quantities as needed to suit your taste.
Sweet pongal recipe | Chakkara pongali | Sakkarai pongal
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- ½ cup rice (any kind)
- ½ cup moong dal (or ⅓ cup if you prefer less)
- 2¾ cups water (to cook rice & dal)
For jaggery syrup
- ½ cup jaggery (grated, 120 grams, refer notes)
- ¼ cup water
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon green cardamom powder (elaichi powder)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons ghee (or more as desired)
- 12 cashew nuts split and cleaned
- 2 cloves (crushed, optional)
- 2 tablespoons coconut pieces, sliced or chopped (optional)
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 1 small pinch edible camphor (pacha karpooram) (optional)
Preparation for sweet pongal
- Add ½ cup moong dal to a heavy bottom pan or pressure cooker.
- Dry roast it on a medium flame stirring often till the dal turns fragrant & light golden.
- Next add ½ cup rice to the same pan. Pour water and rinse both of them at least 2 to 3 times. Be careful as the pot is hot. Drain the water completely.
- Pour 2 ¾ cups of water. Cover the cooker and pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles. If cooking in pot, pour more water.
- You can also put the rice & dal in a bowl and pour water. Place the bowl in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 3 whistles.
Making jaggery syrup
- To make jaggery syrup, transfer ¼ cup water & ½ cup grated jaggery to a small pan. You can also skip this step & add clean jaggery or sugar directly to the mashed rice.
- On a low flame stir and melt it. Boil until slightly thick & sticky. Do not over cook as this turns too thick after cooling. Set this aside.
How to make sweet pongal
- When the pressure releases, open the cooker and mash the rice & dal lightly. Both should be soft cooked.
- Next filter jaggery syrup directly to the cooked rice & dal. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon cardamom powder.
- Mix and cook on a medium flame till the jaggery syrup blends well with rice. It should begin to bubble up well. Turn off the stove.
- Heat a pan with 2 to 3 tablespoons ghee on a medium flame.
- Add 2 tablespoons coconut pieces (optional) and fry them till they turn golden & aromatic. Transfer only the coconut pieces to a plate.
- Add 12 cashew nuts to the ghee. Slightly crush 2 cloves & add them. Crushing prevents them from spluttering. Fry until the cashews turn golden.
- Then add 1 tablespoon raisins and fry until they turn plump.
- Off the stove and add 1 small pinch edible camphor (optional). Pour this to the sweet pongal & mix well.
- Chakkara pongal is ready. Offer to the Goddess Lakshmi or Durga following your family customs.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
- If you are using store bought jaggery powder, then you may need to use more. As the sweetness of the readymade jaggery powder may not be the same as home grated traditional jaggery.
- Adding too much of camphor, can leave bitterness to the pongal.
- Before you add jaggery to the rice, make sure it is cooked thoroughly soft. Rice tends to harden if the rice is not mashed or the pongal is overcooked.
- Please feel free to use as much ghee as desired. The quantity of ghee used totally elevates the flavor and texture of the sweet pongal.
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.
© Swasthi’s Recipes