Paniyaram more commonly known as Kuzhi paniyaram in Tamil Nadu, gunta ponganalu in Andhra Pradesh, are ball shaped crisp dumplings made with fermented urad dal and rice batter. Made in both sweet and savory variations, Paniyaram are a traditional everyday Breakfast food from South Indian cuisine. The savory version are eaten with a spicy Chutney, Sambar, pickle & even with different kinds of Podi. In this post I share the recipe to make savory paniyaram that are not only delicious but also crisp and flavorsome.
Paniyaram are South Indian crisp pan fried rice lentil dumplings cooked in a special pan known as paniyaram pan or chatti or kal. This pan is similar to the Aebleskiver pan used to cook Danish pancake balls. Paniyaram are known by various names such as kuli paniyaram, paddu, gundu pongala, gunta ponganalu and guliyappa.
These savory dumplings are a common breakfast and snack made all over South India, with recipes varying by region. Traditionally the preparation for paniyaram starts by soaking & grinding urad dal (skinned black lentils) and short grain rice to a batter which is fermented overnight.
Later various ingredients like onions, coriander leaves and green chilies are added to flavor the batter. Optionally the batter is tempered with whole spices like mustard, cumin, hing, ginger, coconut and curry leaves to infuse the South Indian flavors.
This spiced fermented batter is poured to the cavities of the special pan – paniyaram pan. These are cooked to perfection until golden, crisp and aromatic. The resulting paniyram are soft and fluffy inside yet crisp and crusty outside.
Traditionally paniyaram were cooked in pans made of cast iron or another heavy metal, capable of cooking the batter perfectly.
Ponganalu made in this kind of pans not only cook the batter well from inside but also impart their characteristic golden color with a roasted flavor. Now-a-days non-stick pans are also preferred by a lot of people as they are lighter and easier to manage than the traditional pans.
Easier way to make Paniyaram
South Indians make a lot of Idli and Dosa at home and it is their staple breakfast. Most of us make these paniyaram with the leftover idli and dosa batter stored in the refrigerator. So making paniyaram is easier if you have the premade homemade or store bought idli dosa batter.
In this post I share the easy way to make paniyaram with left over idli dosa batter. However if you are a large family and want to make a lot of paniyaram, I suggest you make a batch of this batter exclusively for paniyaram.
Though left over batter is a great way to use up in this recipe, the taste and texture of these would depend on the ratio of urad dal to rice in the batter. This ratio actually determines the taste, flavor and texture of your paniyaram.
A lot of experienced cooks stick to a 1:2 ratio and this is what makes the traditional ones fluffy from inside and crisp from outside, without feeling the taste of too much rice. We also do not add methi seeds or any other ingredients if making the batter from scratch.
Most of the times my Mom made these with the left over, about to go sour batter because her idli and dosa batter were made with the same ratio of 1:2 ratio. In a pinch you can make these with any ratios but makes a difference to the taste.
How to Make Paniyaram (Stepwise photos)
1. Seasoning adds flavor to the paniyaram and they keep fresh for few hours. If you are not going to eat them right away I suggest this step. You can skip this and the next step if it is for immediate consumption.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan on a medium heat. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and wait until they crackle. Add 1 sprig chopped curry leaves.
2. Add half cup onions, 1 to 2 chopped green chiliesand 2 tablespoons shredded carrot (optional). Saute until the raw smell of onions has gone & they turn pink. Stir in 1 tsp grated ginger (optional.) Switch off. Add a pinch of hing and 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (optional). Let this cool slightly.
3. Take 1½ to 2 cups thick idli / dosa batter in a bowl. I used this sada dosa batter. If you are following 1:2 idli recipe from this blog, you can add 1 to 2 tbsp rice flour per cup of fermented batter. Mix well. Do not use very runny batter as paniyaram won’t turn crispy.
4. Add the cooled seasoning along with very little salt if needed. Stir it well. The consistency must be thick batter, not very thick or runny. If needed you may sprinkle little water and stir.
Tip: Keep your kitchen well ventilated during this step. To season, heat the paniyaram pan well until hot. Add few drops of oil in each cavity and spread the oil well with a cloth or kitchen tissue. Be careful as the pan is hot. You can also tie a cloth to a spoon and apply the oil with ease. After spreading, turn on the stove and heat the until it begins to smoke well. Turn off the heat. Wipe off any excess oil. It is ready to use now.
5. Heat the paniyaram pan with few drops of oil in each mold. If using a cast iron pan, you will have to season it either the previous night or in the morning. If using non stick pan, just grease it and then use.
6. When the pan is hot enough, fill each mold to 3/4. They will puff and raise.
7. Lower the heat. Partially cover and cook for 1 to 2 mins. I do this to ensure they cook well inside. You can also skip this. I also make sure to cook for a while after the lid is open to get a crust.
8. When they are fried to golden, turn them to the other side using a wooden spoon or a chop stick.
9. Cook on the other side until done, golden and crisp. Remove them to a plate. To make the next batch, reduce the heat and pour few drops of oil into the cavity. Then pour the batter.
Serve paniyaram with chutney. The color of the paniyaram may vary based on the proportions of rice and dal used for making the batter and also on the kind of pan used.
Chef’s Paniyaram Recipe
I also have a paniyaram recipe from Chef Jayalakshmi Rajkumar, who works in Taj Savoy, Ooty. When I tasted these soft, fluffy and delicious paniyaram made by her, I had to ask for the recipe.
She was generous enough to share her recipe. If you prefer to make the batter from scratch then this may be useful.
1/4 cup urad dal
1 cup rice
1 cup beaten rice or poha
pinch of methi seeds.
Wash and soak dal, methi and rice separately for 6 hours. Soak beaten rice 15 mins before blending. Drain and blend poha along with little water dal,methi and salt until frothy.
Blend rice with little water until smooth. Mix all together and set aside for fermentation for at least 6 to 8 hours. Use the batter as mentioned below.
The recipe shared below in the recipe card is the way we make at home using the left over idli or dosa batter.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1½ cups idli batter thick or dosa batter
- ½ cup onion finely chopped (1 small, ¼ cup if using directly)
- 2 tablespoons carrot grated (optional)
- 2 green chilies chopped (skip for kids)
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 6 curry leaves torn or fine chopped
- 2 tablespoons coriander leaves fine chopped (optional)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon oil for seasoning
- 1 pinch hing (optional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons oil as needed for the frying
- salt if needed
- This section is optional and you can add all the ingredients directly to the batter. But tempering makes the paniyaram flavorful.
- Heat a pan with oil and add mustard seeds. When they crackle, add curry leaves. Saute for a min.
- Add onions, chilies and carrots. Saute until the onions turn pink or raw smell disappears. Add ginger and saute for a minute.
- Then add coriander leaves and hing. Cool this and add to the batter.
Make Kuzhi Paniyaram
- Taste the batter and add more salt if needed. Batter must be of medium consistency not very thin or thick. If needed sprinkle some water.
- Season the paniyaram pan and heat it with few drops of oil in each cavity. (Check notes to season your cast iron pan)
- When the pan is hot enough, pour batter up to ¾ in each mold. Lower the heat and cook for 2 mins. If desired you can cover and cook.
- When the base is golden fried, remove the lid and fry for another minute,. Turn them and cook until golden on the other side too. I usually check by poking a paniyaram with a fork or skewer to check if it is done inside.
- Remove them to a plate. To make the next batch, reduce the heat and pour few drops of oil in each cavity. Pour the batter and cook the same way.
- Serve masala paniyaram with chutney or sambar.
- To Season your paniyaram pan, heat the pan first until very hot. Reduce the heat, pour few drops of oil in each cavity and spread it well with a kitchen tissue or cloth. Easier way is to tie a cloth over a chop stick or a spoon and use it to spread oil. Increase the heat and let the pan become smoking hot. Turn off the stove. When the temperature comes down, wipe off the excess oil. I prefer to do this after every use so it is ready for the next use. Please ventilate your kitchen well before doing this.
- The pan has to be hot and not smoking hot. It has to be hot enough otherwise the paniyaram will stick to the pan and won’t be able to remove them. So do not pour the batter before the pan is hot.
- If the batter is too thick, your paniyaram will come out dense. If the batter is runny they will come out soft. Over fermented batter sometimes won’t cook well. So whisk it well with a fork before using to make it less lighter.
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
Paniyaram Recipe first published in April 2016. Updated and republished in May 2022.