The cuisine of Karnataka has a rich heritage and is as versatile as any other cuisine from a different part in South India or even any other region of India. One of the iconic dishes from this food culture is the Bisi Bele Bath, also known as Bisi Bele Huliyanna. It is a wholesome, one-pot spicy rice-lentil based dish with veggies and a special spice mix. This post is about that unique masala blend called the Bisi Bele Bath Powder without which the dish is incomplete. Follow the recipe to keep a batch ready at your homes.
Table of Contents
About This Bisi Bele Bath Powder
As mentioned above Bisi Bele Bath Powder is the classic and unique spice blend used to make the traditional and popular Bisi Bele Bath recipe (a spiced rice and lentil dish) – that is one of the gems from the Karnataka cuisine.
I have adapted this Bisi Bele Bath Powder recipe from Pratibha’s Blog (also has other classic recipes from Karnataka cuisine) and a cookbook from my personal collection. I reduced the proportions and did make a few changes though.
Like most homemade spice blends, here too the spices and lentils are roasted, cooled and then ground to a fine powder.
Since the spices and lentils are ground finely, you need to use a high speed mixer-grinder or blender. You can even use a spice grinder of coffee-grinder.
Bisi Bele Bath Masala has a different composition of spices and lentils that truly makes it unique and so good. This recipe will give you one of the best blends that you can make.
Once your powder is ground, store it in an air-tight jar or container and store in a cool dry place. You could also store in the fridge.
This recipe will yield 150 grams of the Bisi Bele Bath Powder which stays good for a couple of months in the refrigerator.
Ingredients You Need
While the whole spices we often use in Indian cuisine, are a part of this special masala. There are some lesser known ingredients that are also added which makes this blend unique.
To make a traditional Bisi Bele Bath Powder, a particular spice called the Marathi moggu is used. These are the buds of the kapok tree and hence, referred to as kapok buds too in English. These are larger than cloves and have a musky aroma.
This one special spice gives the Bisi Bele Bath Powder mix its distinct flavor. You can easily get the Marathi Moggu in Bengaluru and other South Indian cities.
But in other parts of India, it is quite difficult to source this spice. So, the best option is to order online. If you live outside India, you can order from Amazon.
Since this specific recipe does not use asafoetida (hing), I usually add it to the main dish. However, you can add asafoetida while preparing this masala powder itself.
Dry Red Chillies
Next comes the dried red chilies that contribute in the heat level and also the color of the Bisi Bele Bath Powder.
2 types of dried red chilies are used in this masala – the less spicy Byadagi or Bedgi variety which gives it the deep red hue and the Guntur Chilli which gives it the desired spiciness.
Overall, this spice powder is spicy and hot. If you cannot tolerate extreme heat and want to reduce the spiciness, you can reduce the number of Guntur red chilies in the recipe of Bisi Bele Bath Powder.
How to make Bisi Bele Bath Powder
Before you begin roasting the spices, collect them, measure and set aside. This will make the roasting work a breeze and easy.
Also ensure to use spices that are fresh and in their shelf-life. Refrain from using moldy, rancid and stale spices.
Tips to remember before you roast
- First use a heavy frying pan or skillet. This ensures that you don’t burn these delicate spices and seeds.
- Secondly always roast or toast them on a low heat. This makes them cook slowly releasing the fragrant oils beautifully and again you avoid the risk of burning them.
- Thirdly, stir often so the spices roast evenly. More so when you roast tiny seeds like poppy seeds or an ingredient like desiccated coconut. If you do not stir often, a few portions of these can get too much browned or can get burnt.
1. Heat a frying pan or a small kadai and first dry roast ½ cup coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds until crisp and fragrant.
Roast on low heat, stirring often and make sure you don’t burn the spices. Remove and keep aside.
2. In the same pan, dry roast the following spices:
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 3 to 4 cloves
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamoms
- 1 small mace
- 4 Marathi moggu till fragrant
Remove and set aside.
3. Now, add ¼ cup chana dal and 1 tablespoon urad dal. These take longer to roast than the spices.
You can also roast the urad dal and chana dal separately.
4. On a low heat roast the lentils till fragrant and browned. Remove roasted lentils and set aside.
5. Now, dry roast 10 to 12 dried Byadagi red chilies and 5 to 7 Guntur red chilies till crisp. Remove and keep aside.
You can remove the seeds from these chillies (wearing kitchen gloves) while prepping the spices or remove the seeds after roasting and once they cool down.
6. Next, dry roast 12 to 14 curry leaves till crisp. Remove and set aside.
7. Now, roast 2 teaspoons poppy seeds till light golden. Remove and keep aside.
8. Lastly, roast 4 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut till golden. Remove and keep aside. Stir often to get an even golden color in the coconut.
9. Now let the roasted spices cool completely at room temperature. Break the red chillies in small pieces. Deseed them, if you have not done that earlier.
With a spoon, mix all the spices very well. Add the ingredients in batches in a dry grinder or coffee grinder.
10. Grind to a fine powder. Remove from the jar, and store the Bisi Bele Bath Powder in an air-tight jar or container.
11. Use the Bisi Bele Bath Powder as required. Keep the jar in the refrigerator.
I remember having this famous dish for the first time in Bangalore (present day Bengaluru) at one of the MTR restaurants, on the recommendation of my husband. It is one of his favorite rice-lentil dishes, which he would often have during his engineering days in the ‘city of gardens.’
Since the Bisi Bele Bath Powder is an integral ingredient in the dish, it is a must to have it handy at home whenever you plan to make this rice dish. And what better way to use a homemade version rather than using a store-bought one. As a lot of my readers had also requested for the recipe of the spice blend, I had to share this DIY version.
Also, because when you use a Bisi Bele Bath Powder made at home for your main dish, the authenticity is intact and what results is a beautifully flavored and hearty huliyanna. This is not really the case, even if you use the best readymade brand of this typical masala.
As said earlier, these are much better than the ones brought from the market. Though, it takes effort to make authentic masala powders at home but it is worth all the time and effort.
- To make this masala powder less spicy, reduce the quantity of the Guntur red chillies or opt to use chillies that are moderately spicy.
- Ensure that your spices are fresh, fragrant and of the best quality. Do not use stale or rancid spices. Also if you see some mold or insects or worms in any of the spices, then discard them. Preferably use organic spices.
- If you don’t get Marathi moggu or kapok buds in your local market, order online. Do not skip on this particular spice as if you do, you will miss on the authentic and traditional bisi bele bath masala.
- While dry roasting the spices, make sure that you roast them on low heat and not burn the spices. Stir often so that they spices get roasted evenly.
- The lentils will take a longer time to roast as compared to the spices. So, have patience. You can also roast the lentils separately.
- Before grinding, you can break the chilies into smaller pieces and deseed them too, if needed. Or else remove the seeds after roasting the chillies and once they cool. If you have sensitive skin wear gloves while deseeding them. The seeds are very hot, pungent and can cause irritation or rashes.
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Bisi Bele Bath Powder
- ½ cup coriander seeds
- ¼ cup chana dal (husked and split bengal gram)
- 1 tablespoon urad dal (husked and split black gram)
- 10 to 12 byadagi chillies or bedgi red chilies – or swap with lesser hot dry red chilies
- 5 to 7 guntur red chilies or swap with hot dry red chilies or medium-hot red chillies
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
- 3 green cardamoms
- 1.5 inches cinnamon
- 3 to 4 cloves
- 4 marathi moggu (kapok buds)
- 4 tablespoon desiccated coconut – unsweetened
- 2 teaspoon poppy seeds (khus khus)
- ½ of a whole mace or 1 small mace (javitri)
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
- 12 to 14 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) – optional
- Heat a frying pan or a small kadai and first dry roast the coriander, cumin and fenugreek until they are crisp and fragrant. Roast on a low heat and make sure you don't burn the spices. Remove and keep aside in a plate or tray.
- In the same pan, now dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, mace and marathi moggu till become aromatic. Remove and keep aside in the same plate and tray.
- Now add chana dal and urad dal. These take a longer to roast than the spices.
- Roast them stirring often till you get a nice lentil aroma and the lentils have become browned. Keep aside.
- Now dry roast the dry red chilies till they become crisp.
- Dry roast the curry leaves till they crisp.
- Now roast the poppy seeds till they become light golden.
- Roast the desiccated coconut stirring often till the flakes become golden.
- Turn off heat and dry roast the asafoetida if you plan to add it in the masala powder.
- Now let the roasted spices cool. Mix all the spices very well. Break the red chilies in small pieces. Deseed them if you prefer.
- Add the ingredients in batches in a dry grinder or coffee grinder.
- Grind to a fine powder. Remove from the jar and store the masala powder in an air-tight jar or container. Keep the jar in the refrigerator.
- Use the Bisi Bele Bath Powder as needed.
- If you want a less spicy masala powder reduce the quantity of the Guntur red chillies or opt to use chillies that are moderately spicy.
- Make sure to use spices and other ingredients that are fresh, fragrant, of the best quality and within their shelf period.
- Do not use stale or rancid spices. If you see some mold or insects or worms in any of the spices, then discard them. Preferably try to use organic spices.
- Marathi Moggu is an essential spice if you want the traditional and authentic Bisi Bele Bath Masala Powder. If you don’t get Marathi moggu or kapok buds in your local market, order online.
- While dry roasting the spices, ensure that you roast them on low heat and not burn the spices. Stir often so that the spices get roasted evenly. Also make sure to use a heavy pan or skillet.
- Poppy seeds can be skipped if you are not able to source it.
- Easily scale the recipe to make for less or more quantities of the masala.
- The approximate nutrition info is for the entire batch of Bisi Bele Bath powder made from this recipe.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Bisi Bele Bath Powder recipe from the archives first published in April 2014 has been updated and republished on January 2023.