Coconut Rice

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Coconut rice is a light, tasty, savory South Indian rice variant made with fresh grated coconut, lentils, herbs and spices. This nutty and mild rice based dish is called Thengai Sadam in Tamil language. The coconut rice recipe is vegan and for a Gluten-free recipe, skip including asafetida.

overheat shot of coconut rice topped with two fried curry leaves and cashew bits in a blue rimmed white bowl on a dark blue wooden tray

What is Coconut Rice

A favorite and staple rice based recipe in the South Indian regions is Coconut Rice. Fairly simple to make this dish comes together by mixing sautéed or fried lentils, spices, herbs and coconut with cooked rice.

Like I mentioned above, this rice dish variant is also called ‘Thengai Sadam’ in Tamil. The words ‘thengai’ means coconut and ‘sadam’ is rice.

Coconut rice is made during the South Indian festivals of Pongal and Navratri. In my visits to many cities and towns of Southern India, we largely visited places of interest and many temples. In some of the temples there, we were served Pongal, Curd rice and coconut rice.

Why This Recipe Works

There are quite a number of variations of this recipe in the South Indian cuisine. My coconut rice recipe features freshly grated coconut and is the star here.

The lentils, cashews add a lovely crunch to the dish and a nutty flavor. I include both red chillies and green chilies for that bit of smoky pungent heat in the rice.

For thengai sadam, if you prepped up by grating the coconut earlier, then the dish comes together quickly. No prizes for guessing, that the recipe tastes best with fresh coconut. But in a pinch you can use frozen coconut.

There is a variant of this recipe made with coconut milk. The difference is that in the Coconut Milk Rice recipe, the rice grains are cooked in coconut milk, herbs and spices.

Due to the different methods of cooking combined with the creaminess of coconut milk, the coconut milk rice taste completely different with a unique flavor.

I often make such simple rice variations when I want to cook something easy. Some more easy rice recipes that I love to make are Lemon Rice, Mango Rice and Tomato Rice.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Coconut Rice

Soak Rice And Lentils

1. Soak 1 cup regular non-sticky Indian rice (like sona masuri, ponni, surti kolam, parmal rice) or basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes.

rice soaking in water in yellow bowl

2. Further soak ½ tablespoon urad dal and ½ tablespoon chana dal in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Urad dal is husked and split black gram. Chana dal is husked and split bengal gram.

Later drain the water very well and keep the lentils aside. You can add the lentils without soaking when making the dish. However soaking them, improves their texture and gives a good taste to the rice.

soaked lentils on a spoon in water

Cook Rice

3. After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water. Add the rice together with 1.75 to 2 cups water in a 2 litre pressure cooker

Pressure cook the rice for 2 whistles or 5 to 6 minutes on medium to medium-high heat. When the pressure settles down on its own in the cooker, open the lid and fluff the rice.

For a softer texture in the rice, pressure cook for 3 whistles. If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook rice in a pot or pan or the Instant Pot. I have listed the details below.

  1. Cooking in a pot or pan: Take the soaked rice and 2 cups of water in a pan. Cover and simmer on a low to medium-low heat until rice grains are tender and the water has been absorbed. If the most of the water has evaporated and the rice grains look undercooked, add a few tablespoons of hot water. Cover and continue to cook rice.
  2. Cooking in Instant Pot: Transfer the rice grains and 1.5 cups water in the Instant Pot. Seal the lid and position the valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high pressure for 4 to 5 minutes. When the cooking is complete and you hear the beep sound, wait for 5 minutes before giving a quick pressure release. Open the lid and transfer the rice to a tray or plate for cooling.
cooked rice in a pressure cooker

4. Take the rice in a plate/tray and allow to cool grains completely. If there are lumps in the rice, then break the lumps once the rice is cooled.

cooked rice spread on a large steel plate

Fry Spices, Lentils

5. Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a pan. You can also use sesame oil (not the asian sesame oil which is toasted but the oil that is made from raw sesame seeds a.k.a gingelly oil) or any other neutral oil.

Lower the heat and add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds and let them crackle.

mustard seeds in oil in a black pan

6. When the mustard seeds are crackling, add the strained chana dal and urad dal. Mix and fry for a minute on a low heat.

lentils added in the black pan

7. Add 2 tablespoons chopped cashews.

cashews in the black pan

8. Stir and fry until the cashews turn golden. The lentils would also turn golden by then.

cashews, lentils being fried in oil in black pan

9. Add 1 or 2 dry red chilies (broken and seeds removed), 10 to 12 curry leaves and 1 or 2 chopped green chilies (about ½ to 1 teaspoon chopped) along with a pinch of asafoetida (hing).

For a gluten-free rice, skip the asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida.

chilies, curry leaves added

10. Stir and fry until the red chilies change color. The curry leaves would also become crisp.

spices herbs mixture being fried in the black pan

Add Coconut

11. Next add 1.5 cups of tightly packed grated coconut. Ensure that your coconut is finely grated and not chunky or having larger shreds.

finely grated coconut added in pan

12. Combine and mix very well with the rest of the fried spices and herbs.

coconut mixed with rest of the spices and herbs in black pan

13. Sauté the coconut for 3 to 4 minutes on a low heat, stirring often. The coconut can be sautéed until it gets a cream-ish color or a faint, pale beige color.

coconut being sautéed

Make Coconut Rice

14. Lastly add the steamed cooled rice and salt according to your taste.

rice and salt in the pan

15. Mix the rice very well and switch off the heat.

rice mixed in pan

Serving Suggestions and Storage

Serve coconut rice hot or warm. If you like you can garnish with chopped coriander leaves and drizzling with a bit of ghee while serving. You can also choose to drizzle some lemon juice on the rice while eating.

You can serve coconut rice as is or pair with a gravy or curry like Vegetable Stew, Potato Roast, Vegetable Kurma, Cauliflower Kurma or even plain homemade fresh Curd.

In the photos you see a spicy South Indian Potato Kurma served with coconut rice. I also like to pair coconut rice with the Kerala style Parippu Kari (moong lentils curry)

For a really flavorful meal, I recommend pairing a South Indian vegetable gravy or curry with the rice. Accompany some papadum (appalam) if you like.

Since this rice has coconut, it is best had fresh. I do not recommend to store this rice in the fridge as the chances of coconut going rancid are very high. Moreover it is best to eat rice when freshly cooked.

coconut rice with two curry leaves on top of it in a blue rimmed white bowl

Expert Tips

  • Rice: Any short-grained or medium-grained rice works well in this coconut rice recipe. But make sure that whichever rice you use, it must be non-sticky. Fragrant basmati rice is another option to make this delish coconut rice recipe. Most non-sticky varieties of Indian rice can be used here.
  • Coconut: I highly recommend to include fresh grated coconut for the best taste and flavor. Frozen coconut is the next option. Ensure that your frozen coconut smells good and is not rancid. Including unsweetened desiccated coconut simply won’t give a better taste as compared to the rice made with fresh coconut.
  • Lumpy rice: If your rice grains have cooked a tad more and have become lumpy on cooling. Do not worry. Simply break the lumps in the cooked rice.
  • Herbs: Curry leaves imparts plenty of flavor in thengai sadam. Now curry leaves are an essential ingredient in the recipe and cannot be swapped or substituted with any herb or spice. If curry leaves are not available, I recommend to use curry leaves powder. Add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground curry leaves powder.
  • Nuts: I like to add cashews, but you can swap it with peanuts. Simply omit these nuts, if you are out of stock with them.
  • Lentils: The fried toasty lentils add a nutty flavor to the dish and give some nice crunch. Skip them if you do not prefer or do not have them in your pantry.

More Tasty Rice Recipes!

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overheat shot of coconut rice topped with two fried curry leaves and cashew bits in a blue rimmed white bowl on a dark blue wooden tray

Coconut Rice Recipe

5 from 49 votes
Coconut rice is a light, tasty, savory South Indian rice variant made with fresh grated coconut, lentils, herbs and spices. This nutty and mild rice based dish is also known as Thengai Sadam in Tamil language. The recipe is vegan and for a gluten-free version, easily skip adding asafetida.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 40 mins

Cuisine South Indian
Course: Main Course
Diet: Vegan
Difficulty Level: Moderate

Servings 3
Units

Ingredients

For cooking rice

  • 1 cup basmati rice or any regular non-sticky rice – about 4 to 4.5 cups cooked rice
  • 1.75 to 2 cups water

For tempering

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or any neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ tablespoon urad dal (split and husked black gram)
  • ½ tablespoon chana dal (split and husked bengal gram)
  • 10 to 12 cashews – chopped or 2 tablespoons
  • 1 or 2 dry red chilies – broken and seeds removed
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies or 1 to 2 green chillies
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • 10 to 12 curry leaves
  • 1.5 cups grated fresh coconut – tightly packed, finely grated
  • salt as required

Instructions

Preparation

  • Soak 1 cup regular rice or basmati rice in enough water for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Also soak the urad dal and chana dal in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Later drain the water very well and set the lentils aside.
  • Grate half of a medium to large coconut and keep aside. You need about 1.5 cups tightly packed grated coconut.

Cooking rice

  • After 20 to 30 minutes, drain the water and pressure cook the rice with 1.75 to 2 cups water for 2 whistles or 5 to 6 minutes on medium to medium-high heat in a 2 litre pressure cooker.
  • If you do not have a pressure cooker, cook rice in a pot or pan or the Instant Pot. Find the details below.
  • Cooking in a pot or pan: Take the soaked rice and 2 cups of water in a pan. Cover and simmer on a low to medium-low heat until rice grains are tender and the water has been absorbed. If the most of the water has evaporated and the rice grains look undercooked, add a few tablespoons of hot water. Cover and continue to cook rice.
  • Cooking in Instant Pot: Transfer the rice grains and 1.5 cups water in the Instant Pot. Seal the lid and position the valve to sealing. Pressure cook on high pressure for 4 to 5 minutes. When the cooking is complete and you hear the beep sound, wait for 5 minutes before giving a quick pressure release. Open the lid and transfer the rice to a tray or plate for cooling.
  • When the pressure settles down on its own, open the lid and fluff the rice. For a softer texture in the rice, pressure cook for 3 whistles
  • Take the rice in a plate/tray and allow to cool grains completely. You can also cool the rice in the cooker itself. If there are lumps in the rice, then break the lumps once the rice is cooled.

Making tempering

  • Heat coconut oil in a pan. You can also use sesame oil or any other neutral oil. Reduce the heat to a low. Crackle mustard seeds first in the hot oil.
  • Add the chana dal and urad dal. Stir and fry for about a minute.
  • Then add chopped cashews.
  • Stir and fry till the cashews turn golden. The lentils would also turn golden by then.
  • Add red chilies, curry leaves and chopped green chilies along with a pinch of asafetida.
  • Stir and fry until the red chilies change color and the curry leaves become crisp.

Making coconut rice

  • Next add grated coconut. Mix very well.
  • Sauté the coconut for 3 to 4 minutes stirring often. The coconut can be sautéed until it get a cream-ish color or a faint light beige color.
  • Lastly add the steamed rice and salt.
  • Combine and mix the rice well. Switch off the heat.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve coconut rice hot or warm. If you like you can garnish with chopped coriander leaves and drizzling with a bit of ghee while serving. You can also choose to drizzle some lemon juice on the rice while eating.
  • You can serve coconut rice as is or pair with a gravy or curry like Vegetable Stew, Potato Roast, Vegetable Kurma, Cauliflower Kurma or even plain homemade fresh Curd.
  • I also like to have coconut rice with the Kerala style Parippu Kari (moong lentils curry) and Potato Kurma.
  • I suggest pairing with gravy or curry for a really flavorful meal. Accompany some papadum (appalam) if you like.
  • Since this rice has coconut, it is best had fresh. I do not recommend to store this rice in the fridge as the chances of coconut going rancid are very high. Moreover it is best to eat rice when freshly cooked.

Notes

  • Rice: Any short-grained or medium-grained rice works well in this coconut rice recipe. But make sure that whichever rice you use, it must be non-sticky. Fragrant basmati rice is another option.
  • Coconut: I highly recommend to include fresh grated coconut for the best taste and flavor. Frozen coconut is the next option. Ensure that your frozen coconut smells good and is not rancid. Including unsweetened desiccated coconut simply won’t give a better taste in comparison to the rice made with fresh coconut.
  • Lumpy rice: If your rice grains have cooked a tad more and have become lumpy on cooling. Do not worry. Simply break the lumps in the cooked rice.
  • Herbs: Curry leaves imparts plenty of flavor. Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in the recipe and cannot be swapped or substituted with any herb or spice. If curry leaves are not available, I recommend to use curry leaves powder. Add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of ground curry leaves powder.
  • Nuts: I like to add cashews, but you can swap it with peanuts. Simply omit these nuts, if you are out of stock with them.
  • Lentils: The fried toasty lentils add a nutty flavor to the dish and give some nice crunch. Skip them if you do not prefer or do not have them in your pantry.

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Coconut Rice Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 501 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Fat 26g40%
Saturated Fat 21g131%
Sodium 413mg18%
Potassium 265mg8%
Carbohydrates 61g20%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 260IU5%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 40mg200%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 69mg84%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 3µg3%
Calcium 54mg5%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 410µg103%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 50mg13%
Phosphorus 156mg16%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This coconut rice recipe from the blog archives (Jun 2015) has been republished and updated on 22 May 2021.

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Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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14 Comments

    1. dry coconut won’t give a good taste. so i would suggest to use fresh coconut.

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