Sweet Pongal (Sweetened Rice and Lentils)

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Sweet Pongal is a creamy, sweet porridge made with rice, mung lentils and flavored with cardamoms, dry fruits. Sweet Pongal is also known as sakkarai pongal and chakkara pongal in South Indian languages is a festive dish traditionally made during the Pongal Festival in South India.

sweet pongal served in an antique brass pan with a side of an antique brass spoon and some ladoo and dark pink and white flowers on a brass plate

About this recipe

There are some South Indian recipes offered in temples that are a favorite with us – Ven Pongal, Curd Rice, Tamarind Rice, Paal Payasam and this sweet Pongal. I have had these recipes as prashad (naivdeyam) in many South Indian temples and loved their taste.

Sweet pongal is made with cooked rice and yellow moong lentils to which jaggery is added. Jaggery is Indian unrefined cane sugar and has a molasses-like flavor and taste. So you can imagine what this sweet pongal tastes like.

The flavorings added in sakkarai pongal are of course cardamom powder coupled with some cashews and raisins.

During pooja or on auspicious days, I make sweets and offer them to the Mother Goddess. Whenever I offer anything to the deities, I always add a pinch of edible camphor in these delicacies.

Though do note that adding edible camphor in your sweet pongal is entirely optional.

I also add clove powder or clove to any savory or sweet dish that I offer to the Devi. This is something which I follow in our family, as my mother and mother-in-law do the same.

So in this chakkara pongal, I have powdered one clove and added it. Though adding clove is optional.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Sweet Pongal

For your ease of understanding and reading, I have divided the entire step by step recipe of sweet pongal into 6 steps. So that it is easy for you.

  1. Roasting rice and moong dal
  2. Cooking rice & moong lentils
  3. Preparing jaggery syrup
  4. Sweetening rice and lentils
  5. Frying dry fruits
  6. Making sweet pongal

Step 1: roasting rice and moong dal

1. Pick ½ cup rice and ⅓ cup moong dal first to get rid of stones if any. Then heat a small pan or a small kadai and add both the rice and moong lentils.

moong dal and rice in a pan for making sweet pongal

2. On a low flame stirring often roast both the rice and moong lentils, until they become aromatic.

roasting dal and rice with a wooden spatula

3. You only need to roast, until the moong lentils become aromatic. You do not require to brown them.

roasted mung lentils and rice

4. Now take the roasted rice and lentils in another bowl or a strainer.

roasted lentils and rice taken in a steel bowl

5. Rinse both the roasted rice and moong dal a couple of times with water.

rinsed mung lentils and rice

Step 2: cooking rice and moong lentils

6. Drain well and then add both rice and lentils in a 3 litre pressure cooker. Pour 3 cups water. The amount of water can add depends on the consistency you prefer and the quality of moong dal.

Mostly I cook the moong lentils for 8 to 9 whistles. Thus I add 3 or 3.25 cups water. For quicker cooker variety of moong lentils, add 2.5 cups water and pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles.

mung lentils, rice and water in a pressure cooker

7. Pressure cook on medium heat for 11 to 12 minutes or for 8 to 9 whistles.

pressure cooker sealed with its lid

8. When the pressure settle down on its own in the cooker, remove the lid. Check to see if the rice and lentils have softened nicely and look mushy.

TIP: Add ½ to 1 cup hot water and mix thoroughly, if you get a separate texture of rice and lentils similar to that of a Pulao.

cooked rice and lentils ready to make chakkara pongal

9. Both the rice and the moong dal should be cooked very well and mushy. With a spoon slightly mash the cooked rice and moong lentils. If cooked well, then cover with the lid and set aside. The consistency of the cooked rice and lentils is like that of a khichdi.

lentils and rice mashed with a spoon to make sweet pongal

10. Meanwhile when the rice is cooking, crush seeds of 5 green cardamoms + 1 clove in a mortar-pestle. If using cardamom powder alone, then you can add ½ teaspoon of it.

crushed cardamom and clove powder in a steel mortar

Step 3 – preparing jaggery syrup

11. Chop 115 to 120 grams jaggery. You should get about ½ cup tightly packed chopped or grated jaggery.

This much amount of jaggery makes the sakkarai pongal just sweet. For more sweetness, you can add ¼ cup more.

On occasions I also use organic jaggery powder and add it directly to the cooked rice+moong lentils.

TIP: If you are using jaggery or jaggery powder without impurities, then you can add it directly to the cooked rice+lentils mixture.

chopped jaggery on a white chopping board for making sakkarai pongal

12. Now take ½ cup water in a pan. Add the chopped jaggery.

chopped jaggery and water in a frying pan

13. On a low to medium flame, heat this jaggery solution until the jaggery melts completely.

jaggery and water being heated

14. Do stir and break the jaggery chunks or pieces with a spatula or spoon so that they melt easily.

amber brown colored jaggery liquid being simmered

15. Let the syrup bubble up a bit. You will get an amber colored syrup when all the jaggery is melted, if you have used dark jaggery.

If you have light colored jaggery, then the color will be pale yellow to yellow. If you want you can thicken the syrup more.

amber colored jaggery solution ready to make sweet pongal

Step 4 – sweetening the rice and lentils

16. Straining the jaggery syrup through a sieve, directly add it in the cooked rice+lentils mixture. If using organic jaggery powder, you can add it directly.

jaggery solution strained with a strainer into the cooked rice and lentils

17. Now add the crushed cardamom+clove powder and a pinch of edible camphor.

jaggery syrup, cardamom and clove powder on top of mashed rice and lentils

18. Mix everything very well. The chakkara pongal will thicken as it cools. So if the mixture looks thick, then you can add ¼ to ⅓ cup hot water.

mixed all the ingredients evenly

Step 5 – frying dry fruits

19. Heat 4 to 5 tablespoons ghee. You can add a bit less ghee if you prefer.

ghee melted in a frying pan

20. Add 12 to 15 cashews. You can keep the cashews whole or halve or chop them.

cashews added to hot ghee

21. Fry the cashews until they become light golden.

cashews being fried

22. Then add 1 tablespoons raisins.

raisins added

23. Begin to stir and fry.

raisins and cashews getting fried

24. Stirring often fry until the raisins swell and become plump.

raisins become plump

Step 6 – making sweet pongal

25. Then immediately remove the pan from the stove top and add the fried cashews, raisins and ghee to the cooked rice and lentils.

fried mixture of raisins, cashews and ghee on the mashed rice and lentils mixture

26. Mix very well.

making sakkarai or sweet Pongal recipe

27. Offer to the Goddess or you can serve sweet pongal hot or warm to your family members. You can garnish sakkarai pongal with some of the fried cashews and raisins while serving.

sakkarai pongal served in an antique brass pan with a side of an antique brass spoon and some ladoo and dark pink and white flowers on a brass plate

Variations

  • With milk: Some version of sweet pongal are made with milk. So you can definitely add milk in place of water in this recipe. Milk will make the chakkara pongal slightly richer and creamier.
  • With sugar: Though jaggery is traditionally used in making sakkarai pongal, but you can replace it with raw sugar or white sugar. Sweeteners like coconut sugar or palm sugar also make excellent substitutes.
  • Healthy ingredients: Rice and moong lentils are again the norm in a sweet pongal. Though of course you can deviate and make sakkarai pongal with cracked wheat (dalia), millets or oats.

How to make Sweet Pongal in Instant Pot

Follow these steps to make sweet pongal in your IP:

  1. First roast the rice and lentils separately in a frying pan. Then rinse and add these to the steel insert of your IP.
  2. Pour 3.5 cups water. Pressure cook on high pressure for 6 to 7 minutes. Do a quick pressure release after 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. If you see that the consistency is thick or with separate grains, then pour some water. Mix and press the sauté button to simmer the mixture for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the ground cardamom and clove powder. Make the jaggery syrup and add it. Later fry the cashews, raisins separately and mix it with the cooked rice and lentils. Serve chakkara pongal hot or warm.
Tips

Expert Tips

Ingredient notes

  • Sweeteners: Jaggery imparts a lovely earthy molasses-like taste in sakkarai pongal. If you do not have jaggery, then add raw sugar or white sugar in the same amount. Palm sugar and coconut sugar also work wonderfully in a sweet pongal. For more sweetness, you can add ¼ cup more jaggery. On occasions, I also use organic jaggery powder and add it directly to the cooked rice+moong lentils. Jaggery can be easily purchased online or on amazon.
  • Ghee: You can add a bit less ghee if you prefer that. More ghee will definitely make the chakkara pongal rich and more flavorful.
  • Rice: Any medium or short-grained non-sticky rice can be used. Generally, during the pongal festival, freshly harvested rice is used. If you can get freshly harvested rice, then do make the sweet pongal recipe with it.
  • Spices: Cardamom is an essential spice. But you can omit clove and edible camphor.

Recipe notes

  • Cooking lentils: Depending on the quality of moong dal you adjust the amount of water and pressure cook for less or more time. I pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 10 whistles and add 3 or 3.25 cups water. If your moong lentils cook faster, then add 2.5 cups water and pressure cook them for 2 to 3 whistles on medium heat.
  • Cooking in a pan: You can easily make sweet pongal on the stove-top in a pot or pan. Dry roast the rice and lentils first. Add them in a pan with 4 to 4.5 cups water and cook until softened. Do add more water if required.
  • Proportion of rice and lentils: In my recipe, the proportion of rice is slightly more. Equal proportions of moong lentils and rice also work well.
  • Scaling: You can easily double or triple this recipe of chakkara pongal to make a large batch.
  • Storage: If you have any leftovers then store in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. I would not recommend freezing as the taste will not be the same and it is always better to eat rice and lentils freshly cooked. After refrigeration, if the consistency looks very thick or lumpy, then add some hot water or milk to thin it slightly.

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Sweet Pongal | Sakkarai Pongal

4.82 from 11 votes
Sweet Pongal or sakkarai pongal is a creamy, sweet festive dish made with rice, mung lentils, jaggery and flavored with cardamoms, dry fruits and ghee.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Cuisine South Indian, Tamil Nadu
Course: Sweets
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level: Easy

Servings 4
Units

Ingredients

Main ingredients

  • ½ cup rice (any short to medium grained variety) or 100 grams
  • cup moong dal (husked and split mung lentils) or 85 grams, you can also add ¼ cup mung lentils
  • 3 cups water – for pressure cooking
  • ½ cup jaggery chopped and tightly packed, 115 to 120 grams or ½ cup tightly packed jaggery powder
  • ½ cup water – for the jaggery solution
  • 1 pinch edible camphor (optional)
  • 5 green cardamoms or ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 1 clove (optional)

For frying dry fruits

  • 4 to 5 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter)
  • 15 to 18 cashews
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins

Instructions

Roasting rice & moong dal

  • Pick the rice and moong dal first to get rid of stones if any. Then heat a small pan or a small kadai and add both the rice and moong lentils.
  • On a low flame stirring often roast both the rice and moong lentils, till they become aromatic.
  • You only need to roast till the moong lentils become aromatic. No need to brown them.
  • Now take them in another bowl.
  • Rinse both the roasted rice and moong dal a couple of times with water.

Cooking rice and moong lentils

  • Drain well and then add them in a pressure cooker.
  • Pour 3 cups water. The amount of water you can add depends on the consistency you prefer and on the quality of moong dal.
  • Pressure cook on medium heat for 11 to 12 minutes or for 8 to 9 whistles.
  • Let the pressure settle down on its own in the cooker. Then remove the lid to check the doneness and consistency of the rice and lentils. If you see a separate texture like that of a pulao/pilaf, then add ½ to 1 cup hot water and mix very well. 
  • Both the rice and the moong dal should be cooked very well and look mushy. With a spoon, slightly mash the cooked rice and moong lentils. If cooked well, then cover with the lid and keep aside. The consistency of the cooked rice and lentils is like a khichdi.

Preparing jaggery syrup

  • Meanwhile when the rice is cooking, crush seeds of 5 green cardamoms + 1 clove in a mortar-pestle. If using cardamom powder alone, then you can add ½ teaspoon of it.
  • Chop jaggery. You should get about ½ cup tightly packed, chopped or grated jaggery. This much amount of jaggery makes the pongal just sweet. 
  • Now take ½ cup water in a pan. Add the jaggery.
  • On a low to medium flame, heat this jaggery solution until the jaggery melts completely.
  • Do stir and break the jaggery chunks or pieces with a spatula so that they melt easily.
  • You will get an amber colored syrup when all the jaggery is melted, if you have used dark jaggery. If you have light colored jaggery, then the color will be pale yellow to yellow.

Sweetening cooked rice and lentils

  • Straining the jaggery syrup through a seive, directly add it in the cooked rice+lentils mixture. If using jaggery powder, you can add directly.
  • Now add the crushed cardamom+clove powder and a pinch of edible camphor.
  • Mix everything very well. Pongal will thicken as it cools. So if the mixture looks thick, then you can add ¼ to ⅓ cup hot water or hot milk.

Frying dry fruits

  • Heat 5 tablespoons ghee. You can add less ghee if you want.
  • Add the 12 to 15 cashews. Saute the cashews till they become light golden.
  • Then add 1 tablespoons raisins. Begin to stir and fry.
  • Stirring often fry until the raisins swell and become plump.

Making sweet pongal

  • Then immediately remove the pan from the stovetop and add the fried cashews, raisins and ghee to the cooked rice and lentils.
  • Mix thorughly.
  • Offer to the Goddess or you can serve sweet pongal hot or warm to your family members.

Notes

Variations

  • With milk: Some versions of sweet pongal are made with milk. You can add milk in place of water in this recipe. Milk will make the sakkarai pongal slightly richer and creamier.
  • With sugar: Though jaggery is traditionally used in making sakkarai pongal, you can replace it with raw sugar or white sugar, or rock sugar. Sweeteners like coconut sugar or palm sugar also make great substitutes.
  • Healthy ingredients: Sweet pongal is always made with rice and moong lentils. But you can make it with cracked wheat (dalia), millets, or rolled oats.

Making Sweet Pongal in the Instant Pot

  1. Firstly, roast the rice and lentils separately in a frying pan or skillet. Rinse and add these to the steel insert of your IP.
  2. Pour 3.5 cups of water. Pressure cook on high pressure for 6 to 7 minutes. Do a quick pressure release after 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. If you see that the consistency is thick or with separate grains, then pour some water. Mix and press the sauté button to simmer the rice and lentil mixture for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the ground cardamom and clove powder. Make the jaggery syrup and add it. Later fry the cashews, raisins separately and mix it with the cooked rice and lentils. Serve hot or warm.
 

Ingredient notes

  • Sweeteners: Jaggery imparts a lovely earthy molasses-like taste. If you do not have jaggery, then add raw sugar or white sugar in the same amount. Palm sugar and coconut sugar also work wonderfully in a sweet pongal. For more sweetness, you can add ¼ cup more jaggery. On occasions, I also use organic jaggery powder and add it directly to the cooked rice+moong lentils. Jaggery can be easily purchased online or on amazon.
  • Rice: Any medium or short-grained non-sticky rice can be used. Generally, during the pongal festival, freshly harvested rice is used. If you can get freshly harvested rice, then do use it to make sweet pongal.
  • Ghee: You can add a bit less ghee if you prefer that. More ghee will definitely make the chakkara pongal rich and more flavorful.
  • Spices: Cardamom is an essential spice. But you can omit clove and edible camphor.

Recipe notes

  • Cooking lentils: Depending on the quality of moong dal you can adjust the amount of water and pressure cook for less or more time. I pressure cook the lentils for 8 to 10 whistles and add 3 or 3.25 cups water. If your moong lentils cook faster, then add 2.5 cups water and pressure cook them for 2 to 3 whistles on medium heat.
  • Cooking in a pan: You can easily make sweet pongal on the stove-top in a pot or pan. Dry roast the rice and lentils first. Add them to a pan with 4 to 4.5 cups water and cook until softened. Do add more water if needed.
  • Proportion of rice and lentils: In my recipe, the proportion of rice is slightly more. Equal proportions of moong lentils and rice also work well.
  • Scaling: You can easily double or triple this recipe of chakkara pongal to make a large batch.
  • Storage: If you have any leftovers then store them in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. I would not recommend freezing as the taste will not be the same and it is always better to eat rice and lentils freshly cooked. After refrigeration, if the consistency looks very thick or lumpy, then add some hot water or milk to thin it slightly.

Nutrition Info Approximate values

Nutrition Facts
Sweet Pongal | Sakkarai Pongal
Amount Per Serving
Calories 412 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 33mg11%
Sodium 18mg1%
Potassium 121mg3%
Carbohydrates 61g20%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 28g31%
Protein 7g14%
Vitamin A 41IU1%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 1mg5%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Vitamin E 1mg7%
Vitamin K 2µg2%
Calcium 36mg4%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 3µg1%
Iron 2mg11%
Magnesium 31mg8%
Phosphorus 69mg7%
Zinc 1mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This sweet pongal recipe from the archives (July 2016) has been republished and updated on 12 January 2020

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11 Comments

  1. Hi
    I have prepared sakkarai pongal. The consistency, texture, smoothness is perfect. But the sweetness is too much, as every jaggery ball differs in sweetness.
    What can be done to reduce the sweetness. Pls give me a suggestion.

    Thanks

    1. yes, the sweetness is more or less in types of jaggery. you can just add some warm water or warm milk in the pongal and the sweetness will reduce. hope this helps.

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