This Maharashtrian Usal recipe is a wonderful warming curry made with roasted spices, desiccated coconut, boiled mix sprouts, onions, ginger and garlic. Serve this mouth-watering rich gravy with steamed rice, roti, poori or bread as a main course.
About Usal Recipe
The word Usal comes from the Marathi language and refers to dishes made with legumes. They are served dry, semi-dry or with gravy and can be made in several different ways. This recipe originates from the coastal Konkan region of Maharashtra state.
In this recipe, a masala paste is made with roasted spices, coconut and onions which is later cooked with steamed or boiled beans sprouts. I have used Mixed Sprouts, but feel free to use any bean or sprouted beans of your choice. The recipe is versatile and easily adaptable to make with any other dried beans or sprouts.
My favorite usal is made by my mother of course! It is from the Malvani cuisine and has a slightly different taste to the other Maharashtrian usal varieties. There are many variations of usal in Maharashtra and this recipe is a variation that includes coconut which gives it a coastal flavor.
As I was born and raised in Mumbai I am very fond of the flavors in Maharashtrian cuisine. Some of my favorite Maharashtrian foods include Sabudana Khichdi, Puran Poli, Batata Vada, Bharli Vangi and Misal Pav.
Serve usal with steamed rice, roti, poori, bread, jowar bhakri or pav.
How to Make Usal
Cook Mixed Sprouts
1. For this recipe use 1 cup of mixed sprouts or moong bean sprouts or moth bean sprouts (matki). You could use store-bought sprouted beans or homegrown sprouts.
If you plan to make homemade bean sprouts, then rinse ⅓ cup of dried mixed beans, soak and sprout them.
2. First rinse the mixed sprouts in warm or hot water a few times. Later pressure cook or steam the sprouted beans with 1.5 cups of water until they are tender and soft. Set aside.
If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker then cook mixed bean sprouts for about 2 to 3 whistles on medium heat.
For moth bean sprouts (matki) and moong bean sprouts cook for about 1 whistle on medium heat.
Make Masala Paste
3. In a frying pan or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds and ½ a tablespoon of fennel seeds.
4. Fry on low heat until you can smell the aroma of the ingredients and the color changes. Take care not to burn them.
5. Add ¼ a cup of chopped onions.
6. Fry on low heat stirring often until the onions soften and look translucent.
7. Then add 1 inch ginger (that has been roughly chopped) and 4 to 5 garlic cloves (peeled and roughly chopped).
8. Fry for 1 to 2 minutes on a low heat.
9. Add ½ a cup of desiccated coconut (or ½ cup of fresh coconut). You also have the option to use half-half proportions of both fresh coconut and desiccated coconut.
10. Stir and mix the coconut well with the rest of the mixture.
11. Start sautéing the masala on a low heat.
12. Saute the coconut until it turns golden and stir continuously. Make sure you do not burn the coconut.
13. Once the masala cools, add it to the grinder jar along with ½ to ⅔ cups of water.
14. Grind until you get a smooth and fine paste.
15. In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add ¼ cup of chopped onions.
16. On low heat sauté the onions until they change color and become translucent.
17. Next add ⅓ cup of chopped tomatoes.
18. Saute the tomatoes for 2 to 3 minutes or until they are soft.
19. Next add the ground masala paste and fry for 1 to 2 minutes as we already browned the paste. Take care as the masala paste splutters when you add to the hot pan.
20. Add ½ a teaspoon of turmeric powder (haldi), 1 teaspoon of Malvani masala (or Goda Masala) and ½ teaspoon of red chili powder.
If you do not have goda masala or Malvani masala, then add ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder instead.
You can skip Malvani masala, goda masala or garam masala if you do not have them.
21. Mix the ground spices powders very well with the coconut masala paste.
22. Add the boiled sprouts to the paste.
23. Then add 1 cup of broth or stock (the water in which the sprouts were cooked) or as needed depending on your preferred consistency.
Tip: Instead of the stock you could also add 1 cup of water.
24. Add salt to taste.
25. Finally, leave the entire usal curry to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes until the gravy thickens. You will also be able to see the oil floating on top of the curry once it is ready.
26. Now the usal is ready all you have to do is add 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves.
27. Serve Usal hot with Pav, chapati, poori or rice. You could also make misal pav with this usal.
- Legumes: You have a lot of options when it comes to the legumes. Usal can be made with sprouted beans, dried beans or lentils. In Maharashtra, usal is made with sprouted moth or matki beans. However, you can use moong beans, black-eyed beans (chawli), green peas (matar or vatana) or black chickpeas (kala chana) instead.
- Paste: After grinding the coconut masala and water in the grinder make sure that the mixture is fine and silky smooth. This is important as this paste forms the base of the curry and you don’t want a lumpy curry with bits in it.
- Alternatives: If you are not too keen on legumes or don’t have any on hand then feel free to use a mix of veggies like cauliflower, green peas and potatoes instead. I make this variation for my family and they always enjoy it.
- Sprout beans: One thing I love about sprouts is that they can be grown at home. I prefer to sprout my own beans as it is more hygienic. If you are not sure about how to sprout beans then check my detailed tutorial on making homemade Mixed Bean Sprouts and Mung Bean Sprouts.
You can add a variety of different legumes to make this curry and mung beans is one of them. If you don’t have mixed sprouts or don’t really like the taste then feel free to add only whole mung beans or mung sprouts.
When making usal the mixed sprouts can include matki (moth bean sprouts) or mung bean sprouts. You can also use a mixture of black chickpeas, dried green peas, dried white peas, red cowpeas, kidney beans, adzuki beans, white chickpeas, green chickpeas, moth beans or mung bean.
Yes, you can most definitely add fresh coconut to this recipe instead of desiccated coconut. Adding fresh coconut gives curry a richer coconut flavor. Sometimes I like to use half of a fresh coconut and half of desiccated coconut to get a mixture of the two flavors.
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Usal Recipe | Maharashtrian Malvani Usal
For cooking sprouts
- 1 cup Mixed Sprouts (legumes) or Moong Bean Sprouts or moth bean sprouts (matki sprouts)
- 1.5 cups water – for cooking sprouts
For the usal masala
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- ½ tablespoon fennel seeds
- ¼ cup chopped onion – chopped
- 4 to 5 medium garlic cloves – chopped
- 1 inch ginger – chopped
- ½ cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened) or ½ cup fresh coconut
- ½ to ⅔ cup water or as needed to make the usal masala paste
for the usal
- 2 tablespoons oil
- ¼ cup onion – chopped or 1 medium-sized
- ⅓ cup tomatoes – chopped or 1 medium-sized
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon malvani masala or Goda Masala or ½ teaspoon Garam Masala, optional
- 1 cup water or 1 cup of broth/stock got from boiling the sprouts or water
- salt as required
- 2 to 3 tablespoons coriander leaves – for garnish
Cooking mixed bean sprouts
- Prep by making homemade sprouts. Sprout ⅓ of dried mixed beans a couple of days earlier. You will need 1 cup of mixed bean sprouts.
- Pressure cook or steam the sprouted beans till they are tender. If pressure cooking, then cook the mixed sprouts in 1.5 cups water.
- When the bean sprouts are softened and tender, keep the cooked mixed sprouts aside.
Making usal masala
- On a frying pan or skillet heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the chopped onions.
- Fry stirring often until the onions soften and look translucent.
- Add the fennel seeds and coriander seeds to the onions. Sauté till they smell fragrant.
- Add chopped ginger and garlic and sauté these too for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the desiccated coconut.
- Stir and mix it well with the rest of the mixture.
- Fry the coconut till golden. But remember not to burn the coconut and to fry the masala on a low heat.
- Let the roasted spices and coconut mixture cool. Then make a fine and smooth paste of the masala ingredients in a mixer-grinder or blender with ½ to ⅔ cup water or as needed.
- In another pot or pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the chopped onions.
- Sauté the onions till they turn translucent and are softened.
- Next add the chopped tomatoes.
- Saute the tomatoes for 2 to 3 mins or till they soften.
- Pour the ground masala paste. Since we have already browned the paste, we have less work to do. Simply sauté the paste for 1 to 2 minutes stirring often.
- Add the turmeric powder, malvani masala and red chili powder.
- Mix the above ground spice powders evenly with the coconut paste.
- Add the boiled sprouts to the paste.
- Add 1 cup water or the broth or stock (in which the bean sprouts were cooked) or add more, as per the consistency desired by you.
- Add salt and stir. Lastly let the entire curry simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or till you see some oil floating on top.
- Lastly add chopped coriander leaves.
- Serve Usal with steamed rice or bhakri or pav or chapati or poori. You can also make misal pav with this malvani usal recipe.
- Feel free to add the beans or bean sprouts that are available to you. The recipe is easily adaptable to any bean or sprouted beans – moong bean sprouts, moth bean sprouts and even legumes like black chickpeas, white chickpeas, green mung beans, whole masoor dal, adzuki beans, black eyed beans are some good options.
- For a spicy usal, you can add some 1 to 2 dried red chillies while roasting the spices.
- Both desiccated coconut and fresh coconut work in the recipe. You could add either or an equal mix of both.
- Add water as needed to make a medium consistency curry.
This Usal recipe from the blog archives first published in May 2011 has been republished and updated on November 2022.