Savory Brown Rice Pongal Recipe

Jan/13/2021 / by Malathy Chandrasekhar
Savory Brown Rice Pongal

Pongal invokes in me some fond childhood memories. As a kid, I would look forward to this dish, which was offered as prasad (a devotional offering made to God) at our neighborhood temple. In fact, that was a big draw for me. It was probably the priest’s way of incenting kids to visit the temple. He would make a variety of offerings for different days of the week, all of them equally delicious!

Harvest Festival

Besides the dish, a harvest festival celebrated in South India is also referred to as pongal. Yes, it can be confusing! This festival usually happens around mid-January and is also called Sankranti. I would have so much fun during this time! We would have kite flying competitions that were both organized and impromptu (happens to this day!). Folks of all ages flying kites from roof tops, yelling, loud music and what not. It was a blast!

Sweet & Savory

Not only is pongal made as a savory dish, it also has a sweet version. The sweet version is referred to as ‘Chakkarai Pongal’ or ‘Huggi’ (check out our Huggi recipe here). I’m personally not a big fan of sweet dishes (the exact opposite of my dad!), so I would opt for the savory version any day.


Undoubtedly, there are some clear similarities between savory pongal and Khichdi. Khichdi, a popular detox recipe is also made from lentils and rice, though the other ingredients may vary. Khichdi is one of my comfort foods. I have several versions of this dish that I churn out, depending on my mood. 

This Recipe

While this is traditionally made with white rice, I wanted to make it healthier by replacing with brown rice. I also plan on trying it with quinoa soon. The challenge with brown rice is that it takes much longer to cook than white rice. You will need to soak it for at least a couple of hours before cooking. It turned out great for me – well worth the extra time!


For the most part, any good South Indian restaurant typically serves this dish with vada (savory fried lentil donut). It is called Pongal-Vada. The sides include sambar (savory lentil and veggie soup) and 2 to 3 chutneys. A complete meal in itself! My personal favorite is a restaurant called Saravana Bhavan, located on Lexington Ave in New York (they have other locations globally). I never miss an opportunity to eat here whenever I happen to be in NY. So good!

Why is this Healthy?

Consisting mostly of brown rice and yellow mung beans, this recipe is rich in fiber and protein, making for a great breakfast, snack or your main dish at a meal.


Savory Brown Rice Pongal Recipe

This South Indian breakfast dish made primarily from rice and lentils is delicious! Enjoy it with sambar, coconut chutney or tomato chutney.

Course: Breakfast, Main Course

Cuisine: Indian

Special Diet: Gluten Free, No Added Sugar, Vegetarian

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Servings: 4 People

Calories: 353kcal



  • 1/2 Cup Yellow Mung – Split
  • 1 Cup Brown Rice
  • 1 Tablespoon Ginger – Chopped fine
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper – Whole corns
  • 15 Curry Leaves
  • 1 Teaspoon Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Chili Green Chili Pepper – Slit in half
  • 8 Cashew nuts – Whole
  • 2 Tablespoons Ghee – Clarified butter
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Sea Salt – or to taste


  1. Wash brown rice well and soak in water for 2-3 hours. Make sure you have all your ingredients in one place for easy access.
  2. Set Instant Pot on ‘sauté’ mode and add 1 tablespoon ghee. Once the ‘hot’ sign comes up, add soaked brown rice, mung lentils and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add 3 cups of water, mix well, put the lid on and turn IP to pressure cook mode on manual for 35 minutes. Once done open the lid and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
  4. Set a pan on medium flame, add a half tablespoon of ghee, wait until it is heated and add chopped ginger, peppercorns, curry leaves, cashew nuts and cumin seeds. Roast till cashews are slightly brown and turn off the flame.
  5. Add sauteed ingredients to the pressure-cooked lentils/rice and mix well and serve hot.


Pongal is typically served with sambar and coconut chutney but it also goes great with tomato chutney, or a tamarind-onion based stew called pulichaad.

*Use organic ingredients wherever possible

Recipes featured on Healthy Indian, your resource for nutritious recipes and lifestyle topics like Ayurveda, Yoga, and Gardening for a balanced mind, body and spirit.


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