10 South Indian Dishes to Make and Try

South Indian dishes are unique in their own way and have become popular across India. Here are ten incredible dishes from the region for you to try.

south indian dishes

South Indian Dishes carry a  distinct appearance, taste and need special preparation. While many believe, South Indian cuisine is all about vegetarian dishes, there is definitely a variety of food to explore.

The south side of India has a lot of differences in comparison to the north and the west; while keeping some subtle similarities.

One is the consumption of rice. South Indian dishes are often served with rice rather than roti (chapatti) or naan.

Many recipes are also much spicier than that of other districts.

Cooking and popular dishes vary from city to city, as each has their own prized dish which often tastes phenomenal.

DESIblitz has found 10 amazing South Indian dishes for you to make and try.

Masala Oats Idli

South Indian Dishes

This is a traditional South Indian breakfast dish which is eaten with a side of chutney.

Idli is said to be one of the oldest dishes eaten in India. Dating back to 700 CE which is mind-blowing. Back then, Idli was referred to as ‘Vaddaradhane’.

In fact, this beloved dish is celebrated year after year, known as the ‘World Idli Day’ where people come together to rejoice this wonderful dish.

A healthy cuisine is cooked with rice, lentils and aromatic spices.

Idli is very beneficial to the diet as it is steamed rather than fried. The rice element of the dish makes it a great source of carbohydrates.

We have for you a low in calorie and egg free recipe to try.

Ingredients

  • 340 g rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp chickpea lentils
  • 1/2 tsp black lentils
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 1 tsp ginger, pureed
  • 170 g semolina
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 43 g peas
  • 42 g cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp paprika, smoked
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 255 g plain yogurt
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp fruit salt
  • 1 tbsp water

Method

  1. Grind the oats in a blender and leave aside for later.
  2. Take a small pan, heat oil and add cumin, mustard and asafoetida. Once the spices begin to crackle, add the lentils.
  3. Cook the lentils until golden brown in colour and add chilli and ginger. Wait for the ginger to darken.
  4. Reduce heat to low, add the semolina and cook the mixture for 3 minutes. Stir the mixture non-stop.
  5. Now add the blended oats and stir.
  6. Continue to stir for another 6 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Once cooked, place the mixture into a small bowl or container and let it cool.
  8. Add the peas, grated carrot and cilantro followed by paprika, turmeric, salt and black pepper. Stir the mixture gently.
  9. To thicken the mix, add the plain yogurt. Stir the mixture well.
  10. While the batter rests, prepare the idli moulds by greasing them. Add the water to your steamer.
  11. Now, take batter and add the fruit salt and a tbsp of water if the batter appears too thick.
  12. Then, distribute the batter evenly on to the idli moulds and steam for 13 minutes.
  13. After 13 minutes, insert a butter knife into the idli to check if the inside has fully cooked.

Serve this dish with some spicy sambar or chutney.

This recipe was adapted from Manali.

Tamarind Rice

Puliyogare is tamarind rice which originates from Tamil Nadu.  Often served up during lunch or cooked for celebrations; this sour rice dish is to die for.

Tamarind or imli carries multiple health benefits such as rejuvenating the skin and improving the circulation of blood. These are only a few of what this fruit can do.

While providing an added tangy kick to the beautifully spiced and seasoned rice. It’s no wonder that tamarind rice is popular pick among South Indian dishes.

Tamarind rice is seasoned with traditional and popular South Indian spices such as asafoetida, mustard and turmeric.

Here is a quick and simple recipe which takes only 25 minutes to cook.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 70 g tamarind
  • 50 ml sesame seed oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 5 Red chillies
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 4 tsp black lentils
  • 4 tsp chickpea lentils
  • 4 additional red chillies, cut in half
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 100 g roasted peanuts
  • 3 curry leaves

Ingredients for Rice

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp sesame seed oil

Method

  1. In a skillet add fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds and red chillies until the spices create a fragrance. Place them into a blender and begin to roast the sesame seeds separately.
  2. Place all the spices in the blender and blend until completely powdered.
  3. Begin to cook the rice so that grains remain apart from one another.
  4. Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in hot water. You will be left with rich tamarind water and pulp.
  5. Take two cups of the water and remove the pulp. Leave aside.
  6. In a medium pan, heat oil, add mustard, black lentils, chickpea lentils, red chillies, asafoetida, turmeric, roasted peanuts and curry leaves.
  7. Wait for lentils to become golden brown and add the rich tamarind juice, salt and boil the mixture.
  8. When the consistency of the mixture becomes thick, remove from heat.

Method for Mixing Rice

  1. One a flat tray spread out the rice until room temperature.
  2. Mix in 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Complete this process slowly and begin to add the blended powdered spice from earlier.
  3. Now add the cooked tamarind mixture and combine with the rice as gently as possible.

The dish is ready. This traditional tamarind rice recipe was adapted from Padhu.

Chettinad Chicken

South Indian Dishes

Behold! This is one of the popular chicken curry recipes from South India. This dish is a speciality from Chettinad and is bursting with tangy flavours.

The main contributors to the flavour and fragrance of this dish are, star anise, lime and tomatoes. These Ingredients favoured in the majority of South Indian dishes.

The Chettinad chicken has a spice-infused masala which is thick and saucy. This adds to the overall texture and taste of this village delicacy.

We have for you, a very inspiring dish which keeps to the Desi ways and is very rich in protein. Also, a great dish for our health-conscious Desis as this recipe is only 147 calories per serving.

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 dry chillies
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 cm cinnamon stick
  • 50 g grated fresh coconut
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 limes
  • salt to taste
  • coriander leaves, chopped

Method

  1. Take a pan, heat oil and roast the poppy, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, dry red chillies, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and coconut for 4 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and place in small bowl. Let the spices cool and keep aside.
  3. Crush the garlic with ginger. For this, you can use a pestle and mortar.
  4. Heat oil in a large sized pan, add curry leaves and let them sizzle in the oil. Then add the sliced onions and cook until brown then add the crushed garlic and ginger.
  5. Now add the ground spices to the mixture, followed by star anise and cook for 1 minute. Then add a touch of water to stop the mixture from sticking to the pan.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, salt and turmeric and stir.
  7. Place the chicken gently into the masala and simmer with the lid on for 25 minutes.
  8. Prepare the lime and add the juice when the chicken is thoroughly cooked.
  9. Add the coriander leaves and wait for a minute.

The dish is now ready to be served. You can try it with a side of white rice or bread.

This recipe was adapted from Hari Ghotra.

Rasam Soup Recipe

For a tangy based tomato soup, packed with fibres and flavour. Look no further than South Indian’s Rasam as it is a delightful dish.

This could be the morning treat that could uplift you just before a hard days work or even to give a cosy feeling on a cold winters day.

The rasam resembles a delicate tomato soup. It’s main ingredients are, mustard, chilli and cumin which help bring together the strong and soft flavours.

This is one of the more famed foods within the South Indian dishes. There are so many versions of the traditional rasam soup.

Once cooked, this soup can be served up with soft chunks of bread or simply enjoyed alone. That is the true beauty behind the dish, simple but powerful.

Here is a recipe that uses tamarind to the dish to add to the tangy notes in the dish.

Ingredients

  • 400 g tomatoes, chopped
  • 15 g coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tamarind
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 30 ml oil
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 red chilli, halved
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/8 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp methi
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • salt to taste

Method to Prepare Rasam

  1. In a skillet add methi, red chilli, cumin and peppercorn. Dry roast until the methi changes colour.
  2. Once cool, place in a blender and blend until ground.

Method to Cook Rasam

  1. Take a medium sized pan, heat the oil and add cumin, red chilli and mustard. Let them sizzle in the oil.
  2. Then add the curry leaves sprig and garlic.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes with salt and turmeric. Cook the contents until nice and soft.
  4. Add the ground spices and cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Now add the sugar, tamarind and water. Stir the mixture and taste for salt.
  6. Once the mixture comes to a boil, let it simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens to your prefered consistency.
  7. Finally, add the chopped coriander and simmer for another minute.

This dish is to be served piping hot and can be enjoyed with plain rice and bread.

The recipe was adapted from Swashti’s Recipes.

Sweet Potato Chutney

South Indian Dishes

Sweet potatoes are a popular vegetable used in many South Indian dishes.

Among them, is the sweet potato chutney which is very exquisite regardless of its simple name.

This very chutney is enjoyed by locals with idli and dosa both popular foods across India. The dish called ‘genasina chutney’.

Sweet potatoes have been properties and health benefits which many are unaware of. One of the most amazing being, causing the body to relax and distress.

Furthermore, these orange coloured vegetables can provide great healthy skin. As well as being packed with multiple vitamins and nutrients.

Here is a time-saving recipe which uses fresh coconut.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 tsp black lentils
  • 5 dried chillies
  • 1 small tamarind
  • 4 tbsp fresh coconut, grated
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 4 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. Peel and grate the potato.
  2. Take a small frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of oil and let it heat.
  3. Fry the black lentils, dried chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida together.
  4. Keep on medium heat and fry until the black lentils turn brown in colour. Then, leave aside to cool.
  5. Take the grated potato and coconut and place in a blender. Add the small tamarind with salt and blend until smooth.
  6. You can add some water to help the mixture become smoother.
  7. With the smooth paste aside, take a medium pan and heat oil. Add 2 tsp oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Followed by asafoetida and red chillies. Let the contents come to a sizzle.
  8. Remove from heat and add to the sweet potato mix.

The dish ready to be served with idli or a helping of plain rice.

This recipe was adapted from Hebbars Kitchen.

South Indian Fish Curry

Like many parts of India, the south side has their take on a fish curry.

Fish is very high in protein dish and within South Indian cuisine, fish can be enjoyed as spicy yet tangy curry which similar to other South Indian dishes.

For enhanced flavour, recipes suggest the use of fish with the bones which gives the curry base depth. Followed by the use of traditional popular regional ingredients such as tamarind and coconut.

Here is a recipe which uses Tilapia fish; this fish benefits many organs such as the brain and heart with its vitamin, iron and omega 3 properties.

Ingredients

  • 2 lb tilapia
  • 5 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • Oil
  • 1 tsp methi seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 50 g tamarind
  • 5 garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chilli powder
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp  fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

Method

  1. Take a medium sized pan and heat oil. Add half of the onions and saute until caramelised.
  2. Add a third of the chopped tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are nice and soft.
  3. Add the mixture to a blender with the coriander powder, methi seeds, chilli powder and grated coconut. Blend the mixture until smooth.
  4. In a second pan. add oil and let it heat. Then add curry leaves, methi seeds and garlic. followed by onions, turmeric and chopped chillies. Cook until the onions are golden brown.
  5. Add the remaining tomatoes and cook until they become soft. Then add the blended mixture and stir. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 minute.
  6. place the tamarind in warm water until it becomes thick. remove the pulp and add the water to the mix.
  7. Now, gentle place the pieces of tilapia into the curry base and do not stir. Cook the tilapia for 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and let the curry rest for 2 hours before serving.

You can serve this tangy tilapia curry with plain white rice. Make sure the curry is nice and hot before serving.

This recipe was adapted from  Antonet Roajer.

The Dosa

South Indian Dishes

If you love pancakes and crepes then this recipe is just right for you.

This is one of the most popular south Indian food which is served across India as street food. This simple and easy to make recipe is perfect for breakfast fast.

The dosa is very crisp in texture and shaped like a crepe. Often enjoyed with a side of chutney.

This dish so exceptional that the world rates it at number 50 and we Desis cannot blame because we love it too.

When it comes to cooking, the dish is prepared overnight as the batter rests overnight before being cooked.

For a recipe that will do the dosa justice, try this. With only 104 calories and per serving, you can’t go wrong.

Ingredients

  • 200 g par boiled idli rice
  • 200 g uncooked rice
  • 100 g black lentils
  • 2 tbsp tor dhaal
  • 1/4 cup poha
  • 1/4 tsp methi seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • oil

Method

  1. Wash the rice and dhaal in a bowl under running water until the water becomes clear.
  2. Place the washed rice and dhaal in new water with methi seeds and poha. Let it soak for 4 hours.
  3. Drain and blend the mixture until smooth. You may need to add a little bit of water.
  4. Place the smooth batter in a bowl and stir in the salt gently.
  5. Cover the bowl and leave aside in room temperature for 12 hours.
  6. Now, use a fork to whisk the batter before preparing it for the dosa.
  7. Grease a non-stick pan with oil, begin adding batter in small amounts, covering the entire base of the pan like a pancake.
  8. Once golden brown in colour, flip the dosa and remove from heat after 15 seconds.

The dosa is ready to be served with a chutney or side dish of your choice.

This recipe was adapted from Kannamma Cooks.

Potato Fry

If you are crazy for spicy food or a potato loving fanatic, this recipe is the perfect South Indian dish for you.

Sizzling with hot masala, this potato recipe is delicate with a crispy bite.  This dish is often enjoyed with a side of rasam or samba which are like soup.

There a number of potato fry recipes which follow styles from different South Indian cities such as Tamil and Chettinad but they are very similar in preparation.

South Indian dishes are sometimes inspired by different cities and enjoyed across the southern region.

Potato fry is a very easy to cook dish which takes no more than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

Here is a recipe that uses mustard seeds for added flavour.

Ingredients

  • 3 potatoes, medium
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • Oil
  • 1 tsp split black lentils
  • 1/2 asafoetida
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste

Method

  1. First, peel the potatoes and then place over medium heat to boil.
  2. Remove from heat once soft and cut into medium pieces.
  3. Take another pan, heat oil, stir in mustard seeds and black lentils. Saute onions, curry leaves and then add the potatoes.
  4. Followed by turmeric, chilli powder and salt. Stir mixture gently.
  5. Continue to fry the potatoes over medium heat.
  6. The potatoes will begin to crispen round the edges, wait another minute and remove from heat.

Serve this dish hot with chutney or sauce.

This recipe was adapted from Premalatha Aravindhan.

Vegetable Uttapam

South Indian Dishes

The uttapam is made from rice and lentils and cooked in the similar method as dosas. Vegetable uttapams resemble a pizza or the Focaccia bread.

Uttapam is as popular as the dosa or idli and it way we wanted it in our list of South Indian dishes.

This dish has a soft but thick texture with a nice bite to it. Often eaten as a breakfast meal with chutney.

A very filling recipe which takes 30 minutes to cook with everyday South Indian ingredients.

To make perfectly round and fluffy uttapam the same batter as the dosa is required and the cooking process is quick and easy.

We have for you a recipe which uses bell peppers, pepper and carrots but you can top it with your favourite veggies.

Ingredients

  • 240 ml dosa batter
  • 32 g onions, diced
  • 32 g tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 32 g green pepper, chopped
  • 32 g carrots, grated
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. Place all the veggies in a small bowl and mix with salt.
  2. Take a medium sized pan and grease it with oil.
  3. When the pan is heated, begin to pour batter in the same amounts.
  4. Spread the batter over the base of the pan and place the vegetables on top.
  5. Add a touch of oil to the sides of the pan and on top of the batter.
  6. Lift the uttapam and flip remove from heat when golden brown on both sides.

The uttapam is ready to be served with a chutney of your choice.

This recipe was adapted from Kanan.

Sambar

Sambar is a well-known dish from South India and mostly served as a dish with breakfast favourites.

While some sources say origins of the dish may be from Chettinad or Tamil Nadu. Other sources relate this dish back to a time from royalty.

The sambar is a delicate dish and there multiple ways of cooking the dish. Tamarind has remained a constant in most recipes and provides a hint of a tangy essence to the dish.

We have found a recipe which uses a handful of village spices and few vegetables to create an uplifting Sambar.

Ingredients for Sambar

  • 75 g pigeon peas
  • 1 small tamarind
  • 10 shallots
  • 1/2 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste

Ingredients for Sambar Masala

  • 1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp chickpea lentils
  • 1/4 methi seeds
  • 4 red chillies, dried
  • 1 tbsp black lentils
  • 2 tsp coconut, grated

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 tbsp oil

Method

  1. In a pressure cooker, cook the lentils until soft.
  2. Place the tamarind in hot water to extract juice.
  3. Now add oil and stir in mustard seeds and curry leaves.
  4. Followed by onions and cook until caramelised.
  5. Add the vegetables and cook for another 4 minutes. Followed by turmeric and stir.
  6. Next, pour 3/4 cups of water to the mixture and boil for 5 minutes on low heat.
  7. Add the extracted juice from tamarind and cook for another 5 minutes.
  8. Now add the lentil mixture and ground spices. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  9. Finally, add the cilantro and remove from heat.

Serve sambar with dosa, idli or uttapam.

This recipe was adapted from cook click ‘n devour.

These are our pick of 10 of the most unbelievable South Indian dishes that you should try.

These are only a few of the amazing food and cuisine South India has to offer. But there are a whole variety of South Indian dishes for you to try, from sweet dishes to food eaten as snacks.

We hope we mentioned some of your favourites or maybe you have found a new one to add to your list of South Indian dishes.

Let your taste buds explore a taste of the South.

Rez is a marketing graduate who loves to write crime fiction. A curious individual with a heart of lion. She has a passion for 19th-century sci-fi literature, superhero movies and comics. Her motto: “Never give up on your dreams.”

Image courtesy of The Spruce Eats, Great British Chefs, taste.com.au, Varanda, Food NDTV