Khara Huggi or Pongal From Chitra Agrawal

February  3, 2022
9 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Styling: Kate Buckens. Prop Styling: Veronica Olson.
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Cookbook author Chitra Agrawal calls this creamy, gently spiced rice and lentil dish “the ultimate comfort food.” This vegetarian South Indian staple is so restorative, versions of it are often fed to babies and the unwell, but it’s also easy to brighten or spice it up as you’d like (see Chitra’s serving suggestions below).

In Vibrant India, Chitra writes, “Fittingly named, huggi is the ultimate comfort food. You definitely feel like you’re being hugged when eating it. It’s made from rice, yellow lentils called moong dal, which are split mung beans without skin, and black pepper and cumin seeds fried in ghee or butter. The lentils and rice cook together, making a creamy, rich dish resembling risotto. Traditionally, this dish is served with additional melted butter or ghee on top. I usually pair it with tangy accompaniments, like raitas, my green beans palya, cilantro coconut chutney, Brooklyn Delhi tomato achaar, or even a dash of lemon juice. Feel free to substitute red lentils for the yellow variety if that’s what you have on hand.

“Similar rice and lentil dishes exist throughout India, and are known by different names. This rice dish is also known as pongal in South India and is often served during the Hindu harvest festival or Sankranthi. There are spicy and sweet versions. You can make the sweet version by omitting the black pepper, cumin, asafetida, and ginger and adding sugar, golden raisins, and ground cardamom.”

A few additional tips: If you can’t find moong dal, you can substitute other split, hulled lentils that are quick to break down and turn creamy, like masoor dal. If you don’t have enough rice or you’d like more protein, Chitra has also used a mix of quinoa and rice. If you’re missing any of the spices or dal and would like to keep them on hand in your pantry, Kalustyan’s carries ingredients from all over the world and ships fast.And a final note from the editor’s husband: Make a double batch. Leftovers are delicious reheated to a porridgey consistency, but also sliced and crisped in a pan with a little oil, similar to leftover polenta.

Recipe from Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn (Ten Speed Press, March 2017).

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What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Khara Huggi or Pongal From Chitra Agrawal
  • 1 cup basmati rice, preferably Dehraduni or jasmine rice
  • 1/3 cup moong dal or masoor dal
  • 1 teaspoon peeled grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 4 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon ghee or unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cashews, broken into large pieces
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Big pinch of asafetida (hing) powder
  1. Wash the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in water, generously covered, for 30 minutes. (This is optional but results in softer, more evenly cooked rice.) Drain thoroughly with a fine-mesh sieve.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the lentils, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden brown and have a nutty aroma. (This step is optional but reduces the stickiness of the dal.) Thoroughly wash the lentils with a fine-mesh colander. Return to the pot and add the rice and 3½ cups of water. Bring to a boil, skimming the foam off the top. Add the ginger, turmeric, and 2 tablespoons of the ghee.
  3. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until the rice and lentils are completely cooked. At this point, the grains will look separate. Add another ½ cup of water and continue to cook over medium-low heat, partially covered, for about 5 minutes. When you stir the mixture, it should have a creamy consistency. Feel free to mash the rice and lentils with a spoon. The consistency should be similar to a risotto. Remove from the heat.
  4. While the rice and lentils are cooking, in a tempering pot or small pan over medium heat, heat ½ teaspoon of the ghee. Add the cashews and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Set the cashews aside to cool in a bowl lined with a paper towel. If using cumin seeds and peppercorns, roughly crush them in a mortar with a pestle. Set aside.
  5. When the rice and lentil mixture is cooked, mix in the coconut, salt, and fried cashews, reserving some cashews for garnish.
  6. In the tempering pot or small pan over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of the ghee. Add the crushed black peppercorns, cumin seeds, and asafetida. Fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Immediately pour the spiced ghee over the rice. To get all the spiced ghee out of the pot, put a spoonful of the rice mixture into the pot, stir, and spoon it back into the remaining rice mixture. Taste for salt. Garnish with the reserved cashews. Serve hot.
  7. When reheating, add a little water to loosen up the dish, as it has a tendency to dry out.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Melissa
  • Liz Summers
    Liz Summers
  • Minoti Sahu
    Minoti Sahu
  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
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Recipe by: Genius Recipes

17 Reviews

Chezmaryb September 8, 2020
One of those recipes that is so much more than the sum of it's parts. I loved the creamy texture and the nutty flavor that toasting the lentils imparted
Jaimie M. August 10, 2020
This is a delicious, comforting meal, easy on my challenged digestive system. I used my instapot. I soaked and rinsed the rice, sautéed the dal and rinsed, then combined the water, turmeric, ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cooked on high pressure for 10 minutes. After 15 minutes, I released the pressure and finished as directed. I can imagine it’s not the exact same texture, but I’m very pleased with the dish.
Melissa July 31, 2020
This is HEAVENLY! Thank you, Kristen and Chitra, for bringing this recipe into my life. Made (and doubled) as written, but I somehow lost my asafetida in a move and will need to replace it ASAP. It was still delicious. I topped it with caramelized shallots and cucumber raita.
txchick57 July 15, 2020
Love pongal but to me, uppma is the ultimate comfort food. I'm known to eat both at the same time.
JV July 7, 2020
This was absolutely delicious. My mom makes a different version of North Indian kitchari, we tried making this and I have to admit I prefer it! So much depth of flavor, the buttery ghee, spicy pepper and ginger, earthy cumin & turmeric. We loved the texture the raw coconut added - slightly chewy. We used slivered almonds instead of cashews, and it was delicious..... we each had 2 servings for dinner, so I agree with doubling the extras for leftovers!!
Mauda P. July 2, 2020
This recipe is a close cousin to a lentil & rice dish - mujadarah - that my roommate from Jordan taught me. The main difference is the addition of cinnamon. She called it a "poor man's dish" but she was from a very wealthy & influential family. It is aromatically delicious, and you can sometimes find it in Middle Eastern restaurants. The recipe actually follows this one on this site.
Kristen M. July 2, 2020
Thanks for sharing, Mauda. I love seeing all the ways lentils (or beans) and rice are paired together all over the world.
Minoti S. July 2, 2020
You're right! This is also referred to as a poor man's food in the region I'm from in India. I add a few whole peppercorns, a small piece of cinnamon stick, a bay leaf, a few whole cloves, a few whole green cardamoms to the ghee used for tempering - this gives it a nice flavor.
Liz S. July 1, 2020
I learned about ghee after making khichdi and now am never without it ... have made it, but it is one thing that I don't think my homemade is any better than bought. AND, I was so surprised at how comforting khichdi is. Now, I cannot wait to try huggi - loved this video and love Chitra (also the Miglore family!!). I have the Tomato Achaar arriving Sunday from Amazon. I will have to forgo the asafetida this first round, but will hunt it down as now I am intrigued. Most recipes say "optional" and I have just skipped it :(
Kristen M. July 2, 2020
Yes, I love that this recipe encourages us not to treat the flavor of asefetida as optional! (And it's available online at Kalustyan's, which is a great place to stock up on so many pantry items that you might otherwise have to try several grocery stores for.)
Liz S. July 2, 2020
Thanks for the Kalustyan info - what great options! I did go back to Amazon and found the asafetida so will have all to try per recipe on Monday, but Wow - next time Kalustyan for a variety of things!
Liz S. July 8, 2020
I made this yesterday ... exactly as written and YUM! I've made and loved khichdi, but this mix of spices and a spoonful of Chitra's Tomato Achaar plus a spoon of yogurt: I thought it was a perfect mix of spice, texture ... just delicious and warming/comforting. Leftovers even a smidge better and I'm not usually a leftover fan. I wasn't crazy about the scent of the asafetida but added and then detected in the Tomato Achaar. I like the flavor and may need to revisit the asafetida optional recipes. Thank you Kristen and Chitra for sharing this recipe and the family history.
Minoti S. July 1, 2020
You can also add some vegetables like diced potatoes, cauliflower, carrots and peas etc. Truly a comfort food.
Kristen M. July 2, 2020
Thank you for the tip, Minoti! Chitra also mentioned to me that her dad likes to add vegetables into his khichdi.
Minoti S. July 2, 2020
You're welcome! I love this site, and love some of your recipes. Thank you!
Annada R. July 1, 2020

oh, pongal is the best! The most comforting of comfort foods! I generally eat it with sambaar and lots of ghee.
Kristen M. July 2, 2020
Sounds delicious, Annada!