Tamil Brahmin Cuisine

Tamil Speaking Brahmins settled in southern part of India mostly in Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andra and Karnataka. Broad classification of Brahmins involves Iyer  and Iyengars and even their style of cooking varies slightly. Even within Iyers, depending upon their birth places, their cooking style varies. For example, Tirunelveli Brahmin cooking is slightly different from North arcot Brahmins and even Palagat Brahmins. Though there are slight differences, the underlying concept remains same within all Brahmins.

Tamil Brahmin Cusine

 Brahmin’s are generally more orthodox and they give more importance to cleanliness before starting with cooking.  Most of the Brahmin’s do lots of Pooja/vrat and hence they follow more strict rules in cooking.  Brahmins always believe that the God is the first taster of the meal; hence they cook the food with great attention to cleanliness and balance the food with right mix of flavour, nutrition, texture and variety.

Brahmin’s give more importance in the vegetables they choose and also the spices they include in their cooking. They use spices that are really medicinal. In the last generation they grew the vegetable and greens in their back yard and used the same for the day to day cooking. Pepper, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida are the spices they use often in their cooking. Generally, they use green vegetables like beans, broad beans, carrots which are rich in proteins and vitamins.  Atleast once a week they include Spinach too. Onion and Garlic are less preferred in the Brahmin’s kitchen, mainly due to the strong smell.  Between these, the Garlic is least preferred and used only for specific occasions due to its medicinal properties.  But the current generation is very much using these!

 Brahmin’s are big fan of freshly brewed Filter Coffee! Last generation Brahmin’s don’t cook breakfast and they directly cook full course meal and have it around 10am. Even the children and office going elders eat rice in the morning.  Filter coffees are being served at regular intervals till around 3pm when the light tiffen will be served. For dinner, again they have rice or light tiffin. Elderly women who do vrat/fasting generally have only fruits and milk for dinner. Now days the tradition has changed slightly. Most of the Brahmins have started preparing their breakfast in morning instead of having a full course meal.

Now I am going to take you all to Brahmin’s kitchen and see the dishes they cook on day to day basis. 

Idly and Dosa are most popular breakfast dish in any Brahmin kitchen similar to any Tamil’s kitchen. Usually Idly/Dosa are being served with coconut chutney and the gun powder (milagai podi).  Idly’s usually cooked in the Steaming Pot which would give idly very soft, instead of the pressure cooker. My mom serve the hot idly with a ½ tea spoon of gingelly oil on top of the idly, which taste heaven and doesn’t require any side dish! The current generation prefer to have Sambar as an additional side dish to Idly/Dosa. Usually the sambar that was made for breakfast is made using moong dhal instead of Thoor dhal.
In addition to Idly/Dosa, the Rawa Upma and VenPongal are also equally popular in the Brahmin’s kitchen.  They prefer the much plain version of Upma  compared to the heavily customized version which includes onion and vegetables . 

The traditional Brahmin lunch includes Payasam, Kichidi, Pachadi, Stew (koottu), Curry, Pickle, Pappad and being served in the Banana Leaf with Rice, Kuzhambu, Rasam and Curd !

Sambar, Vatha Kuzhambu and Moor Kuzhambu tops the list of most popular kuzhambu’s in the Brahmin’s kitchen. The masala for the Sambar will be grinded freshly every time as part of Sambar preparation, which is called ‘Araithu Vitta Sambar’ and prefer not to use the readymade Sambar Powder. Thoor Dhal is the main ingredient for the Sambar. Vatha Kuzhambu is the spicier version of the Kuzhambu made using Peppar. Moor Kuzhambu is yet another popular kuzhambu made using   butter milk and coconut.   There are hunderds of other kuzhambu’s which are being used, but these are the most popular one.

Brahmin’s kitchen always offers minimum three course meals and the Rasam meal is certainly a part of it.  It’s a tangy soup with with the richness of pepper, cumin seeds, turmeric and asafoetida. Paruppu (Tomato) Rasam is a most popular Rasam followed by Milagu Jeeraga Rasam and Lemon Rasam.  Milagu Jeeraga Rasam has a good medicinal properties and hence this will be offered to anyone who fall in sick in the family.

Thayir Sadham
The Brahmin meal is not complete without Thayir Sadham (Curd Rice). Curd rice is often being served with pickles. Mavadu, Mango Pickle and Lemon Pickle are most popular pickles. These pickles will be prepared in home and preserved for longer period of time!

Kootu (Stews)
Kootu is usually a thick vegetable gravy often made using coconut, cumin seeds and sometimes with lentils. Aviyal is the most popular Stew in the Brahmin kitchen which his made using many vegetables with the coconut. Aviyal is almost mandatory for most of the festivals and grand functions in a Brahmin family.  Poricha Kootu  is another popular koottu made using vegetables and the moong dhal.

Poriyal / Curry
It’s a dry curry made from varieties of vegetables. Brahmin’s usually don’t prefer to fry the vegetables in the Oil, instead they steam cook the vegetables separately and add the spice and season the same. This would be much healthier diet compared to dry fry in the oil.  There are no preferred vegetable for the cooking, but any vegetable available in that very season.

Most of the Brahmin’s are well versed in making Vadam. Tamil Month ‘Masi’ is considered the best month for making vadam as the summer is just started and there is enough Sun for drying the vadams.

Lets get into their Lunch menu.

Click the link below for the various Brahmin's Lunch Menu

Typical lunch menu for any of their festival is given  below:
Aviyal (or) Eriseri
Fried Appalam
Fried Paddad(Vadam)
Curd Rice
Curd Rice

Post a Comment

I love the article. But can you please correct the broadly-used but totally incorrect classification below? The correct definition is
"Broad classification of Brahmins involves Iyers (follow Adi Shankara/Advaitha) and Iyengars (follow Ramanujacharya/Vishishtadvaita)"

It is not true that Iyers follow Shiva - in fact, you know, for most Iyers, ishta devata could be Rama, Krishna or Siva. It is unfortunate that even Iyers self-define themselves as following Shiva (confusing with Shaivaites)

This comment has been removed by the author. -

Aren't we diverting from the main content that the site is meant for? Recipes is the main core and not religion or spirituality. Be it an iyer or an iyengar, food will anyway get cooked and be eaten by all. Even if a non-iyer or no-iyengar cooks these items, described in this site will get cooked. Food is not going to refuse getting cooked. Whcih world are we in? If you want to argue on the 33crores of Gods and goddesses... please do it on the site meant for that.

Hi, You are right. The objective of this blog is to 'inspire to cook' and to show how easy it is to cook. As part of the cooking, i attempted to show the various cooking followed in different traditions (like chettinad, andhra, etc.,) and started with Brahmin kitchen. The intention is not to argue about gods and goddesses


I too agree with your point. But what our classification means is what I have mentioned. I haven't mentioned that Iyers pray only to Shiva and Iyengars Pray only to Vishnu.

Mami, where is the Like button for your comment? :-)

Your site needs Like buttons for all the recipes!

Hi, thanks for your comments. We do havefacebook Like button for all the recipes? Check immediately sfter the post title and also at the bottom of the post

Yes I agree too. All your recipes are so homely & simple. Thks Aunty.

I tried posting to Anonymous yesterday, but I'm not sure why the post isn't going through. I disagree with Anonymous that the history and anthropological details given by Mrs. Subbu, on various communities and their cooking-styles & worship, are a diversion. They are of enormous interest to serious students of cooking, who would want to learn more about the people who created the particular style of cooking. If anyone wants to just read the recipe, they are welcome to do so. No one is compelling them to read the historical & cultural accounts. But it is unfair to dictate to the author that she should omit her observations or limit her content only to the recipe instructions. There are enough such sites where people like Anonymous can find only recipes, without any other notes. Also, not sure where the comment "If you want to argue on the 33crores of Gods and goddesses... please do it on the site meant for that," is coming from. Any practicing Hindu knows that our very many Gods and Goddesses are all aspects of the same Infinite Spirit.

I agree. Kudos to Ms. Subbalakshmi. She is describing a tradition of the ages that many of us have conveniently forgotten, and will virtually disappear in the next generation. Regarding the comment "crores of gods and goddesses, Ms. Subbu never implied that, and your very mention of that is ignorance, lack of understanding of the big picture, and frankly stupidity. I suppose you can make a similar argument of any religion, without understanding of the core message. Thanks to Ms. Subhu for enlightening us of our beloved tradition.


Dear Aunty
Firstly, thank you for all the efforts you have put in to create such a wonderful site. I am not from south India, so not familiar with the cuisine. At your blog, we come across menus for breakfast, however, I am unable to locate detailed information for lunch and dinner menus. Suppose, one has to cook a typical south Indian lunch or dinner for a guest, it will be difficult to plan one. Keeping this in mind, it will be great if you can please have a separate column for a few lunch and dinner thali menus. I suppose having the right combination of dishes in a Thali may also be important, to enjoy the delicious flavor of the cuisine you have described here.

Mouth watering dishes.will be very helpful for newly wed couples and also to the girls who share flat and cook themself,working with MNC

Don't you think its a bit casteist to say that brahmins prefer cleanliness,as of humans from other caste,communities,race,creed aren't intelligent enough to prefer cleanliness.Its the age of 21st century and still you propagate the centuries old evil caste system and claim to be superior by calling yourself brahmin. Not everything in our culture commands respect and among those comes evils like sati parampara,casteism and untouchability.Don't you think its high time you come out of the self-proclaimed cocoon and view yourself as a human first.

Your recipes are well described though

Hello Harini.just cool it and back off.
I suppose the reason u r here is to preach.dont u guys have any amount of decency.c'mon give this person a break.Mrs.Subbu is trying to help people understand the value of traditional cooking.she is just trying to bring out the traditional cooking to the broadlight and amateaurs like u who probably has no idea or abcs of cooking who cannot appreciate the value of traditions open ur mouth gutter.just cool it there.

Big Thank you for the wonderful insights! What Is the main difference in various styles of sambhar powder popular in Southern India? I love it.. But it is so confusing even the colors of the powder are different!

People seeing the above comment should know that Brahmins mastered the art of vegetarian cooking just like mastering other areas of human life. Further, lots of Brahmins who eat non vegetarian food have also mastered those recipes because of their ingenuity. These are from Konkan Coast, Kashmiri Pandits etc. People who hate brahmins will right nonsense. people write i'm dalit, christian, so what is wrong in writing brahmin. Ms.Subbu Madam, don't bother about these crooks write, write the roots of the tradition of brahmins - Tamil, kannada, telegu, marathi etc. we are with you. We know how to twist these leftist, liberal crooks.

The lady is trying to give you information about the traditions , looks like people are here only to criticise. If you don't like the post don't look at the site . The recipes are related to traditions most south indians follow . Without relating to the Gods and Goddesses she cannot explain the recipe related to a particular festival/ ocassion .

I am interested goo mor milagai. I am not satisfied with mor milagai available in Chennai and also e-commerce establishments. They are too hot even after caramelizing (deep fry). in your experience can you suggest a shop in Chennai.
even Ambika Appalam product of this item is not good. your suggestions please!



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