Kerala Sadya for Dummies | Introduction, List of Dishes

A post about the lavish Kerala meal called Sadya, the dishes on it and a little about it…




First of all, let me tell you I am no sadya expert. As much as I love to devour them, the thought of making a sadya on my own gives me jitters. I have been planning to make one for the past 4 years at least, but somehow it just wouldn’t work out or something would come in the middle. This time, with the help of my sister-in-law, I decided to go for it, and boy, amn’t I happy that I did it! A sadya is basically a Kerala style all-vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf, during state festivals like Onam. They are also served during Hindu weddings and special functions, however in a smaller scale. When I go home, even for our weddings, there is always a section for vegetarian meals, because a lot of the guests, including my parents, prefer them. I would alternate on the biriyani and the veg meals for each wedding I would attent. πŸ˜€


Every Onam, usually we order in a sadya and enjoy it to the core. The sadya that I enjoyed the most has to be the one that I shared with my close college friend, when she and I were carrying our second children. We were just two weeks apart in our pregnancies. Rasha used to be with her after her playschool, since umma was back home. Onam fell during Ramadan and our pregnancy meant we both weren’t fasting. I booked two sadyas for both of us. After work, I picked them up, landed up in her home and both of us ate literally like pigs! There was nothing left in the entire kit. After that, we literally went into a coma and woke up very close to Maghrib. I had to rush home to atleast make juice for Iftar for HD and B. πŸ˜€


Another memory of a sadya has to be in my school bestie’s home, when I was in grade 9 or 10. Her amma is a wonderful cook and I was really excited about having a home-made sadya. After serving all the sides, she served us a piece of fried chicken leg. It felt like sacrilege to me. πŸ˜€ Seeing my confused face, she said, “Mole, evide aarkum kozhiyillaand sadya irangoolaa…” (Dear, here, nobody will be able to eat a sadya without chicken…) Hehe… After very long, I was told that some Hindu families especially those who live in the Malabar region do serve a fried non-veg dish as a part of their sadya. How interesting… πŸ˜€




If there is a reason I am doing this post, it is mainly for my reference and maybe for many others who may be ignorant – just like me! – about the dishes that go on a banana leaf. Most of the posts that I could find online were just recipes that was already available on their respective side, while I was looking for a list that would have all the details, more like a reference. A special thanks to Meena, who actually took the time to type out a whole email with a full list of dishes and who kept replying to all my questions on Whassap… <3


Below are the list of items that go on a banana leaf along with a link back to the recipes that are already there on the blog. I will come back and update this list as and when I add new recipes to it. Even though I have a tab called “Sadya Recipes“, do know that not all of those are traditionally served. There are so many variations of the same recipe, but I want to keep as close to authenticity. As far as I understand, the vegetables used are what is in season at the time of the sadya, like usually yam, raw banana, ash gourd, pumpkin, cabbage, string beans, etc. Coconut is used in almost every recipe. The spice used is usually cumin and, in some cases, fenugreek. Fennel is a big no because it is considered to be a non-vegetarian flavoring, so is garlic, except in rasam.


Let me put together a list of items that go on a sadya…

  1. Banana leaf – of course, that is on what the whole meal is served. There are banana paper leaves available these days, however the original ones make it all the better.
  2. Rice – you can serve matta rice or parboiled rice. It is matta rice always, hands down for us.
  3. Chips – usually quarter cut banana chips are served. It seems you can serve chakka chips as well, but depending on availability.
  4. Sarkaravaratti – this is banana chips, that are coated with jaggery and is ginger flavored.
  5. Miscelleaneous Sides – some serve kondaattam aka dried and fried red chillies, and salt on the side.
  6. Pappadam – no veg meals without pappadam, sometimes two of them! πŸ˜‰
  7. Pazham – the small banana is usually what is provided.
  8. Pickles – at least two pickles are served in the sadya. Puli Inji or sweet and sour ginger pickle is a must serve – recipe coming up soon. The other pickles that are usually served are lemon and mango. It is rare to find any other pickle finding its place on the leaf.
  9. Pachadi and Kichadi – There is such a thin line between these two dishes. I had first thought or understood that the former has coconut added into it and the latter didn’t. However, from district to district, there seems to be a blur between both of them and they are interused. There are various varieties of vegetable used for making this dish.
    1. Beetroot Pachadi
    2. Vendakka Kichadi
  10. Kaalan – a thick curry of yams and raw bananas (recipe coming soon)
  11. Olan – it is a coconut milk based gravy with a water vegetable, mostly gourds and with chawli aka small kidney beans. (recipe coming soon)
  12. Upperi/ Mezhukupuratti/ Thoran – a vegetable stir fry with simple flavors. Three names for the same dish, but with the difference that Thoran is inclusive of coconut, while the other two may not use coconut. I always skip coconut in my stir fries, mainly due to laziness. πŸ˜€ One or two varieties can be served. Some of the usually served options are:
    1. Cabbage Upperi
    2. String Beans Upperi
    3. Carrot Upperi
    4. French Beans Upperi
    5. Raw Banana Upperi
  13. Koottu Curry – it is a thick side made with usually yam, raw banana and black chickpeas. It is my favorite dish for a sadya, so much that I always ask for two servings. πŸ˜‰ (recipe coming soon)
  14. Aviyal – A thick side with vegetables cut into sticks. That is the easiest way to recognize it. The way it is cooked for a sadya is different from how I usually cook. (recipe coming soon)
  15. Erissery – this is usually an optional item, since it is very similar to the Koottu Curry, but you can make it if you want more varieties on your leaf. It is made with pumpkin and black eyed peas or red eyed beans.
  16. Parippu – during a sadya, what is served is simply cooked and seasoned toor dal. There is nothing that goes into it. This recipe has some coconut added and tempering done, but for a sadya, only the cooking part is done.
  17. Ghee – this is poured over the paripp on top of the rice.
  18. Sambar – there are varieties of sambar that can be made.
    1. Varutharacha sambar, which is definitely the best way to make it, but if you have the time to do the whole process, in midst of cooking so much for a sadya… πŸ˜‰
    2. Tiffin sambar – an easier version of the sambar
    3. Vengaaya sambar – with only shallots and nothing else in the sambar
    4. Instant sambar, if you want to do some cheat recipe… hehe…
  19. Pulissery – this is a curry with yogurt and ground coconut. Does it ring bells? When I was doing my research, I was shocked that it was so similar to this curry, that is such a regular in my house, but with a little difference in the ground coconut mixture. You can use water based vegetables like gourd or cucumber, or for more variety, mangoes and pineapples too, making it a sweeter version. Alternatively, you could serve sambaaram or simply kaachirya moru – you can refer to this recipe, but you can avoid the grinding part. Simply temper and whisk in yogurt and turmeric.
  20. Rasam – This is like a palette cleanser and sipped after enjoying the entire heavy meal. This is the only meal that uses garlic. Below are some rasam options:
    1. My favorite Tamarind Rasam
    2. Thakkali Rasam aka Tomato Rasam
    3. Kollu Rasam
  21. Pradhaman – I don’t know if you are like me, but I wait very eagerly for the two last bits of the sadya. Yes, the sweet dish! Hehe… It is no dessert or pudding, but the drinkable sweet stuff. A pradhaman is a must during a sadya. It is made with coconut milk and jaggery, in different varieties. Some options:
    1. Ada Pradhaman – usually the most prepared
    2. Cherupayarparipp Pradhaman – my favorite
    3. Kadala Paripp Pradhaman
    4. Nurukk Gothamb Pradhaman
    5. Nenthrapazham Pradhaman
  22. Payasam – Some sadyas serve only a pradhaman, and I get very agitated about it. When there are so many varieties on the leaf, then why not two desserts! πŸ˜‰ But many do. Payasam is made with milk and sugar and hence is usually lighter in shade. Semiya Payasam is usually not a sadya item, yet many of them do make it, especially during potlucks. Some of the payasam options are:
    1. Paal Payasam – mostly made and popular
    2. Chavvari Payasam
    3. Semiya Ada Payasam – like the best of two worlds… πŸ˜€ I just realized I don’t have a paalada payasam recipe on the blog, so that one goes into my list of must-dos. πŸ˜‰

Some of you may have heard of an item called “Boli”, which is basically a Trivandrum must-have on a sadya. The boli is a sweetened lentil flatbread and is usually savored with paal payasam. Since it is only applicable to a small region, I am not adding it to the above.


Sambar, rice, rasam, pulissery… Don’t mind my side broken pressure cooker with the rice in it πŸ˜‰


There may be more to this list, but I guess this is a fair and concise list to refer to when you want to make a sadya. I did take a little time to plan out to cook the whole meal.

  • First of all, plan out the grocery list. Once the items are finalized, put down the list especially for the vegetables, check if you have all the other ingredients like the dried lentils and spices used and shop in one go.
  • Since most of the recipes are coconut laden, it can’t be made in advance. However, puli inji is one item you can make a week before and dump into the fridge. The more it sits, the better.
  • Two days before, soak the dried lentils for the koottu curry and olan. Cook, drain and store in the fridge.
  • On the previous day:
    • Make your sambar first. Sambar tastes better as it sits, so you can finish it off first.
    • Cut all the vegetables and keep them as per usage.
    • Soak the lentils for the erisseri.
    • Cook the dal for the paripp, pradhaman and rasam, both if that is menu.
    • Precook the vegetables for the aviyal and kootu curry just before you go to sleep.
    • Make the mezhukupuratti. If using coconut, do not add it till the next day.
  • On the day of the sadya:
    • Cook the rice first and drain.
    • Finish off the aviyal and the koottu curry.
    • Cook the erisseri and finish off
    • Simmer the payasam on the corner stove.
    • Finish off the kalan and olan. I just kept going from one run of the cooker to the other. Hehe…
    • Make the rasam and the pulissery.
    • Go through your entire list and tick off as and when done. Store properly till the time of serving.


Once the prep work is done, it isn’t tough, though not simple as well. Hehe… The whole process can be tiring but is indeed rewarding when everything turns out well. Will I cook a sadya again? I doubt it – I would rather do potlucks and contribute two or three dishes than do the whole thing by myself and strain myself. Another part is that a sadya will always have a lot of leftovers. However, my folks aren’t fond of previous day food, and I struggle to ensure that everything is finished. I am just happy that I did it for the blog. It felt like I was working on a huge project and finally ticked it off. After leaving work, this is perhaps the time I got the rush and the feel of deadlines. πŸ˜€


On a side note – doing this post itself felt like making a whole sadya… πŸ˜‰ I hope you find this post helpful, and do look forward to a few of the sadya recipes lined up… Though they are not in time to prepare them, it can of course be put into your bookmarks. πŸ™‚



Join the Conversation

  1. I came to read this as soon as I saw it on the list. Thank you for putting this together! I have never attempted but I know this article will be of great help for anyone to start.

  2. 😍😍 that is such a detailed description… kuddos to all the effort ❀️

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