South Indian Tomato Rice / Thakkali Sadam

South India is well known for its Rice Varieties or Kalavai Sadam. Now these quick rice varieties are a total blessing for many reasons, viz. One pot meals, basic ingredients from pantry and refrigerator, doesn’t need fancy accompaniments, can be consumed at room temperature and best to make when you are running short of time and yet want to feed your family a decent home cooked meal.

Well my reason to make this dish was simple – I was extremely tired of all the Diwali cleaning and cooking and just wanted something really simple that would only require a chopping board and a kadhai to cook the dish and me standing in the kitchen for just 30 odd minutes. With loads of tomatoes in the refrigerator, only one simple solution – Tomato Rice or Thakkali Sadam.

The Kadhai was wiped clean by both of us as we were famished after loads of pending work at home and also having eaten a very light breakfast. The curd as an accompaniment was extremely soothing for Narayan who doesn’t prefer a lot of spicy food unlike me. For the more adventure seeking (read Mirchi / Chili lover), try having it with some Mor Milaga or green chilies soaked in butter milk and salt mixture, sun dried & deep fried.

Tomato Rice is an excellent kid friendly recipe too (if you minus the red chili powder and the green chilies) or a great lunch box idea for adults. For kids, you can add some nachos or chips as an accompaniment or plain curd too if they like and for adults a raita or curd mixed with raw vegetables like cucumber and onions will be an excellent option.

Tomato Rice 2.jpg

Let’s look at some of the benefits of consuming tomatoes or making tomatoes a part of our diet. (Information source – MedicalNewsToday)

  1. Tomatoes contain folate that helps to balance homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that results from protein breakdown. It is said to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The management of homocysteine levels by folate reduces one of the risk factors for heart disease.
  2. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, lutein, and beta-carotene. These are powerful antioxidants that have been shown to protect the eyes against light-induced damage, the development of cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. 

Many people argue whether eating raw tomato helps or cooking them into a sauce / gravy for consumption. Studies have proven that cooking tomatoes allow better absorption of the antioxidant lycopene which protects our cells from damage and also from certain cancers. It is also advised to store tomatoes at room temperature than in fridge, which most of us do thinking it may get spoilt, but in fact, the ripening process increases the level of the lycopene.

Disclaimer – I am no expert nor a Doctor / Nutritionist. I have always been fascinated with the entire process of food and its related information etc. This information is a result of reading couple of articles on health and food which I hope will benefit us all in the long term.

Do Read the detailed recipe & notes below.

Recipe for South Indian Tomato Rice / Thakkali Sadam

Cooking Time – 15 mins

Preparation Time – 20 mins (less in case you have leftover rice)

Serves 3 persons


  1. Cooked Rice – 2 cups
  2. Tomatoes – 3 big nos finely chopped
  3. Onion – 1 big finely chopped
  4. Jeera or Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  5. Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
  6. Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
  7. Hing or Asafoetida – a pinch
  8. Oil – 1.5 tblsp
  9. Red chilli powder – ½ tsp
  10. Green chillies – 2 or 3 nos. finely chopped
  11. Salt as per taste
  12. Curry Leaves – 2 sprigs
  13. Chopped corrainder leaves as required

Method –

  1. Heat a non-stick kadhai, add oil and then the mustard seeds. Allow it to crackle.
  2. Now add the jeera or cumin seeds and a pinch of hing and some curry leaves. Once the jeera turns slightly brown, add the chopped onions and saute them over medium flame for about 4 minutes until the onions sweat and turn translucent.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, turmeric powder and the red chili powder along with some green chilies (optional if you don’t prefer it spicy) and saute the mixture well for another 5- 7 minutes until the tomatoes become soft and mushy.
  4. Once the tomato and onion mixture have cooked well, add salt and toss everything together once more before adding the cooked rice.
  5. Cover the kadhai with a lid and let it cook for 5-7 minutes on low flame allowing the masalas to coat the rice well.
  6. Switch off the flame, add chopped coriander leaves, toss it once again and serve it hot along with some cool curd, raita and some papad. I have served this with some deep fried dried chilies that have been soaked in buttermilk mixture (called Mor Milaga in South India).

Recipe Notes –

  • You can use leftover rice too for making this dish. Just ensure you steam them or heat them in a microwave for few minutes before adding the same to the masalas. Ensures the rice absorbs the masala and doesn’t taste or feel dry in texture.
  • Don’t add tomato puree instead of chopped tomatoes. The chopped tomatoes provide the bite and the tang to the dish which will otherwise be missing in case of puree.
  • I have used Ponni Raw Rice for making this dish. You can however, make the same preferably with a non-fragrant rice like Kolam or Sona Masuri varieties.
  • You can skip the part of adding green chilies and reduce the quantity of red chili powder too in case you don’t prefer spicy food.

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Vidya Narayan

79 thoughts on “South Indian Tomato Rice / Thakkali Sadam

Add yours

  1. No doubt that Thakkali sadam is a perfect comforting meal ! Btw thanks for sharing a great piece of information to keep tomatoes at room temperature !

  2. Vidya, tomato rice is a favorite of mine and the spicier the better 😉 those curd chilies are the perfect accompaniment with the rice! Drooling here!

  3. Tomato Rice is a favourite. Nicely explained recipe. Love the combination of flavours. This will go well with plain curd or any raita

  4. I always feel that Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka sides have so many wide variety of one pot rice meals that do not fail to excite me! I would’ve made Thakkali saadam everyday if my kids would eat it. I totally love it while my two hate tomatoes and can’t stand the sight of it… 🙁 All you need is a big bowl of raita and a nice helping of achaar… Ah, I am drooling here…

    1. Your kids sound like me when I was young, I hated the tanginess of tomatoes and preferred it only in rasam. Growing up, I became fond of it. Though still I dont like if there are too many tomatoes in the gravy or for that matter even extra tamarind in a dish. This is something that both of us like at home, controlled tanginess and spices. Raita and this is the best combo for heat.. Wish I could make a big bowl of this and send over to you, had we stayed closer. Thanks Rafee.

  5. There are so many version of tomato rice out there, we love quite a few and now I’m adding your version too as my daughter needs many 🙂 Easy and flavourful tomato rice and papad, I’m happy 🙂

    1. Absolutely true about the versions, my mom made it in a different way than I do, I restrict the use of tomatoes as we don’t prefer the khatta version. This is something we dont mind over indulging. thanks dear.. Papad makes rice dishes complete.

    1. When I was a child, I hated tomatoes and preferred it only in rasam but gradually grew up liking it. Me and husband dont prefer too tangy foods actually so the quantity of tamarind too at our place is limited.

  6. I have never tried making tomato rice. But this one looks perfectly done. I love tomatoes – raw in a salad or in cooked in soups. It’s about time I tried tomato rice. Who knows it might become a favourite.

  7. This is my family’s all time favourite rice but I used to add puree as my son pick all the tomatoes from it.. Looks inviting and your post reminds me that its been long time, I prepared this 🙂

    1. Actually my mom used both the puree and the cut pieces of tomatoes but since it gets really tangy, me and husband dont prefer the same. This is our version, most comfortable with the basic spices and minimal tomatoes. Thanks dear.

  8. Hi Vidya! This sounds so convenient and comforting that I’m wondering why haven’t I tried cooking this so far! I’m a rice lover which means there are always leftover rice in my refrigerator. Even now! So this shall be lunch tomorrow. 😊
    P.S. those fried chillies on the side have my name written all over them! 😋

  9. Vidya I am in love with your tomato rice. The simplicity of it is something I love but … my kiddo does not like this kind of rice, hubby would not like to eat rice and poor FIL has got no say. But what say holidays are few and so tomorrow we will have tomato rice as a side for poor old slogging me. 😀 The rest can have their chapatti and bhaji.

    1. ha ha .. I am having a hearty laugh reading this. Sometimes making food for everyone makes us forget what we actually want to eat. I guess you have made your decision and hope you make the most of it .. Thanks so much my dear.

  10. In punjabi’s we make a simply tadke wale chawal that has less about of tomatoes and no curry leaves. Now moved to Mumbai so I use a lot of curry leaves in my cooking. Will try this recipe soon as I have a bowl of leftover rice to use up. 😊

  11. Tomato rice is a regular at my place especially when i am late from work .Would love to have it with mor molaga and yogurt.Loved the beautiful clicks that make it more tempting.

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