South Indian Coconut Rice Recipe / Thengai Sadam

Easy to make, No Onion, No garlic South Indian Coconut Rice Recipe known as Kalavai Sadam or Variety Rice. Ideal for lunch, prasad during festivals and best way to consume excess coconut at home.

While the recipe I share today is something that I cook at home quite regularly, it has never made to the blog, until today. It is a recipe that requires minimal effort, tastes delicious, is your ultimate go to prasad option during festivals, a quick meal for summers with less prep work or cooking time, or a bowl of comfort food for lazy days. Either ways, this is my Ma’s Recipe for making perfect and flavourful Thengai Sadam or the South Indian Coconut Rice Recipe. I make it just the way she did which ensures the rice stays soft and fresh for long, even when packed for lunch box.

Thengai Sadam or Coconut Rice Recipe is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, contains no onion, no garlic, is mildly spiced and a perfect weeknight dinner menu or quick lunch. It is extremely loved by kids as well as its less spicy so an ideal kids tiffin box option too.

How to Make South Indian Coconut Rice at home

We South Indians make Thengai Sadam as Prasad or offering during religious festivals. Be it the 9 days of Navratri, where everyday we offer one variety of Sundal and any one variety of sweet or savoury prasadam, namely variety rice such as Lemon Rice, Curd Rice or Thayir Sadam etc, the coconut rice is one of the varieties too. In fact it is often also served as prasad in a donnai or recyclable leaf bowl in South Indian temples.

It is also called as Kalavai Sadam or Variety Rice in Tamil. In South Indian Restaurants, the variety rice, such as Thengai Sadam is served with a side of raita, papadam and some pickle.

Usually post festivals or religious occasions, we are left with a lot of coconut and wonder “What to make with excess coconut at home?” Usually end up making Nariyal Barfi. I however, love to make coconut rice and serve it with Coconut thogayal and curd. A perfect way to use up the excess coconut at home while enjoying the savoury dishes instead of sweet.

I recently made this Rice as Prasadam for Panguni Uttiram Festival and thought of documenting the process for the blog with a lot of tips and tricks to get that perfect, fluffy and aromatic morsel of Coconut Rice that all my friends enjoy when they visit home for a meal. Read below.

Learn how to make soft and fluffy Thengai Sadam at home with my Ma’s tips and tricks.

  • Use a short grain rice variety. White rice is preferred due to the look and feel element. I have used Ponni Raw Rice. You can opt for Sona Masuri, Kolam and the likes. Avoid Basmati Rice as Aroma of the coconut is the key here and not the rice.
  • Always use freshly cooked rice and avoid leftover rice to make coconut rice. The key here is softness and moisture. Needless to add, for prasad, the food is cooked fresh.
  • Never heat the rice along with coconut – Always allow the rice to cool slightly and pour the tempering over the rice along with grated coconut.
  • Use good quality coconut oil.
  • While grating coconut, ensure you only used the white part and no brown bits. The coconut rice has to be super soft and melt in mouth.
  • Use only freshly grated coconut and NO desiccated coconut for the recipe.
  • Curry Leaves and Peanuts are important to add aroma and nuttiness. You can also opt for cashews instead of peanuts. Don’t skip either unless you are allergic to nuts.

With all the tips and tricks, I am now quite sure that you would nail the Thengai sadam or Coconut Rice Recipe at home and impress your family and friends. Variety Rice such as Thengai Sadam is a meal by itself so it doesn’t require side dish or accompaniment. Serve it with papads and pickles or a cup of curd during summers, as we do in South India. You can opt for a Mild Rasam too on the side as a soup, if you want. Nothing fancy, just pure deliciousness.

Recipe for Coconut Rice / Thengai Sadam with step by step pics

Prep Time 20 mins

Cook Time 20 to 30 mins

Serves 3 as lunch and 8 people as prasad in small bowls

1 cup is 250 ml measurement


  • 1 cup Ponni Raw Rice
  • 2 cups water for cooking + 1 cup for soaking rice
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tblsp Chana Dal
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 tblsp Roasted peanuts
  • 2 – 3 whole red chillies
  • 1-2 green chillies finely chopped
  • 2 tblsps of coconut oil + 1 tblsp extra for drizzling
  • a pinch of hing
  • Few sprigs of curry leaves
  • Salt to taste


(1) Soak the Rice for 20 minutes with 1 cup of water, drain, rinse.

Soaked Raw Rice ready to be pressure cooked

(2) Now pressure cook the rice with 2 cups of water until soft. Allow it to cool.

Cooked Short Grain Rice

(3) Grate the coconut, chop the green chillies etc in the meanwhile.

Grated Coconut

(4) Now in a tempering pan, heat some coconut oil, add mustard seeds and allow it to crackle.

(5) Now add chana dal, hing, roasted peanuts, finely chopped green chillies, red chillies and curry leaves.

Preparation of Tempering ready to be poured

(6) Add this tempering over the rice, add salt and grated coconut.

Tempering and salt added to warm Rice

(7) Mix everything together and drizzle a tblsp of coconut oil.

Coconut Rice is ready to serve

(8) Serve immediately with a side dish of your choice.

Recipe Notes

  • Drizzling an extra tblsp of coconut oil enhances flavour and aroma. Do not skip that. You will thank me when you open the lunch box at work and your colleagues crowd you asking for the recipe.
  • Allow the rice to cool down slightly. Never add coconut or tempering to piping hot rice. It will spoil fast.
  • Traditionally all these rice varieties are to be consumed at room temperature only and no heating is required.
  • These variety rice options serve as excellent train journey food or in these days, air plane journey too. Easy to carry, doesn’t require any accompaniment and dry food – Perfect during travel.

If you try this at home, please give me a shout out / Tag Me on any of my social media handles.

Vidya Narayan

Views: 294

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. hmmm delicious, love drizzling the coconut oil in it!

    1. Isn’t it Nisha? The coconut oil does so much more to the taste and aroma!

    1. Thanks

    1. Haha.. Thank you!

  2. Perfect rice recipe. Delicious and light on stomach. I often make lemon rice and curd rice. Now I will try this recipe too.

    1. thank you and I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  3. Your rice looks fantastic!!

    1. Thanks Bernice

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