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Kerala cuisine is a culinary style originated in the Kerala, a state on the southwestern Malabar Coast of India. Kerala cuisine offers a multitude of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared using fish, poultry and red meat with rice a typical accompaniment. Chillies, curry leaves, coconut, mustard seeds, turmeric, tamarind, asafoetida and other spices are also used in the preparation.

Kerala is known as the "Land of Spices" because it traded spices with Europe as well as with many ancient civilizations with the oldest historical records of the Sumerians from 3000 BCE.[1][2]

Historical and cultural influences

In addition to historical diversity, cultural influences, particularly the large introduction of Muslims and Christians, have also added unique dishes and styles to Kerala cuisine, especially non-vegetarian dishes.

Most modern-day Hindus do not observe any religious dietary restriction, except a few of those belonging to upper castes who do not consume beef or pork.[3] Most Muslims do not eat pork and other items forbidden by Islamic law. Alcohol is available in Kerala in many hotels and over a thousand bars and liquor stores.


A restaurant menu in Kerala
A restaurant menu in Kerala
Traditional Kerala sadhya
Traditional Kerala sadhya
Idiyappam served with egg
Idiyappam served with egg

One of the traditional Kerala dishes is vegetarian and is called the Kerala sadya, which is an elaborate banquet prepared for festivals and ceremonies. A full-course sadya, which consists of rice with about 20 different accompaniments and desserts, is the ceremonial meal of Kerala eaten usually on celebratory occasions including marriages, Onam and Vishu. It is served on a plantain leaf.

Because of its rich trading heritage, over time, various indigenous Kerala dishes have been blended with foreign dishes to adapt them to local tastes. Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala, so grated coconut and coconut milk are commonly used for thickening and flavouring.[4]

Kerala's long coastline and numerous rivers have led to a strong fishing industry in the region, making seafood a common part of meals. Rice is grown in abundance along with tapioca. It is the main starch ingredient used in Kerala's food.[5]

Having been a major production area of spices for thousands of years, the region makes frequent use of black pepper, cardamom, clove, ginger, and cinnamon. Kerala also has a variety of breakfast dishes like idli, dosa, appam, idiyappam, puttu, and pathiri.[6]

Hindu cuisine

Main article: Sadya

A typical sadhya, where banana leaves are used as plates
Sadhya items ready to be served. Clockwise from top: paayasam, bitter gourd thoran, aviyal, kaalan, lime pickle, sambar, and buttermilk with boiled rice in center

The vast majority of Kerala's Hindus, except certain communities and ovo-lacto vegetarians, eat fish, and chicken. There are many vegetarians in Kerala, also throughout India.[7]

Mappila cuisine

See also: Thalassery cuisine

Pathiri, a pancake made of rice flour, is one of the common breakfast dishes among Mappilas
Kallummakkaya nirachathu or arikkadukka (mussels stuffed with rice)
Thalassery biryani with raita
Halwas are popular everywhere in kerala

Muslim cuisine or Mappila cuisine is a blend of traditional Kerala, Persian, Yemenese and Arab food culture.[8] This confluence of culinary cultures is best seen in the preparation of most dishes.[8] Kallummakkaya (mussels) curry, irachi puttu (irachi meaning meat),Pathiri (a type of rice pancake)[8] and ghee rice are some of the other specialties. The characteristic use of spices is the hallmark of Mappila cuisine—black pepper, cardamom and clove are used profusely.

Kuzhi Mandi (Mandi (food)) is another popular item, which has an influence from Yemen. Malabar biriyani is known as Thalassery biriyani which uses kaima rice for preparation and is called as dum biriyani. Malabar biriyani originated from Thalassery and spread to other places. [9] [10]

The snacks include unnakkaya (deep-fried, boiled ripe banana paste covering a mixture of cashew, raisins and sugar),[11] pazham nirachathu (ripe banana filled with coconut grating, molasses or sugar),[11] muttamala made of eggs,[8] chatti pathiri, a dessert made of flour, like a baked, layered chapati with rich filling, arikkadukka,[12] and more.[8]

Nasrani cuisine

Main article: Theenmura

Kozhukkatta is prepared by Saint Thomas Christians on the Saturday prior to Palm Sunday and the day is hence called Kozhukatta Saturday.
Pidiyum Kozhiyum
Meen molee
Irachi ularthiathu
Porotta and Beef curry
Idiyappam with Egg Masala Curry.
Achappam/Kerala rosette cookies

Christians of Kerala—especially Mar Thoma Nasranis (St Thomas Christians)—have their own cuisine which is a blend of Indian, Middle Eastern, Syrian, Jewish and Western styles and flavours of cooking. Particularly well-developed are the snacks and savouries of Christians such as porotta, achappam, kozhukkatta, Kuzhalappam, Avalose Unda (rice flour and coconut), churuttu,[13] vattayappam, idiyappam, paalappam, kumbilappam, neyyappam and unniyappam.


A favourite dish of Kerala Christians is mappas, or chicken stew.[14] For this dish, chicken, potatoes and onions are simmered gently in a creamy white sauce flavoured with black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, green chillies, lime juice, shallots and coconut milk. In Central Kerala this is made only with beef or lamb, the usage of chicken in stew is very rare.[15] Lamb and duck can replace chicken in the stew recipe.

Pidi is another dish made mainly by Syrian Christians from Central Kerala (Ernakulam and Thrissur), consisting of dumplings made from rice powder boiled in a mixture of coconut, rice powder, cumin seeds and garlic.[15]

Other dishes include piralen (chicken stir-fried), meat thoran (dry curry with shredded coconut), seafood and duck curries, and meen molee (spicy stewed fish).[15] This is eaten with appam.[15] Pork fry and Meen mulakittathu or meen vevichathu (fish in fiery red chilli sauce) is another favourite item.[15]

Pork fry
Meen Mulakittath

Latin Christians in Kerala follow the Portuguese heritage and lifestyle. Bread and stew are served after cake and wine at the banquet, followed by a meal with fish, cutlets, salads, pork, vindaloo, fish moli, duck roast and mustad (mustard and coriander skins fried in vinegar) are important in the diet.[clarification needed][15]

In addition to chicken and fish, Christians along with a section of Hindus and all Muslims in Kerala eat red meat. Irachi ularthiathu also known as Kerala_beef_fry is a beef dish cooked with spices.[15]


  1. ^ "Of Kerala Egypt and the Spice link". The Hindu. Thiruvananthapuram, India. 28 January 2014.
  2. ^ Striving for sustainability, environmental stress and democratic initiatives in Kerala, p. 79; ISBN 81-8069-294-9, Srikumar Chattopadhyay, Richard W. Franke; Year: 2006.
  3. ^ Social mobility in Kerala Kanjirathara Chandy Alexander
  4. ^ Zero Oil South Indian Cook Book. Dr. Bimal Chhajer. 21 February 2008. ISBN 9788128805127.
  5. ^ India, [report prepared by] Planning Commission, Government of (2008). Kerala development report. New Delhi: Academic Foundation. ISBN 978-8171885947.
  6. ^ Bhandari Laveesh (2009). Indian States at a Glance 2008–09: Performance, Facts and Figures – Kerala. Pearson Education India. pp. 36–. ISBN 978-81-317-2340-1. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  7. ^ Chatterjee, editors: Ashok K. Dutt, H.N. Misra, Meera (2008). Explorations in applied geography (Eastern economy ed.). New Delhi: Asoke K. Ghosh, Prentice-Hall of India, Private Limited. ISBN 9788120333840. ((cite book)): |first= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ a b c d e Sabhnani, Dhara Vora (14 June 2019). "Straight from the Malabar Coast". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  9. ^ "Thalassery Biryani: The South Indian Cousin of the Famous Mughlai Dish".
  10. ^ "Chicken and rosewater biryani recipe". BBC Food. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  11. ^ a b Kurian, Shijo (2 July 2014). "Flavours unlimited from the Malabar coast". The Hindu. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Arikkadukka - Spicy Stuffed Mussels". Faces Places and Plates. 30 June 2020. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Tasty Teatime Snack - Kottayam Churuttu". Kerala Tourism. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  14. ^ Manchanda, Monika. "Chicken Mapas Recipe - Chicken in Coconut Milk Curry". Archana's Kitchen. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Marks, Gil (2010), Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Wiley and sons