Go Back

Ulli Theeyal

Ulli Theeyal is coconut based gravy dish from the Kerala cuisine with a kick of spices and the tang from the tamarind and the perfect sweetness of jaggery and subtle (very subtle) hint of bitterness of methi/fenugreek seeds. The perfect blend of flavors that poke all those taste buds very gently giving you the ultimate sense of satisfaction from a meal.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Calories 1 kcal


  • ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 10-12 Medium Pearl Onions/Shallots See Recipe Notes
  • ¼ teaspoon Ground Turmeric/Turmeric Powder/Haldi
  • 1 heaped teaspoon Ground Coriander Seeds/ Coriander Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Indian Red Chilli Powder adjust to taste; See Recipe Notes
  • 10-12 Curry Leaves; divided
  • ¼ teaspoon Meth Seeds; divided
  • ½ teaspoon Cumin Seeds/Jeera Optional
  • 1 teaspoon Tamarind Pulp/gooseberry sized Tamarind
  • 2-3 teaspoon Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Mustard Seeds
  • 1-2 whole Red Chillies
  • small piece Jaggery


  • Medium sized saute pan
  • Spatula
  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • A small bowl
  • Food Processor/Mixer-grinder

To Serve

  • Steamed Rice


  • Heat the saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the coconut and roast for a couple of minutes, till it looses the moisture and is kind of dry.
  • Add the ground turmeric, ground coriander and Indian red chilli powder, a few curry leaves, half the quantity of methi seeds and the cumin seeds to the coconut and roast till aromatic and the coconut turns brown.
  • Remove from heat, transfer to the small bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Once it is cool enough to handle, grind the roasted coconut and spices along with tamarind and jaggery to make a smooth paste with as little water as possible. (See Recipe Notes)
  • Place the saute pan back on the stove. Add oil and when the oil heats up, add the mustard seeds. Let it splutter and then reduce the heat to medium-low, add the methi seeds and whole red . Saute for a few seconds and add the curry leaves.
  • Now, add the pearl onions and saute them well till they turn a little brown and start to caramelize.
  • Add the ground coconut paste to the caramelized pearl onions and water to adjust the consistency. Let the onions cook well and let the gravy turn thick.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice.


1. I have used the frozen pearl onions to make this dish and since they were really small, I have used up to 20-25 pearl onions for the same measurement of all other ingredients. [br]2. I always use a combination of Cayenne Pepper and Paprika instead of the Indian red chilli powder. Adjust the spiciness to suit your taste.[br]3. I typically cook with tamarind pulp which is concentrated and is very tangy. You can use whole tamarind instead of the pulp. If the tamarind is hard, soak it in a little water to soften it up and use the water to help you with grinding.[br]4. The traditional way of preparing Ulli theeyal involves grinding the roasted spices and coconut to a smooth paste and add this ground paste to the caramelized onions. Saute it for a few minutes and then add the tamarind juice/pulp and jaggery and bring to a boil. [br]4. Please note that this dish thickens on cooling down, adjust the consistency to suit your taste.