Red Lentil and Coconut Pudding (Vishu Kanji/Paayasam)


A Happy Vishu to all Malayalees who celebrate this festival.!

This auspicious day is considered as a symbol of hope, luck and prosperity. Vishu is celebrated in Kerala as the New Year. People celebrate the occasion by makinga  ‘Vishu kani’, which is a special colorful setting made for Lord Krishna using vegetables,rice and jewelry.  Special dishes like payasam (lentil pudding) are also made. The younger ones in the family receive money and gifts from the elders. (yes, the oldest one gets broke!: )  ) You can read more about Vishu and how it is celebrated here.

Today being a weekday, I did not do an elaborate celebration. However I wanted to do a little something – So made sambhaar and Avial, which are traditional sadya items for dinner. And then decided to make the typical traditional dessert that is made on this day – it is a red lentil and coconut pudding called as Vishu Kanji.  When I was a kid, I did not like this pudding for some reason (don’t ask me why!) and so always my mom used to make two kinds of pudding – this traditional one and one with rice and milk, which was my favorite!  Strangely as the years passed by and now when my mom is no more, I suddenly started to like this pudding. So I decided to make this today…I am sure she is smiling at me now! Love you amma and sorry for having been such a fussy kid!

The recipe is quite simple-Here you go. One interesting thing I did today to make my kids eat ‘paayasam’ was to add chocolate chips for them!

Red Lentil and Coconut Pudding (Vishu Kanji/Paayasam)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1 cup dry red lentils

2 cups water

1/2 cup jaggery, shredded (or you can use brown sugar as a substitute – use 3/4 cup if you like it really sweet)

1  1/4 cup thick coconut milk, fresh or canned (for freshly extracted -check glossary for method)

1 tsp cardamom powder

1/8 tsp or a pinch of salt

10-12 cashew pieces

1 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee

1 tbsp raisins

1 tbsp chocolate chips (optional – if your kids are like mine!)

1 tbsp grated coconut for garnish


1. Wash the lentils in water and then cook them in a pressure cooker with the two cups water for about 3-4 whistles. (If using regular pot instead of pressure cooker, you will need to use more water and cook for about 40-45 minutes. Also remember to skim the scum that forms and keep adding more water until they are cooked )

2. Once the lentils are cooked (make sure you test them), add the jaggery and mix. if there is no water left at this stage, just add about 1/4 cup more water and cook till jaggery is all blended in.

3. Next add the coconut milk and the cardamom powder and stir. Cook on low flame for another 5 minutes or so until you get a thick-ish consistency.

4. Ina  small pan, add the unsalted butter and heat. When melted add the cashew pieces and toast until golden.

5. Serve the pudding warm or cold garnished with fresh coconut and cashew and raisins. Of course, don’t forget those chocolate chips for the munchkins! 🙂




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