What are the Most Popular Dishes in Southern India?

The cuisine of South India is as varied as the geographical region from which it originates. South India is home to more than 250 million people and dozens of different languages, making it a diverse region in terms of customs and cuisines.

This huge region, which includes the South Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Karnataka, and Kerala, supplies the majority of the tangy spices used in our favorite meals.

South Indian cuisine is bursting with flavor in every bite. Sadly, a lot of these foods are neglected in the US in favor of food from Northern India.

An Introduction to South India

Despite the many excellent foods produced in South India, only a few number of dishes have become particularly well-known in the United States.

The Punjab region of northern India is the origin of the majority of the rich, buttery Indian cuisine that are famous in the US, including toasty samosas, creamy butter chicken, and crispy naan. These meals are unquestionably tasty, yet they are only a small portion of India’s cuisine.

South Indian food meals tend to be lighter and focus on a rice-based diet in contrast to North Indian food, which is made using wheat.

Many of the most sought-after ingredients in the world, including curry leaves, peppercorns, tamarind, coconut, and chiles, are grown in South India. Many meals contain more than a dozen distinct spices, allowing the flavors to meld together and explode in taste.

Don’t let the fact that these foods tend to be hotter than those from Northern India put you off. This list includes some delectable moderate selections that make a great introduction to the wonderful cuisine that South India has to offer.

Here are some of South India’s most well-known dishes;

Masala Dosa

A popular dish across the country is masala dosa, a southern Indian dish. It is made from a batter made of soaked rice and lentils, which is then fried into a thin pancake and usually topped with potatoes, onions, and mustard seeds. The dish’s garnish typically includes coconut flakes and coriander leaves.

Because of the food’s tremendous popularity, there are several versions available, including mysore masala dosa, rava masala dosa, onion masala dosa, and paper masala dosa. It is frequently used as a quick snack or with any meal of the day.


Pongal, a sweet rice dish, is typically consumed in Sri Lanka during special or ceremonial events. It is often prepared over an open flame in a clay pot. First, milk and water are boiled; in Tamil culture, if the mixture pours over the pot, the family will be blessed with luck and prosperity.

Each family member ceremoniously adds a handful of rice to the pot during the creation of pongal, making it a family event. The remaining rice, mung beans, cane sugar, and ground cashews are then added to the meal. Before eating pongal, the entire family offers prayers to the Sun god. Pongal is served on banana leaves.  


A common Indian dish, the appam is a bowl-shaped pancake cooked with rice flour and coconut milk. Appam is particularly popular in Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and Kerala, where it is culturally associated with the Nasranis, a group of Syrian Christians who bake appam on a stone. Appam is typically eaten for breakfast or dinner.

Gil Marks, an American food historian and journalist, claims that the southern edge of India is where the pancake initially made its appearance. Although nothing is known about the history of the appam, some believe that Jewish settlements in India may have been where it first appeared.

Today, it is typically served with hot sauces and curries made with coconut milk.

Chicken 65

The iconic chicken dish known as “Chicken 65” has its roots in Chennai, India. It comprises of chicken that has been deep-fried and marinated with a variety of spices, including ginger, lemon, red chilies, and others. The origin of chicken 65 is the subject of several theories. According to the most widely accepted theory, A. developed it in Tamil Nadu. In 1965, M. Buhari.

Another claims that the original recipe called for 65 extremely hot chili peppers as a sign of manliness. Additionally, there are some improbable hypotheses, such as the one that the chicken was sliced into 65 pieces or that it was 65 days old when the dish was made.


In the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, you may readily get the popular south Indian cuisine pulihora. It contains rice, ginger, coriander, curry leaves, tamarind, turmeric, and green chilies. To intensify the dish’s already complex flavors, additional ingredients such mustard seeds, yellow lentils, and roasted sesame seed powder can be used.

It is frequently cooked for festivals and is colored yellow with turmeric, which is revered in Hinduism and represents celebratory times. The term “puli” in its name, which denotes sourness, accurately describes the dish’s tart flavor. However, the dish’s other spicy and salty qualities are perfectly offset by the tart tamarind.


A filling Indian dish called upma is created with dried semolina or rice flour and then boiled into a thick porridge. It is typically eaten hot for breakfast, but because it has a somewhat bland flavor, various nuts, beans, and spices like turmeric and chilies are frequently added to enhance the flavor.

Though it started in South India, upma has since spread throughout the nation as its popularity has grown. Every South Indian cook makes upma differently, and there are several ways to prepare the meal, such as using shredded coconut in place of onions or adding maize and milk. It is stated that no two upmas are exactly alike.

Hyderabadi biryani

Hyderabadi biryani is a South Indian meal that mostly consists of basmati rice, goat, mutton, or chicken meat, lemon, yogurt, onions, and saffron. There are two main types of the meal: pakki and kachchi (raw) (cooked). Hyderabadi biryani is said to have a particularly rich flavor since it is prepared differently from other regions, where the meat and rice are cooked separately. Raw rice and raw meat are blended with unusual spices.

The unusual cooking technique known as dum is said to have started in Persia during the Mughal era in India.


Sambar is a well-known curry meal made with vegetables, lentils, and a tamarind-based broth. Although it is from Tamil Nadu, South India and Sri Lanka also enjoy great popularity with this dish. Steamed rice or a variety of Indian flatbreads are typically served alongside the dish.

Sambhaji, the son of Maratha emperor Shivaji, accidentally invented Sambar. Sambhaji wanted to make dal for himself while the head chef was away, so he added some tamarind to the pot as it was cooking. Since tamarind is not used in dal, the royal chefs chastised him.


Idli is a common breakfast food in many South Indian households, however it may be found all throughout the country. It is a traditional, savory Indian cake. It is prepared using a batter of fermented rice and lentils that is then steamed.

These hot, savory cakes are frequently eaten on their own, dipped in chutney or sambar, or seasoned with a variety of spices. The idli has a wide variety of variations due to its enormous popularity in India, including rava idli, which uses semolina instead of rice in the batter, and malli idli, which are idlis that are fried with coriander and curry leaves.


One of the most well-known Indian cuisines is the thin pancake known as dosa. It is produced from soaked black gram beans and rice, which are then blended into a thick batter and typically allowed to ferment overnight. A few fenugreek seeds are added to the dough to add flavor and give the dosa its distinctive golden brown color and crispy, delectable texture.

A hot, greased griddle is used to bake it, giving it a circular, delicately thin texture. Indian dosa is a common meal throughout the nation, although some people think that Tamil Nadu in south India is where it all began. It is a traditional meal that dates back to the first century AD, when Tamil literature made the first mention of it.


South Indian cuisine is hotter than North Indian cuisine. To provide a sour flavor to foods, North Indian cuisine always uses tomatoes, whilst South Indian cuisine typically uses tamarind.

In the majority of South Indian curries, coconut milk is used. Compared to Southern India, where milk products are frequently utilized unchanged despite being used in enormous quantities, North Indian cuisine is characterised by the larger proportionate usage of dairy products Common ingredients include milk, ghee, paneer, and yogurt.

Even more so than North Indian cuisine, South Indian cuisine is vegetarian-friendly. The greater emphasis on rice in South Indian cuisine sets it apart.

Exit mobile version