Cook's Hideout: Ulli Theeyal (Kerala Onion Masala Curry)

April 25, 2016

Ulli Theeyal (Kerala Onion Masala Curry)

BM# 63: Journey through the Cuisines 
Week 4: Kerala Cuisine 
Day 21: U for Ulli Theeyal
We are starting the final week of 'Journey through the Cuisines' mega marathon and I'm visiting beautiful Kerala -- God's own country this week. My plan for the marathon was to pick a state from each corner of the country -- so I started from the west with Bengali cuisine, then moved north to Rajasthan and then east to Gujarat. Finally this week I'm in deep south in Kerala.
Kerala Onion Masala Curry
Initially I wanted to do Tamil cuisine and even made 2 dishes, but somehow I wasn't happy with my choice of dishes, so I changed it to Kerala at the very last minute.
First Kerala dish for the week is this Ulli theeyal. Theeyal is a typical Kerala side dish and is very similar to sambar or kuzhambu. It can be made with different veggies like bittergourd, eggplant, okra etc. Today I have Ulli or Onion theeyal for you.
The most important component of the theeyal is the roasted coconut and tamarind spice paste that forms the base of the dish. Roasting fresh coconut needs patience, if you rush the process, you might end with burnt coconut. So it is important to cook on slow flame, stir often and stay close while making the masala. Once the coconut is perfectly roasted it smells absolutely amazing.
I have seen recipes were the onions were thinly sliced and then used, here I added frozen pearl onions that are already peeled. This is a great dish to serve with steamed rice.

Recipe from Kothiyavunu:

Ulli Theeyal
  • 12~15 Pearl Onions, peeled* (I used frozen pearl onions)
  • ⅛tsp Asafoetida/ Hing
  • ¼tsp Turmeric
  • ½tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 8~10 Curry leaves
  • 1tbsp Tamarind pulp
  • To Taste Salt
  • For the Spice Paste:
  • ¼cup Grated Coconut
  • 3~4 Dry Red Chilies
  • 1tsp Coriander Seeds
  • ½tsp Cumin seeds
  • ¼tsp Black Peppercorns
  • ⅛tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  1. Make the Spice paste: Heat 1tsp oil in a pan, add coriander seeds, cumin seeds, black peppercorns and fenugreek seeds. Saute till aromatic, next add grated coconut and cook on low flame, stirring constantly, until coconut turns golden brown. This step requires some serious patience -- so make sure to take some time.
  2. Let it cool and then grind to a smooth paste adding just enough water.
  3. Heat 1tbsp oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and once the seeds start to splutter, add asafoetida, curry leaves and the pearl onions. Saute till the onions are lightly browned.
  4. Add the tamarind paste along with ½cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 3~4 minutes.
  5. Add the ground paste and simmer for another 3~4 minutes. Remove from fire and serve hot with steamed rice. Enjoy!!
* If you are using fresh, then trim the root ends and dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then rinse under cold water -- this will help peeling them much easier.
Kerala Onion Masala Curry

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 63



  1. That's a lovely choice Pavani..and I know I am going to enjoy this week as well, reading all your posts..nice to know you get frozen peeled shallots...

  2. Toasted coconut makes a wonderful
    Addition to theeyals , dont they ? Loved the composition of the first pic

  3. Irresistible Ulli theeyal, mouthwatering dish seriously. Omg, u r torturing me Pavani.

  4. I love the print on that background fabric and it is one of my favorites from your collection. :) Theeyal sounds very flavorful with those spices.

  5. Kerala cuisine.. wow amazing. My favorite theeyal.

  6. You covered all 4 regions of India, East, North, West and now South. And a nice pick for U.

  7. Such a flavorful and finger licking ulli theeyal,nice clicks too.

  8. I love all onion curries, anything that has onion shallots, they taste amazing. this curry sounds delicious, with wonderful spices and beautiful clicks.

  9. Theeyal with onions sounds so inviting. Beautiful snaps as usual..

  10. Very flavorful with those cute pearl onions.

  11. The gravy is making my mouth water, love those cute pearl onions:)

  12. Ulli Theeyal looks very delicious.Loved your Kerala food series.

  13. With North, East and West covered, it is lovely to see that you picked a Southern state this week. Amazing recipe for U!!


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