Kerala Cuisine - Caravanzers

Kerala cuisine is a mix of Indian, Arab, and Mediterranean influences. Explore Kerala’s culinary traditions in this guide to Kerala cuisine.

This South Indian state shares culinary relationships with its neighbors, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 

It has also been influenced by its Arab neighbors (Kerala is on the Arabian Sea), as well as its relationship with European colonizers––the Portuguese, Dutch, and British.

So, let’s try some Keralan food.

Popular Kerala Dishes

Kerala’s signature dishes include the idli sambar (a dish composed of fermented rice cakes and a red curry sauce) and the masala dosa (a giant pancake filled with spiced potatoes, onions, and spices, masala dosa is a popular food in all of South India). 

Other popular Kerala dishes include appam (thin pancakes made from maize flour), thali (a meal consisting of several different dishes served on a bed of rice), avial (a type of rice and lentil stew), and vada (deep-fried lentil doughnuts). 

Kerala’s diverse cultural influences give rise to many unique culinary traditions, including biriyani (a layered dish of chicken or beef cooked in a flavor-packed gravy), pongal (rice and lentil soup), and kootu curry (a spicy stew made from fermented coconut milk and various vegetables).

Kerala Cuisine Is Diverse

The cuisine of Kerala is a synthesis of Hindu, Christian, and Muslim influences. 

About 55% of Kerala is Hindu, making it one of the least Hindu-populated states. About 25% of the state is Muslim, and another 20% is Christian. 

Muslims have a strong presence in the north of the state, while Christians are predominant in the south. 

Hindus settle everywhere. 

Popular Muslim Dishes

Muslim foods in Kerala are influenced by Arab, Persian, and African, as well as Indian, European, and global fast food.

Malabar parotta is a popular dish in Muslim Kerala, made from rice and lentil dough stuffed into a fluffy, roasted gram flour batter.

Kerala thoran is a yogurt-based snack or meal consisting of rice cake balls dipped in a sweet and sour sauce.

Kozhikode mutton curry is a signature dish from the city of Kozhikode, made with lamb cooked in a medium-hot curry sauce. It has a lot of Persian influence.

Kuzhi mandi is a way of cooking meat in the ground, and it is a famous dish from Yemen. 

Kai ada is a banana dish that is served at weddings, originating from the Swahili coast. 

Malabari pilau is a type of rice and lentil dish, often served with chicken, lamb, or shrimp. It has a lot of Persian influence. 

Popular Christian Dishes

Christian foods from Kerala are popular across the state.

Malayali Christians have a variety of curries and biryanis, while Syrian Christians have lentil-based dishes.

Pork Ularthiyathu is a dish that uses the typical Kerala style fry. What makes it unique is that the meat is pork, which Christians enjoy in Kerala. 

Pidiyum kozhiyum is extremely popular. It originated in the Knanaya community, which is an ethnic group within the Saint Thomas Christians. The dish is liquidly white and has rice balls eaten with chicken curry.

Meen moli is a popular fish curry with coconut. It has Portuguese origins and is a very tasty dish. 

Kerala breudher is a bread of Dutch origins. It may “not” look fancy, but it does taste super yummy with its spices. 

Kerala Recipes to Try

By now, you have heard about so many dishes and are probably wondering what you should try.

Well, let’s start with something very Muslim. Try Smitha’s mouth-watering Mappila style Chicken Biryani. Yum yum. 

If you want to try a delicious Christian recipe, check out Sherin’s Kanava, a squid roast. You might want to make a lot more than the recipe calls for because it’s delicious!  

Onam is a huge holiday. So, Jisha’s delectable Onam Sadhya is the best Keralan vegetarian platter you could try.

Final Thoughts

When traveling to a new place, it can be fun to explore the local cuisine. Whether you’re looking for Muslim, Christian, or Hindu cuisine, you’ll be sure to find something to your taste in Kerala. 

In this article, I’ve given you a few recommendations on what to taste. 

Be sure to let me know what you think of our recommendations in the comments!

Nina Walker is a food writer for Caravanzers.

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