A staple dessert in South Indian menu is Sakkarai Pongal | Sweet Pongal | Chakkarai Pongal.
Most families put a mix of rice and dal in a cooker and make sweet and hot pongal simultaneously. It makes it very easy to make on one hand, but also presents a carb-overload problem on the other.
First we eat Ven Pongal – a high carb dish, then follow it up with a sweetened version as dessert – thus causing our blood sugar levels to rise heavily after the meal.
But, there are ways to decrease the glycemic impact of this dish. Here are some ideas:
Upgrade my sweet pongal
- Use a grain with more protein
My sweet pongal recipe below uses roasted buckwheat (Kasha) as my rice substitute. 1 cup of cooked white rice has only 4g of protein. Buckwheat has about 50% more protein than rice. If you do not have buckwheat , pick any grain that has higher protein levels than rice. I have written more about grain options here.
- Add more fiber
I have used dates and banana to sweeten my pongal. Granted, the traditional recipe requires jaggery, which is slightly better than white sugar. But, by using dates, this dish will have 6g more fiber than the traditional dish. Adding a medium banana will add another 3g of fiber. These forms of added fiber helps slow down absorption of carbohydates in the blood.
- Reduce unnecessary fat
I have used chopped apples for crunch. I am not a fan of adorning a dish with lots of ghee and cashews (nutritionally pretty useless) and raisins on my dish. While I understand the culinary artistry behind these garnishes, I feel it is not necessary for my family on a regular basis.
What the heck is buckwheat?
Although it has ‘wheat’ in its name, they are not related. Fun fact you can casually mention in your next family meeting -Buckwheat is a ‘pseudo-grain’ because it not a member of the grass family. But their seed resemble a grain and used similarly. I know, I know, maybe not a ‘fun fact’ for the whole family, but there is always a nerdy aunt/uncle who knows everything :).
The most common form of buckwheat I have seen in India stores is the flour version called ‘kuttu ka atta’ which is used for specific North Indian dishes like paratha etc. But the whole seed (pseudo-grain) is also available and a great whole-grain option. There are 2 types available.
1- Buckwheat groats is the raw version, it has a greenish tint in appearance. This has a slight mucilaginous quality to it when soaked. Lot of raw, soaking recipes use it.
2- Roasted buckwheat, is as the name suggests – buckwheat that is already roasted. This is used to make a porridge in Russia and other Eastern Europe regions called Kasha. The roasted buckwheat acts almost like a cereal. You cook just like you cook white rice – 1:2 ratio water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
Sweet pongal – Step by step pics
Add buckwheat, lentils and water in correct proportion and cook in pressure cooker.
Meanwhile make a paste with dates and coconut milk in the blender
Add the date paste, banana and elaichi powder to a pan. Mash the banana
Add the cooked mixture to the pan.
Cut apples into small cubes and add them for crunch.
Vegan, gluten free dessert sweetened with dates and mashed banana
- 1/2 cup Roasted buckwheat (or any whole grain)
- 1/3 cup Moong dal
- 2 Tbsp Split Chana Dal
- 1/2 cup Dates (About 10 dates)
- 1/2 cup Coconut milk (Full fat)
- 1 Ripe Banana
- 1/2 cup Chopped apples
- 1/2 tsp Powdered Elaichi
Pressure cook buckwheat, moong dal and chana dal with water (1:2 ratio or slightly higher) for 3-4 whistles until grain and lentils are well cooked.
Blend dates and coconut milk in a blender and add date paste to pan.
Add banana, elaichi powder to the pan. Mash banana with a fork and mix well.
Add cooked lentil mixture to pan. Add chopped apples and mix well. Serve.
This healthy version may not be the version you serve to razzle-dazzle your guests. But, there is a subtlety to this recipe that my family and I love. It reminds me of ‘panch-amritham’ we make for our puja, maybe because of the mashed banana.
Who has written laws that sweet pongal should only have rice, jaggery and ghee in it? Break the rules, put your health first. My hope is that my website serves as an inception point for your own kitchen adventures.
Do share your thoughts and comments down below or on my Facebook page. I love to hear from all of you!!