Toll Free No: 1800-425-31111

Explore the regional cuisine of Tamil Nadu

Next time you visit Tamil Nadu explore beyond idli, vada and sambar. Instead savour each regional cuisine that boasts of unique cooking methods and spices. They have been backed with heirloom family recipes, ancient culture and traditions, community history and external influences.

The Tamil regional cuisine is broadly categorised in to five regions - Thanjavur cuisine, Mudaliar cuisine, ​Chettinad cuisine, ​Kongu Nadu cuisine and ​Tamil Sahibu or Tamil Muslim cuisine

Delightful Thanjavur cuisine

The cuisine of Thanjavur is a mix of traditional Brahmin, Mukkulathor and Maratha cuisines, drawing from the communities that have lived in and around the area. The Maratha dynasty which ruled from 1674 -1855 AD had heavily influenced the cuisine of this region. The Kola urundai is an example which is very similar to Marathi Shunti kebab. In this, the fish is delicately tied with banana leaves into a ball shape and deep fried.

The Thanjavur royal heirloom recipes use lots of chillies, freshly pounded spices thus making the food very rustic. The mashyache kebab (pan-fried poppy seeds and green chilli – meared fish fillets), komdiche kebab (chicken kebab with coriander, pepper and ginger), kesari maas (dry mutton mince with saffron and spices), kelyachi bhaji (raw banana tossed with karivadagam and hurit, a mixture made by roasting lentils, rice and sesame seeds and ground into a coarse powder) are a part of regular South Indian meal. But what makes the food of the Thanjavur royal kitchen so unique is the distinct and unmistakable influence of the Marathas.

The traditional Iyer Brahmin households serve food in a sequential pattern. The typical meal starts with cooked rice consumed with paruppu (cooked lentil) and ghee, then rice with sambar (thick lentil soup with vegetables) accompanied by a vegetable curry, followed with rice and rasam (thin watery soup) and it ends with rice and yogurt accompanied by a spicy pickle/ narthelai podi( a powder made with tender citron leaves)/ small mangoes in brine solution called vadu mangai.

Interestingly, sambar was invented while making dal, instead of kokum, tamarind was used. Another typical dish of Thanjavur is Keerai masiyal. Green leafy vegetables are cooked along with lentils in a clay pot along with ghee. The famous Thavala Adai are pancakes made of lentils and rice batter. The adai usually contains onions and chillies in the batter and is served with chutney. The batter is made from rice, Urad dal, bengal gram and toor dal.

 Delectable Mudaliar cuisine

The Mudaliars were historically rich farmers or the agriculturalists who had made many breakthroughs in the field of agriculture. They are also flushed with money (mudra) perhaps, from where the word Mudaliars had come into existence

The heirloom traditional Mudaliar recipes are from the Vellore region. Their recipes are predominantly rich in vegetables. The ingredients are generally locally sourced and simple but the flavours are beautifully complex with combinations of vegetables.

Some dying recipes include Vazhaipoo Thattai , a vada made of banana flower and Bengal gram, full of luscious flavours inside. Another vada used as a starter is the Karnakezhangu Vadai which are vadas made with yam, green chillies and aniseed and more. The Raal Varuval is grilled masala fried prawns which trigger the taste buds.

The Mudaliars are known for their weakness of brinjal. The Kathirikai Chops; small brinjals cooked with a spicy masala of onion, tomatoes, peppercorns and coconut, is a dish treat to all, it is generally accompanied with piping hot appams. One of the diminishing recipes is the Vendhi Keerai Perattal with methi (fenugreek) leaves cooked with urad dal and green chillies and then tempered with mustard seeds. The simplest yet most delicious vegetarian preparation one can really enjoy. The Chow Chow Curry, another delightful yet obscure vegetable which looks like the bottle gourd is finger licking delicious.

The cuisine gets a unique flavour because of the usage of Tamil spices which includes mustard, cumin, fenugreek, shallots, etc. These spices are sundried, made in the form of balls and kept in jars for a long period of time. They are used during the monsoon seasons. One famous dish from this region is Pangti Korumbu. Pangti means a row of guests and Korumbu is mutton. This dish is made with the Tamil version of five spices.

Last but not the least, is the Elaneer – tender coconut water with mint leaves is a refreshing drink served before the meal.

Spicy Chettinadu cuisine

The Chettiars are the rich moneylenders and traders mostly hailing from Sivagangai district, which is a semi-arid region. Hence, the vegetables are sun-dried to retain their original nutritional values. The Chettinadu cuisine is uncommonly subtle and aromatic. As they were involved in the spice trade, they have added Tellicherry pepper, Madagascar cloves, Ceylon cardamom etc. to the staple food of South India. Their food has a distinctive Burmese flavour as they use sticky red rice for their dishes. The dishes are served on banana leaves and are arranged in a specific sequence on the banana leaves. The Chettiyars often believe in serving their dishes in odd numbers of seven or nine. The food is mostly vegetarian however, some spicy non-vegetarian food also found its way into the repertoire.

Some popular Chettinadu dishes are: idiyappams (string hoppers are sauteed along with chilli paste and fresh vegetables), various paniyarams (urad dal, green chillies, ginger, curry leaves and mustard seeds), kozhakattai urlai roast (a tasty dish of baby potatoes simmered in hot spices and tomatoes). The secret of the Chettinad cuisine is the use of kalpasi (black stone flower) and dried pods.

Unique Kongu Nadu cuisine

The cuisine of Kongu Nadu is basically from the south-west of Tamil Nadu which are bordered with Kerala, like Coimbatore and Salem. Kongu Nadu cuisine predominantly uses rice as its base with a collection of exotic recipes created by the people of the Kongu region. As it is also native to an arid climate, the cuisine includes cereals like Cholam, Kezhvaragu and different kinds of pulses and sesame. Food is served on a banana leaf. Eating on a banana leaf is an old custom and imparts a unique flavour to the food and is considered healthy. Idli, paniyaram and steaming hot appams are popular dishes. Kongu Nadu cuisine does not involve marination of any raw material and as a result the food has a different taste and unique texture. The best quality turmeric is grown in the region and this is an important ingredient in the cuisine. Turmeric is added into curries, which gives the food a deep yellow colour and a distinct aroma. The traditional Kongu people were mostly vegetarians. Opputtu is made with rice, chickpea, palm or cane jaggery, cardamom and ghee. One of the popular non-vegetarian dish is Dindigul Biryani. Small meat pieces along with the unique flavour of Seeraga Samba rice is added to the biryani.

A much cherished Navarassa curry which is a mutton curry having a burst of all nine flavours is a much talked about dish of this region

Exotic Tamil Sahibu or Tamil Muslim cuisine

The extreme south of Tamil Nadu, the Coromandel Coast is the epicurean home for the Tamil Muslims. Intermingling of Arab traders and the local women during eight or ninth century resulted in formation of the population near these coastal towns like Kilakarai, Kayalpatnam etc. There are Kayartattnam or shepherds or men who used to trade on ships. This community is mostly sea faring community who relied on maritime trade, fishing and pearl diving as a source of income.

The cuisine of this region is influenced by Gulf Arab world, Sri Lanka, Maldives and the South east Asian archipelago. Fish powder and pandan leaves are brought to be believed from Maldives. A special mention in this cuisine is kanava karuvad (a specific variety of dried squids).

Other exquisite dishes of this region includes calamari deep fried with curry leaves and dry chillies, murunggai keerai (moringa spinach), puliyanam (chilled coconut milk based dish), maasi thuvayal (dried tuna and chanadal chutney). Idiyappam with meen anam (barracuda or seela mean fish curry) is a quintessential Tamil dish of this region.

Explore Sweet Delicacies of Tamil Nadu

Other Blogs

Cuisines of the Tamil Land

The delectable cuisine of Tamil Nadu is a culinary style which dates to antiquity and has since influenced the other states of South and South-East Asia.

1 year ago

Sweet Savouries from Tamil Nilam

No meal can be treated as complete without the desserts. The indulgent desserts of Tamil Nadu are exquisite and nutritious. Most are healthy preparations using less sugar and include healthy proteins like green gram and chickpea.

1 year ago

A relic of bygone Chola power & prosperity

The great Chola king, Rajaraja II (1143 CE –1173 CE), built the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, which is ranked only third after the two famed Chola temples of Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. Read more...

1 year ago

Explore the Surreal Kolli Hills

Dazzling through the woods on top of hills of the Eastern ghats is the road that bends the most. Located in the high altitudes of the Eastern ghats, the Kolli Hills derive their name from the Goddess who guards the hills-ettukai Amman, also called the Kollipavai. Run wild and free in the unrevealed greenery.

1 year ago

The mountains are calling...

Check out these five lesser-known but pristine hill stations of Tamil Nadu that will certainly leave you spellbound. Explore the unexplored.

1 year ago

On the sands of time

The southernmost tip of India is a charming town blessed with beautiful temples, historical monuments and serene beaches. Kanniyakumari has been and remains a preferred destination for tourists. Part 5 of an Outlook special on tourism in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Of faith and history

A district steeped in the history of faith, with links to epic legends as well as to modern-day visionaries, Ramanathapuram delights those who love history, gladdens the hearts of nature lovers and soothes the souls of spiritual seekers. Part 6 of an Outlook Special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Of Worship and Waterfalls

A unique corner of Tamil Nadu, the newly-formed district of Tenkasi is home to spectacular waterfalls and ancient temples. A visit to Tenkasi is balm for the soul. Part 7 of an Outlook special on unexplored tourist spots in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Unstained Salem

Synonymous with stainless steel, Salem’s other charms usually go unremarked. About 160 km from Coimbatore, this small city on the route to many better-known getaway destinations is overlooked by tourists. While religious travellers flock here, Salem is as significant for its lush greenery, waterfalls and rich history. Part 9 of an Outlook Special on unknown tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Of forts, faith and food

Replete with a unique history and heritage, nature and nuance, culture and cuisine are the town and district of Dindigul in Tamil Nadu. Part 9 of an Outlook Special on lesser-known tourist spots takes you on a tour of this unforgettable destination.

1 year ago

Gift of the Forest

One of the top hill stations of Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal has many well-known attractions. Yet, in spite of its popularity, it remains a serene island and retains the simple charm of a century ago. Part 10 of an Outlook special series on tourist spots of Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Yours Truly, Trichy

With its magnificent houses of worship and its heavy industries, the symbols of its past glory and the titles of its present significance, Trichy is an intriguing city. Part 11 of an Outlook Special series on Tamil Nadu tourism.

1 year ago

Magical Madurai

Bustling and yet soulful, ancient and yet modern, cultured and progressive, Madurai epitomises the best of Tamil Nadu. Part 12 of an Outlook special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Of serenity and spirituality

Enveloped in an ambience of spirituality, Thiruvannamalai is one of the most serene destinations in Tamil Nadu. Part 13 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

1 year ago

A town of temples

Tamil Nadu has a plethora of towns famous for their temples. But Kumbakonam is special among these. Part 14 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

1 year ago

The Town of the Cosmic Dance

Yet another beautiful temple town built by the Cholas, Chidambaram has a quaint charm in addition to its spiritual significance. Part 15 of an Outlook special on tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Of serenity and scenery

Endless greenery, unique temples, interesting festivals and wildlife reserves make Pollachi in Tamil Nadu an intriguing destination. Part 17 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in the state.

1 year ago

A Festival of Kite Runners

This Independence Day weekend over the Bay of Bengal, kite history will be created! The state of Tamil Nadu welcomes kite flying culture on the most historic weekend of India as it celebrates 75 years of Independence!

1 year ago

A Trail Along The Coromandel Coast

Azure waters, clear skies, and shimmering sand. Tamil Nadu is where each beach lover's heaven exists

1 year ago

From 16th Century To Now, The Past Still Lives On

Discover the beauty left behind by the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British, the Scottish, and the Irish in Tamil Nadu

1 year ago

15 free things to do in Chennai, India's southern capital

Chennai, the steamy capital of Tamil Nadu, is huge, sometimes hectic, and a perfect introduction to the wonderful, frenetic energy of South India. The city sprawls for miles along one of the world’s largest urban beaches, dotted with temples, museums, Raj relics, and restaurants serving what could well be the world’s finest vegetarian cuisine.

1 year ago

6 top day trips from Chennai for steamy southern adventures

Often overlooked by the crowds who flock to Delhi and Mumbai, fascinating, foodie Chennai is the gateway to India’s steamy south. Within easy striking distance of the Tamil Nadu capital are timeless temple towns, coastal nature reserves, old colonial outposts and beach resorts that are as popular for monsoon watching as sitting on the sand.

1 year ago

Of cuisine and culture

In the beautiful state of Tamil Nadu, is a quaint town that is typical as well as atypical of the state in several intriguing ways. Part 17 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in Tamil Nadu looks at Karaikudi

1 year ago

History, built up

In our times of matchbox apartments and crowded parks, uninspired design and soulless malls, Chennai offers up a slice of both grandeur and grace through its several heritage buildings reflective of colonial times. Part 18 of an Outlook special on lesser-known destinations in Tamil Nadu

1 year ago

Colonial Cousins

Chennai is graced with a rich architectural legacy from the times of British colonial rule. Part 19 of an Outlook special on lesser-known aspects of Tamil Nadu as a tourist destination.

1 year ago

Pockets of Portugal

Much before the British established their stronghold over India, the Portuguese had established trade relations with the country. Heritage buildings in various parts of India reflect traces of Portuguese architectural traditions. While Goa might come first to mind, Tamil Nadu also has quite a few imprints of Portuguese culture. Part 20 of an Outlook special on lesser-known places of interest in the state.

1 year ago

Portal to Portugal

The imprint of the Portuguese in Tamil Nadu has a long history that predates the British, the Dutch and the French. This is still evident today in some churches and other buildings that remain, offering travellers who are interested in history and heritage an intriguing glimpse of our past. Part 21 of an Outlook special on lesser-known travel ideas in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

Scots and the city

The East India Company and the British Empire’s presence in Tamil Nadu caused an influx of officers, officials and men from not just England but Scotland and Ireland. This also left a distinctive and beautiful imprint on the landscape of Tamil Nadu, especially its architecture. Part 22 of an Outlook special on lesser-known travel ideas in Tamil Nadu.

1 year ago

The magic of Marghazi

Marghazi. From the name of an auspicious month to a word synonymous with a month-long festival of music and dance today, as the global cultural cognoscenti will attest to. Part 23 of an Outlook special on tourism in Tamil Nadu gives you a peek into one of the world’s biggest music festivals.

1 year ago

The dance of history

The Shore Temple. Magnificent sculptures. Windswept beaches. The whisper of waves. That is Mahabalipuram every day. But, for a month every year, it becomes a stage for the tinkle of anklets, the beat of the drum and the glorious sight of dancers in tandem. Part 24 of an Outlook special series on the tourism events and destinations of Tamil Nadu - the Indian Dance Festival.

1 year ago


Here's a list of top attractions in Tamil Nadu that you must experience at the very next opportunity.


Check out the world know your way of experiencing Tamil Nadu

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter Sign up for Tamilnadu Tourism's monthly newsletter to learn about our events, offers and more...