Experiments in Cooking

Sweet Pongal in Instant Pot

Pongal is a festival celebrated in Southern India to mark the beginning of Spring and the growing season. It coincides with when the Sun enters the constellation corresponding to Capricornus in the Tamil astrological calendar.

Like most Indian festivals, there is a special food for Pongal too, and is aptly called Pongal. 🙂 There are 2 versions to be made on this festival, a sweet pongal, and a savory peppercorn-filled pongal. Both are made by cooking rice and moong beans as a base.




  • 3/4 cup short to medium grain rice (I used sushi rice)
  • 1/3 cup moong dal
  • 1.5 cups jaggery or dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 3/4 cup water
  • 5-6 cardamom pods or 1/8 tsp finely ground cardamon
  • 1/4 cup raw cashewnuts
  • 2 tbsp golden raisins (omit if you can’t find golden raisins)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp ghee (plus 1 more tbsp optional)
  • Optional: Pinch of saffron stamens (~8) and 1 tbsp water


  1. Roast the mung beans on low to medium heat until slightly red. I over-did mine, which resulted in a smoky flavor the kid didn’t appreciate. Don’t be like me 🙂
  2. Add roasted beans to rice and wash 2-3 times with cold water. Drain completely.
  3. Using the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, add the rice & beans to the main pot, and add 2 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of water (use 3 & 1 if skim milk).
  4. Cook IP with its Rice setting- low pressure for 10 minutes, natural release. Meanwhile:
  5. Optional: If you like saffron, soak a few stamens (~8) in 1 tbsp water.
  6. Gently cook the 1.5 cups of dark sugar and water till it reaches single thread consistency, or is at 215F.  Add the ground cardamom to this. If using whole cardamoms, seed & grind down, and add to sugar.
  7. When IP is done, add in the above sugar syrup to it. Close again and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes.
  8. Open IP, add 1/4 cup ghee. If you soaked saffron, add it along with the 1 tbsp water to the pot. Mix thoroughly. Your pongal is ready!
  9. In a small pan, bring the 2 tbsp ghee to medium heat. Add the golden raisins & cashew to it. Heat till cashews are light brown. If doing ahead of time, remove from heat when cashews are golden- they will continue to cook in the ghee after being taken off the flame.
  10. Add half the raisin-cashew combo to pongal and mix. Use the other half to decorate. Float another tbsp of ghee on top, if desired, while serving.

Process pictures:

Roasted moong beans and rice, washed. I should have tossed the moong and roasted a fresh batch to avoid the almost-burned flavor, but imperfect & lazy I am.

Brown sugar syrup

Saffron stamens soaking in water

Golden raisins & cashews in ghee.