Nei Payasam – Food For The Gods And Indulgance For The Mortals

Nei Payasam Sharkkara Payasam
Video Recipe  
Wondering  what  is up with  that title,  well let  me  explain.   Nei Payasam is a cherished offering of Kerala temples. The gods love Nei Paysasam , so do the  devotees, the  non religious folks  and  even  the atheists.  Nei  in Malayalam means ghee or  clarified  butter, and  Nei payasam is  a sweet desert  made  with  rice , jaggery and  ghee.  When  slowly cooked  over  wood  fire,  a handful of  ingredients  take  on a  heavenly dimensions. No wonder  it  is  such a  favorite of  gods  and  mortals !

Rice , jaggery , a pinch of cardamom , water and coconut bits , these are all the ingredients that goes  into this dish.  Usually the  temple  kitchens  don’t  add  anything   else.  This  recipe   when made  with much less  ghee  and   a  few  extra   ingredients like  raisins , cashewnuts  and  rock  sugar  is  known as  Sharkkara Payasam  or  Kadum Payasam.

The  truth is  Nei Payasam and  Kadum Payasam are the main reasons for  some in  my family to make a  trip to the  temple.   Especially  from a  temple  near my paren’s place . I remember  in the  olden  days  mom  sending  the  supplies to the  temple. If you are  visiting   Kerala  and  looking  to get a  taste of  this  dish,  do not  look for  it  in  your  restaurant menu. But  the friendly hotel  staff or  your  home stay  host  will be  glad  to help  you  procure  some.

All  this talk of  temples does  not  mean  that Nei Payasam is served only on religious  occasions. It is  a symbol of good  times, celebrations like Onam  and  Vishu or  just  plain indulgence . My dad  is a  fan   and  Kadum Payasam   is his  choice of  desert  for  every  birthday. DH loves  it  and the  kids are  developing a taste for it as  they get  older.  Well well somethings  don’t  understand generation gap!

On to the  ingredients – Jaggery is  essentially evaporated  cane juice. Along with the  sweetness it  contains minerals  and  vitamins  and is  believed  to have  medicinal properties  as  well.  time to say “Move over  sugar,  pass me some  Jaggery”  !  A good  substitute for  jaggery will be  a  mix of raw  sugar   and  molasses.

Typically this   dish is  made   with payasam rice –  Unakkalari in Malayalam.   This is  broken   raw  rice,  cooks  much faster  then  the  par-boiled  rice  used in the  region. If you  don’t  find   this  rice , use  any white  rice.  Wash and  dry the  rice.  Pulse once or  twice in a  blender to   break up the  grains, not  powder,   and   proceed  with the  recipe

Wash and  pressure  cook the  rice in  more water than  required.  For  the payasam rice I use 3 times  the  amount of  water, by volume.  You don’t  need   a  pressure cooker, it just  speeds  up the process.  While  the  rice is  cooking , dissolve  the  jaggery in a  little  water and  boil.  All the jaggery will not  dissolve  in cold  water, but  as  you heat it  up it  melts  and  becomes a uniform  solution. Often  times  the  jaggery contains bits of  sugar cane threads and other unwanted  things.  It is  recommended  to  strain the dissolved  jaggery.  Return it  back to  he fire  and   reduce to a  thick  syrup. Turn off  the  heat  but  keep it  warm.  Fry the  coconut  bits in a  little ghee and powder  the  cardamom.

Once the  rice is  cooked , add  the  jaggery syrup and  mix  in. If needed  add more  water,  up to 1 cup.  Return it  back to heat  and  cook over low  heat  for  20 minutes  stirring  occasionally.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of ghee   along  with the  fried coconut  pieces  and  cardamom powder.  Cover, let  it  sit  for 10 minutes  before  serving.


Nei Payasam

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

Nei Payasam


Payasam Rice- 1C (See Notes)
Water - 4 to 5 C
Ghee - 3 to 4 Tbsp (Divided use)
Salt - A pinch (optional)
Powdered Jaggery - 250g or 1C lightly packed
Cardamom Seeds- 1/4 Tsp
Coconut Pieces - 2 Tbsp
Rock Sugar - 1 Tbsp
Raisins- 2Tbsp


Wash the rice in plenty of water and drain. Place the rice in a pressure cooker (at least 10 C in volume) along with 3 cups water, salt (optional) and 1 tsp of ghee. Cook till the rice is done.

While the rice is cooking , mix the jaggery with 1/4 to 1/2 C water. Mix and bring it to boil. Once the jaggery is melted strain to remove impurities. Bring it back to boil and thicken until it reaches the consistency of honey. Set aside. Keep it warm to prevent the syrup from solidifying.

Heat 2 to 3 teaspoons of ghee in a small pan and fry the coconut bits till all pieces are evenly browned. Set aside.

Mix up the rice, and add the jaggery syrup. If using the raisins add them to the pot now. Add a little water about 1 cup to help loosen up the rice and mix everything well. Bring the payasam back to boil and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the bottom from burning.

Powder the cardamom seeds. Once the payasam reaches the desired consistency - thick semi solid- add the fried coconut pieces along with the ghee and the cardamom powder. Stir in the remaining ghee and the rock sugar if using. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve !!


  • Use raw white rice when Payasm rice is not available. Pulse the rinsed and dried rice a couple times in the blender to break the grains into pieces before cooking - think cracked wheat!
  • Adjust the ghee per your taste
  • Salt is added to enhance the sweetness, though it is typically not used in the temple preparations.

Nei Payasam

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