Vishu Kanji is a traditional breakfast item prepared to usher in the Malayalam New year. This is a rice porridge usually made with rice, beans, and a few spices. Often it is sweetened lightly to start the year off in good spirits. New year or not, this is a healthy and energizing breakfast to start the day. Vegan
This is our Vishu Kanji which we make at least once in April. It is a warm breakfast porridge that is light, healthy, and easy to consume. Versions of these recipes are found throughout the region – Kichidi and Pongal are popular versions. For natives of Kerala, it is a great way to start the new year right.
What is Vishu Kanji
Vishu is the new year according to the Malayalam Zodiac Calendar. You start the year off with something nice and auspicious – by seeing the Kani as the first thing in the morning. Thus setting the tone for the upcoming year. Follow the link to learn more about the Vishu Celebration.
Many start the first meal of the new year with Vishu Kanji. Kanji is a rice porridge typically eaten with coconut chutney, papad, and stir-fried beans or vegetables. Vishu Kanji is the rice porridge cooked for Vishu.
For Vishu, this standard kanji recipe where each component is cooked separately takes on a slightly different form. In this version, the beans and rice are cooked together and coconut milk is added to make it creamy. The version popular in the Kochi area is lightly sweetened with jaggery – as a sweet start to the new year!
Ingredients for Vishu Kanji
Whether it is sweet or savory, whether it looks brown or white there are three main ingredients in this dish – rice, beans, and coconut.
- Rice: I use a mix of Unakkalari (raw unpolished rice), and white raw rice in this dish. This creates a lovely textural contrast. But you could stick to one type of rice and use what you have in the pantry.
- Beans: Often ours is made with red beans, but green mung beans or black-eyed peas are also good options. Whichever ones you choose make sure that they cook in roughly at the same time as the rice.
- Coconut: Coconut milk adds richness and body to the porridge. Freshly grated coconut is used as a garnish and mixed into the dish while serving.
- Spices: Cumin and ginger are used here to aid digestion as well as give a feeling of warmth. The sweetness is ever so light, and the spices are used to tone it down.
Unakkalari is raw rice with most of the bran intact – similar to brown rice, but more delicious. This is the rice of choice for sweet deserts like Nei Payasam or Pal Payasam as it cooks much faster than the traditional red parboiled rice.
Making Vishu Kanji
These are the steps to making Vishu Kanji. These are last year’s pictures, I had run out of cowpeas and so made these with mung beans – but you could use butter beans and even black-eyed peas.
This recipe is made in a pressure cooker which reduces the cooking time to less than 30 minutes. It can be done in a thick-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven / or two pots working in tandem – one for rice and the other for beans. The stovetop method will increase the cooking time and will require more water as well.
Soupy, Semi-Solid, or Solid
I like to have my Vishu Kanji warm in a semi-solid form. Vishu Kanji thickens as it cools down. If you let it cool down completely you could make laddus (or Vishu katta ) with it or slice and serve it as breakfast cakes.
There are many variations of Vishu Kanji, some thick like a cake that you can slice into (Vishu Katta) and some thinner like a soup. Some are brown and sweetened with jaggery while others are pristine white or savory. In our family, we are used to the sweet version. After all, it is a celebration. But towards central Kerala, the savory versions are preferred and served with mixed vegetable avial or jackfruit avial.
You might have noticed that this recipe is similar to payasam, but not as sweet. So if you have leftovers, add more jaggery and coconut milk. Mix and warm it. Sprinkle some cardamom powder and garnish with fried cashew nuts and raisins and call it a payasam :-).
The dish thickens as it cools, and is best served warm. Leftovers need to be reheated with warm water and lose the texture in the process. My recommendation is to make it in small quantities.
Sweet Vishu Kanji
- ½ C Raw rice
- 1/2 C Unakkalari Notes
- 1/4 C Cow Peas / Vanpayar Notes
- 1/3 C Grated Jaggery See Notes For Substitutions
- 1/4 C Coconut Milk Thick Cream
- 1/2 Tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 Pinch Ginger Powder
- 4 – 5 C Water
- 1 Pinch Salt
- 1/2 C Grated Coconut
- Soak the beans in plenty of water for 30 minutes or overnight.
- Wash and drain the rice/s. Soak the jaggery in warm water and set aside.
Stovetop pressure cooker
- Add the drained beans and 1 cup water and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
- Add the rice to the pressure cooker, along with 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt.
- Cook till done – (2 whistles ) – a little longer than the recommended cooking time for rice.
- Add the drained beans and 1 cup water and cook in sauté mode for 5 minutes. Add the rice and 2 cups of water. Cook for 5 minutes under high manual pressure setting.
Finishing the dish
- Once the pressure is released naturally, open the lid. Mix the contents and add salt, ginger, and cumin powder. Heat on low and add the coconut milk. Mix well bring the contents to a simmer.
- Add the jaggery water. Mix, taste and adjust. Bring to a slow simmer, sprinkle the grated coconut on top, and turn off the heat.
- Serve warm.
- Unakkalari is sometimes available in Indian grocery stores.
- If unakkalari is not available use all raw rice or a mix of raw and parboiled rice.
- Asuki beans, mung beans, butter beans, Anasazi, or pinto beans can all be good substitutes for cow peas in this dish.
- Dark brown sugar or brown sugar with few drops of molasses or Mexican piloncillo can be substituted for jaggery.
- If using fresh coconut milk – cook the rice and beans in the thin coconut milk and use the thick milk towards the end to adjust seasoning.
- For a thinner, soupy consistency add more water along with jaggery and coconut milk.
- Adding freshly toasted and crushed cumin seeds adds more depth of flavors to the dish.
Important: Nutrition Values are estimates. Actuals vary based on ingredients and serving size.
If planning to make it the old fashioned way using fresh coconut milk, you might find this useful – How To Make Coconut Milk