Onam is the biggest festival in the southern state of Kerala, known as God’s own country. It is celebrated to welcome the legendary ruler, King Mahabali, who returns to his land once, every year, to see his subjects and enquire about their welfare. During the 10-day festival, many traditional and folk arts are performed, as well as games and boat races. The Pookalam, or floral rangoli, is also an essential feature of Onam Festival. Yet another highlight of Onam is the Ona Sadya, which is prepared on Thiruvonam day, the day Mahabali visits his subjects. ‘Sadya’ means ‘feast’, and the Ona Sadya is literally a royal repast. It is an elaborate vegetarian meal that includes around 24 dishes served on a banana leaf, along with freshly harvested rice. Ona Sadya is usually eaten, sitting on the floor, as it is more convenient.

The Ona Sadhya items include Kaaya varuthathu (banana chips), sharkara upperi (jaggery-coated banana chips) chena varuthathu (yam chips), mango achar (pickle), lime achar, Puli inji (tamarind & ginger chutney), kichadi (vegetable in mildly spiced yogurt), pachadi (pineapple in yoghurt , olan ( ash gourd and black beans in a coconut milk gravy), thoran (stir-fried vegetables with grated coconut), theeyal (mixed vegetable gravy made with roasted coconut), erissery (pumpkin and mashed beans with coconut gravy),avial (assorted vegetables in coconut gravy), Pulissery(yogurt-based curry), kootu curry (black chickpeas curry), sambar, rasam, spicy buttermilk, bananas, papadam, and three types of payasam.

Here are 10 of the best onam recipes you can try out at home to create your own Ona Sadya.

1. Avial

Avial is made using a mix of vegetables like cucumber, drumstick, carrots, raw mango, raw banana, snake gourd, yam, and beans. It is a traditional Kerala dish. The vegetables are sliced into slightly long and thin pieces and cooked with turmeric and salt. Grated coconut is ground coarsely with green chillies and cumin seeds and added once the vegetables are cooked. Before serving, some coconut oil and curry leaves are added and stirred in. Avial is a signature dish of Kerala cuisine and is made for special occasions.

2. Sambar

Sambar is made by cooking assorted vegetables like cucumber, carrots, drumstick, okra, brinjal, raw banana, potato, shallots, tomatoes, etc. cooked separately and added to pressure cooked tur dal. Tamarind gravy is also added when cooking the vegetables. It is seasoned with red chilis, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and curry leaves. Sambar forms a delicious accompaniment to the rice.


This is made with yellow pumpkin and red beans. Coconut is grated and ground into a paste with turmeric, garlic, pepper, cumin, and green chilis. It's tempered with mustard seeds, red chilis, curry leaves, and fried coconut flakes. The pepper makes it slightly spicy, and the fried coconut gives it a delicious crunchy texture.

4. Pulissery

Coconut ground into a paste with red chili, cumin seeds, and shallots is mixed with buttermilk and added to cooked vegetables like ash gourd or cucumber. It is seasoned with mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chili, and curry leaves. This can be poured over the rice.


This is a simple dish made with ash gourd and red beans, which are cooked in coconut milk mildly spiced with green chilis. It is a little bland but tasty nevertheless on account of the coconut milk.

6. Kichadi

Vegetables like cucumber, okra, or bitter gourd may be used for this. The first is to be cooked, but the other two have to be deep-fried. Grated coconut is ground to a fine paste with green chilis, a little bit of ginger, and mustard seeds. This paste is added to the vegetable and simmered for a while. It is seasoned with mustard, red chili, and curry leaves. Beaten curd is added to the curry once it cools. This can also be made with pineapple.

7. Puli inji

Puli Inji is a traditional Kerala pickle prepared for sadya. A Kerala sadya is not complete without it. It is a smorgasbord of flavors –spicy, sour, and sweet, all at the same time. It is made using fried ginger, shallots, tamarind, jaggery, chili powder, and turmeric. It is seasoned with mustard seeds, chopped onion, red and green chilis, and curry leaves.


Raw banana and yam are cooked with turmeric and pepper. A smooth paste is made with grated coconut, green chilis, pepper, and cumin seeds and added to the cooked vegetables. Buttermilk is added once the dish cools. Mustard seeds, red chili, and curry leaves are used for tempering.


Tur dal is cooked with some turmeric in a cooker. To this, add some rasam powder and lightly mashed tomatoes. Like the sambar, it is a very good accompaniment to rice. It is seasoned with red chilis, mustard seeds, and curry leaves, and garnished with chopped coriander leaves.

10.Semiya payasam

Payasam belongs to the dessert section. Usually, there will be around 3 or 4 types of payasam made with semiya (semolina), rice ada (flakes), and green gram dal. One can make payasam with fruits like banana, ripe mango, jackfruit, too. Semiya payasam is made with semolina, milk cardamom, raisins, and cashewnuts. The semolina is cooked in milk. The nuts, raisins, and cardamom are fried in ghee and added to the cooked semolina and milk.

Fresh, seasonal produce is used to make the Ona Sadya. With its mix of sweet, sour, and tangy flavors, the Ona Sadya is a gastronomic delight for lovers of good food and truly a royal repast.

Author's Bio: 

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