Xtra Tips for Preparing a Sadya

The letter X  tripped me down. Forget a sadya recipe, I am not even able to think of a Kerala recipe with X. So a bit of cheating here and I am serving you eXtra tips for making a sadya.

The time savers, you know!


When it comes to preparations, the first thing to do is to make a list. A list of the dishes want to make. Its best to make this list before the weekend, so that you can buy the required items on the weekend. When making the list, note your choice of payasams as well and cross verify whether you have all the ingredients, including cashews and raisins.

Traditionally, a sadya needs the following items.

This is not an exhaustive list, but what I know. If there is any additional dishes that you make at your place, please share with me :-).

Side dishes

  • Kichadi
  • Pachadi
  • Avial
  • Thoran
  • Erissery
  • Olan
  • Kalan
  • Koottu Curry

Ozhichu curry varieties (Gravy to mix with rice)

  • Parippu
  • Sambar
  • Rasam
  • Pulissery
  • Moru

Pickles (3 or 4 varieties)*

  • Inji puli / Inji curry (must)
  • Lemon pickle
  • Mango pickle
  • Wild lemon pickle (Vadukapuli naranga)

*Inji curry is must, other pickles are of your choice

Upperi (Fries) – 3 or 4 varieties

  • Sharkara varatti (must)
  • Banana chips
  • Any one/two of your choice

Payasam: (3 or 4 varieties)

  • One milk based (must)
  • One jaggery based
  • Your choice of payasams

Other Items:

  • Rice
  • Pappadam (sometimes big and small pappadams are served, the big one is to go with rasam)
  • Banana
  • Steamed banana (Pazham vevichathu)
  • Boli (in Trivandrum side)

And the most important one – Vazhayila (banana leaf) for serving the sadya.


Based on the dishes you want to prepare, make a list of the vegetables and groceries to be bought. Don’t forget to add the coconut, banana and the banana leaf to the list!

A very important thing to remember is that, if you are cooking for four, don’t cook each and every item for four people. Keep in mind that there are many dishes and if you cook everything for four, you might be wasting a lot of food.

The pickles, esp. inji curry, can be made well ahead. Sharkara varatti and banana chips too can be made ahead (or bought ahead). Kalan can be made 2-3 days before, it stays good for over a week in the fridge.

I buy the coconuts 3-4 days ahead at least, scrape them and freeze/refrigerate in tupperware containers. I buy one or two extra, just in case. For garnishing wheat based payasams, cut thin coconut slices and refrigerate in airtight containers.


In olden days of joint families, the work was divided between the ladies of the house. Now with nuclear families, it’s almost always one single person cooking the entire sadya. So bit of preparing ahead is fine, in my opinion.

A day before:

  • Traditionally, everything is made of the day of Onam. But I get some of the work done the day before, just my way of making life easy!
  • If possible, I cut the vegetables a day before.
  • Fry the pappad and store in an airtight container.
  • Extract coconut milk. Keep in mind that you are taking a risk here as coconut milk is best used on the day of extracting it. (I keep a tetra pack of ready made coconut milk as a back up, anyway).
  • Soak the pulses. (Chana for koottu curry, red beans/ black eyed beans for olan and erisseri).  I cook the pulses a day before, it makes cooking really easy.

On the day, let’s start cooking!

Have a simple breakfast and then get into the main cooking.

Traditional rules for making the sadya:

  • Take bath before you start making the sadya. This will help you be fresh and energetic.
  • At my place, my mother never tastes the food before serving, esp on auspicious days. It’s usually because food is served to the Gods first and it shouldn’t be your left over. This is up to you, however.
  •  In some places/communities, garlic and onion is not used on auspicious days. Again, your call!

With so much to do, people sometimes forget about rice. At lunch time, you will have a dozen dishes – but no rice. Rice takes time to cook, so start with it.

Pressure cook rice and toor dal first. You can prep the vegetables while the rice is cooking. Dal can be used for sambar, rasam and parippu. If you are making parippu curry, you need to cook moong dal separately. 

Clean the kitchen counter and your dining table. You are going to have 16-20 dishes coming out of the kitchen. Its best to identify a place and bring it there once a dish is done. 

Get into vegetable preparations. 


Try clubbing as much chopping as possible and as much grinding as possible. For ex. Pumpkin can be used in olan, sambar and erissery. The vegetable cutting is almost same for all three.

Once cutting for a vegetable is over, transfer it to a MW proof dish (if you have MW) and get it going there.  Believe me, MW speeds up the process like nothing else!

If you have to extract coconut milk for the payasam/olan, do it first before you start grinding for the curries. You don’t want a jeera flavored payasam! 

Grind coconut together for kichadi and pachadi. Its  the same mix. With little variations, its a combination of coconut + cumin + chillies for almost all the dishes. It’s the consistency that varies (smooth, coarse) most of the time. 

Roast coconut together for Erissery and Koottu curry (if preparing both).


Once a dish is done, bring it to the dining table (that’s what I do), or keep it in a separate place so that it doesn’t crowd the kitchen counter.

If have a big pressure cooker, try to use separators and get as many dishes as possible cooked at the same time. Ex. when cooking for avial, you can cook for koottu curry or erisseri too along with it. It requires the same number of whistles.I made kalan and koottu curry with yam and raw banana. I was able to pressure cook the vegetables together this way.

Get to the payasams. I do it last, because that needs the most attention.

Check out ‘How to Serve a Sadya‘ on serving the spread.

By now, you will be in the full run and things will just fall in place – or fall out place, whatever ;-P! The thing to remember is that the sadya is for your family and its OK if you make a couple of items less. Its more important that you spend a good day with your family, enjoying the food than collapsing at the time of serving!

Happy Sadya everyone :-)…


Previous Posts:

  1. A – Avial, Ada Pradhaman, Achinga Payar – Chena Mezhukkupiratti
  2. B – Beetroot Kichadi, Beet root thoran, Beans Thoran
  3. C  – Carrot Thoran, Cabbage Thoran
  4. D – Daal – Parippu Curry
  5. E – Erisseri – Chena & Mathan Vanpayaru
  6. F – Fruit Pachadi
  7. G – God’s Own Country – Kerala
  8. H – How to Serve a Sadya
  9. I – Inji Puli
  10. J – Jackfruit Payasam – Chakka Payasam
  11. K – Kalan & Koottu Curry
  12. L – Lemon Rasam
  13. M – Mambazha Pulisseri & Mathan Pachadi
  14. N – Neer Moru/ButterMilk
  15. O – Olan
  16. P – Payasam & Pookkalam
  17. Q – Quaker Oats Payasam
  18. R – Rice and Rasam
  19. S – Sambar
  20. T – Thenga paal
  21. U – Upperi
  22. V – Vegetable Cutting
  23. W – Wheat Payasam

Logo courtesy : Preeti

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM# 32


16 thoughts on “Xtra Tips for Preparing a Sadya

  1. Really good post … they are easy tips which actually make life easy..
    I am planning to make sadya at home for the 1st time.. hope all goes well.. Thanks for the tips..


  2. That is such an informative post Rajani. Everything you have written applies to cooking for any parties, festivals or occasions. I would be a hot mess making tons of lists if I had to cook a Sadya meal :-)


  3. Rajani, I have enjoyed your Ona Sadya recipes very much. As it is I love Kerala food and rarely have a chance to eat it.
    This post is written so well. It will help all the young and inexperienced cooks a great deal.


  4. Loved ur tips and anyone can go now for making onam sadya with enough courage after going through ur tips.. Again i loved the way you made a post with letter X..


  5. So now we have mastered Ona sadya bcoz of you ona sadya spl post :) great effort taken dear :) It looks so easy but can feel the hard work taken in posting A-z ona sadya spl recipe :) very very inviting platter :)


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