Food Photography Recipes

Thandu keerai poriyal – Amaranth greens with coconut

‘Keerai’ (Saag, Koora, Greens) is the Tamil term that is used for all kinds of edible green leafy vegetables. All kinds of greens are very popular at the HnH home, and made in one form or another every other day. Palak (spinach), thandu keerai (mulaikeerai / chowlai / red or green amaranth leaves) or methi (fenugreek greens) are the common ones I use.

The most popular Palakkad dish with greens is probably keerai molagootal. I will share it soon one of these days. It’s just that I do not have the patience to photograph once I have cooked lunch. I like to eat up while the food is hot and fresh.

Another favourite dish using spinach or green amaranth is keerai mashiyal (or keerai masiyal). It is quick and simple, and pretty forgiving. 🙂 Check it out here.

Thandu keerai (red or green amaranth leaves with tender stems) is a mature form of the amaranth (mulaikeerai). I use up the stems in my cooking though many people discard it. If the stems are a little tough I use a paring knife and string the outer layer. Separate the leaves from the stems, and chop the stems together. Preferably use greens that have thinner, tender stems and tender leaves as they tend to be juicy and succulent. Mature, large leaves are often tasteless. Also, tender greens wilt and shrink relatively quickly than mature leaves.

I like to chop the stems very small, and chiffonade the greens. Chiffonade means to take as many leaves as you can handle, roll them tightly and cut into very thin strips. I make 2-3 vertical slits before cutting them into strips which means that I actually chop them very small.

Keerai poriyal is popular down South, especially Kerala, Konkan, and Tamil Nadu. It is not typically a Tambrahm recipe as it uses onions, but you must try this with onions or shallots; the sweet burst is divine. If you want to omit onions, be generous while adding coconut. Some of my friends add slightly smashed garlic in the beginning after tempering, but I prefer mine without. The elements of tempering change from home to home.

I prefer to chop green chillies into 1 inch long pieces in this recipe so that I can easily identify and remove it while eating. My tolerance for heat is rather low. If you’d like more heat slit the chillies lengthwise.

Be careful adding salt as the leaves shrink to almost 1/3rd the original quantity. I prefer a sprinkle after adding onions to help them sweat. I add the remaining while finishing the dish after the leaves have wilted. Adding in 2-3 stages helps getting the right balance.


In my recipe today I added cooked kabuli chana that were sitting in the fridge from a previous recipe. You can add cooked and strained chana dal (bengal gram), kala chana (black chickpeas) or kabuli chana (chickpeas) to add volume if the leafy veggies shrink too much. Just remember that using too much takes away the lightness of the dish.

Thandu keerai poriyal | @hariniandharsha
A typical Tamilian meal with rice, sambar, olan and thandu keerai poriyal



Cleaned and separated amaranth greens (Stems and leaves) – 2 bunches
Leaves – Chiffonade the leaves into uniform thin strips
Stems – Chopped fine and uniform
Red onions – 1 Small, chopped rough
Green chillies – 2, chopped into large pieces or slit lengthwise
Coconut oil, preferably cold pressed – 2 teaspoons
Bengal gram (chana dal) or husked black gram dal (urad dal) – 1 tsp. (Optional)
Fresh, grated coconut – 1/4 cup
Salt to taste


Heat oil in a wok. When hot splutter mustard seeds, adding bengal gram and green chillies. Saute till dal turns pink and chillies speckled.

Add onions. Sprinkle a pinch of salt to help sweat. Fry till transparent and aromatic.

Add the chopped stems. Cook for 2 minutes and then tip in the chopped leaves. Cover and cook for a 2 minutes.

Toss the mix lightly and add salt to taste. Mix and cook for another minute. Add grated coconut.

Mix and serve alongside rice and any gravy dish. This tastes very good with any rasam, mor curry, sambar, kozhambu or any kind of kadhi. I like to actually mix in a bit with a tablespoon of rice and start my meal. I find the juicy leaves and rice a great combination.

If you make this do tag us with your version on instagram (@hariniandharsha) or find us on facebook (@hariniandharsha) and post a picture.

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Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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