Bisi Bele Baath ( Hot Lentil Sour Rice)

This is a traditional spicy hot sour rice and lentil dish packed with veggies and laced with hot ghee and garnished with golden cashew nuts , served piping hot with papads, crispies, boondi raita or even with pickle.

Undoubtedly the signature dish of Karnataka the state from where it originates and now almost all the South Indian restaurants serve this much in demand dish during lunch hours. As this is a complete wholesome meal by itself you do not need to add any other veggies on the side , maybe salads yes but the dish is such that nothing can go well with it and the taste of the hot spicy lentil rice has to be savored by itself .

One cannot but help sing praises about this simple (apparently) one pot meal but the flavours have got to be just right. Which you can get only if the exact spices are used and even if you forget couple of them , there will be some lingering regret even though you may have dished out the right consistency of Bisi Bele Baath.

Even in Tamilnadu and the Southern states people serve this at home quite regularly and if idli,dosa,pongal is associated with the Tamilian cuisine, Bisi Bele Baath tops the list in Karnataka. Fortunately as I lived in the state for good no of years I cook many Kannadiga cuisine and this is one of the most favourite one.

 Now take a deep breath and note the ingredients carefully!


Spice powder:


First cook the rice and lentils with turmeric in sufficient amount of water to give a loose consistency of cooked rice and lentils. Keep aside.

In a broad pan first start the tempering with oil, mustard seeds, udad dal red chillies, asafoetida/hing powder and some curry leaves.

Then add the chopped vegetables, turmeric powder, salt and cook in little water.

Add the tamrind extract . let this cook well and boil like we do  in sambar .

Meanwhile dry roast all the ingredients for the spice powder except the kopra which has to be added last as it will burn. Fresh coconut may also be used. 

After adding the kopra to the roasted dry ingredients, let cool and then powder them fine in the blender.
Here I would like to add that some people prefer to wet grind all the dry spice powder ingredients along with kopra with little water to get a wet paste of coarse texture. Both methods are fine.

When  the vegetables are cooked , add the rice lentil mixture to it and add the ground paste/powder and give a good stir. Adjust the salt as per your preference.

Keep this simmering while the lentils , rice  and veggies absorb the aroma  and flavours from the spice powders and now the typical Bisis bele baath aroma wafts all over the kitchen and you know you have got it right. 

Lastly just before taking off from the stove add the roasted cashew nuts, sprigs of curry leaves, dhania leaves and a generous amount of melted ghee drizzled over the mixture.

Serve hot with papad/crispies or raitha of your choice. Serve with pickles too or have it as it is.


Although this dish may appear complicated by the long list of ingredients am sure almost every ingredient is already available in the pantry. If you think this is cumbersome, there are good branded Bisi bele baath powders  readily available  for instant gratification !  You just need to add that instead of grinding roasting etc. You will get the exact taste. I have personally tasted MTR brand which is as close to authentic as possible and good enough but store it well.

Another option is to keep the spice powders ground well in advance so you can use as and when you like to add to the veggies, and rice lentil mixture when you decide to make Bisi bele Baath. This prep is very convenient too.

I do many short cuts sometimes if I do not get enough time to roast and grind.

Once my daughter demanded Bisi bele baath instead of normal lunch of rasam, sambar and veggies which we have almost everyday.

As my cooking was already over presuming she would eat what I had already prepared, I wasn't in a mood to get into the long drawn process of making this dish even though it happens to be my favourite as well and only for one person, I just used the already prepared sambar with veggies that were there.

I just took coriander powder,cumin seeds powder,sambar powder,cinnamon,cloves,curry leaves and some kopra and gave a quick whiz in the blender to get a powder.Added this to my already prepared sambar and gave one quick boil for the spice powders to get absorbed and soak in  the flavours  As I  have some roasted cashew ready for such purposes like making pongal, some kheers, payasams etc.  it wasnt difficult for me to convert my sambar to bisi bele huli.! 

I patted myself as my daughter was very satisfied . As we normally prepare sambar with lot of lentils, veggies the addition of the spice powders completed the taste. So I had Sambar in the morning and Bisibele huli in the afternoon! 

I always keep a stock of fresh coriander powder, cumin powder, for using in many gravy dishes. this comes handy.

I even had half a mind to simply use the cinnamon powder instead of grinding etc just for one person.!
So even though I prepare Bisibele baath according to the method given above  , sometimes I seek shortcuts too.

I tried it once with Vangi baath powder and it came out excellent.In fact only Vangi baath powder is sufficient  for both dishes. You can experiment at your risk!

Hope the method will help you get the authentic taste of Karnataka's favourite dish.