Poondu pulikuzhambu

Poondu pulikuzhambu recipe – Garlic pulikuzhambu

Poondu Pulikuzhambu is a tamarind based sour tamarind based curry, using shallots and garlic pods.

This is a typical southindian recipe and every house has its own variation. I am happy to share, this recipe as it is one of our house favorite.

First lets see what “Poondu Pulikuzhambu” means, poondu is garlic and puli is tamarind kuzhambu is curry in Tamil. If you don’t know already tamarind is a very commonly used ingredient in South Indian cusine. We love to curries and SAMBAR with a tangy twist using the sourness of tamarind.

white and brown garlic on black ceramic bowl

Although north indian cusine do use tamarind in the form of chutney. If you don’t know about imli chutney or dates chutney, you should check it out ! I love the taste of it and could eat it just like that.

I would make it so often and it always come handy for tired days. 

Poondu Kuzhambu

The Ingredients

Pulikuzhambu is one if the most easiest South Indian recipes in my opinion. It is one pot, doesn’t use too many spices and also is so variable. Continue to read more about the variations possible to make this recipe.

You will need

  • Garlic ! – Lots of Garlic
  • A big lime sized tamarind
  • South Indian Sambar Powder
  • Shallots or pearl onions.
  • Tomatoes
  • Gingerly Oil or Indian sesame oil.
  • Onion Vathal (Optional)

I was told by my mom that the gingerly oil has cooling effect on the body which is said to balance out the heat from the tamarind. So I was told that curries heavy on sourness from tamarind must be cooked with Gingerly Oil.

Gingerly Oil – is a very important flavoring ingredient in the recipe, pulikuzhambu never tastes better without it.

Garlic – This is a versatile ingredient and you can replace it with dried berries we call as vathal in South India. There are many varieties – Sundakai, Manathakkali Vathal Etc.

Onion Vathal – This is a typical ingredient for sour tamarind curries, which one can absolutely do without it. But ! If you ever lay your hands on it, stock it up and use it for this curry. It last a long time sealed in the refrigerator. – I haven’t shown in this recipe, but you can add it after the mustard sputters for an added flavor.

Tamarind – Ofcourse this is the curry base of the recipe. Tamarind can be intimidating for first time users. I have one piece of advice to give them is “Boil it away”.

The thing is with tamarind the sourness and the sharpness kind of rounds off when it is boiled and cooked well. So add the tamarind in the curry and allow it to boil well for at least 10 minutes, until the curry visibly thickens.

Variations to Poondu Pulikuzhambu

1 : You can do the recipe without tomatoes in the recipe or with. It just brings a slight difference in the taste.

2 : You can replace shallots with 1 Large onion thinly sliced.

3 : If you can’t find sambar powder, you can replace it with 1 tbsp Red chilli powder, 1.5 tbsp Corriander powder and 1/2 tsp fenugreek powder.

4 : If you don’t have sesame oil, you can cook with cooking oil without a strong flavour. But cooking with sesame oil brings a nice flavor to the dish.

How to eat it Poondu Pulikuzhambu

Serve it with plain hot rice, or as a side dish to curd rice.

Shelf life

There is one recipe that comes for my rescue it is this one. This Poondu Pulikuzhambu stores well in the fridge for uptown 3 weeks as we use tamarind juice as a curry base, it prevents the foods from getting spoilt during the hot weathers in India.

So its excellent for lunch boxes for busy days.

Poondu Pulikuzhambu recipe with onion

Prep Work

Prep all the vegetables – Peel the garlic pods, Shallots if used if not slice the onions.

Keep the Mustard, fenugreek seeds, urad dal ready.

Soak a tamarind in 3/4 cup of warm water and extract tamarind pulp from it.

Watch Latest video on Youtube

Poondu Pulikuzhambu recipe with garlic

Poondu Pulikuzhambu

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • 10-15 no.s Pearl Onions or shallots (or 1 medium sized onion sliced)
  • 10 no.s Garlic pods (small – sized, peeled)
  • 1 sprig Curry leaves (Optional)
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
  • 1/2 tsp broken white urad dal
  • 5-6 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 medium Tomatoes (finely chopped) – optional
  • 1 lemon sized Tamarind (soaked in warm water to extract pulp)
  • 2 Tbsp sambar powder or Kuzhambu milagai podi
  • 2.5 cups water (to preferred consistency)
  • 1.5 tbsp Jaggery (or sugar)
  • 2 tsp salt (to taste)


  • In a deep pan or a kadai, add oil. Keep the flame in medium, Once the oil is hot, add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter fully. 
    Next add in the fenugreek seeds and white urad dal and sauté for few seconds. (be careful not to let the fenugreek seeds burn. If it does it will give a bitter taste to the gravy)
  • Next add in the shallots and garlic pods, sauté until the onions are slightly cooked (don’t have to brown the onions). 
    Next add in the chopped tomatoes and mix it in well.
  • cover it with a lid and cook for 5 mins until the tomatoes are cooked and turns soft and mushy.
  • Add the kuzhambu milagai podi or sambar powder and mix it in well.
  • Add the extracted Tamarind pulp and about 2.5 cups of water. (This curry thickens as it boils so keep it a little thin at this stage)
  • Add grated jaggery to the gravy, salt and cover it and cook in medium to low flame for 10-15 mins. And continue to cook on medium flame for 10 mins with out the lid.
  • When the gravy is ready you can see that the gravy has thickened, the onions have turned translucent and oil has started to appear on the sides. This is the sign that the gravy is ready.
  • And there chinna vengayam poondu kuzhambu is ready to serve. Enjoy it with hot steaming rice with appalam
Keyword dinner ideas, garlic curry, garlic recipe, indian recipes, lunch ideas, lunchbox ideas, meal prep, pearl onions recipe, pulikuzhambu, shallots recipe, south indian gravy
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Rating: 4 out of 5.

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Hi, I am Divya !
Hi, I am Divya !

 I am the author of this blog Soulsomecooking. Thank you for visiting my site. I love to share practical and easy to make recipes here. 

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