Gunpowder,Molagapodi,South Indian

I am sure many of you are already familiar with molagapodi. I would place it at No.2 on a scale of 1 to 10 of favourite South Indian items next only to idli or dosai! Molagapodi or gunpowder as it is aptly monickered, is a heady mix of pulses and chillies spiced up for flavour and taste. The proportion of spices, omission or inclusion of certain spices, varies from region to region. My mother prepares it with the addition of tamarind and jaggery (just a little bit) to give it a tangy twist. She makes several bottles of molagapodi every year around the time we visit so that we have enough to carry back with us. The batch I am showcasing above was made in June. It is August now and the flavour is still as strong!

Not only does gunpowder serve as an accompaniment to idli and dosai but it will find its way into your buttered slices of bread, into your tortillas and rotis and also in your chaas and rice! I know this for sure because many friends of mine carry it with them when they go abroad and sprinkle it all over the food when the maitre d'hotel isn't looking, to give the food an Indian flavour. Are you ready for the recipe? Fine, you better get ready for some sneezing fit and keep a napkin handy just in case! The roasting red chillies might start a sneezing fit and I wouldn't want to be blamed for not warning you beforehand!

Recipe: Molagapodi OR Spicy Gunpowder
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 9 level cups
Shelf Life: 6 months to an year. Tastes best for 3-4 months. It has a longer shelf life but the flavour reduces with time.
Recipe Level:Easy
Recipe/Post by: Sunshinemom
Bengal gram / Chana dal - 2 cups
Split dehusked black gram / Urad dal - 2 cups
Black sesame seeds / Kala til - 1 cup heaped (100g)
Dry desicated coconut / Copra - 1.25cups
Curry leaves /Kadi patta - 20 (3-4 sprigs)
Red chillies - About 30 (250g)
(We used byadgi/bedgi variety. It imparts a reddish colour and is less pungent)
Tamarind - 1 lemon sized ball
Jaggery (use the saltless ones) - powdered - 1.5tbsp.
Salt - 3 tsp.
Asafoetida / Hing - 2tsp.

Special Utensils:
A hanky/napkin to combat fits of sneezing while the chillies are roasting
A heavy bottom wok
A sterilised bottle or jar

Gunpowder,Molagapodi,South Indian

Idli with Molagapodi

  1. Heat a heavy pan or wok. Roast dals and dry copra till pink (a few brown spots do not matter), each separately, without oil.Since the time taken for roasting is different for each ingredient, roast separately.
  2. The tamarind, curry leaves, salt and asafoetida should also be roasted to get rid of any moisture that may be present. If not, the shelf life of the final product will decrease and it is likely to get spoilt. These may be roasted together till the asafoetida starts releasing a characteristic smell.
  3. Cool the roasted ingredients to room temperature. Powder in batches to a coarse texture (please see the granular texture in the picture).
  4. After the ingredients are used up in batches, place the entire quantity in a large bowl and using a dry ladle, mix well to blend the flavours.
  5. Store in clean, airtight bottles.
  6. If your powder turns out a little pale in colour or brighter it is perfectly fine as the colour depends on the variety of chilli powder used.
  7. Molagapodi is served in small quantities (teaspoons) mixed with sesame oil. The oil needed is very less, just enough to bring the powder together but most people like to use the oil in excess.

Serving suggestions:
Molagapodi like I have mentioned above can be used as an accompaniment to idli, dosai, upma kozhakottai or even breads and rotis.

Special Notes/Tips:
  • Omit singly or together tamarind, jaggery and dry coconut as per your taste.
  • Increase the quantity of jaggery if you would like a sweet bite by 1/2tbsp. or the quantiy of tamarind by 1tbsp. if you would like it tangier.
  • Roast a bunch of coriander leaves and powder it along with the other spices but this will reduce the shelf life of the molagapodi.
  • If making in bulk store the larger portion in an airtight bottle/jar and transfer some into a smaller bottle for daily use. Replenish as and when needed. This will help in retaining the freshness of the stored powder.

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  1. Pari // 14 August 2009 at 15:22  

    Wow! That's yummy. I have always liked this pudi. My younger one's very fond of it.

  2. Michelle // 14 August 2009 at 21:02  

    Thanks for the recipe for this podi. Can I use regular til or must I use black til? Also can I use Kashmir chillies? I'm looking forward to trying this. Yummy. Michelle

  3. Sunshinemom // 14 August 2009 at 21:21  

    Michelle, black til is a little sharper than the white one so we prefer this. Another reason is that in the earlier times in the South of India white sesame seeds were not readily available. You may use the white ones also. Regarding the use of kashmiri chillies, they are less pungent and add more colour so you will have to use more than the amount mentioned to get the same amount of heat. Your podi will hence be quite dark in colour. Otherwise there is no hitch. Preferably go for Madras Chillies or Bedgi chillies.

  4. Miri // 14 August 2009 at 21:23  

    Thanks for this lovely detailed recipe - I have been looking for n authentic recipe with black til for many years now since this is not our tradition but one which we like a lot!

  5. Sudeshna // 14 August 2009 at 21:53  

    When I was in Bangalore, one of my friends who hail from Kerala gifted me a bottle of gun powder. At that time I really laughed at the word edible gun powder, but it was really tasty and I just wanted to prepare it. She is not much of a cook, so couldn't tell me the exact ingredients. Now, I got it and would prepare it tomorrow. Thanks a lot for sharing this recipe.

  6. Sunshinemom // 14 August 2009 at 22:17  

    Such a pleasure, Miri, to have ended your search:). I am sure my Mum will be happy that her recipe is reaching out to others.

    Sudeshna, please try and give us a feedback. We would like to hear from you. This may be a little different from the powder you had as Kerala cuisine is a little different from Tamil Nadu's.

  7. Anonymous // 15 August 2009 at 09:37  

    It`s been a while since I ground molagapodi now....I am tempted to do so again. Lovely click and I loved the two tone colour of the bowl and thre coarse-soft molagapodi inside. YUM!!!


  8. meeso // 15 August 2009 at 20:39  

    Wowie! I want to give this a try!

  9. meeso // 16 August 2009 at 01:27  

    Wowie, I wanna try this!

  10. Simran // 6 September 2009 at 18:53  

    I love this with idlis but have never dared make it myself. Something about roasting chillies scares me.

  11. Jayashree // 8 September 2009 at 11:13  

    I love the pic of those idlis smothered in molagapodi. Drool....