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My mom and I loved visiting my grandaunt in Kerala. She lived in a small village called Chunangad. She refused to move to the city and live with her children. She was a short dark lady, dressed in a nine-yards saree, with a wide smile and a long black braid. Her demeanor demanded respect. She managed her farms, orchards and fields, and lived life on her own terms. She had a way of teaching me about life, from cooking, to milking a cow, with some women’s rights and independence thrown in. I still remember the morning when I had assisted her, as she mixed in fodder for the cows. To my surprise, the same fodder ended up as a side dish for lunch! I asked her, “Did you mistake me for Lakshmi, the cow?” She smirked as she replied “to get the strength of a Kuthira (horse in Malayalam) you need to eat Muthira (horse gram).” That was the best horse gram curry I had ever tasted. Now every time I cook horse gram, I remember my grand aunt.

Horse gram is known as a “poor man’s pulse.” Although it is used in many parts of Southern India, it is a relatively unknown bean. According to Seed and Research Center in Hyderabad, horse gram (macrotyloma uniflorum) is a  sub-tropical legume native to Africa and Asia. The plant is a climbing bean with trifoliate leaves and cluster of flowers with hairy stems. It has many names including Muthira (Malayalam), Kollu (Tamil), Ulavulu (Telugu), Kulith (Marathi), Hurali (Kanada) and Kulthi in Hindi.

Horse gram is  used as a healing medicinal plant in Ayurveda. It is used as an antioxidant, astringent and diuretic, attributed to the treatment of various diseases like kidney stones, conjunctivitis, menstrual issues in women, rheumatism and fevers. It is widely used in weight loss programs. Due to its  high iron content, it is  given to nursing mothers after delivery and to anemic patients. The Indian Institute of Chemical Technology cities horse gram as an anti-hyperglycemic, that helps in reducing insulin dependence in diabetic patients. It is also used in the treatment of ulcers, piles, hemorrhoids, and to eliminate  flatulence. In the treatment of heart disease, it helps reduce cholesterol levels. Its anti-inflammatory qualities reduces excess phlegm and thus helps in curing sore throat, cough and asthma.

The adverse effect of too much horse gram is that it produces excess bile in the body which can be dangerous. Moderation is a good mantra to follow.

I use horse gram in my cooking quite frequently. Seeds get roasted and made into a chutney. Sprouts are put in salads or ground to make dosa batter. Water used for soaking horse gram, or excess water from the cooked gram can be used to make rasam or soups.

Horse gram dal and curries combined with raw jackfruit, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables taste delicious. It is just  another variation of protein for a vegetarian diet.

Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the SF Bay Area. She also blogs about cooking at

Muthira Vada

Perfect as an appetizer, these fritters do not soak up too much oil. The fritters look and taste like falafels.

1 cup horse gram washed, soaked in water overnight
1 inch ginger
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp black pepper
½ cup cilantro
salt to taste
2 tbsp rice flour
Oil to fry

Drain the soaked horse gram. Save the water to make rasam or soup. Grind the horse gram with no water along with ginger, black pepper, cilantro, and salt, to a smooth paste. Remove and mix it with rice flour to bind into a thick paste. Heat oil in a fryer to 350 degrees and make small patties, and fry it in hot oil. Remove once it turns dark golden in color and drain on a paper towel.Serve hot with a spicy chutney.

Variation: Add chopped onions and spinach or fresh fenugreek leaves.

Sprouted Horse Gram Dosa

This is a variation on Pesarattu dosa and adai that is very popular in South India. The leftover batter is made into small shallow fried dumplings called Paniyarams, a famous Chettinad snack.

1 cup horse gram, soaked in water overnight, drained and sprouted
1 cup whole moong, soaked in water overnight
½ cup whole urad, soaked in water overnight
½ cup chana dal, soaked in water overnight
salt to taste
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 inch fresh ginger
3 curry leaves chopped fine
½ cup fresh cilantro chopped fine
1 tbsp golden flax meal

Sprouting beans: Soak the whole bean overnight, in a large glass jar with a tight lid. Open the jar and drain the water. Repeat every 12 hours and the damp seeds should sprout. My short cut method is to soak it in water overnight, drain well and put the damp beans in an insulated hot pack casserole warmer with a tight lid. The beans sprout in about a day.

Soak all the legumes (moong, chana, urad) in a bowl of water, overnight. Drain the water and grind all the legumes with the sprouted horse gram, cumin seeds, black pepper and fresh ginger, to a smooth batter (add little water or an ice cube while grinding). Leave the batter in a closed container for about 6 hours or overnight to ferment.

Once fermented, add salt, curry leaves, cilantro and flax and mix well. Heat the dosa griddle, grease it with oil and spread out the batter to make crispy protein rich dosas and serve it with tomato chutney.


You will need a paniyaram pan, which looks like a mini donut maker.

Oil for shallow frying
1 small red onion chopped

Add the chopped onion to the leftover dosa/adai batter and check seasoning. Heat the paniyaram pan on a stove with little oil in each hole. Pour the batter into the holes and cook it until the sides are a golden brown. then flip the paniyarams with a spoon or skewer and cook the other side on low heat, so that the inside is cooked well.

Remove, drain on a paper towel and serve.

Horse Gram Chutney

¼ cup horse gram seeds
¼ cup fresh grated coconut
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp tamarind concentrate
Dry red chillies to taste
1 tsp oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 curry leaves.
salt to taste.

Roast the horse gram seeds until they turn reddish brown in color. Grind the roasted gram with coconut, garlic, red chillies, tamarind to a smooth paste. Heat oil, add mustard seeds and after it splutters add curry leaves. Mix this seasoning with the ground chutney. Season with salt and serve.