Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How to cook millets - Millet Types - Varagu Saamai Thinai Kuthiraivali Kambu

Millet Varieties
I wanted to have a compiled millets post eversince I started trying millet recipes but I took some time to get used with all the millets. As for the past few months I had been buying one variety of millet each month and had been experimenting and this time I got all of them(as shown above) as now I am confident enough :) I learnt cooking millets from the cookbook my neighbour gave me, even the measures I got it from there.

And its time we take pride in cooking these ancient mostly forgotten miracle grains...Shall we?!

Now lets get on to the FAQ's first:

What are Millets?
Millets are a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains. Millets are known as "Small Grains" or "Siru Thaaniyangal" in Tamil.Millets are one of the oldest foods known to humans and possibly the first cereal grain to be used for domestic purposes.Millets are also unique due to their short growing season. They can develop from planted seeds to mature, ready to harvest plants in as little as 65 days. This is important in heavily populated areas. When properly stored, whole millets will keep for two or more years.

Why to eat Millets?

  • Millets are gluten free, rich in fiber and proteins.
  • Their rapid growth and shorter growing seasons make millets ideal for emergency, late-planted, and double cropping situations.So mostly they are grown organic without any pesticides and chemicals.
  • Millets are highly nutritious, non-glutinous and not acid forming foods. Hence they are soothing and easy to digest.
  • Compared to rice, especially polished rice, millets release lesser percentage of glucose and over a longer period of time. This lowers the risk of diabetes.
  • Millets are particularly high in minerals like iron, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Finger millet (Ragi) is the richest in calcium content, about 10 times that of rice or wheat. 

Where to buy Millets?
Try getting millets in organic stores or at any trusted supermarket so that its already cleaned else you will have to take the pain of cleaning to remove husk if any.

Millet Varieties:

English Tamil Hindi
Pearl millet  Kambu Bajra
Foxtail Millet  Thinai  Kangni
Kodo Millet  Varagu Kodra
Barnyard Millet Kuthiraivali Jhangora
Little Millet Saamai Kutki 
Finger Millet Kelveragu Mandua
Sorgum Cholam Jowar


Cooking Methods for Millets (2 methods)
1.Pan Method - Refer stepwise
2.Pressure Cooker Method : For 1 cup of millet add the same 3 cups and pressure cook for 3 whistles in medium flame.

I would prefer the pan method for making plain rice variety and pressure cooker method for making upma / pongal.


How to cook millets

Preparation Time:10 mins | Cooking Time : 20 mins | Serves:2
Recipe Category: Main | Recipe Cuisine: indian

Millet - 1 cup
Water - 3 cups*
* Water quantity slightly differs for thinai and kambu alone.Check my notes section.


Millet Recipes:
The millet varieties can easily be substituted for rice and wheat. The recipes I have tried so far are:
1.Thinai Upma, Thinai Payasam
2.Kambu Koozh, Kambu Thayir Sadam, Kambu Sadam, Kambu Dosai(recipe coming up soon)
3.Varagu Pongal (recipe coming up soon)
4.Kuthirai Vali Idiyappam
5.Saamai Upma
6.Ragi MaltRagi Kozhukattai

There are many recipes you can try with millets like adai, roti, idli, dosa etc will sure post them one by one.


  1. Clean the millet first and remove any grits if any.Take the millet(I used varagu here), rinse it in water and set aside.Boil water. Here I have used only 1/4 cup of millet so adjusted water quantity accordingly.How to make baby corn paneer jalfrezi - Step1
  2. Add the rinsed millet, and let it cook covered till all the moisture is absorbed and the grain is cooked till soft.
    How to cook millets - Step2
  3. Once all the water has been absorbed by the millet, switch off and keep aside for 10mins by that resting time it will cook further.Then fluff it up with a laddle.
    How to  cook millets - Step3
Serve hot with sambar and any veggie of your choice.

Millet Lunch

My Notes:

  • For thinai alone soak for an hour and cook else it will take longer or you will need to add more water.Check thinai upma recipe. 
  • If you want pulav style grains then use 2 to 2 and 1/2 cups of water if you want it little more mushy then 3 cups water will be perfect.If you want to make variety rice then use 2 and 1/2 cups of water.
  • And if you want more creamier porridge consistency then add 4 cups of water.
  • Rinsing is optional.While washing take care as the grains are tiny it gets easily washed away with water, You can use a big wide strainer to wash/rinse  the millets.
  • Also you can even roast the millet for few mins to enhance the nutty flavour of the grain.
  • Serve millets always hot / warm exceptional for kambu alone.
  • The time required to cook depends on each millet variety. 
  • You can make any variety rice or khichdi with the millets just substitute millet for rice.
  • In the varagu sadam pic above you see I used 2 and 1/2 cups of water to get it grain separated as I wanted to make lemon rice with it.
  • As I made just 1/4 cup I used my small pan but if you are making 1 cup or more use a thick bottomed vessel to cook to avoid sticking at the bottom.

Source [Google & Millets Wordpress]

Written by: SHARMILEE J


  1. Very very useful post.....I too love millets a lot. Nowadays they are regular in our diet.
    Lovely clicks.....your food photography is excellent Sharmi....Really I want to learn !!!

  2. Wonderful post.. the use of such millet is almost nil now and the lifestyle is such that mostly people consue more carbs.. I have been looking for rice alternatives for sometime and this post really helps!! Thanks :)

  3. usefull post sharmi.. loved the way you explained them all...

  4. Sharmee hats off ..... Good job. Thank you for such a good post. Our generation are really not aware of these foods. Keep doing this good job!!!!

  5. Very useful post for healthy lifestyle

  6. Thanks for taking the efforts to give us a healthy way of life.

  7. I have also compiled a post about this Sharmi. What a coincidence. Nice post with useful information and nice pictures as always.

  8. Thx Sharmee for sharing very useful info. any recommended shop in Chennai to get Millets?

    1. Not really sure about shops in Chennai

    2. Hi Sharmilee,
      In super markets you will get the branded/ certified millet products. Most of the companies sell only the polished millets as it looks white just like rice varieties. Eating polished millets does not provide any nutritional benefits. It is just like eating the polished rice.

      My request to all the readers is to search for the organic shops in your localities where you can get the unpolished millets without impurities.

      In Chennai, the best quality millets are available at Restore organic shop (it is run by volunteers & the URL is http://restore.org.in/).

  9. Very useful post..never ever tried this at home....will grab a packet next i see them in super market!!! thanks sharmi

  10. Hi mam, Ive been recently looking up your blog. found it very useful for my daily cooking and making homemade things like paneer and butter. thanks to you :) ive been married recently! my in laws place is in coimbatore, though we stay in kochi. we visit coimbatore every few months. it would be kind of you if you could point me as to where i can buy millets in coimbatore (as in specific shops). thanks a lot.

    1. Thats good to know Divya...I usually get from Nilgiris or Rangasamy Chettiyar Shop, both are in RS Puram but now millets are available in many supermarkets, but see to it that its cleaned else we need to manually clean it.

    2. thanks for the reply sharmilee! ive been able to procure most of the millet from Cbe and have successfully made your thinai arisi upma! :)

    3. Can you make kanji mavu with millets, Do you need to roast them lightly before grinding.in mixie

  11. Hi Sharmi! Thank u so much for this post! I didnt know millet was Indian! I have a pack of organic hulled millet. Its light yellow in color. Which one is it in Thamizh?

  12. Hi Sharmi,

    Very useful ideas. I like your site.

    Are there any national brand marketing these Millets?

    Where can I get them in Mumbai?

    1. I am really not sure of any brands...I usually get it from a supermarket here

    2. My mother gets these millets from local grocery store and the brand name is "Mayoora"


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  14. very informative!!!! Is super millet and foxtail millet the same? Plz reply. . thank you :)

    1. No I guess, not really sure of super millet hearing it for the first time

  15. Thanks for the detailed steps :) You Rock!!

  16. does anyone know who can ship to US? i am very much interested in trying this.

    1. You can get in Indian stores. Search for Hindi words

  17. Excellent work. I have been looking for something like this for years. The Tamil English translation are exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much for writing this up

  18. thank you so much for composing and posting this. very healthy recipes

  19. Thank you for this important information.

    I recently bought 2 kinds of millet in an Asian store, one called 'Glutinous Indian Millet' (looks very much like red sorghum), and another -- 'Glutinous Millet' (tiny round green-yellow seeds, like mustard). I'm trying to find out what species they are. All sources say that millets are gluten-free. I'd appreciate any help.

  20. Thanks alot for this useful post

  21. Excellent. Thanks and appreciate your efforts


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