Tomato Rice (Thakkali Sadam)

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This easy, quick and delicious Tomato Rice recipe is a favorite staple dish from the Tamil Nadu state of South India. Also known as Thakkali Sadam in Tamil language, this one pot wonder is tasty, healthy and perfect to pack in a tiffin for lunch on the go. While this tomato rice is a tad spicy, you can easily adjust the heat to your liking. Serve it plain, or with crispy papad and boondi raita or any raita that you like. It makes a wonderfully filling and light lunch!

tomato rice with a sprig of cilantro served in an orange and red dotted bowl with a side yogurt raita on a dark black board

What is Thakkali Sadam?

Thakkali Sadam is a popular rice dish from the Tamil Nadu cuisine. It is a slightly spicy rice dish that is made with tomato, spices and rice. In the Tamil language, ‘thakkali‘ means tomato and ‘sadam‘ is rice.

I love to make a batch of this tomato rice often and serve it for lunch, as it is an ideal dish for packing in a tiffin.

If you are looking for a quick recipe to make meal that is delicious and nutritious, look no further than this simple tomato rice! It requires only one pot, leaving very little clean up.

My recipe is made in a stove-top pressure cooker. Like most rice recipes, it can also be made in the Instant pot or in a pan on the stove-top. I have shared quick Instant pot and stove-top instructions in the recipe card below.

About This Tomato Rice Recipe

This thakkali sadam recipe is inspired by the tomato rice we would eat at the cafe in the Isha Yoga Centre in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu, India. Isha Yoga Centre is set at the foothills of the Velliangiri Mountains and has been a wonderful place to meditate.

This tomato rice transports me back to our days visiting the Isha Yoga Centre and all of the silence and tranquility I felt while I was there.

It has taken me multiple attempts to get this recipe right, and I am so excited to share the flavors of our rich time in Tamil Nadu.

The recipes has the perfect balance of flavors and tastes that compliment the tanginess of the tomatoes so well. You will love this tomato rice recipe for its simplicity as well as overall balanced flavors.

If you like to add some pops of sweetness to the dish, include some frozen or fresh green peas or carrots or sweet corn kernels. This would also make the dish more healthier and flavorful.

Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Tomato Rice

Soak Rice

1. This recipe is simple and quick. First up, rinse your basmati (or other long grain rice) under water until the water comes out clear. Now soak your rice in fresh water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain the rice and set it aside.

TIP: Do not skip this step! Rinsing the rice removes surface starches that can cause the rice to become gummy while cooking. Soaking gives the rice the opportunity to cook more evenly and will ensure you don’t get any al dente pieces.

rice being soaked in water for tomato rice recipe

Sauté Aromatics and Tomatoes

2. Next up, pull out your trusty 3 litre pressure cooker and heat oil over a low flame until barely shimmering. You could use any neutral tasting oil. I have used sunflower oil.

TIP: Using an Instant Pot? Set it to the sauté function for the next several steps.

Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds to the heated oil and allow them to cook until crackling. Next, add 4 to 5 fenugreek seeds (methi) and fry for about a couple of seconds making sure you do not burn them.

black mustard seeds being fried in oil in a stainless steel pressure cooker.

3. Next, add ⅓ cup chopped onions, ½ inch cinnamon stick, 2 green cardamom pods and 2 to 3 whole cloves.

onions added

4. Stir and sauté until the onions are translucent.

onions softened for making thakkali sadam

5. Now add 1 ½ teaspoons ginger garlic paste*, 6 to 7 curry leaves and 1 chopped green chili (½ teaspoon chopped chillies)

ginger-garlic paste, green chillies and curry leaves added

6. Stir, then continue to sauté until the aroma of raw ginger-garlic goes away, about some seconds.

sautéed ginger-garlic paste while making tomato rice

7. Add ½ tablespoon of chopped mint leaves and ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander leaves (also known as cilantro).

cilantro and mint added

8. Stir and sauté for a minute.

cilantro and mint sautéed

9. Now add in 1 cup of finely chopped tomatoes. This required about 3 medium tomatoes for me.

tomatoes added for tomato rice recipe

10. Add the following list of ground spices:

  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper powder or crushed black pepper*
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder

*TIP: If you are averse to spicy foods, you can adjust the heat level by dropping the ginger-garlic paste to 1 teaspoon and using only ¼ teaspoon each of chili powder and black pepper.

spice powders added for making tomato rice recipe

11. Stir well to coat the tomatoes in the spices and sauté.

tomatoes mixed with the spice powders for making thakkali sadam

12. Cook until the tomatoes become soft and pulpy, and the oil begins to release from the sides. Stir often.

tomatoes softened and mushy to make tomato rice

13. Add the soaked rice and stir to combine.

soaked rice added

Pressure Cook Tomato Rice

14. Sauté the rice for a minute to allow it to soak in some of the toasted spice flavors.

rice mixed with cooked tomatoes

15. Next up, add 1¾ cup water. Add 2 cups water for more softer rice. For separate grains, add 1½ cup water.

water added

16. Season with salt to taste, then put the lid on.

TIP: If using the Instant Pot, put the lid on and switch the function to pressure cook on high for 5 to 6 minutes, then allow a natural release after 10 minutes.

salt being added

17. Once the pressure is released, remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.

tomato rice cooked and ready to be served

18. Serve in a bowl with crunchy papads (also known as papadums or appalams), plain curd or flavored raita, and a garnish of fresh coriander leaves for a bit of brightness. Enjoy!

tomato rice served in an orange and red dotted bowl with a side yogurt raita on a dark black board


I don’t have cinnamon, ginger and cloves on hand. What can I substitute?

No problem! Simply substitute about ¼ teaspoon of garam masala instead.

Can we use parboiled rice for this thakkali sadam recipe?

You can use parboiled rice (converted rice) for this recipe, but you will need to increase soaking time to an hour. You will also need to add more water and cook for longer.

Can I use cooked rice for this tomato rice recipe?

Yes! Just make the tomato masala as listed above, then stir the cooked rice in very thoroughly.

Can I use regular rice for this recipe?

Yes! You can use any kind of rice you wish for this recipe. I prefer an aromatic long grain variety, but short grain or even brown rice could be used. Be sure to increase cook time for brown rice.

What size measuring cup should I use?

Both 240 ml and 250 ml measuring cups work well for this recipe. 1 cup of uncooked rice should yield 3 ½ – 4 cups cooked rice.

Can I increase the size of this recipe to feed 20 people?

While you can make this recipe for a larger group, increasing the ingredients proportionally doesn’t work. We use the method of andaaz (approximation) by eyeballing the ingredients. I’m sorry I can’t help you approximate!

Can I make this without a pressure cooker?

Yes, you can make this in a normal saucepan as well. Start out with 2 cups of water to cook the rice, then cover with a lid and simmer. Check when the rice is about halfway done, and if it looks dry, add up to another ¼ cup of water.

More South Indian Rice Recipes

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tomato rice recipe, thakkali sadam recipe

Tomato Rice (Thakkali Sadam)

This quick, delicious Tomato Rice recipe is a favorite dish from the Tamil Nadu state of South India. Also known as Thakkali Sadam, this one pot wonder is tasty, healthy and perfect to pack in a tiffin for lunch on the go.

4.94 from 72 votes

Prep Time 20 mins

Cook Time 20 mins

Total Time 40 mins

For soaking rice

More ingredients


  • Rinse basmati rice or any regular rice for a couple of times in water.

  • Then soak the rice in water for 20 to 30 minutes. Later drain the rice and keep aside.

  • Chop the tomatoes, onions and green chillies finely. Peel and crush the ginger-garlic in a mortar pestle. Also, chop the mint and coriander leaves

  • Keep aside all the spices required for the rice.

Sautéing onions, tomatoes, spices

  • In a 3 litre pressure cooker, heat the oil. Keep the flame to a low and add mustard seeds and crackle them. Then add fenugreek seeds and just lightly fry for a couple of seconds without burning them.

  • Then add finely chopped onions and cinnamon, cardamoms and cloves.

  • Stir and sauté until the onions turn translucent and soften.

  • Add the ginger-garlic paste, chopped green chilies and curry leaves.

  • Stir and sauté for some seconds until the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away

  • Now add chopped mint leaves and coriander leaves.

  • Stir and saute for a minute.

  • Keep heat to a low or switch off the heat. Add the finely chopped tomatoes and turmeric powder, red chilli powder, black pepper powder or crushed black pepper, coriander powder and cumin powder.

  • Mix very well and sauté the tomatoes until they soften and become pulpy with oil releasing from the sides.

Cooking tomato rice

  • Add the soaked rice. Gently mix the rice with the tomato mixture very well. Sauté for a minute.

  • Add 1.75 cups water. For a more softer consistency in the rice, you can also add 2 cups water.

  • Season with salt as per taste.

  • Cover and pressure cook tomato rice for 2 whistles on medium flame or about 10 to 11 minutes. To get a softer rice, you can also pressure cook for 3 whistles.

  • When the pressure settles down on its own. Then remove the lid and gently fluff the tomato rice.

  • Serve tomato rice with appalams or chips or with a side raita.

Recipe Tips

  • Reducing spiciness: To reduce the heat and pungency, use less amounts of ginger-garlic paste, black pepper powder and red chili powder. So you can add 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste, ¼ teaspoon red chilli powder and ¼ teaspoon black pepper powder.
  • Quantity of water: I have added 1¾ cup water as this amount was perfect for the basmati rice that I had used. The amount of water that you need to add will also depend on the quality of rice. For a softer rice you can add 2 cups and for separate grains, add 1½ cup water.  
  • Scaling: While you can make this recipe for a larger group, increasing the ingredients proportionally may not work for this recipe.
  • Cooking in a pan: Start out with 2 cups of water to cook the rice, then cover with a lid and simmer. Check when the rice is about halfway done, and if it looks dry, add up to another ¼ cup of water.
  • Cooking in an Instant Pot: Begin with setting the the sauté function for the steps of sautéing spices, onion and tomatoes. After you add the rice and water, put the lid on and switch the function to pressure cook on high for 6 to 8 minutes, then allow a natural release after 10 minutes. 

Ingredient Swaps

Cooked rice:  You can skip adding raw rice. If you have leftover rice or cooked rice, then mix it with the tomato masala and mix thoroughly. You can add about 3 ½ to 4 cups of cooked rice.  Canned tomatoes: You could easily add 1 cup of chopped or crushed canned tomatoes in place of fresh tomatoes.

Nutrition Facts

Tomato Rice (Thakkali Sadam)

Amount Per Serving

Calories 121 Calories from Fat 90

% Daily Value*

Fat 10g15%

Saturated Fat 1g6%

Sodium 26mg1%

Potassium 171mg5%

Carbohydrates 7g2%

Fiber 2g8%

Sugar 2g2%

Protein 2g4%

Vitamin A 714IU14%

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%

Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 23mg115%

Vitamin B6 1mg50%

Vitamin C 49mg59%

Vitamin E 4mg27%

Vitamin K 9µg9%

Calcium 33mg3%

Vitamin B9 (Folate) 246µg62%

Iron 1mg6%

Magnesium 19mg5%

Phosphorus 25mg3%

Zinc 1mg7%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This recipe post from the archives first published in June 2015 has been republished and updated on 22 June 2022.

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