Ulundhu Vadai (Black Gram Dhal Patties)

In Tamil Nadu we serve Ulundhu Vadai as an accompaniment to make a meal festive. On special occasions it is served with payasam (sweet dessert) or with ven pongal (a savoury rice dish) or idlis (steamed rice cakes). But even otherwise it makes a great all-time snack.

Ulundhu Vadai 1 - Kalas Kalai

Ulundhu Vadai

In my family we make ulundhu vadai mainly on birthdays or occasions when something special is called for. We always serve it with coconut thuvaiyal (chutney), which is a speciality in my family.  My mother used to soak the dhal for vadai overnight, and I used to find it very difficult to grind it to thick drop batter as the dhal would have absorbed too much water by then. I read somewhere that dhal soaked in the refrigerator for a short time lent itself better to be ground to a vadai consistency. I followed this method and found that it worked really well. It cuts short both the soaking time and the grinding time. An additional benefit is that the vadais absorb relatively less oil.

Nutritive Value

The black gram dhal provides 24gm of protein per 100 gm. The oil used for deep frying furnishes a very large amount of energy. Therefore, ulundhu vadai is a high protein, high energy vegetarian snack or an accompaniment. As a bonus, the black gram dhal in the vadai is also a good source of folic acid and choline.


  • 2 C Black Gram Dhal (Ulundham Paruppu)
  • 1 large Onion, diced
  • 1 large Green Chilli, diced
  • 3 cm piece Ginger, grated
  • 2 sprigs Curry Leaves, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp Salt, or to taste
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying



  1. Wash the black gram dhal and drain. Add 3 cups of water or sufficient to stand at least 3 cm above the dhal. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for half an hour. Drain; set aside ¼ cup of the water used for soaking.
  2. Place 2 handfuls of dhal in the wet grinder, with salt. Start the wet grinder and grind to a thick paste or thick drop batter consistency adding a handful of dhal at a time. You may need to add a small amount of the soaked water if the grinder struggles.
Ulundhu Vadai 2 - Kalas Kalai

Thick batter for Ulundhu Vadai in the wet grinder.

  1. Add the onion, chilli, ginger, and curry leaves to the batter and grind for 5 seconds before removing it.
Ulundhu Vadai 3 - Kalas Kalai

Add the onion and green spices to the Ulundhu Vadai batter before the final 5 second grind

Ulundhu Vadai 4 - Kalas Kalai

Fully ground batter ready for frying

  1. Heat the oil in a wok or kadai.
  2. Take about a fist full of batter.
Ulundhu Vadai 5 - Kalas Kalai

A fist full of batter for shaping the vadai

  1. Shape the batter to resemble a small doughnut, either on an oiled banana leaf or a small oiled plastic sheet.
Ulundhu Vadai 6 - Kalas Kalai

Shape into a doughnut on an oiled banana leaf

  1. Drop the vadai gently into the oil taking care not to let your fingers touch the oil.
Ulundhu Vadai 7 - Kalas Kalai

Drop the batter gently into the oil. Mind your fingers!

  1. Fry on medium heat, three or four at a time, depending on the size of your kadai. Turn the vadais over once.
Ulundhu Vadai 8 - Kalas Kalai

Turn the vadai over to fry the other side

  1. Remove the vadais when they are golden.
Ulundhu Vadai 9 - Kalas Kalai

Remove the vadai from the oil when it’s golden brown

  1. Drain on kitchen towels to remove excess oil.
  2. Serve with coconut thuvaiyal (chutney).


  1. Thick drop batter is batter of very thick consistency that can be shaped or pushed off a spoon into the oil.
  2. Make sure you add very little extra water when grinding. Just dribble a few drops at a time to ease the grinder and no more.
  3. Sometimes coriander leaves and asafoetida are also added to the vadai batter, but I don’t add them.
  4. If you don’t have banana leaves, you can use an empty milk plastic sachet coated with some oil.

2 thoughts on “Ulundhu Vadai (Black Gram Dhal Patties)

  1. Mam, another tip I learnt is that while grinding, if we remove a little bit earlier when coarse, grind the rest, and mix the coarse batter with the finer batter, the vadais come out even better. I tried it this time in an earlier festival and it did come out very well!

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