Cooking With Nutritious Avarekalu (Butter Beans): Try These Tasty South Indian Recipes

You can find the dried version of these beans on online platforms.

Highlights

  • In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, beans are mostly sold in dried form
  • Lima beans are sought after for their soft texture
  • These beans also score on their nutritional value

Uppittu in Karnataka or upma is one of my favourite dishes for breakfast. In Bengaluru, it’s usually served piping hot or ‘bisi’ (the Kannada word for hot, that’s also used for the popular Bise bele bath). Many years ago, I tried an avarekalu uppittu, a rava upma that also packs the goodness of lima beans (or butter beans) that is better known as avarekalu in Kannada. It’s a popular ingredient in the state finding its way into multiple dishes, including sambar, a rice bath (or mixed rice, like a bisi bele bath), a curry (that’s usually served with rotis) and my own favourite – avarekalu rasam.

Interestingly, Lima beans or butter beans (Val in Hindi) can be traced back to Central and South America. The Moche or Mochica culture that dominated Northern Peru between 100 and 700 AD grew these beans extensively; it also figures prominently in the art from that period. During the Spanish viceroyalty of Peru, Lima (Peru’s capital) became the hub for these beans that were exported to Europe. The name ‘Lima’ stuck to the beans.

In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, these beans are mostly sold in dried form; although the fresh beans are available for a few months. Lima beans are sought after for their soft texture. In Chettinad in Tamil Nadu for instance, the Mochai (Lima beans in Tamil) kara kuzhambu (gravy) is a delicacy. It’s not just the taste, these beans also score on their nutritional value. They are high in protein and relatively low in fat. They possess more iron than several other types of beans and are also rich in minerals. You can find the dried version of these beans on online platforms and most grocery stores or supermarkets across India. Both these recipes work well with dried beans. Just like rajma or channa, it’s best to soak the dried beans overnight.

Try These Tasty South Indian Recipes Made Using Avarekalu (Butter Beans or Lima Beans):

Mochai Milagu Kuzhambu Recipe (Butter Beans In Pepper Gravy)

I’ve heard tales about my paternal great grandmother’s culinary skills. While I wasn’t fortunate to sample her cooking, some of her recipes like this flavourful gravy have stood the test of time. You can tweak the spice levels by playing around with the quantity of peppercorns or dried chillies. It tastes best with rice and a spoon of gingelly (sesame oil).

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Ingredients:

. Dried butter beans (mochai): 1 cup

. Tamarind: size of a gooseberry

. Dried red chillies: 2 -3

. Peppercorns: 1.5 – 2 teaspoons

. Coriander seeds: 2 teaspoons

. Urad dal: 2 teaspoons

. Channa dal: 2 teaspoons

. Curry leaves: a few

. Salt: to taste

. Jaggery: 3/4 teaspoon

. Mustard: 3/4 teaspoon

Method:

1. Soak the dried beans overnight.

2. Pressure cook for about 20 minutes.

3. Soak the tamarind in warm water for 15 minutes and extract the juice.

4. Fry the dried chillies, peppercorns, coriander seeds, urad Dal and channa Dal with a few curry leaves in gingelly (sesame oil).

5. Grind this to a paste with very little water.

6. Temper the mustard seeds and a few curry leaves in gingelly oil.

7. Add the tamarind water with some salt, jaggery and the beans. Let it cook for a few minutes.

8. Add the paste. Make sure paste blends in well and add some water, if required.

9. Cook on a low flame till it reaches a thick consistency.

Avarekalu Saaru Recipe (Butter Beans Rasam)

Rasam is one of my ideas of comfort food. My aunt, who lives in Bengaluru, is an expert on Karnataka recipes and I learnt to make this quintessential Karnataka rasam from her. The presence of freshly ground coconut alters the flavour and textures of this rasam. Her version doesn’t include garlic but you can also add a few pods of garlic (I like both versions) for a twist.

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Ingredients:

. Dried butter beans (mochai): 1 cup

. Tomato (medium sized) 1

. Tamarind: size of a gooseberry

. Dried red chillies: 2 -3

. Coconut (grated) 2 tablespoons

. Fenugreek: 1/2 teaspoon

. Coriander seeds: 1 tablespoon

. Jeera: 1 1/4 teaspoon

. Peppercorns: 1/2 teaspoon

. Coriander leaves: a few

. Salt: to taste

. Mustard: 1/2 teaspoon

Method:

1. Soak the dried beans overnight or for about 2-3 hours.

2. Pressure cook for about 20-25 minutes.

3. Soak the tamarind in warm water for 15 minutes and extract the juice.

4. Grind the tomato, coconut, red chillies, fenugreek, coriander seeds, 1/2 teaspoon of jeera, pepper corns with a few of the pressure cooked beans in a blender.

5. Temper the mustard in coconut oil and add the remaining jeera and then the tamarind.

6. Add the beans and some water and let it simmer for a minute.

7. Add the ground spice mixture and make sure there are no lumps.

8. Add more water to bring it a rasam consistency. Cook on a medium flame till it boils.

9. Garnish with coriander leaves.

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About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie – a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.

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