Brinji Vegetable Rice Recipe

Brinji Vegetable Rice Recipe
Tamil Nadu is India’s southern most state, forming a large portion of the famous tip that defines India’s southernmost border. The cuisine of TN is bold, aromatic & absolutely delicious! Traditionally, rice is the main staple in most homes & is eaten on a daily basis with various vegetables, dals/lentils, yogurt & Indian pickles.

I was recently invited to a friend’s place for lunch & luckily (for me at least ☺), her MIL was visiting from TN, India. She had prepared a veritable feast of delicious homemade dishes that represented not only the cuisine of TN but also time-honored dishes that had been passed down within her family for generations. It was a true pleasure & a privilege to have enjoyed such a wonderful meal accompanied by lovely stories & interesting information.

One of the dishes she had prepared was known as “brinji”, this simple & delicious rice dish was full of complex flavors & I loved it. When I asked her for the recipe, she very sweetly rattled off some vague instructions. I decided not to press the issue further out of respect ☺. However, I was lucky enough to be sent home with plenty of leftover brinji so I could hopefully taste my way into recreating this dish.

Brinji is in its most basic terms is simply rice, vegetables & warm spices simmered gently to perfection using coconut milk. It is enjoyed most commonly with a little yogurt, Indian pickles & crispy papad (lentil wafers). So after quite a few attempts at recreating this tasty comfort dish, I finally believe I have succeeded – yay! Try it for yourself & let me know what you think ☺.

VEGETABLE BRINJI (Tamilian Vegetable Rice)


2 cups Basmati rice
2 cups of mixed vegetables*
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cups of coconut milk
1” stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
2-3 green cardamom pods, gently crushed
2 whole cloves
3-4 black peppercorns
½ tsp turmeric, optional
salt to taste
2 tbsp
ghee or vegetable oil

For the brinji spice paste
½ tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly toasted
½ cup freshly grated coconut
3-4 large garlic cloves 

1” piece of ginger, peeled
4-5 small green Thai chilies, to taste
¼ cup of fresh cilantro leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves


Wash the rice until the water runs clear & soak it enough water to cover for about 15-20 minutes. Drain well before use & set aside until needed.

*For the mixed vegetables, feel free to use: potatoes, sweet potatoes, green peas, baby corn, carrots, green beans, cauliflower florets, acorn or butternut squash, pumpkin, edamame, small firm eggplant variety, tomatoes…

Prepare the vegetables as required, cut them into fairly equal size pieces. Set aside until needed.

Next, grind together the ingredients for the brinji spice paste (fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coconut, garlic, ginger, green chilies, cilantro & mint leaves). Add just enough water to make a smooth thick paste & set aside until needed.

In a large pot on medium heat, add the ghee. When hot, add the whole spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaf, star anise, green cardamom pods, cloves & black peppercorns). Stir fry the spices for a couple of minutes until fragrant & then add in the onions. Stir fry the onions until just lightly browned & then add in the ground spice paste and turmeric. Then reduce the heat to low & keep stirring so as to not burn the ground spice mixture. Mix well & let cook for about 5 minutes or so before adding in the vegetables. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients together & let cook for a few more minutes.

Now add the coconut milk along with 1 cup of water & let it come up a gentle simmer. At this point, you can add the rice to the pot as well. Stir well to combine & season with salt as needed. Bring the mixture up to a gentle boil, cover & cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. Then gently stir the rice & continue cooking it on low for another 5-6 minutes or until there is no water left in the pot. Then cover the pot & let it rest for 10-15 minutes undisturbed. Then gently fluff the rice with a fork & serve with yogurt, Indian pickles & papads.

 photo Brinji Veg Rice.jpg

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