Spiced Sesame Powder (Yellu Podi)

Here is my mom’s classic recipe for Sesame powder which is authentic South Indian food. We usually eat it mixed with rice, drizzled with ghee on top. It’s just heavenly!

Sesame seeds are known as Yellu(or Ellu) in Tamil. Podi is the Tamil word for powder.  So this dish is called Yellu (Ellu) Podi.


1 cup black seasame seeds (You could also use the white one. I use black ones because it looks a bit more exotic and it is also more fragrant and more intense tasting than white ones. You could use white sesame seeds for a milder flavor.

1 tbsp gingely oil (aka Sesame oil) Traditional South Indian- Tamilian cooking always uses ginegly oil. Sorry, but no substitute for it, this is a key ingredient.

1/4 cup bengal gram dal ( Kadalai paruppu in tamil or Chana Dal in Hindi)
1/4 cup split black gram dal ( Ulutham paruppu in tamil or Urad Dal in Hindi)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
7 dried whole red chillis ( If you like it really spicy, make it 10)
1/2 tsp Asafoetida powder
1 tsp salt

Add half of the oil in a pan, add in the Bengal gram, split black gram dal and Asafoetida powder. Fry on medium heat until the dals turn golden brown. Keep tossing them around continuously so they don’t burn. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan add the remaining oil, when it is heated add in the mustard seeds. Just when they begin to splutter add the coriander seeds and toss them on medium heat till they are roasted and smell crazy good ! Set aside to cool.

In the same pan dry roast the red chillis on medium-high heat and toss them for 2 minutes. Set aside.

Now add the sesame seeds in and dry roast them on low heat till they roasted. Be sure to keep tossing, they tend to burn very easily. It’s hard to judge with black sesame seeds when they brown or burn. So be extra careful. Keep the heat low and you can easily judge with the smell. It may take 2-3minutes. Set aside.

Grind the dals in a blender or food processor first. It has to be coarse where you can still see a few broken pieces of dal. Transfer to a bowl. Now grind the coriander & mustard seed mixture with red chillis a bit smoother than what you did with the dals. Add to the same bowl as the ground dals.

Now grind the sesame seeds. Be sure not to grind it more than a few seconds. If ground too much, it will release it’s natural oil and form a paste ( Not appetizing!) You want it to be a coarse powder. Just a one pulse will break it down. Maybe two pulses at most.

Mix it with the earlier ground ingredients in the bowl. Add the salt and mix well. If you are going to store it, then make sure it’s in an airtight container. Try not to store it for more than a couple of weeks. The oil in the sesame might make it smell a bit stale after a few weeks.

Eating it fresh with steaming hot rice drizzled with ghee on top is the absolutely greatest thing in this world ever! It magically transports me home and to my mom’s kitchen every time. Comfort food at it’s best!


  1. Wow, this Yellu Podi sounds very interesting! My husband loves south Indian food, and makes great dosas. But he has never made this chutney (if you can call it that!). I am going to surprise him with this in a few days. First I need to figure out where I can get Gingely Oil. Is there any other name for it? I have never heard of it.

    Thanks for a great recipe.


  2. Hi Madhu, thank you : ) If he loves south Indian food, this dish with some ghee rice is your holy grail!

    About Gingely oil : I just edited my post to make things a bit simpler, gingely oil is the same as Sesame oil. “Idhayam” brand sesame oil is available in any Indian store. I use that because it’s authentic straight from Madras.


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