Neyyappam are little bundles of Fried Joy

The classic rice-based fritter fried in ghee from the Kerala region in India.

Neyyappam is beloved around the country, and this recipe is especially popular amongst Jews from the coast during Hanukkah. It honors the season’s miracle, but with no oil or gluten. We at New Jewish Kitchen are big fans of gluten; we buy the extra wheat-ey flour for our challah for good reasons. But, if that’s a concern, then the rice-based Neyyappam may be for you.

Like the kiddish wine recipe on this website, Jewish Indian cooking continues to delight and problem solve in equal measures.

A special pan is available, but you don’t need it, straight frying is great. The more cardamom used, the better.

Neyy means ghee in the most prominent of the regional Kerela languages, so get your ghee sorted and let’s go.

  • One cup raw rice
  • ¾ cup jaggery (if you find jaggery challenging to find the substitutions work very well: Muscovado or demerara sugars are good, as is dark brown sugar with a teaspoon of molasses)
  • One large banana
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • One tablespoon coconut, grated
  • One – two teaspoons cardamom powder
  • Two teaspoons black sesame seeds (optional)
  • Ghee (or oil, if you must) for frying
  1. Soak rice in water for 3 hours.
  2. Mix jaggery or other suggested sugar with water and heat until melted, remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Drain the water from the rice and grind the rice with the syrup to a fine paste. If you are lucky enough to have a wet grinder, which is especially popular in Indian homes for preparing a host of batters, awesome, proceed. If not, a mortar and pestle will do the trick and be fun for kids. Add fresh water if needed to loosen it up as you go.
  4. Then add banana to the paste and mix well. Pour the mixture into a bowl and check for consistency; it should be smooth but firm to hold its shape when it hits the fat in the pan.
  5. Add cardamom powder, black sesame seeds if using, and grated coconut to the batter and mix well. Set the batter aside for at least 2 hours to ferment.
  6. Heat your ghee or oil to the levels you prefer for frying; balls do not need to be fully submerged in one go.
  7. Add baking soda to the batter and mix well while the oil comes up to temperature.
  8. Ball sizes are to your taste, but smaller ones are pretty cute. Flatten down a wee bit, or not, your call.
  9. Cook both sides to a rich brown.