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The Food Habits of Kerala People-A Study

Updated on June 24, 2015

A study on the food culture of Malayalees based on their religious and geographical classification.


On food circles what makes Kerala different from the rest of the country (India) is its love for non-vegetarian dishes. While the neighboring Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are the hot choice of veggies, the spice loving Malayalees prefer non-veg foods.


Kerala was well noted for its rich stock of spices such as Grampoo, Cardamom, Pepper, Turmeric, Ginger, etc for centuries. Merchants across the globe came here lured by the abundant presence of these spices. Vasco de Gama first landed here way back in 1498 at Kappad in Kozhikode. This also heralded the beginning of European invasion to India. All these travelers came for the purpose of establishing trade relation with Kerala.

Traditional Kerala Sadhya (Feast)
Traditional Kerala Sadhya (Feast) | Source

Religious features related to food culture

The Kerala population consists of three major religions such as Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. The majority Hindus mostly favoured vegetarian food till recently. But due to the co-existence with the Muslims and Christians, their food choice has turned to non-veg dishes. They always had a love for fishes. But the shift to meat is thanks to their living together with other religious groups, who are so fond of Chicken, Mutton and Beef items. When a society comprising of multy religious groups, it is but natural and appreciable.


When Muslims mostly favored Beef, the choice of Christians was Beef and Pork. They also consumed large quantities of fishes. The Keralites' main meal is rice with two curries preferably one veg and one non-veg. Though traditionally Malayalees preferred fish thanks to the large coastal line Kerala has. But the present status of the food culture shows that Malayalees has now turned towards meat, especially Chicken. If the food choice of Keralites goeses in the current way and pace, 'Chicken Biriyani' can be named as Keralites' national food soon.


Apart from the record for the largest consumption of Alcohol, Kerala is also on the run for yet another title- The land of largest chicken eaters! The farmers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are making hundreds of thousands of bucks daily through the sale of chicken and eggs to Kerala.


If you are a food enthusiast and wish to taste the hot and spicy non-vegetarian dishes, Kerala is your right destination.


Geographical classification of Kerala


Geographically describing, Kerala can be roughly divided as two parts. The Southern (Travancore) and Northern (Malabar) areas. The state Kerala has 14 districts. The Malabar area consists of 6 districts starting from Kasargod to Palakkad, the other districts being Kannur, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram. The Travancore or the southern part contains 8 districts, namely Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, Alappuzha, Idukki, Pathanamthitta, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram. The Thrissur district has the fragrance and flavors of both Malabar and Travancore as it is situated almost on the middle point of Kerala.

A Photo Display of Kerala's Ethnic Cuisine

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Typical Kerala Vegetarian MealsPuttu, the most favorite item for Break Fast in Kerala Kappa Puzhungiyathu (Boiled Tapioca). Tasty and healthy food.Chemmeen (Prawns), Kerala earns high revenue through its exportChicken Biriyani, the most preferred special lunch item.Karimeen Pollichathu. Tasty but costly!Porotta, Kerala people are madly in love with this item. But doctors warn against it as it creates some health problems.Vellappam, traditional break fast item.Dosa, the whole South Indians  love it.Noolputtu or Idiyappam, good for break fast
Typical Kerala Vegetarian Meals
Typical Kerala Vegetarian Meals | Source
Puttu, the most favorite item for Break Fast in Kerala
Puttu, the most favorite item for Break Fast in Kerala | Source
Kappa Puzhungiyathu (Boiled Tapioca). Tasty and healthy food.
Kappa Puzhungiyathu (Boiled Tapioca). Tasty and healthy food.
Chemmeen (Prawns), Kerala earns high revenue through its export
Chemmeen (Prawns), Kerala earns high revenue through its export
Chicken Biriyani, the most preferred special lunch item.
Chicken Biriyani, the most preferred special lunch item.
Karimeen Pollichathu. Tasty but costly!
Karimeen Pollichathu. Tasty but costly!
Porotta, Kerala people are madly in love with this item. But doctors warn against it as it creates some health problems.
Porotta, Kerala people are madly in love with this item. But doctors warn against it as it creates some health problems.
Vellappam, traditional break fast item.
Vellappam, traditional break fast item.
Dosa, the whole South Indians  love it.
Dosa, the whole South Indians love it.
Noolputtu or Idiyappam, good for break fast
Noolputtu or Idiyappam, good for break fast

So you, a foodie has decided to satisfy your taste buds. You have taken a decision to visit Kerala for the very reason. Good. Then, where to move? It is to help you clearly that I drew a geographical landscape of the state in detail above. Ditto is the reason for my drawing of the religious sketch of the land's population. All these drills are for your clear digestion. So I may repeat the mixture!


A non-veggie has two options. Either go for fish or try meat. Well, if you are a lover of fish items, you please go anywhere in Travancore. Ernakulam, Alleppey and Kottayam would be the best choice. If you prefer meat items, you are advised to head for Malabar side. The best choice I recommend is Kozhikode followed by Kannur and Malappuram. The Chicken Biriyani in Kozhikode is very famous. Thalassery in Kannur also has the same fame for C.B. (yes, Chicken Biriyani).


After chicken, the most sought after item is Beef. Muslims are the great fans of Beef. Religiously looking, it can be seen that Hindus prefer Chicken, Muslims love beef and Christians take Pork. It is not an hard and fast rule but a general observation only. Muslims never take pork as it is religiously forbidden for them. Similarly religious-conscious Hindus normally avoid beef items.


Before winding up, I must add one point that whatever the religious and geographical differences be, the Kerala society has a common meal known as Kerala Sadhya, which is supplied on all joyful occasions and loved by all. It is served on banana leaves. The 'sadhya' (feast) contains a lot of items and all fully vegetarian. It is a different story, which I will narrate on another time. But to give you a rough sketch or idea about what this 'sadhya' is, I invite your attention to the first photo I added above. Please give a look at that photo.


One thing is very clear that the hot and spicy flavor of nonvegetarian dishes of Kerala is sure to start a fire in your stomach. The foodie in you would fully be satisfied when you pay a visit to this lovely land known as "The God's Own Country".


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 5 months ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thank you Surendraji for your reading and leaving some encouraging comments. Keep on reading. All the best.

    • profile image

      surendran Kalarikkal 5 months ago

      Keralaites food habits- your view and nerration is such an informative than ever heard before. Good, thank you.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Nazeer Bhai, thank you for reading my post and leaving your wonderful comments. I appreciate your enthusiasm on our food culture. Hope I can do some extra work in the coming days on this topic.

    • profile image

      Nazeer 2 years ago

      As a Keralite, let me say thanks for this informative, interesting and "delicious" article. I'm sure that this 'll be very helpful for those who are planning to visit here. expect more from you in this regard since we have n endless list of items with these 14 districts..

    • profile image

      female-traveller 3 years ago

      Kerala food is my favourite food! Elleappam, puttu, idli, thali... so tasty!!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 3 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @Jayachandra Kaimal

      I share your concern and support your movements as well. Thank you for the visit and comments. I hope people will note your request and get in touch with you.

    • profile image

      Jayachandra Kaimal 3 years ago

      Rightly stated. Hindu population till recent past was in favour of vegitarian diet. Due to inter mincling people got habituated to meat eating. I feel better late than never a move to revive the original food habit groups has to be formed to support vegitarians. If not the entire population will turn out to be meat eaters.

      Who ever is in favour of my statement kindly get in touch with me on jckaimal@gmail.com.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Sonia, that is a glad news. You can enjoy what all I described here. Happy married life!

    • profile image

      Soniya 4 years ago

      Thanks this will helpme

      As I am getting married to a guy from Kerala

      :)

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      @ KoraleeP

      Glad that my hub interested you. Thanks for your visit, comments and vote.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 4 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

      Great Hub! Thanks for the information. I found it really interesting that the different religions favor different meats. Very insightful. Voted up and interesting.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi lex123

      Glad to read your comments. I too share that nostalgic memories. Thanks for your visit and comments.

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 4 years ago

      Happy Onam, Sunil. Sadhya, puttu and pazham brought back the nostalgic memories of the Great time:)

      Lakshmi

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Glad to note your liked my hub. Your visit and comments are appreciated. Also happy to know that you love Kerala cuisine and your experience with our favorite Puttu. Thank you for sharing your experience and leaving comments.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      I love food in and around Kerala.. It's a beautiful place to move around as well as try the mouth watering dishes, the day starts with Puttu for me when I got there... and I simple love the meals with all those varieties cooked in coconut Oil making it simply awesome.. Nice one Sunil...

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Thank you dear for your visit and comments. Thanks also for voting up.

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      An interesting and knowledge giving hub. Thank you friend! This is really a great work, keep up. Voted UP and useful.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hello Benny Sebastian

      Yes, our people can't resist the temptation and it affects them badly. Thanks for your visit and comments.

    • profile image

      Benny Sebastian 4 years ago

      every time i am disturbed by Cholestrol related problems, i will vow not to eat beef, or chicken fry etc... and after reaching Hotels in Trichur or Kozhikode, i will be ordering the same forgeting all my problems...

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hello Kevin Peter

      Thanks for stopping by and your encouraging words. It is my pleasure that you loved the hub well. Hope you will find time to read my other hubs as well related to Kerala and Malayalees. Thank you once again for your support.

    • Kevin Peter profile image

      Kevin Peter 4 years ago from Global Citizen

      I loved the way you mentioned the food habits of Kerala. Very informative and interesting. The pictures of the various dishes, especially the Kerala sadhya is very wonderful. Great hub!

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 4 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Welcome always....keep that flowing. Have a good day ahead.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi dghbrh

      I am very much humbled by your kind words and appreciation. Glad to note it interested you very much. It is my sincere effort to showcase Kerala, the land known as "The God's Own Country", before the word, the way I can. I have done a couple of hubs with that sole aim. I am glad that my efforts are getting noticed. Thank you for sharing the hub and showering your appreciation.

    • dghbrh profile image

      deergha 4 years ago from ...... a place beyond now and beyond here !!!

      Many thanks for this deliciously informative hub.....its really useful and your way of presentation is equally brilliant ....the accompanying pictures are very beautiful and sure deserves a standing ovation...its really a gastronomical delightful hub for the foodies who would like savor varied testes of "God Own Country"..i.e....Kerala.....Sharing across and tweeted also....votes all up interesting.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
      Author

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi livingsta,

      Thanks for stopping by and nice comments. I am glad to note that your hometown is near Kerala. Thank you once again for your nice words.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi soumysrajan,

      Thanks for your kind words. Pleased to note you liked it.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Interesting Sunil. I am aware of these food as my hometown is near the borders of Kerala. Thank you for sharing this with us. Have a great week ahead.

    • profile image

      soumyasrajan 4 years ago from Mumbai India and often in USA

      Interesting article sunil. It will help any body going to kerala and kerala does get lot of visitors now a days.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image
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      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      My friend Hamza Karuvally commented thus: Hamza wrote: "Even though beef is tastier than meat chicken, now a days the scarcity of beef has brought the consumption of chicken in malappuram district at the top.Kottayam, Trichur and malappuram lead the states 14 districts in meat consumption.According to planning commission, average meat consumption in India as a whole is 5 kg per capita per year and keralites seem to be consuming about 20 kg per capita which is 4 times of nation average !! We are in first place in several things including literacy and also in meat consumption at a daily requirement of 5000 tonne per day!! I may quote mr.PK.Vinodkumar, who has cmmented well on a feature about the survey results of meat eating..".Kerala become the number one state in meat consumption is a shocking news for every Keralites.The main reason of this meat consumption is fast food habit in the cities. In fast food culture meat is the most preferred item.Kottayam, Thrissur and Malappuram are the lead districts in the meat consumption of the state.In these districts huge population of Muslims and Christians who are inhabitant of non vegetarian food. Other main reason in this situation is Kerala is also first position of alcohol consumption.With alcohol consumption meat products are also a important dish.Kerala is number one position in many good aspects like literacy,tourism etc.But number one position of meat consumption and alcohol consumption are very shameful for the state.In a survey finds that chicken is the most preferred meat in the state.The bulk requirements chicken is met from outside the state.The risks of eating heavy amounts of meat include heart disease, kidney disease and cancer." I may also write two scentences about ". Sadya".It is brahmana's "oottu " of olden days.Actually sadya is "saha bhojanam" which means in almost all aspects it is a mass feed, consumption of vegetable food with all side dishes than a single person.Really it is a feast which is served in plantain leaves in a " Protocall" method, and there are some customs in style of consuming the food also.Any way a fullcourse SADYA is really a treasure to stomach and experience to taste buds and healthier than anything else in our routine menu."