Vadagam- A Must Have In Our Home!

Vadagam is the seasoning balls in our region (Thiruttani, Tamilnadu, India).  Vadagams give a  special aroma to the keerai  and kuzhambhu varieties. It is  usually made by the expert elders of the family for their daughters and the daughter-in-laws. They make it  every year in the summer when the sun is hot and the onions are cheap. The stock thus made  serves the whole year’s need for seasoning/thallipu. They are made into balls just for the ease of counting. When these are sundried, there would be many other sun light projects going on  by the side like rice vadams (called arisi kanji vathal in tamil),  dry red chillies, dry mango for future pickles (manga vathal). The kids in the house will be in the terrace all the time tasting the manga vathal and eventually say their grandmas that they were chasing away the crows.  Just like baby sitting , there will be  a  vadagam/vathal sitter  taking care to protect them from the unexpected evening showers. It takes pains but the gains are worth the pains.


Vadagam, magic ball for a good food



Onion- 1 and 1/2 kg

Garlic- 1/4 kg

Urad dall- 1/4 kg + 50 gm

Mustard seeds- 1/4 kg

Gram dall- 1 tbsp

Cumin seeds- 1 tbsp

Fenugreek seeds- 2 tsp

Salt- 1/4 kg

Turmeric powder- 2 tsp

Castor oil- as needed

50 gm of urad dall and fenugreek seeds are soaked for an hour first and ground to a coarse paste.This gives the binding to the balls.

The onion and garlic are peeled and coarsely crushed. This is typically done using a ullakai and ural. (I browsed a lot for these images but could not find it, so find here my scribble to illustrate it).

Ural and ulakai -still found in our homes, in villages.

Then the mustard seeds, urad dall,gram dall, cumin seeds are added to it. Then the ground paste, turmeric powder and salt are added and mixed well. This is allowed to stand for two days. On the third day, they are made into balls with castor oil as the grease. The oil also acts as preservative.

These balls are sundried for 10  subsequent days and  stored in an  air tight container.

In a country like US when it is all the time snow and rain and little sunshine, we might  try to make these in smaller quantity and in loose form and dry it for longer time in the oven. When I try and win in the attempt, I will update my success here.

Seasoning using vadagams for kuzhambhu and keerai varieties

Seasoning with vadagams and curry leaves

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34 thoughts on “Vadagam- A Must Have In Our Home!”

  1. lakshmi says:

    Hi Lakshmi, never heard about this, Thanks for sharing the story behind it

  2. Vini K says:

    Hi Lakshmi,I never knew about this one.Will try it when I go to india next time.Nice recipe for instant tadka/tempering without the hassle of chopping onions etc.

  3. swapna says:

    hi lakshmi

    i don’t know about this..nice recipe and presentation too…

  4. Lakshmik says:

    I think I posted the comment for this post in the next one sorry. I wanted to say it’s a traditional recipe. Good one.

  5. lovethyall says:

    Hi lakshmi,

    Your postings are really gorgeous.

    Wonderful dishes….

    Keep posting.

  6. krithika says:

    What a lovely picture of the vadagam. I think we call it kuzhambu karudam where karamani is also used. Lovely post !

  7. Sushma says:

    Its a very unique recipe. I have never heard of it earlier also. Your post made me remmember the times my Mother used to make pickles at home. I always stole a chance to eat thr dried green mangoes :-).

    Also, if you want to have a pic of ullakai and ural , you can find it on my site . Feel free to use the picture for your website.

    Thanxs for the lovely post.

  8. Arjuna says:

    I have heard about this from a friend of mine, she told me that they make this in karnataka too, and now thanks to you I have the recipe too.

    On a separate note: I have tried your recipe for jamuns with pancake flour, they turned out really good. Thanks for the recipe.

  9. lakshmiammal says:

    Dear friends,
    Thanks for all your comments. The vadagam is so indispensable in our kitchens and am happy to throw light on this highly regional condiment.

    Hi Sushma,
    Thanks for the info, but unfortunately, it is not the kind shown there. The ulakai is about 4 feet long and made of wood with metal rings at the ends.

    Hi Arjuna,
    Nice to know that the jamuns came out well for you.Cheers!

  10. revathi says:

    what an age old recipe. really a treasure..

  11. sheila says:


    I happened to read your recipe about the Vadagams today. I am from tamilNadu(madras), but have never heard of vadagams and the way they are used. Is it ever used in restaturants ?

    Do you make them like Karu Vadams ? Then before adding them to a dish(Kooto or Kuzhambu), break the balls and add to the seasoning. Allow it to fry in the seasoning before adding vegetables etc ?

    If you dont mind is it a Chettinad speciality or something like that ? I am trying to learn chettinad ‘yennai kathrikai’ and ‘kara kuzambu’.

    Also, in your recipe for Rasgolla, do you pressure cook with weight placed ?

    Thanks for your response.

  12. Saraswathi says:

    Hello; Do you know how to make thuvaial using this vadagam? My mother used to make that but I do not know how and now I want to make it. If you do, please send it to my e-address. Thanks. Sarsi

  13. anna says:

    Hi amma:
    I live in NJ of usa. Here the weather is very cold and i am planning to make it at home using our oven. Your post and the thalipu vadam brought the memory of my mom who passed away 3 months back. i couldn’t come out of it and let alone think any of her dishes, somehow i dont want to do any of my mom’s dishes, even the sambar powder that she gave me some 5 months back since i visited her was not used until now. But this vadam pic made me yearn for my mom’s food and all my mom’s recipe, and i desperately want to do this..since i used to use this vadam in anything and everything.
    Will you suggest me a small quantity & portions to be used to make them (eg for a small bag of shallots that we get in Indian stores, what amount of other ingredients should i use? can i grind them into course paste in a food processor?
    Reg oven temp setting, i plan to use the same temp control that i use for oven dried tomatoes, 200 F for 4-5 hrs. The only change that i think is to make the balls flat, so that i aids in easy, even cooking.
    Any, any response from you will make me feel highly happy. Thanks a lot. Take care. God bless you amma.

  14. Anasuya says:

    Anbulla amma,
    Can you please tell me where can we buy this vadagam ? I live in Pennsylvania USA
    Thank you

    1. vasanth says:

      hi am vasanth from INDIA (Tamil Nadu) we use to develop this product in india .if u interested to buy the THALIPPU VADAGAM Pls

  15. sangeeta says:

    hello amma,
    just saw ur website and relished the vadagams .my husband loves to eat it and am bit nervous to make it.can u tell me exactly how i should make with this thalippu vadagam.
    thank you

  16. thinagaren pather says:

    Hi I live in South Africa. Here it is called vadavum. I learnt to make it from my mother. Basically I chop up the onion ,shallot add tumeric and salt and dry the onion on trays. It takes about 4 to 5 days. I then add cumin fenugreek mustard split black dhall curry leaves and castor oil. I bottle it and use it for braising. Some people make it into balls and then dry it.

    1. Vinodh says:

      Is it realy castor Oil u use to pepare Vadavams. Ashtonisng! anyway please explain if it is realy castor Oil then please tell me the tamil name for castor Oil ,,, or gingely oil

      Thanks expecting a reply


      1. lakshmiammal says:

        Yes It is castor oil.vilakku ennai in Tamil. We don’t use gingelly oil(nal ennai) for this. Also vilaku ennai is not used for cooking, it is used here to bind the balls and to preserve . It does not do any harm as it is propotionally small. I am aware that this oil when taken in clears your bowel way too much.:)

  17. swarna says:

    I have been seraching every indian store here for that…no luck…but ur recipe seems doable…may be i should do it at home…thanks!

  18. Fran says:

    I am not sure where to get this but on Feeding Maybells site she had a dish of roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts with vadouvan… can you guide me there or do you have that recipe?

    Thanks so much,

  19. Yamini says:

    I just got off the phone with my mom who is awaiting my arrival in India around April this year. She has a list of activities that she fondly listed over the phone. One of them is the Vadagam balls that she plans on making. As I was speaking with her I just googled the word “Vadagam” and found this website and wanted to share our family’s fondness with vadagam balls. We are tamil speaking familiy born and raised in Hyderabad. Our cuisine is mostly Nawabi/Andhrite/Tamil cooking. My mom has this book of recipies mostly South Indian that she has collecetd over the years and actively participates in preparing them every year. The Vadagam balls are carefully prepared every year in summer packed and brought to USA when my parents travel to meet me and my brother. My brother is married to a North Indian who never fails to remind my mother to count her and her co sister in the distribution.
    We love these vadagam balls and the aroma that arouses in the house everytime i use it for karakozumbhu. I was so glad to know that there was a blog on this. Will have to tell my mom about it.

  20. vijay says:

    good recipe thank u and the picture- ulli is called mortor and pestle

  21. raji says:

    Hello Lakshmi ammal,
    This just looks we use the normal onion or shallots for this?

  22. prerna prasad says:

    Dear Madam,

    greetings to you.I had gone through your site and I had downloaded the reciepe.i thought that the reciepe might not be available on the net and i was glad when i got the same.I had one comment regarding this vagadam recipe,if i may say with your permission,because i feel its important.the OIL RECOMMENDED FOR THE VADAGAM IS MENTIONED AS CASTOR OIL WHICH IS GENERALLY USED FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSE—ITS KNOWN AS VALLAKANAI IN TAMIL AND NOT USED FOR COOKING PURPOSES AS IT HAS SEVERE ADVERSE EFFECT ON THE STOMACH .THE COOKING OIL USED IN SOUTH INDIA GENERALLY IS SEASME SEED /GINGLEY OIL KNOWN AS NALLAIYANI IN TAMIL.i would request you to kindly verify the same.THESE ARE MY PERSONAL VEIWS YOU COULD DIFFER AND HAVE YOUR OWN OPINION ON THE SAME.BUT DO CROSS CHECK ONCE.THANK YOU


  23. Esakimuthu says:


    Wonderful recipe. I am aged 50 now. My periamma used to make wonderful “eerangkya vaththal” as we call it in Tirunelveli. Very tasty, aromatic, but I suppose it was to be eaten with rice preparations and not for thalippu!!

    Now for last 10 years I am without vengaya vadagam and my wife does not how to prepare it.

    Though vengaya vadagams are available in Tiruneveli shops, they are not of good quality.

    Hence, I searched the net and got your receipe. Wonderful. As some have appreciated, the photo of the vadaam is very nice.

    I have taken the print and shall be trying to make it at home


  24. shyamala chittanahalli says:

    i got to know of Vadagam through a friend ..she shared some of her homemade seasonings.. .since then i have been purchasing it from Ambika appalam in Chennai..they add a lot of flavor to sambar preparations..they are as good as homemade..i buy them in bulk and freeze them athome here in US…thought of sharing this information..hope it helps

  25. Tilly Govender says:


    I am a South African Indian,
    I have been searching for ages for this receipe.

    My gran Died 22years ago and nobody in my family knew how to make it (in S.A. we call it VADAVUM).

    Thank you very much for the receipe
    I will definitely give it a try.

    Tilly Govender
    South Africa

  26. Lakshita says:

    Nice one, might be of use to everyone!
    was going through this post, i felt so bad for the poster anna, you could have replied to her, my cents here. This is no way to blame you or anything of that sort. I felt very moved reading her reply here. Lakshmi, sorry for taking up your space here, since i wanted to reply her, and dont have any ways to communicate with her, so i am going to reply for her.
    Anna: Here is your answer, first of all sorry abt your loss, i hope you are coping up. Hugs dear.
    Yes this vaduvam can be prepared almost the same way described by your methods. My friend KK makes this the same way, with same oven temp for overnight, but she will leave the oven door party open, so that it is never over done. she doesn’t make it as ball or flat nuggets, but uthiri-uthiriya poturuvanga.
    The rough measure is like this:
    1 bag shallot
    2 bulbs of garlic
    100 gms mustard seeds
    100 gm urad dal
    1 tsp full methi seeds
    tightly packed cup of curry leaves
    1 tblsn jeeragam
    turmeric powder
    gingelly oil (since we store it in the freezer, need not worry abt the shelf life or poochi etc)
    my variation is adding red chilli flakes – 2 tlblspn

  27. “Vadagam- a must have in our home! « Cook food, Serve love”
    was a really excellent article, . Continue authoring and I’ll try to continue to keep following! Thanks ,Lindsay

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