Salna or empty salna is a vegetarian gravy served as side dish for parotta or biryani. With just onion and tomato base with lots of spices, masala to make it perfect balance in taste.

empty salna recipe
Salna

Perfect side dish when you run out of vegetables or when you want something in bulk as side dish.

This goes well with parotta perfectly, but also you can have it with poori, chapathi and rice dishes like kuska, ghee rice, coconut milk rice, peas masala rice.

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Ingredients

Here are the simple ingredients needed for the salna that you can easily find in your pantry.

Ingredients for salnaIngredients for salna
Empty salna ingredients

Base

  • Onion – Sauteed and caramelized until soft so that it lends the main flavor and gets merged in the recipe.
  • Tomato – Provides the base with tanginess as well as volume.
  • Ginger garlic paste – One of the main flavor in salna, I use homemade fresh ginger garlic paste for best results.

Masala paste

  • Coconut – Used for base as thickening agent and main ingredient in most of the south Indian style gravies.
  • Cashew nuts – Adds richness and volume, thickens as well.
  • Fried gram dal – Same as cashews also a lovely texture, flavor to the gravy. Best substitute for poppy seeds. Kasa kasa (Gasagasa) is banned here in Singapore, so I always replace any recipe calls for it with pottukadalai.

Besan/ Chickpea flour/ Gram flour – Used for thickening and it gives a wonderful flavor as it boils, gets cooked and blends in the Salna.

Lemon juice – Balances the taste and takes out bitterness from spice powders if any.

Whole spices

  • Cinnamon
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Stone flower
  • Biryani leaf
  • Fennel – I used powder as my family does not like whole seeds, you can follow the same or temper with seeds if you can.

Fresh herbs

  • Mint – Fresh mint leaves is main flavor in salna.
  • Coriander– Lends lot of flavor to the gravy.
  • Curry leaves – Final garnish with few fresh curry leaves.

Spice powders

  • Kashmiri chilli powder – Along with oil it floats on top giving the looks of a typical road side salna.
  • Sambar powder – My sambar powder is mostly coriander and red chilli with traces of other spices. You can use store bought ones like Aachi or Sakthi. Singapore folks can use Baba’s brand. Please avoid one with coconut/ kopra or asafoetida.
  • Garam masala – You can also use Biryani masala
  • Turmeric

See recipe card for full list and quantities.

Salna recipe instructions

1. I firstly grind masala paste and keep it ready. Place coconut, cashew, pottukadalai in mixie.

for masala pastefor masala paste

2. Grind it smoothly with ½ cup water.

smooth pastesmooth paste

3. Secondly, dissolve 1 tablespoon gram flour in 2-3 tablespoon of water without lumps.

gram flourgram flour

Set aside. Slowly add water to make a thick paste firstly and then gradually dilute it to avoid lumps.

In case you get lumps, pass it through a strainer.

besan mixbesan mix

4. Heat a heavy bottomed pan with oil. Add tempering items.

tempering salnatempering salna

5. In goes curry leaves followed by sliced onion.

sliced onion sliced onion

6. You can add a sprinkle a little salt and continue sauteeing until golden in color. Take care not to burn it.

caramelized onion for salnacaramelized onion for salna

7.Then add ginger garlic paste and fry well. Keep stirring for a minute as it may get stuck to bottom of pan.

ginger garlic pasteginger garlic paste
homemade fresh ginger garlic paste for an amazing flavor in salna
oil oozesoil oozes

8. After that, add finely chopped tomato. Again sprinkle some salt, add all masala powders and mix well.

tomato, spicestomato, spices

9. Continue frying until oil floats on top and becomes mushy.

oil floatsoil floats

10. Now, add ground coconut paste, and mix well for a minute.

ground pasteground paste

Add mint leaves and half the coriander leaves.

mint leavesmint leaves

11. Add water gradually as you mix and once it is thinned out, you can add all the water (Total 7 cups)

add water graduallyadd water gradually

12. Add salt, mix well.

mixmix

Now, in goes the gram flour in water. Mix well.

kadalai mavukadalai mavu

13. Bring to boil, then put the flame to medium and cook covered for 15 minutes.

bring to boilbring to boil
simmer cooksimmer cook

Stir in between.

simmersimmer

14. Boil furthermore for 7-10 minutes with open lid until it becomes thicker.

It gets slightly thicker as it cools down, so switch off accordingly.

reduce, oil floats on salnareduce, oil floats on salna

15. Switch off the flame, finally add lemon juice and mix. Garnish with remaining coriander leaves and few torn fresh curry leaves.

garnish salna with coriander, curry leaves, lemon juicegarnish salna with coriander, curry leaves, lemon juice

Salna ready!

salna readysalna ready

Goes well with parotta (not paratha/ parantha) 😉 Just pour generously over it and enjoy!

salnasalna
parotta salna

Substitutions

  • Sambar powder – Use curry powder available commercially. Or just increase red chilli powder and add 1 tablespoon of coriander powder.
  • Fried gram dal – use same amount of poppy seeds.

I adapted this recipe from this video and made it vegetarian (empty).

Variations

  • Spicy – add black pepper powder and a slit green chilli for making it spicy.
  • Deluxe – add boiled vegetables to make vegetable salna.

See this Tomato kurma and Cauliflower peas kurma recipe on my website!

Video

Watch salna video in Rakskitchen Youtube channel.

Equipment

I find my Le Creuset pot best for such kurma/ gravies where we can fry and boil in one pot.

You can also use any heavy bottomed vessel or even a pressure cooker/ pressure pan.

Storage

Salna stays good upto 3 days in fridge.

I have not tried freezing, but basically it can freeze for 3 months.

Always store as soon as you cool down the food, not after leaving it long time in counter top then store.

Top tip

  • Make sure not let anything get burnt as it may turn bitter and spoil the whole dish.
  • Boiling for long time is the key for perfect taste and flavor.
  • Do not think the spice powders are more, it is needed for sure to balance the taste.

My notes

I tried salna a couple of times, long time back without understanding the concept of adding lots of water and boiling for long time.

Because I have not tasted salna other than homemade. Being beginner in cooking, first generation to use such masala, ginger garlic paste base gravy, I could not balance the taste.

It ended up similar to my tomato kurma, so I gave up.

Only recently after watching it in Youtube from famous chef channel I started making.

It turned out pretty good, but there was always a bitter taste in the gravy, very very mild though.

I am not sure if it was because of the spice powders (especially I doubted dhaniya powder) or the too much of leaves I added.

So finally making this version, taking only the concept of adding besan mixture from that recipe.

I also added lemon juice to avoid the bitterness and balance the tastes.

Salna with parottaSalna with parotta
Parotta, salna

Recipe card

salna recipesalna recipe

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Salna recipe | Empty Salna

Salna or empty salna is a vegetarian gravy served as side dish for parotta or biryani. With just onion and tomato base with lots of spices, masala to make it perfect balance in taste.

Cuisine Indian, South Indian

Cup measurements

Ingredients

  • 2 Onion sliced
  • 2 Tomato finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon Ginger garlic paste
  • 3 tablespoon Mint leaves finely chopped
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Gram flour Dissolve in 3 to 4 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon juice
  • 7 Cups Water
  • Salt as needed

Spice powders

  • ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon Garam masala powder Or Biryani masala powder
  • 2 to 3 tablespoon Sambar powder measure heaped (Aachi, Sakthi works) or you can use Asian curry powder

To grind

  • ½ cup Grated coconut packed
  • 8 Cashews
  • 1 tablespoon Fried gram dal Pottukadalai

To temper

  • 3 to 4 tbsp Oil
  • 2 Cardamom
  • 1 Inch Cinnamon
  • 3 Cloves
  • 1 Star anise
  • 1 teaspoon Stone flower Kalpasi, few
  • 1 Biryani leaf
  • 1 Sprig Curry leaves

#wprm-toggle-switch-1907414710 input:checked + .wprm-toggle-switch-slider { background-color: #d0021b !important; }Prevent your screen from going dark

Instructions

  • I firstly grind masala paste and keep it ready. Place coconut, cashew, pottukadalai in mixie.

    ½ cup Grated coconut, 1 tablespoon Fried gram dal, 8 Cashews

  • Grind it smoothly with ½ cup water.

  • Secondly, dissolve 1 tablespoon gram flour in 2-3 tablespoon of water without lumps.

    1 tablespoon Gram flour

  • Set aside. Slowly add water to make a thick paste firstly and then gradually dilute it to avoid lumps.

  • In case you get lumps, pass it through a strainer.

Prepare Salna

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pan with oil. Add tempering items.

    2 Onion, 3 to 4 tablespoon Oil, 2 Cardamom, 1 Inch Cinnamon, 3 Cloves, 1 Star anise, 1 teaspoon Stone flower, 1 Biryani leaf, 1 Sprig Curry leaves

  • In goes curry leaves followed by sliced onion.

    2 Onion

  • Sprinkle a little salt and continue sauteeing until golden in color. Take care not to burn it.

  • Then add ginger garlic paste and fry well. Keep stirring for a minute as it may get stuck to bottom of pan.

    2 tablespoon Ginger garlic paste

  • After that, add finely chopped tomato. Again sprinkle some salt, add all masala powders and mix well.

    2 Tomato, ¼ teaspoon Turmeric, 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chilli powder, 1 teaspoon Garam masala powder, 2 to 3 tablespoon Sambar powder, 1 teaspoon Fennel seeds powder

  • Continue frying until oil floats on top and becomes mushy.

  • Now, add ground coconut paste, and mix well for a minute.

  • Add mint leaves and half the coriander leaves.

    3 tablespoon Mint leaves, ¼ cup coriander leaves

  • Add water gradually as you mix and once it is thinned out, you can add all the water (Total 7 cups)

    7 Cups Water

  • Now, add required salt, mix well and bring to boil. Now, in goes the gram flour in water. Mix well.

    Salt

  • Bring to boil, then put the flame to medium and cook covered for 15 minutes.

  • Stir in between.

  • Boil further more for 7-10 minutes with open lid until it becomes thicker.

  • It gets slightly thicker as it cools down, so switch off accordingly.

  • Switch off the flame, add lemon juice and mix. Garnish with remaining coriander leaves and few torn curry leaves.

    1 teaspoon Lemon juice

Video

Notes

  • Make sure not let anything get burnt as it may turn bitter and spoil the whole dish.
  • Boiling for long time is the key for perfect taste and flavor.
  • Do not think the spice powders are more, it is needed for sure to balance the taste.

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