These sweet and savoury snacks are a favourite with Malayalis during Christmas

Achappam, diamond cuts and avalose unda are just a few of the festive snacks that are shared with friends and family in Kerala during the Christmas season.
Kerala snack Achappam
Kerala snack Achappam

Growing up in the Middle East, food blogger Teena Augustine recalls her family’s Christmas traditions as a mix of influences that combined practices from her mom and dad's hometowns in Kerala. For her mother, who is from Thrissur, meat was commonly added to vegetable preparations, such as koorka (Chinese potato) cooked with pork, and served with hoppers. For her dad, who belongs to Kottayam, Christmas Day meant meals with tapioca and pearl spot fish curry.

Across Kerala, regional and geographical variations often determine the traditions that families follow over the holiday season. Wines and cakes are also commonly prepared during this time, using fruits and aromatics available in the area. “For us, Christmas lunch is Onam sadya in non-vegetarian form,” Teena says.

But a hallmark of the season, she says, is sharing sweet and savoury treats with loved ones as part of the celebrations. Christian communities in Mangaluru and Goa follow a practice known as kuswar, in which nearly two dozen varieties of cakes, cookies and snacks are prepared for a platter during Christmas, including fried puffs called neuries and mandas, a traditional steamed rice and cucumber cake.

In Kerala, a similar practice of making an array of crunchy, crispy sweet and savoury snacks exists as well. “We have a lot of fried food,” Teena says. “This is the one time in the year we distribute food in the neighbourhood to friends and family.”

Here are seven popular Christmas snacks made in Kerala during the festive season:

Diamond Cuts

A simple dough is made with maida before it is rolled out and sliced into triangular (or diamond-shaped) pieces, which are then deep-fried. The golden-brown crisps are then coated in a thick sugar syrup that makes this crunchy, sticky sweet snack a hit during the holidays. These snacks can even be made savoury with chilli powder and jeera.


Achappams or rose cookies are among the most iconic of Kerala’s array of traditional, crispy snacks, and their appearance over Christmas is almost guaranteed. They are made from a thick batter of rice flour, coconut milk and powdered sugar. The trick, of course, is the special mould that gives the cookies their delicate rosette-style shape. The achappams are often packed in stacks of six or more. Spices such as cumin, sesame seeds or fennel are added for flavour.


Tea or coffee time across India calls for crispy savoury snacks and in Kerala, kuzhalappam is a favourite for that reason. A dough made from rice flour is flattened and rolled into finger-length tubes before being deep fried to a pleasing golden brown. Cumin seeds are often added for taste, as are sesame seeds.

Image courtesy: Picxy
Professionals and ambitious bakers make a version of kuzhalappam that ends up being nearly as long as an arm, though it requires a special kind of finesse to ensure the fried dough doesn’t crack.

Kottayam Churuttu

Churuttu may resemble a samosa from the outside but once you bite into one, you’ll quickly find an entirely different experience. A thin sheet of pastry is prepared, cut into circles and lightly cooked (you may skip this) while maintaining a soft, pliable state. A filling of rice powder, coconut, sugar syrup and cardamom is then made.

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The pastry is rolled into a cone shape and packed with the warm sweet filling before being sealed at the edges with simple syrup. The pastries are then left to rest for a couple of hours to allow the sweet, syrupy texture to seep into the translucent dough. Teena remembers this as a rare snack from her childhood, requiring significant skill to create. “This is very special to me,” she says.

Panchasara Varatti

Outside Kerala, Pazham Pori is perhaps the most well-known sweet banana fritter, but another preparation using plantains is a snack that reminds families of the festive season. Raw bananas are peeled and sliced into thick extra-crispy chips, which are then covered in a sweet syrup with crushed cardamom. Sharkara varatti is another version of this, which involves frying pieces of plantain before they’re coated in a jaggery syrup.

Image courtesy: Kerala Culture Department website
Avalose Unda

A podi of powdered rice and coconut is shaped into bite-sized balls using a sweet syrup with cardamom (jaggery or dry ginger may also be added for taste). Once the treats have rested, they are rolled in the remaining podi to coat the entire snack. After it is allowed to harden, you can enjoy a myriad of textures and flavours all rolled in one.


If you’re looking for a brief respite from crunchy snacks (though why would you?), Kumbilappam is a simple preparation that uses a sweetened jackfruit filling wrapped in bay or banana leaves. Each package is steamed until warm, fragrant and slightly spicy from additions of cumin and cardamom.

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