Tirangi (tricolor) modak (sweet, steamed rice dumpling with coconut and jaggery), Vegan, gluten free.

If you have ever visited or lived in my native Maharashtra, a state on the western coast of India during the Ganesh Chathurti holiday season, then you are no stranger to the enchanting atmosphere that the festival brings forth wherever it is celebrated. Heralded as the remover of all obstacles, the elephant headed deity, Lord Ganesh’s blessings are sought by devout Hindus, before embarking on any new project or mission.

©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

The festival conjures up vivid memories of mouth-watering delicacies such as “churma ladoo” among others, but the star of the show has always been, and will continue to be the traditional modak (steamed dumpling), made with rice flour, and stuffed with a sweet, coconut and jaggery filling that you are bound to find irresistible! The fragrant, unmistakable, aroma of freshly grated nutmeg and cardamom is sure to draw even your fussiest family member to the kitchen to savor the flavor of these little beauties!

Number of servings: 5-6, medium-sized modaks

For the modak cover or shell:


  • 1 cup rice flour, sifted
  • 1 cup + 2 tsp water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • Yellow, red and green, natural food coloring

For the coconut and jaggery filling:

Clockwise,toasted poppy seeds, crushed jaggery, whole cardamom, nutmeg and fresh coconut. ©

Clockwise, toasted poppy seeds, crushed jaggery, whole cardamom, nutmeg and freshly grated coconut



1/3 cup jaggery, finely chopped or crushed

1 cup freshly shredded coconut or may use frozen, shredded coconut or packaged, dry coconut

1 tsp toasted poppy seeds

1/4 tsp freshly ground cardamom powder or to taste

pinch, freshly ground nutmeg

Method for the filling: 

  1. Mix coconut and jaggery in a saucepan on low- medium heat until well combined (jaggery melts completely), and mixture forms a homogeneous mass.
  2. If you use the packaged, dry grated coconut, you might need to add a small amount of water (a couple or more tablespoons as needed), to the pan as you stir the mixture as the dry coconut tends to char quickly.
  3. Add toasted poppy seeds, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly ground cardamom powder.
  4. Set aside to cool

Method for the modak shell or cover:  

  1. In a medium, thick bottomed pan, bring the water to a vigorous boil.
  2. As the water comes to a rolling boil, add a pinch of salt and the oil to the pan.
  3. Now switch off the heat, and swiftly stir in the sifted rice flour in the boiling water.
  4. Keep stirring vigorously until the dough begins to form. Ideally, modak dough is soft and pliable, but neither too sticky, nor too dry.
  5. Cover tightly with a lid and set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to handle.
  6. Divide dough into approximately 5-6 rounded balls. Cover balls with a moist cheesecloth to prevent them from drying and getting cracked.
  7. Divide each ball into 3 parts. Add a drop of red, green and yellow food coloring respectively to each of the 3 parts. Knead the dough until the color spreads evenly throughout the dough as in the figure below.

    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

  8. Blend the 3 small balls to form a large,  tricolored ball, keeping each ball somewhat distinct  as shown in this figure below.

    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

  9. Working quickly once again, take one round, tricolored ball and shape into a thin bowl-like form. (This is the “bowl” or shell of the modak, which will eventually hold the filling and should be approximately 2.5-3″ in diameter, figure below )


    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

  10. Now pinch an edge of the bowl to form a pleat or one of the “petals” of the modak, so to speak.
  11. Pinch pleat another edge, as close to the previous one as possible until you have at least 6 petals per modak. The more pleats you can create in a modak, the prettier it will look, once all is said and done.


    ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

  12. Now add a scant tbsp or slightly less of the prepared filling to the modak “bowl”image
  13. Gently pull all the pleats together over the filling to form a cone like shape on the top.


    Modaks before steaming. ©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDE

  14. Steam in a steamer bowl placed in a rice cooker for about 10-12 minutes until modaks begin to look “shiny”. (Figure below)
  15. Serve warm.

©Copyright September 2016. Sangeeta Pradhan, RD, LDN, CDERegistered Dietitian’s tip: As discussed in previous posts, coconut is high in saturated fat, hence only a scant amount of the filling is used in this recipe.  I have also reduced the amount of jaggery used in traditional recipes by more than half. That said, I like to encourage my patients to use the 90/10 rule. If 90% of the time, you are eating whole, unprocessed foods and making desirable food choices, the 10% of the time that you might deviate from your healthy meal plan will not count against you. However, (and I say this tongue in cheek, of course),  the 10/90 rule might be problematic!!!

Chef’s tip: To keep the modak dough soft and pliable, dip your fingers in water every so often as you shape the dough to form a thin shell, and while creating the petals of the dumpling.

Disclaimer: This blog is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your physician or registered dietitian for recommendations tailored to your specific needs.

About Sangeeta Pradhan RD, CDE

Hi there! Welcome to my blog! If you are confused with all the conflicting messages you get bombarded with every day on carbs, fats, proteins, gluten and anything you can think of related to nutrition, look no further! The purpose of my blog is to cut through all this clutter, utilizing scientific, evidence based guidelines to help you, the consumer, navigate the complex, dietary landscape, and thus empower you to make informed decisions.
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15 Responses to Tirangi (tricolor) modak (sweet, steamed rice dumpling with coconut and jaggery), Vegan, gluten free.

  1. smilecalm says:

    beautifully documented, festively presented, Sangeeta!
    i really wish this screen could offer
    just a sample taste 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wouldn’t that be nice?!! I’m virtually sending you some:) Thanks as always for your kind feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The modak looks like candy! What a delicacy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandra E Brown says:

    These look so pretty!


  5. bahelberg1 says:

    What a colorful and fun way to prepare something nutritious! Great to meet you and read your healthy foods list!


  6. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind comments. Great to meet you as well. Have a wonderful weekend:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dear Dr. Sangeeta,

    Hope you had a good year.
    Wishing you a lovely year ahead and lots of happiness.


  8. Dear Nihar,

    Yes I did, and I hope so did you. I have been busy and my kitchen is under renovation, so have not been able to post anything of late. I expect to do so soon.
    A very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year to you and your family! Stay in touch!



  9. Thanks so much Sangeeta, and this renovation of kitchen of your’s will bring new surprises and new cuisines onto our table, looking forward to it and once again wishing you and family a lovely year ahead…
    Take Care!!!


  10. You too, Nihar!!! Have a wonderful year:))

    Liked by 1 person

  11. this is beautiful, ill be one of ur follower…lookibg forward for more beautiful posts from u….😉


  12. Thank you so much. A very Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Web Dietitian and commented:

    With Ganesh Chathurti, a popular Hindu holiday right around the corner, I am re-blogging one of my most popular posts from a couple of years ago. This recipe features a vividly colorful, visually appealing version of the classic modak, a “melt-in-your mouth” steamed rice dumpling. Just like the notorious potato chip, you will find it impossible to stop at one, and will likely polish off at least a couple of these tempting little beauties before you quit! I have provided step-by step directions, so I hope you try this recipe and please reach out to me to give your valuable feedback. May Lord Ganesh bless you all with the very best that life has to offer!


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