Unnakkai - Cotton Pods sit on a white plate.

It’s easy to see why Unnakkai – Cotton Balls are such an instant hit with all who try them. Banana fritters stuffed with coconut? Yes, please.

There are some recipes that are hard to replicate at home. This one for Unnakkai – Cotton Balls might be one of them. First, these spindle-shaped treats are made with Nenthiran bananas. Nenthiran bananas are native to Kerala and hard to find elsewhere. Second, there’s some intricacy in the technique. Still, where there’s a will there’s a way.

You can substitute plantains for the Nenthirans. That will give you the desired starchiness. And starchiness lets them stand up to stuffing and deep-frying. As for learning the technique? At the end of this introduction, we’ve got help for that too!

We’ll never forget biting into them. They are light and fluffy cotton balls of coconut, bananas, nuts and raisins with a delicate cardamom finish. Sipping tea, savouring each bite, it was a great reward after a long day on the road. These treats are an indelible food memory for us.

We greatly appreciate Chef Babu and his team at The Taj Gateway Beach Road in Khozikode for all their TLC. We hope you will be able to travel to Kozhikode to try this local delicacy one day. Until then, follow along in the video below as Chef Babu shows the technique for making this scrumptious dessert. With his expert demo, we know you do it too!

Unnakkai – Cotton Balls Recipe

5 servings


  • 1 lb (500 grams) ripened Nenthiran bananas (You could substitute plantains)
  • 2 Tablespoons ghee
  • 2 Tablespoons cashews
  • 1 Tablespoon white poppy seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons golden raisins
  • ½ cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground green cardamom
  • Coconut oil for deep frying


  1. Steam the bananas for about 20 minutes, remove their skins and mash in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Melt the ghee in a shallow pan on medium heat and add the cashew nuts toasting until golden brown. Remove the nuts from the pan, cool and finely chop.
  3. Add the poppy seeds and raisins to the shallow pan and when the raisins puff up, add the coconut and stir-fry until all the ghee is absorbed.
  4. Return the cashews to the mixture and stir in the sugar and cardamom, cooking until the sugar melts into the mixture.
  5. Let cool so you can work with it and then form 10 lime size oblong balls. Use a spoon to split the oblong into a canoe shape. Stuff each canoe with 1 Tablespoon of the coconut mixture and seal the opening around the stuffing forming a spindle shape.
  6. Deep fry the “cotton balls” a few at a time until golden brown, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.
  7. Enjoy with tea or coffee or as a dessert.

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