In South India, particularly in Andhra and Telangana, breakfast almost always implies that it is cooked. There is a delectable selection of savoury lentil pancakes (adai or pesarettu), vegan crepes (dosas) rice cakes (idlis) and upma. Upma can be congee or porridge consistency and is often made with semolina. I feel I transformed the dish by using quinoa instead of semolina. The trouble with semolina is that it is ultra-processed and offers only empty calories.

Quinoa upma with coconut raita

Using quinoa, upma has gotten a face lift- now protein and fibre rich and a bonus being low glycemic index too. I have a similar recipe using bulgur too.

This is home style cooking and the quantities are only an indication – you can use all vegetables listed or some or use what you have in the fridge. Cauliflower, green peppers are a good addition.


Onion – 1 large about 100g diced into 1 centimetre piece

 Carrot – 1 large about 100g diced into 1 centimetre piece

Potato – 1 large about 150g diced into 1 centimetre piece

Peas – 1 cup

Tomatoes – 100g diced

1 cup of quinoa

Ginger – 4-5 centimetre piece, finely chopped

1 – 2 green chillies (deseeded if you don’t want the heat) finely chopped

2 -3 sprigs of curry leaves washed

½ cup of cashew pieces roasted

3 tablespoons vegetable oil like canola

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1-2 dried red chilli cut into couple of pieces each

2 cups water from the kettle

Salt to taste

½ large lemon or lime for serving


Heat oil in a large fry pan or saute pan (kadai). Add the mustard seeds and dried red chillies – you need to wait until mustard seeds sputter (about a minute or so – if you don’t allow the mustard seeds to sputter, they will be bitter). Then add the curry leaves. When you can smell the curry leaves frying add the onion.

Allow the onions to fry, then add the green chilli and ginger. After thirty seconds, add the carrots, potatoes and tomatoes along with the salt. Continue frying for 2-3 minutes, then add the water. Allow the vegetables to cook for about 5 minutes, add the quinoa in a steady stream mixing continuously so as no lumps are formed. Once all quinoa is incorporated, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to cook for a further 12-15 minutes.

 Let the upma rest for five minutes before serving. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or lime and sprinkle the cashew pieces on top.

Serve with coconut raita or any sweet, tangy chutney.

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