Quinoa Upma

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Quinoa upma is a hearty, healthy vegan dish that’s delicious to enjoy for breakfast or brunch. It features fluffy quinoa, veggies, and vibrant seasonings all cooked together in one pot. Here you’ll find my easy recipe with step-by-step instructions and photos to make a tasty quinoa upma recipe in about thirty minutes!

closeup shot of quinoa upma in a ceramic bowl with text layovers

About Quinoa Upma

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah or kin-uwa) is a nutrient-dense superfood that’s loved for its mild nutty taste, fluffy and slightly chewy texture, and terrific health benefits. Although it is technically a seed, quinoa is often classified as a whole grain and is treated as such in most recipes.

Each serving of quinoa is packed with protein, iron, manganese and phosphorus. Therefore it is a popular ingredient in vegetarian and vegan cuisines.

The seeds are hard before cooking. But when cooked the quinoa becomes softer while still having a tender, almost crunchy and chewy bite. This texture and mild flavor make it a perfect substitute for other grains like rice, semolina, oats, etc.

The traditional South Indian dish Upma is usually made with semolina or cream of wheat to create a light breakfast dish. However, to up the healthiness and heartiness this easy quinoa upma recipe is sure to satisfy!

It includes veggies like carrots and peas, plus lentils (dal) and bold spices for a complete meal in one bowl.

Give this recipe a try for a yummy vegan breakfast or lunch that’s sure to give you great energy all day!

Step-by-Step Guide

How to Make Quinoa Upma

Rinse Quinoa

1. First, add ½ cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse very well in running water. Drain all of the water and set aside.

While rinsing, rub or agitate the seeds and give them a nice swirl with your fingers. Rinse quinoa seeds two to three times.

Rinsing quinoa seeds removes the bitterness from them. This bitterness comes from the naturally occurring saponin present in the outer coating of the seeds.

rinsing quinoa seeds under running water

Fry Spices and Sauté Aromatics

2. Heat 1.5 tablespoons oil in a pan. Keep the heat to low or medium-low. When the oil is hot, add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds.

Use any neutral flavored oil or for a vegetarian option, add ghee.

crackling mustard seeds in a hot skillet

3. Once the mustard seeds begin to crackle, then add the following ingredients:

  • ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon urad dal (hulled and split black gram)
  • ½ teaspoon moong dal (yellow mung lentils)
frying lentils and spices in a skillet

4. Stirring often fry on low heat.

making quinoa upma recipe

5. Fry until the urad dal and moong dal turn golden.

frying dal and spices in a skillet

6. Then add the below listed spices, herbs and fry for about half a minute.

  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies
  • 1 dry red chili (halved or broken with seeds removed) – you can omit adding dry red chilli
  • 1 pinch of asafoetida (optional)

Note: For a gluten-free recipe, skip asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida. 

adding chiles and ginger to the hot skillet

7. Next add ⅓ cup finely chopped onions and 7 to 8 curry leaves.

chopped onions and curry leaves added to the skillet

8. Stir and sauté on low to medium heat.

onions getting sautéed in pan

9. Saute until the onions become translucent.

sautéed onions in skillet

Sauté Veggies

10. Then add ⅓ cup finely chopped carrots, ¼ cup finely chopped french beans and ⅓ cup frozen peas, or your choice of veggies.

Make sure that you chop everything finely and evenly so the veggies get cooked thoroughly while the quinoa cooks.

Note: If using fresh green peas in your quinoa upma, then steam or cook them separately. Add them once the upma is done.

carrot, green peas, french beans for in skillet to make quinoa upma recipe

11. Mix well.

mixing veggies in pan

12. Saute on low heat for two minutes.

sautéing veggies in pan

Sauté Quinoa

13. Then add the quinoa to the pan.

quinoa in pan on top of mix vegetable mixture

14. Mix very well again.

quinoa mixed with veggie mixture

15. Saute for a minute or two on low heat.

sautéing quinoa mixture

16. Then add water. For ½ cup of quinoa, add 1 cup of water or a bit more if needed.

water in pan

17. Stir well.

quinoa upma mixture mixed in pan

18. Add salt as per taste.

salt being added with a measuring spoon

Cook Quinoa Upma

19. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer on low heat until the quinoa seeds are cooked.

pan covered with lid

20. Stir the quinoa upma once or twice as it simmers to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

stirring quinoa upma mixture while cooking

21. When all the water has been absorbed and the grains appear translucent and cooked well, remove the lid and turn off the heat.

It will take about 20 to 22 minutes for the quinoa to cook and fluff up. If there is any water or liquids in the pan, then continue to cook without lid until all the water dries up.

quinoa cooked in pan and quinoa upma ready to be served

22. Now add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves.

coriander leaves on top of quinoa upma

23. Give a quick stir and serve the vegetable quinoa upma hot or warm.

closeup shot of quinoa upma in a ceramic bowl

Expert Tips

  • Quinoa and water ratio: For one measure of quinoa, I add double the measure of water. I always cook quinoa seeds covered in a pan and this 1:2 proportion of quinoa seeds and water, works very well for me every time.
  • Rinsing quinoa: I recommend to rinse quinoa seeds always. Even if you are using pre-rinsed quinoa, do rinse them a couple of times. Rinsing with water removes the bitterness that comes from the saponin present on the seeds. When rinsing rub or agitate the seeds using a fine mesh strainer.
  • Veggie variations: Feel free to add vegetables like chopped broccoli, shredded cabbage, finely chopped or shredded carrots, green peas, chopped capsicum (bell pepper), frozen corn or grated beets.
  • Nuts: Add some nuts like fried cashews or roasted or fried peanuts to the dish for more flavor and some crunch.

FAQs

What other veggies can be used to make this quinoa upma recipe?

I love including carrots, peas, and green beans in this dish. However, feel free to use other veggies like corn (if frozen add after cooking the quinoa), chopped snap peas, bell pepper, or other fresh vegetables you prefer.

How do I make gluten-free upma?

Simply leave out the asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida to make this a GF-friendly quinoa upma recipe.

What should I serve with quinoa upma?

Enjoy this breakfast or brunch dish warm with Coconut Chutney or a Lemon Pickle on the side.

How long do leftovers last?

Homemade quinoa upma will keep well for up to 1 day in the refrigerator. Store cooled leftovers in a sealed container, and warm slightly in the microwave or stovetop before serving.

More Delicious Upma Variants To Try!

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closeup shot of quinoa upma in a ceramic bowl

Quinoa Upma

Quinoa upma is a nutritious, hearty upma variant made with nutty quinoa seeds, vibrant seasonings and heathy mixed veggies. Make it for breakfast or brunch!
4.89 from 27 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine Indian
Course Breakfast
Diet Vegan
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 2
Units

Ingredients

  • ½ cup quinoa
  • 1.5 tablespoon oil – any neutral tasting oil
  • cup finely chopped onions or 1 small to medium-sized
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger or ½ inch ginger
  • 1 teaspoon chopped green chilies or 1 to 2 green chilies – chopped
  • 1 dry red chili – stem and seeds removed, optional
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • 7 to 8 curry leaves
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black gram)
  • ½ teaspoon moong dal (yellow mung lentils)
  • cup finely chopped carrots or 1 small carrot
  • ¼ cup finely chopped french beans 5 to 6 french beans
  • cup green peas – frozen
  • 1 cup water
  • salt as required
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)

Instructions
 

  • Take the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well in running water. Drain the water and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a pan. Keep the heat to a low. Add mustard seeds.
  • Once the mustard seeds begin crackling, then add cumin seeds, urad dal and moong dal or chana dal.
  • Stir often and fry on a low heat until the urad dal and moong dal turn golden.
  • Then add finely chopped ginger, chopped green chilies, dry red chili and a pinch of asafoetida (optional). Fry on low heat for about half a minute.
  • Next add finely chopped onions and curry leaves.
  • Stir and sauté on a low to medium heat till the onions become translucent and soften.
  • Then add finely chopped carrots, finely chopped french beans and frozen green peas. Mix well.
  • Sauté on a low heat for two minutes.
  • Then add the quinoa and mix very well again.
  • Sauté for a minute or two on low heat.
  • Add water and mix again.
  • Add salt as per taste. Check the taste of the water and add more salt if needed.
  • Cover the pan with its lid and simmer on a low heat till the quinoa seeds are cooked, softened, look translucent and fluffy.
  • Once or twice you can stir the quinoa while the seeds are being cooked.
  • When all the water has been absorbed and the grains appear translucent and cooked well, remove the lid and switch off the heat.
  • Add the chopped coriander leaves.
  • Give a quick stir and serve vegetable quinoa upma hot or warm with a few lemon wedges or coconut chutney or lime pickle.

Notes

  • Quinoa to water ratio: For one measure of quinoa, I add double the amount of water. I always cook quinoa covered in a pan and this proportion works very well for me. 
  • Rinsing quinoa: Always rinse quinoa seeds whether they are pre-rinsed or the regular variety. Rinsing helps in removing the bitterness that comes from saponin present on the seeds. Agitate or rub the seeds while rinsing.
  • Veggie variations: Feel free to add vegetables like chopped broccoli, shredded cabbage, finely chopped or shredded carrots, green peas, chopped snap peas, frozen corn, grated beets or chopped bell peppers.
  • Gluten-free variation: To make a gluten-free recipe, either skip adding asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida.
  • Scale: Easily scale up the recipe to make a serving of four.

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Quinoa Upma
Amount Per Serving
Calories 327 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 633mg28%
Potassium 505mg14%
Carbohydrates 43g14%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 5563IU111%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 30mg150%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin C 68mg82%
Vitamin E 6mg40%
Vitamin K 14µg13%
Calcium 64mg6%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 408µg102%
Iron 3mg17%
Magnesium 107mg27%
Phosphorus 258mg26%
Zinc 2mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This quinoa upma recipe post from the archives (originally published on December 2015) has been updated and republished on 9 December 2021.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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18 Comments

  1. Hi im trying to find your mix veg fried one recipe, as i want to make it on my husbands birthday can u share the recipe again? i shall be highly obliged4 stars

    1. I have sent the recipe to your email id that you have listed in the comment details. Hope this helps.

  2. Great way of telling the recipe, it made the entire process so simple that even an amateur cook like me could get it in the first attempt.. n trust me I was trying Quinoa for the very first time and was appregensive that if this upma dont come up well, I might stop liking quinoa otself.. but here we are, I am in love with it..

    Thanks a ton, looking forward to other dishes of urs 🙂

    1. So good to read your comment and I am glad you found the recipe helpful and were able to make it easily. Definitely do try some more recipes from the blog and I am sure you will like them.

  3. Only quinoa recipe I have really actually liked 😀 Thanks for sharing!

    Washed the quinoa a couple of times before straining, skipped the red chili as I don’t eat very spicy food. Followed the recipe, otherwise. Oh, and I liked it with a little lime juice over it.5 stars

    1. welcome radhika and glad to read your feedback. thanks for review and rating. lime or lemon juice tastes so good with quinoa upma. thanks again.

  4. I followed your recipe 2 weeks ago, I went a little further and added chopped zucchini and mushrooms. It was delicious, every one in the house wanted more! I skipped asafoetida though, because I couldn’t figure out what is it or a translation for it in Spanish (I am in Mexico City). Congratulations with your app! Keep it up

    1. thanks gibran. asafoetida would be difficult to get in mexico. but i guess you can buy it online on amazon.com. asafoetida has a strong pungent flavor, so just a light pinch is fine in any recipe that calls for it. you can easily skip asafoetida in the quinoa upma. zucchini and mushrooms are nice additions and must have made the quinoa upma taste good to.

  5. Hi Dassana, thanks so much for this recipe. It looks wonderful and colorful. I purchased a bag of quinoa yesterday for the first time, and am looking for recipes to try. I followed the simplest recipe with 1:2 quinoa, water ratio and my family loved the taste and texture. I hope you will post more indian recipes with quinoa. I will try out this quinoa upma very soon. It looks fantastic!5 stars

    1. welcome charmaine. glad to know that you liked the quinoa recipe. i will try to add more such recipes with quinoa.

    1. preferably better to cook in a pan for upma recipe hope this help’s you 🙂