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!
Table of Contents
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!
How to Make Quinoa Upma
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.
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.
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)
4. Stirring often fry on low heat.
5. Fry until the urad dal and moong dal turn golden.
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.
7. Next add ⅓ cup finely chopped onions and 7 to 8 curry leaves.
8. Stir and sauté on low to medium heat.
9. Saute until the onions become translucent.
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.
11. Mix well.
12. Saute on low heat for two minutes.
13. Then add the quinoa to the pan.
14. Mix very well again.
15. Saute for a minute or two on low heat.
16. Then add water. For ½ cup of quinoa, add 1 cup of water or a bit more if needed.
17. Stir well.
18. Add salt as per taste.
Cook Quinoa Upma
19. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and simmer on low heat until the quinoa seeds are cooked.
20. Stir the quinoa upma once or twice as it simmers to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
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.
22. Now add 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves.
23. Give a quick stir and serve the vegetable quinoa upma hot or warm.
- 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.
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.
Simply leave out the asafoetida or use gluten-free asafoetida to make this a GF-friendly quinoa upma recipe.
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.
Please be sure to rate this recipe in the recipe card below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
- ½ cup quinoa
- 1.5 tablespoon oil – any neutral tasting oil
- ⅓ 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)
- ⅓ cup finely chopped carrots or 1 small carrot
- ¼ cup finely chopped french beans 5 to 6 french beans
- ⅓ cup green peas – frozen
- 1 cup water
- salt as required
- 2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 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.
- 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)
This quinoa upma recipe post from the archives (originally published on December 2015) has been updated and republished on 9 December 2021.