Q Is For… Quinoa Upma, South Indian Style

It’s eerie how some people have never met you, they’ve just read you, but still seem to have the ability to look into your head and know exactly what you would love. It’s eerie, but it surely feels good.

That is exactly how I felt, a while ago, when I received a care package from this sweet blog friend of mine. She told me she wanted to send me a little gift, which stunned me the minute I opened it. It contained a packet of quinoa, one of buckwheat, and one of chia seeds. How on earth did she know that I had been eyeing these very things in the departmental store aisles, but never picked them up? How did she know I was looking forward to cooking with these exotic-to-me ingredients?

She did know, though, I don’t know how.

Thank you so much for your lovely gift, dearie! I had a whole lot of fun experimenting with the goodies in my kitchen! 🙂

One of the things I made with the quinoa was a South Indian-style quinoa upma, inspired by the Curried Quinoa Salad we learnt at the recent Diabetic Masterclass I attended. The upma turns out delish, is loaded with health benefits (thanks to the quinoa!), and is super easy to make. What more do you need from a dish?!

I made this upma for dinner, and it was much loved by everyone at home.

The quinoa, before cooking

Today, I am going to tell you exactly how I made the upma.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  1. 1 cup quinoa
  2. Salt, to taste
  3. 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise, stems removed
  4. Red chilli powder, to taste
  5. 1-1/2 tablespoons sambar powder, or to taste (I used A2B’s sambar powder)
  6. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  7. 2 dry red chillies
  8. 2 teaspoons oil
  9. 2 teaspoons mustard
  10. A pinch of asafoetida
  11. 1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  12. A dash of lemon juice
  13. A few stalks of coriander leaves, finely chopped
  14. 1/2 of a medium-sized capsicum, finely chopped
  15. 1/4 cup fresh/frozen green peas
  16. 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped


  1. Take the quinoa in a heavy-bottomed vessel, and add just enough water to submerge it. Cook covered on a high flame, stirring intermittently, till the quinoa is well cooked but still retains a bit of a crunch. Take care not to overcook the quinoa. Add more water in between, if needed. When the quinoa is cooked, switch off gas and drain out all the excess water, if any. Keep the cooked quinoa aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, and add the mustard seeds. Let them pop. Add the asafoetida and dry red chillies. Let them stay in for a second or two.
  3. Add the ginger. Fry for a few seconds.
  4. Now, add the onion, carrot, peas and capsicum. Add salt, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and green chillies. Add just a little water, cover and cook on medium flame till the veggies are cooked, but not overly so.
  5. Add the quinoa and the sambar powder. Mix well.
  6. Cook on medium flame, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes, stirring intermittently. Make sure the quinoa does not stick to the bottom of the pan. In between, check for seasonings and add red chilli powder or salt if needed.
  7. Switch off gas when everything is well incorporated. Add in the lemon juice and finely chopped coriander. Mix well.
  8. Serve hot. The upma doesn’t really need any accompaniment, but you could serve it with a chutney of your choice if you want to.
The quinoa upma, South Indian-style


  1. Make sure the quinoa is well cooked, but not overdone, otherwise the upma will turn soggy and tasteless. The only way to do this is to cook the quinoa in a closed container, opening the lid to check on it periodically, till it is done just right.
  2. You can add any other vegetables of your choice to the upma. I added whatever veggies I had in my kitchen at the moment.
  3. This upma is inspired by the recipe for Curried Quinoa Salad shared with us at the Diabetic Masterclass I attended a while back. I have made several changes to the original recipe, to suit my family’s palate. Do let me know in case you need the original recipe, and I could e-mail it to you.
  4. This is an entry for the Alphabet Cooking Challenge, for the letter Q.

Do you like the sound of this recipe? I hope you will try it out, and that you will like it as much as we did!

What do you do with quinoa, in your kitchen? Tell me! I’m all ears!


2 thoughts on “Q Is For… Quinoa Upma, South Indian Style

  1. I wanted to add, when you cook with quinoa, make sure you wash it thoroughly at least 3 – 4 times. The reason being, quinoa is naturally coated with a soap-like substance which could be toxic or allergic. I didn’t realize it until my husband severely vomited every time I made it at home.


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