Flavor Fusion: Spiced Idli Upma Delight


Idli Upma is a delicious and ingenious South Indian dish that showcases the art of transforming leftover idlis into a flavorful and satisfying meal. Idlis, the steamed rice and lentil cakes that are a staple of South Indian cuisine, take on a new avatar when repurposed into this delightful upma.

The process of making Idli Upma involves coarsely crumbling or chopping leftover idlis, giving them a distinct texture that’s different from their original soft and spongy form. The crumbled idlis are then stir-fried with an array of aromatic spices, vibrant vegetables, and a hearty tempering of mustard seeds, urad dal, and curry leaves. This fusion of ingredients not only infuses the idlis with a burst of flavors but also ensures that no leftover goes to waste.

The beauty of Idli Upma lies in its versatility. It can be a brilliant breakfast option, a light lunch, or even a delightful snack. The amalgamation of textures—soft idlis, crunchy vegetables, and the occasional nutty bite—creates a symphony of tastes that captivate the palate. The spices, which can range from mild to fiery, give the upma its signature kick while paying homage to the rich spice traditions of South India.

For those seeking a healthier alternative, Idli Upma can be made using whole grain idlis or by incorporating more vegetables into the mix. It’s a wonderful canvas for experimenting with flavors, be it by adding a hint of coconut for sweetness or by tossing in some roasted peanuts for extra crunch.

Idli Upma is a testament to the resourcefulness of Indian cooking, where no food goes to waste and every ingredient is transformed into a delectable creation. It’s a dish that connects tradition with innovation, and simplicity with complexity, all on a single plate. Whether enjoyed as a quick breakfast or a satisfying evening snack, Idli Upma continues to win hearts with its comforting, flavorful, and wholesome appeal.

 Idli Upma

Yield: 4

Flavor Fusion:

Idli Upma

Idli Upma is a versatile dish, so feel free to adjust the spices and vegetables according to your taste preferences. Enjoy this comforting and flavorful South Indian creation!

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 8 leftover idlis
  • 2 tablespoons oil (preferably coconut or vegetable oil)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (split black gram)
  • 1 teaspoon chana dal (split chickpeas)
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 green chilies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup mixed vegetables (carrots, peas, bell peppers), finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts (optional)
  • Fresh coriander leaves, chopped, for garnishing
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Prepare the Idlis:

  1. If you don't have leftover idlis, you can make fresh ones the previous day. Once they are cooled, cut them into small cubes or crumble them coarsely using your hands.


  1. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat.
  2. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
  3. Add urad dal and chana dal. Sauté until they turn golden brown.
  4. Add curry leaves and sauté for a few seconds.

Sauté Aromatics:

  1. Add chopped onions, green chilies, and grated ginger. Sauté until the onions turn translucent.

Add Vegetables:

  1. Add the mixed vegetables and sauté for a few minutes until they are slightly tender.

Spice it Up:

  1. Sprinkle turmeric powder and salt over the vegetables. Mix well.

Add Idlis:

  1. Add the crumbled or chopped idlis to the pan. Gently mix everything to combine. If using whole idlis, you can break them into smaller pieces using a spatula.

Optional Peanuts:

  1. If using roasted peanuts, you can add them now for extra crunch.

Final Touch:

  1. Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the idlis are heated through and well-coated with the spices.

Garnish and Serve:

  1. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
  2. Serve hot with lemon wedges on the side for a tangy kick.


  • Leftover idlis that have been refrigerated overnight are ideal for making upma. If you're using fresh idlis, allow them to cool completely before crumbing or chopping.
  • The texture of Idli Upma is important. Crumble or chop the idlis into pieces that are not too small. This provides a nice contrast in texture between the soft idlis and the sautéed vegetables.
  • The tempering with mustard seeds, urad dal, and chana dal is crucial for flavor. Let the mustard seeds splutter and the dals turn golden brown before proceeding to the next step.
  • Feel free to use a mix of your favorite vegetables. Carrots, peas, and bell peppers work well, but you can also add beans, corn, or any other vegetable of your choice.
  • Adjust the number of green chilies based on your spice preference. If you prefer less heat, you can deseed the chilies before chopping.
  • Freshly grated ginger adds a wonderful flavor. Adjust the quantity based on how much ginger flavor you like.
  • Adding roasted peanuts is optional, but they add a delightful crunch to the dish.
  • Turmeric powder provides color and flavor. Be cautious not to use too much, as it can overpower the dish.
  • Remember that the idlis might already have some salt in them, so taste and adjust the salt accordingly.
  • Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) add a burst of freshness. You can also sprinkle some grated coconut for extra flavor.
  • Serving with lemon wedges allows each person to add a tangy kick according to their taste.
  • Traditional choices like coconut oil or vegetable oil work well for the tempering and sautéing.
  • Avoid overcooking the idlis. They just need to be heated through; prolonged cooking can make them dry.
  • Experiment with adding grated coconut, cashews, or even a touch of ghee for added richness.
  • Feel free to make adjustments to suit your taste preferences. Idli Upma is a versatile dish that welcomes creativity.
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    Nutrition Information:

    Serving Size:

    Per Serving

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200-250Total Fat: 7-9gSaturated Fat: 1-2gCholesterol: 0-5mgSodium: 300-500mmgCarbohydrates: 30-35gFiber: 2-4gProtein: 4-6g

    Serving Suggestions

    • Serve Idli Upma with a side of coconut chutney and sambar for a classic South Indian breakfast. The coconut chutney adds a creamy and cooling element, while the sambar provides a flavorful and tangy accompaniment.
    • Along with coconut chutney and sambar, you can also serve Idli Upma with tomato chutney, mint chutney, or a spicy pickle. These condiments add extra layers of flavor to the dish.
    • A refreshing yogurt raita, seasoned with a pinch of salt and cumin powder, pairs well with the spiciness. It balances the flavors and provides a cooling contrast.
    • Balance the savory flavors with a side of fresh fruit salad. The natural sweetness of the fruits complements the spices in the upma.
    • Serve the Upma with some crispy papads (papadums) on the side for a satisfying crunch.
    • Place a few lemon wedges on the serving platter. Squeezing a bit of fresh lemon juice over the upma just before eating adds a zesty and tangy element.
    • Don’t forget to garnish the Upma with freshly chopped coriander leaves (cilantro). The bright green color and fresh aroma add a visually appealing touch.
    • Pair the Idli Upma with a cup of traditional South Indian filter coffee or a soothing cup of chai (tea) for a complete meal.
    • If you’re hosting a brunch gathering, consider including Idli Upma as part of a buffet spread that features other South Indian dishes like dosa, vada, and various chutneys.


     Idli Upma

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Q: Can I use fresh idlis for making Idli Upma?

    A: Yes, you can use fresh idlis. However, using leftover idlis that have been refrigerated overnight is more traditional and can result in a slightly different texture that’s ideal for upma.

    Q: Can I use other vegetables in Idli Upma?

    A: Absolutely! You can use a variety of vegetables like carrots, peas, bell peppers, beans, corn, and more. Chop them finely for even cooking.

    Q: Can I make Idli Upma spicy or mild?

    A: You can adjust the spiciness of the Upma by controlling the amount of green chilies you add. For a milder version, use fewer chilies or remove the seeds.

    Q: Is Idli Upma gluten-free?

    A: Yes, this Upma is typically gluten-free since idlis are made from rice and lentils. Just ensure that the ingredients you use, including spices, are also gluten-free.

    Q: Can I prepare Idli Upma without tempering?

    A: The tempering (tadka) with mustard seeds, urad dal, and curry leaves is essential for the traditional flavor of the Upma. It’s recommended to include it, but you can skip it if needed.

    Q: Can I use ghee instead of oil for Idli Upma?

    A: Yes, you can use ghee instead of oil for a richer flavor. Ghee is often used in traditional South Indian cooking and can add a wonderful aroma to the dish.

    Q: Can I make Idli Upma ahead of time?

    A: While this Upma is best enjoyed fresh, you can make the tempering and chop the vegetables ahead of time to streamline the cooking process. Then, assemble and cook the upma closer to serving.

    Q: What do I do if the Idli Upma turns dry?

    A: If the Upma turns dry, you can sprinkle a little water and cover the pan for a minute or two to steam and moisten the upma.

    Q: Can I add nuts to Idli Upma?

    A: Yes, you can add roasted peanuts, cashews, or almonds to the Upma for extra texture and flavor. Add them along with the vegetables.

    Q: Can I freeze Idli Upma?

    A: It’s not recommended to freeze Idli Upma, as the texture may change upon thawing. It’s best to enjoy it fresh.

    Q: Is Idli Upma a breakfast dish only?

    A: This Upma can be enjoyed as a breakfast dish, brunch, or even a light meal. Its versatility makes it suitable for different times of the day.

    Q: What if my idlis are too soft for making Idli Upma?

    A: If your idlis are very soft, allow them to cool completely before attempting to crumble or chop them. You can also toast them lightly on a pan to reduce excess moisture.

     Idli Upma

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