Quinoa Upma

Beantree's 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!


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.

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.

12. Saute on low heat for two minutes.

Sauté Quinoa

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.

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.