January 24, 2022

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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)
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4. Stirring often fry on low heat.

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

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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. 

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

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8. Stir and sauté on low to medium heat.

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9. Saute until the onions become translucent.

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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.

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11. Mix well.

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12. Saute on low heat for two minutes.

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Sauté Quinoa

13. Then add the quinoa to the pan.

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14. Mix very well again.

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

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

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17. Stir well.

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18. Add salt as per taste.

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Cook Quinoa Upma

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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!

If you made this recipe, please be sure to rate it in the recipe card below. Sign Up for my email newsletter or you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest or Twitter for more vegetarian inspirations.

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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!

4.92 from 23 votes

Prep Time 10 mins

Cook Time 20 mins

Total Time 30 mins

  • 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 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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