Vegan Upma Pudi Kozhakattai & Upma Vadai

These Vegan Upma Pudi Kozhakattai & Upma Vadai recipes are a part of the Culture Tuesday column, in which Best of Vegan Editor Samantha Onyemenam explores different cultures’ cuisines across the globe through a plant-based and vegan lens. This week’s column on vegan South Indian cuisine (and Tamil breakfast dishes in particular) was written in collaboration with Supriya Raman of and @supriyaramankitchen on Instagram. All photographs are by her and each recipe developed by her based on the dishes she grew up eating in Tamil Nadu. Read more about this dish and discover more Tamil breakfast recipes here.


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vegan south indian cuisine: rice upma

Vegan Upma Pudi Kozhakattai & Upma Vadai


Did you know dumplings are traditional to Tamilian food? This recipe is as quintessentially traditional as it can get. A treasure from my great-grandmother passed on from her great-grandmother.


  • 3 cups long grained rice
  • 1 cup red gram dal or toor dal or split pigeon peas
  • ¼ cup gingelly oil (Indian sesame oil)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tbsp black gram or urad dal
  • 2 tbsp split yellow dal or chana dal
  • ½ tsp asafoetida powder
  • 5 dried red chillies, halved
  • 15 curry leaves (about twp sprigs)
  • ½ cup unsweetened fresh shredded coconut
  • 7 cups water
  • 2 tsp coarse salt


To make upma:

  1. Add measured rice and red gram or toor lentils to a blender. Pulse until they’re broken down into smaller couscous sized granules. Do not over blend and make into a fine powder, they should be coarsely ground. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet with measured gingelly oil. After a minute of pre-heating, add mustard seeds. As they pop and splutter, add urad and chana dals. Fry for a minute until they turn golden brown. These crispy lentils add so much texture to the dish.
  3. Next add dried red chillies, asafoetida powder and curry leaves. Continue frying for another couple of minutes and then add the shredded coconut. Saute for 30 seconds and pour in measured water.
  4. Bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. While the water is vigorously boiling, slowly add the ground rice and lentil mixture while continuously stirring. This step is important. If you dump them all together, they will clump. If you do not stir while adding them, they, also, will clump.
  5. Keep stirring and you will notice the water will be absorbed rather quickly. Make sure you stir and mix until lump free. If there are lumps just use the back of your spatula to break them. Keep stirring until all the water looks like its absorbed. Reduce to heat to low, cover the skillet and cook for 20 minutes. Check twice in between and give it a good stir. The Upma is done, and when you stir and fold from the outside in, should separate easily from the pan and not be sticky.
  6. Set aside to cool slightly. Now this is ready to make half into steamed kozhakattai and half into pan crisped vadais.


For Upma Kozhakattai:

  1. You will need a steaming apparatus. Idli moulds should be used for this. However, a bamboo steamer will work, or just use any steaming method you prefer.
  2. Once you can handle the rice upma with your hands, take a palm full and press and cup between your hands to make an egg shaped dumpling. Make them all and stack them in your steamer without any overlap. Make sure your steamer insert is greased with gingelly oil to prevent sticking. Steam them for 6 to 8 minutes over high heat and they are done!


For Upma Vadais:

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and brush evenly with gingelly oil. 
  2. Use a ⅓ cup measure and scoop upma up in it tightly packed. Drop the scoop of upma onto the skillet and use the back of the measuring cup to gently flatten into patties. Patties should be too thin, about ½” thickness is ideal. Depending on the size of your skillet make two or three more in one batch. They should not overlap. Crisp on one side for 6 to 8 minutes until a deeply golden crust forms before you flip them over. Cook the other side for 5 minutes and they are done. Make the remaining and stack them up.


Find more of Supriya’s recipes on her website.

vegan rice upma
Making upma.

vegan rice upma
Making upma kozhakattai.

vegan rice upma
Making upma vadais.


vegan south indian cuisine: rice upma
Vegan Upma Vadais & Upma Kozhakattai.


If you loved these Vegan Upma Pudi Kozhakattai & Upma Vadai recipes, you might also like…

Culture Tuesday: an Exploration of South Indian Cuisine

Vegan Pongal



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