Popular Kerala Breakfasts

by - July 01, 2020

When we talk about the Indian state of Kerala, often the discussion digresses to topics like education, literacy, football, Mohanlal, Shashi Tharoor, the NRI connection and yes, of course, religion and politics. 

Of course, one thing that does unite people of all faiths and ideologies and often, surprises tourists who come to Kerala is the amazing cuisine. A state that has embraced so many cultures including Zamorin and Chirakkal across centuries was bound to end up with distinct variations of its own. Ranging from the basic method of preparation to the spice levels to even the principal ingredient used, Kerala's traditional dishes offer so much variety. 

In this article, I would like to discuss the meal that begins the day in God's own country. Yes, these are Kerala's most popular breakfasts. 
banana leaf

Appam (and Egg Curry)

Kerala breakfast - Appam and egg stew

Also known as 'hoppers' in Sri Lanka, the humble appam is actually an extremely healthy breakfast option. They fit the bill: gluten-free, less calories, vegan. The key ingredients in its preparation are rice and coconuts (two things you associate a lot with Kerala cuisine!) They tend to have a nice fluffy center and crisp edges which immediately gives you two textures on a single bite! Appams tend to be served traditionally with egg roasts or vegetable stews in the morning.

 Kerala breakfast - Appam and egg roast

Of course, if you ascend to the Malabar regions of Kerala, you will be graced with these lovely appams served with mutton or chicken stew even for breakfast (and most definitely for dinner!)

The Malabar version of this dish also has a variation wherein, after pouring the fermented rice - coconut batter into the piping hot circular cooking pot, you break an egg directly into it, resulting in a chimera of an appam with crispy edges on the out and a fluffy center WITH a nice "sunny side up" egg in the middle. Imagine that.

A nice variation of this is Kallappam, where instead of using yeast for fermentation, we use alcoholic toddy!


 Kerala breakfast - idiyappam and vegetable stew

A variation of the appam, the fancy la-di-dah name of this dish is the 'string hopper' (If you want the cook to look at you with a weird smirk and identify you as an outsider, ask for string hoppers. If you would rather blend in, you could get away with calling it a nool puttu too.)

Think of it as rice flour pressed into thin noodle-like bits, then combined together into small discs and steamed. Again, very healthy and absorbs the curry it sits on well. Like the appam above and the puttu below, that makes it a versatile option to go with stews and spicy curries as well as just coconut milk and sugar, if you want. 

Puttu (and kadala curry)

Kerala breakfast - puttu and kadala curry

One of my personal favourites is the puttu, another humble yet supremely versatile dish that - like the appam - you can find in the homes of billionaires and the small tea stalls being relished every morning in Kerala.

This easy-to-prepare dish is again made using the combination of rice flour and coconut, steamed in a unique cylindrical dish called the puttu kutti. The most common curry it is served with is black chickpeas (kadala), the words 'puttu and kadala curry' enough to light up the eyes of any Malayali.  Another popular vegetarian combination in Kerala is puttu and cheru payar (green gram) curry. 

Kerala breakfast - puttu and kadala curry

Like appams, the puttu is an absolute all rounder and goes with many combinations. You could serve it with bananas alone or bananas and some sugar if you have a sweet tooth.

Likewise, it goes great with spicy and mild gravies alike, easily pairing with vegetarian stews, beef, chicken, pork and seafood without any discrimination.

Oh yes, and before I forget, you can also make puttu by substituting the rice with other commonly available ingredients like corn, wheat and ragi. Seriously, what more can you ask for??

Kappa (and Fish Curry)

  Kerala breakfast - kappa with fish curry

Kappa or tapioca tuber is as essential a part of Kerala cuisine as puttu and appam. Like the dishes above, boiled kappa and meen curry (fish curry) too is had both as a breakfast option as well as for dinner and can be found everywhere, from tea stalls to luxury restaurants. 

P.S. Yes, we do have fish curry for breakfast. This is Kerala, y'all.

Anyway, variations involving the kappa would surprise you - we have a kappa biryani (where it substitutes the rice) as well as kappa puttu (where it, well, substitutes the rice again!)

Plain Dosa

Kerala breakfast - dosa

Yes, indeed. We do love our 'fermented rice pancakes'. The main ingredients being urad dal and rice, this is an absolute delight which most Indians are already familiar with but do you know of some of the variations, I wonder?

You have the perfectly crisp one with no filling, served with a chutney or two (or three or four, if you find the right restaurant in Tamil Nadu!).  

Masala Dosa

Kerala breakfast - masala dosas
The more popular variation is the masala dosa filled with a potato based filling. Of course, if you have visited any of the branches of the famous Indian Coffee House franchise across Kerala, you would find the yellow potato filling replaced with a dark pink filling because their version uses beetroots.

Outside Kerala, I have had the luxury of trying out variations on the masala dosa which included fillings based on green peas, paneer, prawns and cauliflower.

Gothambu Dosa

Kerala breakfast - gothambu dosa
The lesser spoken off cousin brother of the famous dosa, the gothambu dosa is actually a healthier alternative made by substituting wheat instead of rice. A very different taste which is quite nice. 

Two other variations that come to mind are the Thattu dosa (smaller, thicker and spongier; served with sambhar or even chicken and beef curries) and the Uttapam (thicker with vegetable toppings usually)


Kerala breakfast - Idli and chutney

For better or worse, Southern states of India tend to be collectively called the 'idli dosa' eating crowd. There is a slightly derogatory aspect to that labeling but let that not dissuade you from trying these 'steamed rice cakes' made using a special cooking pot and involving (yet again) a fermented batter involving rice!

They often come served with sambhar and chutneys.

Uzhunnu Vada

 kerala breakfast - uzhunnu vada

Not really a healthy breakfast option but oh, so tasty. The uzhunnu vada (medu vada) resembles an Indian doughnut but is made with lentils. It is deep fried resulting in a dish that is crisp on the outside and fluffy within. 

Traditionally served with sambhar and chutney.


 Kerala breakfast - Upma

Upma is a humble breakfast akin to a porridge, made with semolina and vegetables. The amount of water you add during preparation can make the difference between having a sticky version or a dry version, both of which are loved by different audiences. 

Traditionally served with chutney.


Kerala flatbread porotta

Kerala's most popular flatbread, the porotta, is commonly served for lunch and dinner. However, in the Kannur, Calicut and Malappuram districts, you are very likely to find this tasty served for breakfast alongside an egg roast or curry.

Much like how 'puttu and kadala curry' rolls off the tongue easily for a Keralite, the 'porotta and beef' combination goes hand in hand, both as a food in tea stalls as well as in mainstream restaurants. 


Kerala breakfast - poori bhaji

I can hear the grumbling already and you have a valid point: the combination of poori bhaji has its origins from North India. The deep fried Indian bread has over the decades been incorporated into Kerala cuisine quite seamlessly though and as you can imagine by now, found its way to the breakfast table accompanied by Kerala favourites like kadala curry and egg stew. 


Kerala breakfast - kozha katta

Raise your hand if these words sound familiar: rice and steamed. 
Yes, these are steamed rice dumplings, filled with sweet jaggery mixtures or else spicy meat combinations. Served as a breakfast option or an afternoon snack, actually.

A list of popular kerala breakfasts

I hope you enjoyed reading up on these dishes. Have you tasted any? Do tell me your experience?
If you want to read up more on Kerala cuisine, I would recommend these other posts of mine -

Authors note 

I am linking this post with Esha and Natasha for #WordlessWednesday. You can find more picture based posts there and add your own too. 

picture of plants

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  1. Yummm! I love dosa with dhal curry! I think we call in thosai over here in our corner of the world.

    Happy Thursday, Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan!

    1. Dosa and dal... That combo is actually quite rare :D

    2. It's very common over here. I love poppadam too!

  2. Me made me hungry! My favourite is appam and mutta curry :)

  3. Oh man you just made me die with this post. I was looking forward to making poha for brekkie today and now I am craving for the appam and egg curry :-)

    Lovely compilations Roshan with great descriptions and pics.

    1. Thanks. It's been close to a decade since I had poha... Pune days. But I honestly wouldn't trade it for my appams and puttus :)

  4. Yummm!! At this point I just want to eat food not made by me, but still wary of ordering in. I think I've tasted almost all the veggie breakfasts on the list and by far the dosa is my favourite!

    1. Haha... The classics.. Even in dosa there are actually so many varieties that I don't have pics of... Paper dosa, Mysore masala..

  5. I'd love to be able to try these breakfasts. I have enjoyed some Indian cooking, some I have found overwhelmingly spicy, and with the unfamiliar names coupled with my failing memory, I can never remember "safe" foods to try. It would be nice to have you as a guide!
    Please come share your photos at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/06/sink-drink.html

    1. haha... will definitely drop by and offer some tips on dishes to try

  6. I do enjoy idli from time to time.

    1. If you get the chance, try out an appam or iddiyappam (also known as hoppers and string hoppers respectively)

  7. I’m such a Huge fan of Kerela Cusine.
    I was literally drooling all over my phone reading this lip-smacking post.

    Love Putta, appams, iddyappam and the entire list you have mentioned here. Having tried all of them. But very hard to point out a favourite as they are all outstanding.
    Can’t wait to make appam at home - my vegan/gluten free older one will love it.
    I miss Kerela and I hope to return there sometime soon.

    These dishes just have my stomach grumbling.

    What a delicious post, Roshan!
    Thank you for joining us for #WW despite your busy schedules.

    1. Thanks... love being a part of WW. Just not able to post as regularly as I wish

  8. Have tasted all of them. It was lovely to read about homely dishes. :)

  9. What a yummy post, Roshan! Tomorrow's breakfast - Idiyappam with mutta curry! The funny thing is, of all these delicious food items my kids eat gothambu dosa the most! My elder one loves to ear upma also. They are weird kids, of course! My favorite is idiyappam and my husband would give his kidney for free if you offer puttu and kadala curry. :)

    1. haha... I know how he feels... I love the dish too, simple as it sounds.

  10. What an exotic breakfast for my southern USA eyes!
    Thanks for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2020/07/jazzy.html

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