Uttapam are savory pancakes with crispy golden edges and a pillowy soft center topped with veggies. Traditionally served as breakfast in India, wholesome Uttapam also makes for a quick and satiating meal.
South Indian Staple Food
Native to the Southern region of India, gluten-free Uttapam is made using 2 main ingredients (rice and black gram lentils). A perfect meal with plant-based proteins, Uttapam is healthy, delicious, gluten-free, and can be easily made vegan. I often make a big batch of homemade Idli batter and then use it over the week to make Uttapam for either breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as a snack.
A great make-ahead meal, Uttapams freeze well too, making them a quick and healthy meal or a tasty mid-day snack. Topped with veggies of your choice, and paired with a chutney, Uthappa or Uttapa is a great way to get your kids to have a filling, balanced diet of proteins, vitamins, and carbs.
One of the key attractions of our India visits is exploring various restaurants! South Indian eateries are always on the top of our list, so dosa, idli, upma, and uttapams make several rounds at our table on such eat-outs. On one such trip, we learned that Uttapam is derived from the Tamil word ‘Oothapam’ which translates to ‘poured appam’ - another delicious variety of savory pancakes.
Hearty Uttapam is a fail-proof dish that does not need any special accessories or techniques. Easily made from leftover idli or dosa batter, they are a cross between dosa and idli. With crispy edges like the dosa and a soft pillowy core like the idli, you will love these savory pancakes.
Uttapam or Indian pizza as my kids call it can be made using just the plain batter without any toppings. These are called the Plain Uttapams. However, everyone in my home simply loves the Masala Uttapams topped with diced vegetables. Here are a few ideas to vary your uttapam recipe:
- Masala Uttapam - topping of mixed vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, green bell peppers, green chilies, cilantro
- Onion Uttapam - topped with just finely chopped onions, chilies, and cilantro
- Tomato Uttapam - topped with circles of thinly sliced tomato, chilies, and cilantro
- Cheese Uttapam - topped with veggies of your choice and a sprinkle of grated cheese, these are perfect for kids and adults alike
Here are step by step photos of how to make uttapam using Idli Batter:
Step 1: Add water to the batter to make pancake-batter-like consistency and add salt to taste. Heat a non-stick pan or cast iron pan on medium heat. Evenly spread few drops of ghee or oil. Spread about 2 ladles full of batter (about ½ cup) to form a 6-inch pancake. You can make the pancake thick or thin.
Step 2: Next, spread onion, tomato, green chili, and cilantro on the uttapam. You will start seeing air bubbles form in the middle and the sides will start to turn golden brown. The top batter will also start to get a bit dry/cooked.
Carefully pick up the uttapam, going in from the sides and reaching the middle with a thin silicone spatula and flip it over. Allow the top side to cook for 1 to 2 minutes as the onions start to caramelize. Take the uttapam out and serve with the topping side up with coconut chutney or cilantro mint chutney and sambar. Repeat with the remaining batter.
And here is how to make bite-sized uttapam to serve as an appetizer, movie night, or game night snack:
Fill the batter in the reusable mustard or ketchup dispenser and make inch circles on the pan. Add the toppings and gently flip them with a small spoon or silicone spatula and a fork to help you get a grip on them. Press them gently and allow them to cook for a minute.
Here are few ideas on how to make ahead uttapam as a meal prep option:
- Make a big batch of the batter and store it in the refrigerator. The batter stays fresh for up to a week. Keep out on the day of making and bring the batter to room temperature for best results
- Another way to enjoy these savory pancakes on a weeknight is by actually cooking a batch of these goodies. Layer them with parchment paper in between and freeze
- To serve, thaw them at room temperature. Then reheat them on the stovetop in a non-stick pan, microwave them covered with a wet paper towel or a dish for 1 to 2 minutes, or reheat in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 5 mins.
Did you enjoy this vegetarian South Indian recipe? Here are a few recipes you will love:
- Quinoa Idli - Pillowy soft steamed idli’s with quinoa and lentils are lower in carb and packed with protein
- Instant Quinoa Oats Dosa - This dosa recipe uses quinoa instead of rice! It does not require the batter to be fermented before making crispy thin dosas
- Curd Rice - Yogurt rice is a popular South Indian comfort food. Its made with soft cooked rice, yogurt and is tempered with spices
- Veg Kurma - A South Indian style mix vegetable curry cooked in a creamy coconut cashew sauce, lightly spiced with cinnamon, cloves, and fennel
- Bisi Bele Bhath - Ultimate comfort food! Flavor packed rice dish cooked with lentils, rice, lots of vegetables, and aromatic spices
- Add salt & water to the idli batter to make pancake-batter-like consistency. Heat a non stick pan on medium heat and apply a little bit of ghee or oil.
- Spread about 2 ladle full of batter (about ½ cup) to form a 6 inch pancake. You can make the pancake thick or thin. Then spread 1 tablespoon of onion, tomato, ¼ teaspoon green chili and ½ tablespoon of cilantro on the uttapam. You will start seeing air bubbles form in the middle and the sides will start to turn golden brown. The top batter will also start to look dry/cooked.
- Carefully pickup the uttapam, going in from the sides and reaching the middle with a thin silicone spatula and flip it over. Allow the top side to cook for 1 to 2 minutes as the onions start to caramelize. Take the uttapam out and serve with the topping side up with coconut chutney or cilantro mint chutney and sambar. Repeat with the remaining batter.