12 Breakfasts to Try in Sri Lanka

sri lankan rice and curry
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Sri Lankan food experience is extraordinarily unique in comparison to the western food experience. In fact Sri Lankan native food varieties are not found in any other parts of Asia, to be specific.

Why so Special?

Sri Lankan food is special for its indigenous ingredients and the way it is prepared. The locals follow the traditional Sri Lankan method of cooking which makes the cuisines extra special.

Cooking method is carefully defined by process, the time spent for each step of the process and very special materials and equipment used.

Staple food of Sri Lankan locals is rice and curry. Each curry dish carries a delightful blend of spices which adds to its fragrance and nutrition alike.

sri lankan appa hoppers
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An array of curries rich with coconut milk as a main ingredient and spices added to it, make Sri Lankan cuisines so special.

Sri Lankan food is a perfect food choice for vegetarians and vegans. The spicy dishes which carry various tastes do not make you bored since they have an array of tastes and fragrances.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of meat and fish dishes that you can taste since different types of seafood items and meat cuisines cooked to various methods are very popular here.

There are many breakfast choices you can try and we recommend you to use bare hands to mix and consume most of the food items served to you.

Why recommend intake of food using bare hands?

We recommend you to use bare hands to mix and consume most of the food items served in your stay in Sri Lanka since it has many benefits.

sri lankan idi appa string hoppers
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Using your fingers to mix the food helps in many ways such as it improves taste, adds good bacteria to your gut and improves digestion and gives a better feeling of the food you take; mindfulness.

Hands can feel the temperature and the texture of the food which is part and parcel of the process of eating food. In fact, it helps you leisurely enjoy the act of eating.

01. Milk Rice (Kiribath)

sri lankan breakfast Milk Rice Kiribath
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Some describe it as a type of savory rice pudding. Many others refer to it as “rice cakes”; a sweet short-eat. However, Milk rice cannot be compared to cakes or puddings since it gives a completely different experience.

Milk rice is prepared with “Kekulu” rice and fresh coconut milk. Small amount of Sri Lankan cardamom is added for taste and fragrance. The rice is boiled with coconut milk until it becomes glutinous and very soft.

Best served hot. They are also sliced into different shapes and served when cooled.

Milk rice is best for breakfast and served with many side dishes. The most popular is “Lunu Miris”; a mixture of onion and red chillies.

Milk rice with coconut sambal; a mixture of scraped coconut, red chillies and onions is also a good choice. You can also try it with a spicy fish or chicken curry.

Milk rice when served with seasoned banana leaf has many benefits according to the traditional Sri Lankan method. In fact its fragrance adds to the taste.

Some prefer when cooled and enjoy with other Sri Lankan sweetmeats such as “Kewum” There are many types of milk rice as well. The type of milk rice with scraped coconut with Sugar honey or Kithul palm syrup inside is known as “Imbul Kiribath”. Kids prefer it as a sweetmeat.

Mung Kiribath or Milk Rice with Green Grams

sri lankan Mung Kiribath or Milk Rice with Green Grams
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Another variety of Milk Rice is made with Green Grams mixed to eat. This gives an additional flavour to the plain milk rice and adds further nutrient factors. Mung Bean which is very popular in South Asia and rich with protein, fiber and vitamins. It also helps smooth digestion.

A morsel of milk rice is very soothing to eat due to the softness and moisture in it. The milky taste contrasts with the spicy sambol or the recommended side dishes. It gives a real balance to the meal. You will agree with me if I say, it is refreshing and fulfilling to have milk rice for breakfast.

02. Rice and Curry

sri lankan breakfast rice and curry
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Rice and curry is the main Sri Lankan food menu which is very much preferred as breakfast, lunch or dinner alike. The locals choose different side dishes to create the atmosphere of a breakfast or lunch. Generally breakfast choice is made with light dishes and lunch with a variety of dishes including heavy ones.

Different types of Sri Lankan rice are boiled with water and the main part of the menu is rice. Usually, you are served with a plate of rice along with small amounts of other curry dishes. Thus the main rice serving is surrounded by many curry dishes, Pol-sambol or green Leaf salads.

You will be given a separate plate to mix things before you eat. You need to take a small amount of rice with a small amount of other curries when you take in each morsel of rice.

The locals enjoy this combination of rice and curry with their bare hands which gives you the real Sri Lankan food experience. The locals use the fingertips of their right hand to mix things and to eat. However, if you find it inconvenient, you can also enjoy them with cutlery.

Different types of popular curry available in Sri Lankan cuisine are dhal curry, potato curry, jack curry, different vegetable curries such as bean curry, pumpkin curry etc and different types of pol-sambol.


Pol-sambol is a side dish that the locals never miss whether it is rice and curry or another breakfast choice. It is usually a spicy but dry dish.

The level of spiciness can be easily adjusted according to your taste. Therefore, you can easily ask for a less savory taste when you buy food prepared to your order.

It is made of freshly grated coconut, finely chopped small red onion with a pinch of salt and lime juice to taste. Adding the right amount from each ingredient is a real talent.

Pol-sambol has its special taste owing to the traditional grinding stone used to grind it. Some use the hand mortar and pestle as well.

The main ingredient of polsambal is grated coconut. There are different types of pol-sambol based on the slightly varying other ingredients.

  • Red pol-Sambol - made with red-chilies
  • Nayi Miris Sambol - made with Green chilies (also known as Capsicum Hot Pepper, bird chili or bird pepper)
  • Pol-sambol with sprats - made with fried sprats added

Dhal curry (Orange lentil curries)

Dhal curry is a must dish in any local restaurant in Sri Lanka. You will find dhal boiled in creamy coconut milk and usually comes in brownish yellow colour. Sri Lankans add many spices to add to its fragrance and taste. Amongst them, the curry leaves, pandan leaves and ceylon cinnamon added in small amounts create a huge impact.

Depending on the main dish, the dhal curry can either be made thick or runny. Made in either ways, this curry has a great taste which goes with any combination of Sri Lankan food menus.

Dhal curry is often offered with almost all the breakfast ideas such as rice and curry menu, Idi-appa or string hoppers, Pol-roti, Pittu and Dosai. When offered with Rotti or Dosai, the curry is expected to be scooped with the Rotti or Dosi. It is also offered with rice and curry for lunch.

Potato Curry

Potato curry is a very popular dish available in almost every restaurant or hotel in Sri Lanka whether big or small. It is a creamy dish made out of potato chunks cooked dipped in coconut milk. It’s usually yellow in colour due to its other ingredients such as turmeric, curry powder and other Sri Lankan spices.

Potato curry is usually offered with many breakfast ideas such as rice and curry menu, Idi-appa or string hoppers, Pittu and Dosai.

Vegetable Curries

Sri Lankan vegetable curries are made of many different vegetables either with creamy coconut milk or coconut oil while gently spiced with genuine Sri Lankan spices.

Many vegetable dishes are made of vegetables such as Beetroot, Carrot, Kohila, Radish, Sweet Potato, Lotus roots, Mushroom, Cassava, Beans, cabbage, Jackfruit, Bitter Gourd and Snake Gourd. They are delicious and healthy.

These curries are either cooked with coconut milk or tempered using coconut oil. Other ingredients that usually add to the taste, colour and fragrance are red chillies, turmeric powder, curry powder, Pepper, Curry Leaves, Pandan Leaves, Lemongrass (Sera), Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Mustard, Cinnamon and cardamom in very small amounts to taste.

You can easily find many variations of these vegetable curries with pure traditional Sri Lankan spices in local restaurants and hotels alongside rice menus for breakfast as well as for lunch.

Yellow Coconut Milk Curry

Yellow Coconut Milk Curry, popularly known as “Kiri Hodi” is a tasty dish which is creamy and refreshing. It is yellow in colour and prepared with fresh coconut milk along with a very small amount of a few spices such as cinnamon, clove, curry leaves etc.

You will find this plain gravy dish served alongside your breakfast choices such as Pittu and Idi-appa.

Egg Curry

Egg curry is made by adding boiled eggs to the Yellow Coconut Milk curry. It is also favoured with Pittu and Idi- appa.

Chicken or meat Curry

Chicken curry is usually considered a heavy dish which locals take for their lunch. However, you can enjoy it as a dish for your breakfast ideas like Idi-appa, Pittu and Roti.

Some prepare it with coconut cream and others without. Either way, chicken curry holds a strong combination of spices that waters your mouth.

Fish Curry

Fish curry is the most popular curry dish for popular Sri Lankan breakfast menus namely; Idi-appa, Appa, Pittu, Roti and even for Milk Rice. It is also offered for the rice and curry menu.

Sri Lanka has both sea fish as well as freshwater fish. Fish curry is either prepared with coconut milk or as a red spicy curry with coconut oil. Coconut Milk white fish curry is often offered with Idi-appa; String Hoppers. It is creamy and gently spiced.

The Red Fish Curry is usually prepared without coconut milk and hence spicier than the white fish curry. Many prefer to have it with a rice and curry menu.

Deep fried fish and tempered fish is also offered as a dish for the rice and curry menu.

Dried Fish Curry and Sprats tempered

Locals prefer dried fish curry or tempered sprats instead of a Fish or Chicken curry. Tempered dried fish or sprats have a strong fragrance and a taste that dominates your menu. It is worth experiencing the dish with your rice and curry menu when you have Sri Lankan breakfast.

Green Leave Salad - Mellum

Green leaves Salads come as side dishes for your rice and curry menu. They add herby goodness together with nutrients and rich variety to your menu.

These salads are made of finely chopped fresh green leaves mixed with red onions, green pepper, and grated fresh coconut. Some are also slightly tempered in coconut oil.

The freshness of this healthy dish is enhanced with a pinch of salt and lime juice added to it. You should enjoy the combination with small amounts of rice, two or three curries along with fresh green leaf salad.

Popular green leaf salads you can find in local restaurants are Gotukola, Mukunuwanna, Kan Kun, Kathurumurunga and Murunga.

03. Idi Aappa - String Hoppers

sri lankan breakfast egg hoppers plain hoppers
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One of the most popular Sri Lankan breakfast ideas is Idi-Aappa. Idi-appa is a noodle-like food made with rice flour. Rice flour mixed with water is pressed and squeezed into small string rounds and steamed.

Idi-appa is the main serving offered with many curry dishes like dhal curry, potato curry, fish curry or chicken curry. Further, a pol-sambol is a must to make it a wholesome breakfast.

This food item is said to have originated from South India and adjusted according to the Sri Lankan taste. Since it is made of rice-flour, it is considered a healthy and fulfilling breakfast.

An average person consumes about 10 to 15 string hoppers at a time with one or two of the above gravy dishes along with pol-sambol. Sometimes a boiled egg is also added. One morsel contains a small amount of string hopper mixed with gravy and pol-sambol. It is advisable to use your hands to mix and eat the delicious food.

04. Pittu with curry dishes and pol-sambol

Pittu is a delicious Sri Lankan breakfast choice which is a very popular traditional menu. This breakfast menu goes with a “pittu” ; a bamboo shaped rice roll served with a gravy curry dish along with pol-sambol dish.

The most preferred side dishes are “kiri-hodi” or Yellow Coconut Curry; a gravy made out of fresh coconut milk cooked with spices, a dhal curry, a fish or chicken curry or a potato curry.

Pittu is a dry roll of steamed rice. Therefore, a considerable portion of gravy curry is required to make it easy for you to eat.

Pittu is made of rice flour mixed with grated coconut and water and steamed in a bamboo like steamer to get its roll-like shape.

This special rice food item is crispy in your mouth but carries a mild milky taste due to the coconut mixture. You will enjoy the mixture if you use your hands to mix the Pittu portion, gravy and Sambol served to your plate in the right amount.

05. Aappa - Plain Hoppers and Egg Hoppers

sri lankan breakfast egg hoppers plain hoppers
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Appa or plain hoppers is a type of pancake made out of rice flour and coconut milk. They take the shape of a bowl where the edges are very crispy and the middle is soft.

When an egg is fried along with the hopper in the middle, they are called egg hoppers. Egg hoppers are very tempting when served hot. You can also find Cheese hoppers in some hotels.

06. Sweet Potato

sri lankan Sweet Potato for breakfast

Boiled sweet potatoes served with Pol-Sambol is a delicious breakfast idea you shouldn’t miss. You can also enjoy Sweet Potatoes with grated coconut.

07. Cassava

Boiled Cassava is similar to a boiled Sweet Potato dish. However, it is comparably thick. You are served this dish either with raw coconut flakes or a red Pol-Sambol.

08. Kola Kenda with jaggery - Green Porridge

Green Porridge is a healthy breakfast drink made out of green leaves. Usually, Gotukola and Curry Leaves are used to prepare this porridge. Black pepper and garlic dipped in coconut milk are essential ingredients.

For enhanced taste, you can drink the porridge with a piece of jaggery.

Tempered chickpeas or Appa usually go hand in hand with this drink.

09. Tempered chickpeas

Tempered chickpeas is a savory breakfast. They mix the boiled chickpeas with onion, ginger, garlic and red chili flakes and a few other spices and fry them in coconut oil. You can also enjoy a Green Porridge serving along with this dish.

10. Pol Roti - Coconut Flat-Bread

sri lankan Coconut roti pol roti for breakfast

Pol Rotti is a flatbread type of food prepared with flour (wheat or rice flour) mixed with coconut flakes. It is rather thick when compared with bread, but the taste cannot be compared to any other breakfast menu you are accustomed to have in the western world.

Pol Rotti is best served with Pol-Sambol. It is best for breakfast but also popular as a dinner serving.

Some add chunks of vegetables such as carrots, leeks, onions etc to flour when preparing Rotti which makes a rather soft flatbread.

11. Dosa - Savory Pancake with pol-sambol

Dosa is said to have originated from South India. It is a savory item you can usually come across amongst street food or in restaurants when you visit the areas where Sri Lankan Tamil or Hindu community is residing. Especially in Jaffna and Trincomalee. However, you can also find them in any hotel around the country.

Dosa is a savory pancake made out of flour. Usually offered with Pol-Sambol and dhal curry. Dosai is scooped in the curry and tasted. There is a special curry named “Sambaru” which is a mixed vegetable curry offered by the Sri Lankan Tamils for this dish.

12. Panipol Aappa - Sri Lankan pancakes

Sri Lankan Sweet pancakes come in the shape of cake rolls. You find sugar syrup or honey soaked coconut flakes inside this pancake. You can taste them with a cup of tea as well.

Sri Lankan food breakfast