Your Ultimate Guide To Local Keralan Breads

In the diverse culinary cultures that vary from one region to another in our country, it is easy to find different variations of the same thing – influenced by what is cultivated every few miles. As local, regional delicacies in India are basking in the spotlight for being unique and relevant to its origins, a few stereotypes with context to undermining a particular culture’s capacity to have adjacent meal components, still clouds our perceptions of Indian regional cooking. In a country that offers a multitude of variations in curry, rice, bread and sweet preparations, even the breads that are eaten in each region vary.

While the Konkan has its javla and Kashmir has its sheermal, little attention is paid to the southern parts of India, where bread also plays a key role in the predominantly rice-eating culture. Even amongst rice, traditional histories mention that this was once a nation that cultivated more than 6,000 different varieties of rice. That being said, while bread and bread-making has mostly been associated with wheat or other grains like jowar, bajra and ragi, which are either baked or toasted, Keralan cuisine utilises rice to be the foundation for their breads, that are largely steamed.

Like any other dishes typically associated with Malayali cuisine being light on the palette and easy to digest, most of these breads are also prepared in tandem with the rationale. Although the Malabar Parotta might be a slight exception, the world of locally consumed breads in Kerala is a fascinating one. Usually eaten with stews, meat or fish curries and even for breakfast with eggs or coconut chutney, these breads are versatile and pair well with most dishes made around the region.

Malabar Parotta

The most popular flaky flatbread in Kerala, the Malabar Parotta is made with a dough that comprises of maida, eggs, milk, butter and water. Dough is rested for a few hours before it is kneaded again and stretched into strips that are folded inwards and rolled out, before they are cooked on a hot pan with plenty of oil or ghee. Once ready, the best way to enjoy a hot parotta is to crush it firmly between your palms and allow the crunchy and fluffy layers to intermingle, making tearing apart a piece of it, a satisfying experience.


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Similar to the Maharashtrian rice bhakri, the pathiri from Kerala is also made with rice flour mixed with hot water and rolled into thin discs that are then toasted over a hot pan. Brushed with coconut milk once cooked, the pathiri are then stacked on top of each other and eaten with spicy meat curries or stews. A variation of this flatbread, known as the nei pathiri, made with a mixture of rice flour, chopped shallots, fennel seeds and coriander. What makes this different from the former, is that the discs of the nei pathiri are toasted and then deep-fried in oil to give them a crispy exterior.


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A Malabari specialty, this thick bread is flavoured with shallots, grated coconut and fennel seeds. Similar in flavour to the nei pathiri, the dough of the orotti, unlike most flatbreads, must be flattened with your palms directly onto banana leaves greased with coconut oil, instead of being rolled out. Once it is pan-fried in oil, the outer layer develops a crunch, leaving the centre fluffy and steaming. Known to be enjoyed with meat or fish curry, the orotti can also be eaten as is, for a tea time snack.

Also Read: 

Coconut Chronicles: The Significance Of Coconut In Kerala Cuisine


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The Kerala vellayappam is said to have taken inspiration from the Sri Lankan hoppers – in that, they are similar in appearance and form to the latter. However, the vellayappams are traditionally made with fresh sweet toddy, grated coconut and rice – that is then left out to sit overnight, in order to ferment. What this results in, is a lacy thin, slightly sweet appam, that pairs well with chutneys, stews, curries or even half-fried eggs.


 Although this ‘bread’ doesn’t have the appearance of flatbread or any other kind of bread, in general, the idiyappam is a tangle of rice flour noodles which are steamed. Also known as noolappam – due to their thread-like appearance, this breakfast specialty is eaten with a drizzle of coconut milk and a sprinkle of sugar. Similar in its taste to cooked matta rice – the plump grains of red Kerala rice, the idiyappams can also be eaten with sambar and chutney, if you prefer a savoury variation.


Deriving its name from a quintessential Kerala activity of toddy-tapping, the kallu or toddy appams, is a thick, fluffy, bread that is made with a coarse batter of rice flour, sweet palm toddy and yeast, for quick fermentation. The spongy, dosa-like appam can be eaten for pretty much any kind of meal from breakfast to dinner, but tastes best when paired with spicy chutneys or a robustly-flavoured egg roast for breakfast. Kalappams also interestingly have a mellow aftertaste of the sweet toddy, giving it a unique flavour that most other local breads do not possess.