Sri Lankan Hoppers: A Journey Through Crispy Coconut Pancakes

Sri Lankan Hoppers, known locally as "Appa" or "Appam," are a beloved traditional dish that holds cultural significance in Sri Lanka. These crispy coconut pancakes are made from fermented rice flour and coconut milk batter and cooked in unique round-bottomed pans. The dish is a culinary delight, featuring a crispy outer edge and a soft, spongy centre. Hoppers are a staple in Sri Lankan cuisine, enjoyed across the island as a popular breakfast or snack item. Their cultural importance lies in being a symbol of togetherness, often shared with family and friends during gatherings and a reflection of the country's rich culinary heritage.

The origins of Sri Lankan Hoppers can be traced back centuries, with their roots intertwined with South Indian cuisine and Dutch colonial influence. The dish likely evolved from appam, a fermented rice pancake made in South India. When the Dutch colonised Sri Lanka in the 17th century, they introduced a similar dish called pannenkoek, which was a thin, crepe-like pancake.

Over time, these culinary influences merged, giving rise to the unique Sri Lankan Hoppers we know today. The addition of coconut milk, a staple in Sri Lankan cooking, became an essential ingredient, lending a distinct flavour and texture. Hoppers gained popularity across the island, and variations like egg hoppers and milk hoppers emerged. Despite changing tastes and modernization, hoppers continue to hold a special place in Sri Lankan cuisine, preserving the essence of its diverse historical influences and serving as a delicious reminder of the country's cultural heritage.

Variations of Hoppers

1. Egg Hoppers: A delightful variation of the classic hopper, egg hoppers feature a whole cracked egg cooked within the centre of the pancake. The egg's yolk remains soft and runny, creating a luscious contrast to the crispy edges. It is a popular choice for breakfast or a filling snack.

2. Milk Hoppers: Also known as "Kiri Appa," milk hoppers are made by substituting part of the coconut milk with regular milk, resulting in a sweeter and creamier flavour. The texture is softer, resembling a delicate crepe.

3. String Hoppers: Unlike the traditional hopper, string hoppers are not pancake-shaped. Instead, they are made from rice flour dough, pressed into thin, noodle-like strands, and steamed. These delicate, white noodle discs are typically served with savoury accompaniments like curries and sambols.


Sri Lankan Hoppers are often served with an array of delectable accompaniments, enhancing the overall dining experience. Sambols are a staple; coconut sambol, made with grated coconut, chilli, lime, and spices, adds a burst of flavour. Dhal curry, a lentil-based curry with aromatic spices, offers a hearty and savoury complement. Fish or chicken curry provides a rich and spicy option for meat lovers. Vegetable curries showcase a variety of locally grown produce cooked in flavorful spices. Chutneys, like mango or tamarind, bring a tangy and sweet balance to the meal. This combination of accompaniments ensures a delightful and satisfying culinary journey through Sri Lankan Hoppers.

Exploring Sri Lankan Hoppers is a journey that transcends taste and texture, delving into the heart of the island's rich culinary heritage. With their origins steeped in history and influenced by various cultures, hoppers offer a unique gastronomic experience. From the crispy edges to the soft centre, each bite tells a story of tradition and togetherness. This iconic dish brings people together during family gatherings and holds cultural significance as a symbol of Sri Lanka's diverse and flavorful cuisine, making it an unforgettable and delightful culinary adventure.

Recipe For Sri Lankan Hoppers

                               Video Credits: Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana/YouTube


2 cups raw rice (white or red rice)

1/2 cup grated coconut

1/4 cup cooked rice

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 cup of coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil or ghee for frying

Eggs (optional, for egg hoppers)


Soak the raw rice in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. Drain the water and rinse the rice thoroughly.

In a blender or food processor, combine the soaked raw rice, grated coconut, cooked rice, yeast, and sugar. Blend to form a smooth batter. You may need to add a little water to achieve the desired consistency.

Transfer the batter to a large bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel. Let it ferment in a warm place for 6 to 8 hours or overnight. The batter should rise and become slightly bubbly.

Once the batter is fermented, add coconut milk and salt. Mix well to combine.

For regular hoppers: Heat a hopper pan or a small non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a little oil or ghee to coat the pan lightly. Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, swirling it around to coat the sides evenly. Cover the pan and cook for about 2–3 minutes until the edges become crispy and the centre is set.

For egg hoppers: Follow the same process as regular hoppers, but crack an egg into the centre of the hopper just after pouring the batter. Cover and cook for an additional 1–2 minutes until the egg is cooked to your liking.

Carefully remove the hopper from the pan using a spatula and place it on a plate. Repeat the process with the remaining batter.

Sri Lankan hoppers are best served hot with accompaniments like coconut sambol, dhal curry, fish or chicken curry, and chutneys.