When In Sri Lanka, Try The Traditional Breakfast
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The geographical location of Sri Lanka makes this country a hot one, with temperatures being around 31 degrees Celsius throughout the summer and most of the year as well. With the weather being perpetually hot, most households in this island nation start their day by drinking a tender coconut and eating the coconut flesh. And this is later followed by a substantial breakfast comprising of kiri bath, idiyappa, appa, or coconut milk roti served with accompaniments like pol sambol, sini sambol, coconut milk, vegetables, meat or  fish curry, and more.

King coconut water is the locals favourite beverage here and it is different from a green tender coconut and is called thambili. Currently, the cost of one king coconut is about 200–250 Sri Lankan rupees, while the green ones cost about 150 rupees. The locals might get it for a lesser amount too. The King coconuts are bright orange in colour, the water is sweeter and they cost slightly more than the green oconuts. This variety is called 'kendhaale' in the Western Ghats region of South India, which refers to the colour of the coconut.

With coconut water as the starter, the Lankan breakfast is elaborate. When in Sri Lanka, you must have a big Sri Lankan breakfast to kickstart the day. Most bed and breakfast inns or hotels offer a choice of either Continental or Sri Lankan breakfast. As a choice. If you have the stomach for a tasty adventure and can tolerate some levels of spice, Sri Lankan breakfast is a must-have. They do have some non-spicy, flavourful offerings for their breakfast as well.

Most of the hotel establishments request that their guests place an order for Sri Lankan  breakfast the evening before in advance to be able to serve the spread fresh and to avoid food waste. Apart from that, the breakfast spreads are available as street food near Gall Face Green in the Marine Drive area and Pettah Market in Colombo City. Many people do stop by at little carts or stalls to grab their Lankan breakfast on the go during the busy workday mornings, which include delights like Kiri bath, Sri Lankan string hoppers, fish curry, chicken curry, kolo kanda, coconut milk roti, paan, and more.

These Sri Lankan delights are similar to South Indian dishes, with a slight variation but nevertheless tasty and not the same. While a South Indian might like the light Lankan twist on these delicacies, others might find predominant similarities to the Tamil and Kerala delicacies of South Indian cuisine that they may have tried on their travels in India. 

Here are some of the traditional Sri Lankan dishes that one must try for breakfast:

Sri Lankan Hoppers:

Sri Lankan hoppers are also called aappa in Sinhalese. They are prepared just like Kerala's appams, which usually pair well with stew. Here, the aappa pairs beautifully with Lunu miris, which is   a relish made from fried red chillies, onions, and garlic. Egg aappa is another variation of this rice bread that is made by cracking an egg in the centre of the aappa and seasoning it with salt and pepper.

The hoppers are made from a fermented rice batter. The thin, crispy exterior  and the puffy-airy centre soak in and help mop up the gravy. Along with Lunu miris, these appas go beautifully with any one of the Sri Lankan curries, be it chicken, spicy fish or dried fish curry as well. The curries are runny in texture and spicy in taste, with a prominent hit of cinnamon and pepper that lingers on the palate.

String Hoppers:

This dish, also called idi aappa in Sinhalese, is the same as idiyappam in Tamil, nool putt in Kodava thakk, or shavige in Kannada. The string hoppers are usually made from organically grown heirloom rice flour, where the dough made from steamed rice flour is passed through a mould that shapes this bread like a bed of stringy, thin rice noodles. Some places also offer string hoppers made from millets, etc. It pairs well with coconut milk and palm jaggery for a hearty breakfast. Otherwise, the stringy hoppers are savoured with the vegetables, meat or fish curries and sini sambol.


Kiribath, or milk rice, is a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast dish akin to a savoury rice pudding, prepared by boiling white or brown kakulu rice with water and coconut milk until it becomes sticky, which is then pressed into a tray to cool before slicing. Symbolising prosperity, it's often served on celebratory occasions.

The creamy texture, derived from coconut milk, makes it delightful and a perfect pairing for spicy chicken, or fish curry. Sliced into squares, it's served with Lunu Miris, a chilli and onion sambol. Found in Sri Lankan morning buffets, it's a must-try dish that exemplifies the rich flavours and cultural significance of Sri Lankan cuisine.

Pol Roti

Pol roti, also known as coconut roti, is a staple breakfast in Sri Lanka. It is a thick flatbread that comes in two versions. One type is made from coconut flour and coconut milk. Sometimes water is used instead of coconut milk, which makes it more dense and less creamy than the one with coconut milk.

The second version comes with chopped onions and green chillies, adding a savoury touch to the flavours of the bread. Creamy inside and charred outside, it's widely available at roadside food carts too. It can be enjoyed plain, topped with jam, or paired with curry for a flavourful meal.

However, one of the best accompaniments above all these is the sambol. You can pair it either with a sini sambol that has caramelised onion, curry leaves, and chillies or with a pol sambol, which is a relish made from grated coconut, chopped onion, chilli powder, salt and other spices, lemons, and coriander. The sambol provides a refreshing, sweet and creamy flavour of coconut with tangy lemon juice that pairs beautifully with this dense bread.

Pol roti is somewhat similar in flavour and texture to the Indian rice roti called patthiri in Kerala or akki rotti in Kannada. Pol bread's popularity lies in its adaptability, making it a favourite among locals and a popular street food option.

Kola Kanda

Kola Kanda, also known as Kola Kenda, is a traditional Sri Lankan herbal porridge made from raw rice, coconut milk, and a variety of medicinal leafy greens such as gotukola, karapincha, and welpenela. This nutritious drink is known to be rich in vitamins, low in fat and low in calories. It can aid digestion and might possess anti-inflammatory properties.

Typically consumed for breakfast, it's served hot with a piece of jaggery to balance the herbal bitterness. A cart near Galle Face Green in Colombo popularly sells various kinds of this gruel for breakfast along with other traditional dishes. Originating in Buddhist culture, it's particularly favoured by monks as a restorative morning meal. The recipe involves grinding red rice and herbs and boiling them with coconut milk and spices, resulting in a nourishing and flavourful porridge.

Roast Paan

Roast paan are thin slices of leavened bread whose texture is similar to that of a sour-dough loaf. The porus slices of bread are perfect to prepare a sandwich with meat fillings and sambol, or make a toast with butter and jam topping, or simply used to mop up a curry and eat for a filling breakfast. Roast paan has coarse and crispy edges with soft bread at the centre, which makes it a perfect pair with tea as well. Dipping this slice of bread in sweet milk tea makes it an enjoyable and light breakfast.

Maalu Paan

Aloo bun might be a popular snack in India that is enjoyed with a cup of tea as a snack or a quick breakfast on-the-move. Similarly, maalu paan is a fish bun that most people enjoy as a quick breakfast, especially when they are travelling by train from one place to another in this island nation.

If you are taking an early morning train from Colombo Fort Station towards Kandy or Ella, maalu paan or fish bun, is a popular snack that people pick up along with tapioca chips or jam bun at the railway canteen in the station before boarding the train for a light breakfast that is later paired with a cup of Ceylon tea that is sold on the train.


Pittu is nothing but our very own puttu from Kerala, except here the dish is made with the Sri Lankan heirloom rice called brown kakulu rice. Thus, this dish made from coconut and rice flour, called caleld pittu, comes to Sri Lanka from the Kerala part of India and is traditionally eaten for breakfast here in Lanka.

It is made from grated coconut mixed with rice flour, forming a crumbled texture. This mixture is put in a cylinder-tube steamer and steamed for about 5–6 minutes before being served. The local restaurants, small eateries, street vendors, and households prepare this dish and serve it warm with warmed coconut milk, lunu miris, fish, meat or vegetable curry.

Sri Lankan Coconut Pancake:

Pani Pol, or coconut pancakes, are a delightful Sri Lankan treat stuffed with sweet coconut. Made from a batter of wheat flour, coconut milk, egg, and turmeric, they're cooked on a hot pan and filled with fresh grated coconut, jaggery, and spices. Rolled into neat parcels, they're often enjoyed with a steaming cup of tea.

Known as 'wellawahum' by older Sri Lankans, these pancakes are known to be a popular snack sold by mobile bakery vans playing Mozart symphonies. At times, it is served with a topping of honey, which is equally tasty. Pani pol with popularly served fruit platters comprising ripe and sweet papaya, pineapples, passion fruit halves, bananas and watermelon at the hotels and stays make for a hearty breakfast on their own.

While these traditional dishes feature as breakfast staples across all the regions of Sri Lanka, other breakfast options are our very own South Indian breakfast staples like ulundhu vada, idli, dosai with sambhar and chutneys, and more that is largely prepared in the Tamil housholds of Sri Lanka. And they are available in small eateries, a few local restaurants in Colombo, and other cities of Sri Lanka.