Bread upma uses bread croutons that are toasted in ghee, tossed with an onion-tomato masala, and blanketed with a layer of egg for a delicious breakfast or a snack.
South Indian Style Snack
My mom used to make this dish on weekend mornings. It is a riff on a South Indian style kothu parotta but uses bread slices instead of parotta since that is what we usually had lying in the back of the pantry.The recipe is so easy and comes together in less than 15 minutes which is perfect for feeding hungry kids in the morning.
The recipe involves cutting sandwich bread into croutons and toasting them in ghee for a delicious buttery taste. Next, a classic tomato and onion masala is created by sautéing finely diced tomatoes and onions with spices found in South Indian cooking like chili powder, turmeric, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. The crunchy croutons are then coated in the masala and then enveloped in an egg which acts as a binder to help the masala adhere to bread and as extra protein in your morning breakfast.
Ingredients and substitutes
This is a recipe that is so simple and can be changed up to your liking. I'll list the ingredients and their purpose in the recipe. I'll also suggest alternatives if you want to riff on this recipe.
- Bread - This recipe calls for a sandwich bread with the crust removed. This type of bread soaks up the ghee and egg quickly and is ideal for a stovetop bread upma. However, feel free to experiment with whatever bread you have lying around or even rotis or tortillas for this recipe!
- Ghee - Ghee is super important for this recipe as it creates the richness and buttery-ness that makes it such a delicious dish. If you don't have ghee, you can use brown butter or regular butter.
- Tomatoes - Fresh roma tomatoes help create a delicious masala and add acidity to this dish. However, if you don't have them, opt for diced canned tomatoes instead.
- Onions - Onions are crucial to creating a caramelized sweetness to this dish. You can use another type (white or red) in this recipe but I slightly prefer the yellow variety for the sweetness they impart.
- Spices (Turmeric, Coriander, Cumin) - These spices are crucial to creating warm and earthy flavors that provide a South Indian flavor profile. These are easily accessible in American grocery stores which makes this recipe so approachable.
- Egg - The egg is what helps bind the masala to the bread and creates a soft texture for some pieces of bread, which contrast the crunchy pieces. If you don't eat egg, simply omit it.
- Thai Chilis - Adding a bit of heat to this dish helps round it out. You can easily substitute Thai chilis with serrano or fresno chilis. If you prefer your food less spicy, opt to chop jalapeños instead.
- Lemon Juice - Lemon juice is a great thing to sprinkle on to add a final touch of acidity to the dish. If you don't have it on hand, feel free to skip.
- Cilantro - Cilantro adds an herby freshness to this dish that is so welcoming in contrast to the rich ghee-soaked bread. However, if you are averse to cilantro, swap it with chopped mint instead!
Indian Style Stovetop Stuffing
Over the years, I've come to realize that this dish is like an Indian style stovetop stuffing. I think it would make a great addition to an Indian inspired Thanksgiving or Christmas Menu. Hear me out. It is made from crunchy bread croutons whose job is to soak up all the flavor. However, instead of aromatics like parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme, it gets its flavor from an onion tomato masala. As the egg is poured over the ghee-toasted bread, the masala, egg, and bread all become one to yield something that I think we should have at our holiday tables.
Tips on Making a Great Bread Upma
- Toast bread - Toasting bread in ghee is important for a delicious bread upma. The ghee soaks into the bread and makes it golden brown, creating tons of flavor and a crunchy texture. When the egg is added to the upma, its important that the bread is crunchy so some pieces remain crunchy while others get softer, creating textural contrast.
- Add egg over the bread to envelop it - Adding egg to the bread upma is one of the last steps for this recipe. Adding the egg over the bread and the masala helps bind the bread and masala together. Plus, adding eggs gives that extra bit of protein to help start the day.
- Make masala ahead of time - If you are planning to make this dish for a large crowd or for a holiday you can make the onion and tomato masala ahead of time. This way all you need to do to put this dish together is toast the bread and toss everything together.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice and cilantro for freshness - Cilantro and lemon juice add freshness to this dish to help it feel light. If you don't like cilantro, simply replace it with an herb like mint.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can make the masala for the bread upma up to 2-3 days before and store it in the fridge for use on the day you plan on making it.
Mint is a great substitute for cilantro in this recipe.
Sandwich bread is great for this recipe. Otherwise, you can use soft breads like challah or leftover dinner rolls. Really any type of leftover bread will work - so feel free to experiment.
You can substitute brown butter or regular butter for ghee in this recipe.