Uma’s Spiced Coconut Quinoa

This coconut quinoa dish is a variation of a traditional South Indian Tamil rice pilaf called Thenga Sadham (coconut rice). In this version my cousin Uma made the same coconut rice but with quinoa instead of rice when we went for lunch one weekend.

Uma is an amazing cook, but what I mostly like about her cooking style is how she transforms traditional Tamil cooking into healthier versions. She experiments with wholesome variations of many traditional rice dishes and wheat based staples like chapatis (Indian tortillas). Uma has a grain mix with millet, amaranth and quinoa which she uses as a substitute for rice. She has a variation of chapati flour that consists of lentil flours and millet flour instead of the traditional whole-wheat flour. If one didn’t know she substituted ingredients for healthier options in her food, one would never guess from eating them. This coconut quinoa pilaf is one of those dishes that tastes even better than the original rice version. Here is the recipe.


Uma’s Spiced Coconut Quinoa:


  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/4 cup un-sweetened shredded coconut
  • A few curry leaves if you have but not needed. Curry leaves are sold at most Indian grocery stores.
  • 2 dried red chilies, but no needed
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp asafetida powder otherwise known as Hing. This can be purchased at any Indian supermarket and at Whole Foods.
  • Traditional recipe calls for 1 tsp of lentils such as split Bengal gram and black gram lentil, but these can be left out if you don’t have any handy. Lentils when toasted in oil give the dish a nice nutty flavor and crunch. These lentils are available at Whole Foods and Indian grocery stores.
  • Salt
  • Oil preferably coconut oil as it gives the dish a nice aroma.


  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp oil.
  • Add mustard seeds and lentils and toast until lightly browned.
  • Add asafoetida powder, red chilies and curry leaves and toast for 10-15 seconds.
  • Now add shredded coconut and roast in the oil mixture until lightly browned. Do not let it toast too dry as the flavor of the coconut will evaporate.
  • Add cooked quinoa and toss together with salt. Heat through for an additional 2 minutes.
  • It’s ready to serve.  This quinoa dish can be served at room temperature.
  • Traditionally coconut rice/quinoa is eaten with crunchy Indian papadum but we also have it with potato chips.
Uma’s lunch spread

4 thoughts on “Uma’s Spiced Coconut Quinoa”

  1. Looks delicious! We make quinoa all the time. But just plain Quinoa. We eat it with curries.
    This sounds very nice. Will make it soon.

  2. Uma Mannaraswamy – a favorite Daughter in Law of our Family … Always courteous and down to earth, full of innate goodness – no pretense. Quinoa is high Protein and with its high Fiber content is a staple in a Diabetic’s diet … Uma M combines Career and Motherhood on a stunning fashion … my blessings to her …. Vinatha Chitti

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