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Sri Lankan Breakfast

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Sri Lankan curry for breakfast, you can’t beat it. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and Sri Lankan breakfast has been the highlight of my early morning eating experiences over the many years of our nomadic travel adventure. (Read more about who we are, what we’re doing and why, here.). We have a post on other breakfasts around the world, but Sri Lanka wins, hands down. Find out what’s for breakfast in Sri Lanka in our blog post.

Large amounts of delicious, gently spiced dishes always put a smile on my face in the early morning. A fine china pot of Sri Lankan tea to go with it makes me even happier.

Luckily, my husband ( the Chef) and children share my enthusiasm for Sri Lankan breakfast, so we never had any demands for cereal or toast.

My second choice for breakfast excellence would be South Indian vada, dosa, idly and sambal, again, curry dishes with interesting carbs. You can read more about Indian breakfasts here.

What Goes into a Sri Lankan Breakfast?

sri lankan breakfast dishes
Sri Lankan Breakfast. String hoppers, plain hoppers, pol roti, pol sambol, potato curry and dahl. So yum! This one was in Ella.

Sri Lankan Breakfast Dishes

Sri Lankan breakfasts vary, no two are the same, but mostly you can expect a selection of the following dishes. In Sri Lanka breakfast can contain some or a selection of the following dishes.

  • Meat, Fish or Chicken Curry. Meat curries at breakfast didn’t crop up very regularly during our time in Sri Lanka, but we did see them included in set breakfasts in Kandy. I’m as vegetarian as I can be, so we normally go for meat-free dishes. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very keen on the fish curries I tried, too many bones and skins for me, the vegetarian curries suited us a lot better. ( We stayed in Kandy for 5 days and had a wonderful time, click here for things to do and see in Kandy)
  • Potato Curry. A mild, coconut-based potato curry, more like a soup, was often included in our Sri Lankan breakfasts. All of the ones we tried were superb, this was the dish that converted my kids to curry for breakfast.
  • Meat, Fish or Chicken Curry. Meat curries at breakfast didn’t crop up very regularly during our time in Sri Lanka, but we did see them included in set breakfasts in Kandy. I’m as vegetarian as I can be, so we normally go for meat-free dishes. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very keen on the fish curries I tried, too many bones and skins for me, the vegetarian curries suited us a lot better. ( We stayed in Kandy for 5 days and had a wonderful time, click here for things to do and see in Kandy)
  • Egg CurryHard boiled eggs in a similar mild coconut sauce. Another winner with the family.
  • Dahl. Sri Lankan dahl is denser than its Indian counterpart. At first we weren’t so keen, but once we got used to the different texture and spicing we couldn’t get enough. We never saw a breakfast in Sri Lanka that did not include a dal (lentil) curry.
  • Coconut (Pol) Sambol. The sambol was the star of the show for me. We’d watch our hosts shredding fresh coconuts to make the fine coconut base. To this they would add hot red chillies, a little lime and tamarind, salt and chopped onion (find a recipe here). It’s more of an accompaniment really, but I couldn’t get enough of it. The finished dish is dry and must always be fresh.
  • String Hoppers (appam or idiappam). These look like nests of spaghetti and are fine strands of rice flour batter pushed through a sieve or idiappam maker and steamed. String hoppers are served with curries and chutneys as part of a Sri Lankan breakfast.
  • Plain Hoppers. Bowl shaped pancakes of rice flour and coconut milk. You can find every possible hopper variation on the hopper theme in Sri Lanka. Egg hoppers, cheese and vegetable hoppers pleased my kids. Read more about hoppers in “What is a Hopper?” here.
  • Coconut (pol) Roti. Another bread type roti, this one is fairly thick and dense with coconut.
  • Fresh tropical fruit can be on the Sri Lankan breakfast menu. Fruits such as pineapple, papaya and banana can be served.
  • Milk Rice is a Sri Lankan speciality rice dish often served at breakfast time.

Finding a Sri Lankan Breakfast

One of the problems with food in Sri Lanka was the need to pre-order food, hours or days in advance.

With breakfasts, we almost always had to order the night before.

There were a few exceptions, in Kandy Devon Tea Rooms on the main street did a roaring breakfast trade and everything was ready, set meal or pick and mix from the menu.

Likewise, in Mirissa (our almost paradise) the roti shop on the main road served string hoppers, dahl and sambol to all comers.

When we were travelling around it was, of course, difficult to specify where we’d be eating the next morning.

That said, most guest houses that we used served breakfast, rarely included in the price.

In our previous incarnation as hotel package tourists in Sri Lanka we were served western style breakfasts, fruit, cheese and eggs. We really missed out!

Sri Lankan Food Breakfast
Sri Lankan breakfast for Pinterest

Looking for a place to stay in Sri Lanka? Start your hotel search here.

If you’re off to Sri Lanka or have been, tell me what you thought of the breakfasts, leave a comment, I’m so in love with them I don’t think anybody could not like them. Could you?

Back to our main Sri Lanka travel blog page here for all the information you could possibly need on visiting Sr Lanka.

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Saturday 22nd of January 2022

I'm a Hugh fan of the Sri Lankan breakfast...and agree with you that the coconut sambol is the definite star. We had wonderful...Hugh...breakfasts in Ahangamah. The bread there was really good as well. We had to pre order, and when you do they are happy you want the same food that they eat.

Alyson for World Travel Family

Saturday 22nd of January 2022

My favourite! And we now have our own coconut tree and I've managed to find the Sri Lankan coconut shredding device to buy online. It's just called a coconut grater, I was amazed to search that term and it was there.

Prasalyah Goindan

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

I love Sri Lanka.

Alyson for World Travel Family

Wednesday 7th of July 2021

Me too.


Saturday 10th of August 2019

This is very similar to Kerala cusine a state in South of India very close to srilannka. That is the one place where in India you get seafish beef and pork dishes for breakfast. Stringhopers are a daily affair. Alyson need to explore that.

Dr Aruna Kondasinghe

Friday 1st of November 2019

I agree south Indian cuisine is similar to SriLankan cuisine except in my opinion south Indian is spicier and hotter.

Alyson Long

Saturday 10th of August 2019

I've spent a lot of time in Kerala and yes it's very similar, but I don't think we've ever managed to track down idiappam there. Maybe it's just not offered in the tourist places because they all assume we want muesli fruit curd. But there was one place in Kovalam where we found some really cool food, way back from the beach, we may have found idiappan, but my memory isn't good! But yes, the south of India is another of my food favourites, love it. And now I'm hungry!


Thursday 13th of June 2019

Dear Alyson, I am really happy to hear about your love to Sri Lanka and it's breakfast. As a Sri Lankan, I am really proud. I also missed those delicious food, since we moved out of the country. Thank you very much. Can I share this on Facebook. So my friends and family in Sri Lanka can see?

Alyson Long

Thursday 13th of June 2019

Of course you can. I miss it too!


Wednesday 19th of September 2018

I married a Sri Lankan so have tried many of the different Sri Lankan foods. Dahl is made slightly different in every region. The family I am staying with right now has made 6 different varieties of Dahl for me. Because I have told them I would like to try different things. Sometimes different lentils are used. Sometimes different spices. Sometimes fried onions and spices in oil are added to the top. They will tell you add curry powder but there is no standard curry powder for Sri Lanka. My husband once brought 13 different varieties of curry powder for me to try at home. We found many places for around $40 a night that served Sri Lankan breakfast you just requested when you checked in. We stayed in a place above Kandy I forget the name something in the clouds. Was a house transformed into charming place had 4 or 5 bedrooms. Air conditioned and not. Two dining areas. You could go on the roof for a stunning view or the city. We were the only guests so had the whole palce to ourselves. Our hostess came in the morning to make breakfast and upon request came at night to make us a wonderful dinner. Lots of gems like that to be found. Once stayed at paradise on the rocks. Charming little hotel that you have to hike to. No air conditioning and very tiny room but so much character. Carved from the side of the mountain. Beautiful view of the ocean. Took tons of pictures so unique. Host was a wonderful British man name Tony. Have so many wonderful memories of the varies places a few dives a few 5 star places but mostly little out of the place gems we found.

Alyson Long

Wednesday 19th of September 2018

Sounds like you love Sri Lanka too .

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