Breakfast in Sri Lanka

Breakfast in Sri Lanka is an elaborate affair and can consist of many filling dishes to set you off for the day.

While western-style breakfasts with eggs, toast and those anaemic-looking chicken sausages are widely available, it is the true Sri Lankan-style breakfast that will get your tastebuds going.

Habarana Breakfast

Fresh fruit juice and left over wedding food at Thuruliya Guesthouse

Where to eat Sri Lankan breakfast

The best Sri Lankan breakfasts are home-cooked, served at your guesthouse or at a local Sri Lankan cafe or restaurant (remember, restaurants are called hotels in Sri Lanka).

Many guesthouses have just two or three rooms and are family-run. If you stay at these small charming places, make sure that breakfast is included or that you can opt to add it on.

Local people are proud of their cooking and will often hover around to make sure that you like it and don’t want for anything. And if you are staying somewhere for a few days, be sure to show your appreciation and you’ll find that the breakfasts get more elaborate day by day.


The breakfasts can get more elaborate each day

What a Sri Lankan breakfast consists of

When you have breakfast at a guesthouse, your table will probably be over-flowing with dishes that you can’t possibly get through. There are always leftovers no matter how hard you try.


There is always fresh fruit served for breakfast in Sri Lanka. You always get enough bananas to feed a monkey for a week as well as slices of fresh pineapple, papaya and watermelon. You might occasionally get some mango or star fruit.

Often you are served a fresh fruit juice for breakfast too, which is full of amazing fresh fruit and sugar. Unfortunately due to the amount of sugar it is impossible to drink.


Even when you have Sri Lankan breakfast you will more often than not be served fried eggs.


Same with toast; you are normally served mountains of toasted cheap sweet white sliced bread, like the disgusting Bimbo bread we get here in Spain.

There is always a sweet sticky marmalade or jam to spread on the toast and always margarine too.


Hoppers are the key ingredient in any Sri Lankan breakfast and the better the hoppers, the better the breakfast.

Hoppers are as big as your plate and are, to liken them to something you might know, a bit like crepes in texture and taste.

Essentially a hopper is a pancake but it is made with rice flour and coconut milk in a pan the same shape as a wok but smaller.

The hopper takes the shape of the pan so when it is served to you is is like a bowl. The sides are crispy and the bottom is soft and spongy.

breakfast in sri lanka

Hoppers, tea and coconut sambol

With plain hoppers you normally break bits off and dip them in whatever other little interesting dishes you have on your table. But you can also fill them with banana or spicy sambol and roll them up and tuck in.

There’s no right or wrong and the only etiquette is to enjoy.

Hoppers are usually served in a stack so large that you have no hope whatsoever of eating the whole lot, though they’re so more-ish that you’ll have a good go.

Not all hoppers are plain, and sometimes a fried egg is cooked into the base of the hopper and sometimes it’s already rolled for you with the banana cooked into the batter. Some hoppers have egg and veg cooked into the batter too to make for a whole meal. Either way is delicious so my recommendation is to try all.

The best hoppers I had in Sri Lanka were at that charming guesthouse in Ella where we stayed with a lovely local family.

The first time I had hoppers was in Habarana at Thuruliya Guesthouse where the breakfasts got more and more elaborate each day. Read more about that here.


With hoppers comes sambol.

Coconut sambol is very typical Sri Lankan and you will find it everywhere, served with everything. Sambol is normally a spicy chutney but coconut sambol is more like a coarse powder for sprinkling on things.

Coconut sambol consists of ground coconut and chilli and though it is refreshing from the coconut, will blow your head off with the chilli. It is delicious but potent. Use with caution.

Onion sambol is another popular sambol served at breakfast time and this is more like a chutney. It is spicy and often sweet at the same time. So so good with hoppers.

Curry for breakfast

As if you didn’t have enough going on with regard to tastebud-awakening flavours, curry is sometimes served at breakfast time in Sri Lanka too. Normally the type of curry you see at breakfast time is dhal curry – one of my absolute favourite things to eat in Sri Lanka.

Dhal curry is made from lentils and it’s amazing how well it goes with your hoppers, fruit and fried egg!

If you are served dhal curry for breakfast then you are normally served plain rotis too. These are a tasty flatbread like a chapati but more versatile.


No Sri Lankan breakfast is complete without tea and lots of it. There is no limit to how much tea a Sri Lankan will serve you for breakfast; you can drink it ’til it comes out of your ears if you like.

And the great thing is, Sri Lankan tea is excellent. I don’t mean because it comes from Sri Lanka, I mean because they know how to brew it. They use good water, they boil the water (as opposed to just heating it up a bit) and they brew it well, without rushing.

Coffee, on the other hand, is not good in Sri Lanka. Ever. Stick to tea, you have been warned.

How about you? What’s your favourite thing for breakfast? Have you ever tried a Sri Lankan breakfast?

Want to read someone else’s take on the Sri Lankan breakfast? Check out Sri Lankan Breakfast by Alyson of World Travel Family or read more about hoppers with Mike from Sri Lanka for 91 days. In the meantime, I’m off to look for a recipe for dhal curry for my breakfast. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I would like to remind you that all the photos used on InMyShoesTravel are my own unless otherwise stated.
You can see my whole collection of Travel Photos here.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedfood and drinkSri Lanka


About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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