Savory (Sour) Cereal Recipe

Click here to go straight to a PDF of the recipe or see below.

This post is primarily for those who, at some point in their lives have ventured into the world of Siddha Yoga and have had the good fortune of savoring the delicious breakfast cereal served at ashrams and centers.  It’s also for those who’d like to try an amazingly healthy and healing breakfast cereal.

In 1981 I was living in the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Santa Monica on 3rd and Broadway. (It’s now the Broadway Deli.) My ashram work, or seva, was as an assistant in the kitchen. We didn’t know it, but Baba (Swami Muktananda), our teacher, would soon be leaving his body.  It was a remarkable time with meditation programs free to residents, Swamis Brahmananda and Janananda leading programs, and the ashram manager Kadar (now Swami Akhandananda) helping to train rookies like me.

Very early one morning Kadar showed me how to make sour cereal and immediately it became my task to make the morning cereal for the hungry residents. (It’s now called savory cereal and has been for many years, but, on this issue, I’m stuck in the past. I still call it sour cereal.)

Fast forward to this morning. I hadn’t made sour cereal in over a year and some unconscious memory seized my brain upon awaking. I checked the kitchen…everything was there! Wow! Yum! As I’m typing this I’m devouring my second bowl. This cereal is like medicine…I’m in love again!

A few years ago I made sour cereal for a special program and a woman practically begged me for the recipe, but I didn’t have one that was similar to the one I made in the ashram. In honor of her, I had pen and paper on hand this morning. Below is the recipe I just made. This is just one of many variations of this fantastic tonic. This will make about 16 servings, which is perfect because sour cereal freezes very well.

Since originally writing this, I’ve made this recipe a few times and made some minor changes.  I must say, this is a great sour cereal recipe and I’ve tried to make it user friendly for the non-chef.

Click here for a PDF of the recipe.

What you will need:

  • Water (use purified if possible)
  • 1 cup millet
  • ½ cup basmati rice (choose any grain that you like i.e. quinoa)
  • ¾ of a medium-large yellow onion chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • 2 pinches of fenugreek seeds
  • 2/3 cup of dried unsweetened coconut (sometimes called coconut powder )(Can be purchased at an Indian Grocery store.) You can also use ½ of a fresh coconut if you have a strong blender (see below).
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 2 medium size tomatoes, chopped into big pieces for the blender.
  • 5 Medjool dates, pits removed and chopped into big pieces for the blender.
  • 1 small to medium size jalapeño, stem removed and chopped into big pieces for the blender. (If you don’t mind your cereal warmer, a larger jalapeño is fine.)
  • 1/3 cup fresh ginger, chopped large (skin and all) for the blender.
  • A handful of oats (quick oats are fine)
  • 2 ½ – 3 level teaspoons of salt (or to taste)
  • nutritional yeast flakes to taste

Remember, the feeling with which you cook is the main ingredient.

I do my chopping while cooking, but you can do yours ahead of time if you like.

Get two large pots (approx. 5 quarts or more). You can make sour cereal in one pot by starting with the sauté and then adding the water and grain, but using two pots is easy and quicker.

In one of the pots start 8 cups of water on a high heat and add your millet and rice or other grain. When the water boils, bring it down to a rolling boil stirring occasionally. Remember, throughout the preparation you can add water to get the consistency that you desire. I have noted where I usually add water, but this may change depending on the second grain used or the time and temperature of the cooking.

While the water is heating up and boiling, finely chop ¾ of the onion and set aside ½ the onion for use right now and a ¼ of the onion for use later.

In the second large pot, sauté the ½ an onion finely chopped in the butter on a low-medium flame. When the onions are soft, add the cumin and fenugreek and lightly toast the spices.

Now add the dried unsweetened coconut and very lightly toast the coconut stirring constantly. Turn off your sauté.

Fresh Coconut:
Only use fresh coconut if you have a strong blender. Turn off your sauté and grains as this may take a few minutes. Break the coconut open by tapping a hammer around the circumference. Make sure that you have a bowl underneath it to catch and save the coconut milk. Carefully remove the coconut meat from the shell. (Remember, you are only using ½ of the coconut.) If you have a stubborn coconut that will not easily come out of the shell, wrap it in an old clean towel and whack it hard on a concrete surface a few times to break it into smaller pieces. Then carefully slide a butter knife between the meat and the shell and rock the knife back and forth like turning a key. This should free the meat from the shell. Then chop the coconut meat into small pieces. Add the pieces to a blender and cover with water. Finely blend the coconut meat and add to the sauté cooking for a few minutes.

When your grains have been boiling for about ten minutes or more, carefully pour the boiling water with the grains into the large pot with the onions, spices, and coconut. If needed, rinse the grain pot making sure to don’t leave any grains behind. Bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Stir thoroughly and regularly because if you don’t it will stick to the bottom and burn.

While the mixture is enjoying a mellow boil and you are stirring it regularly, chop the bottoms off the cilantro (leaving half the stems) and submerge the whole bunch in cold water. I use the second grain pot for this purpose. If your cilantro is muddy or dirty you may have to soak it a few times until the water clears up. Leave the cilantro submerged and set aside.

Continue stirring the mixture while it is enjoying a mellow boil.

Get out the blender and make the masala. Add to the blender: tomatoes, dates, jalapeño, and ginger. Cover with 1 ½ cups of warm water and pulse at first, then blend on high for a least one minute or until the masala is well blended.

Add the masala and oats to the main mixture and stir in very well. (If you used fresh coconut, strain the coconut milk and add to the cereal) Add 3-4 cups of water.  As a matter of fact, add water at any time to get the consistency that you desire.

Add the salt to the sour cereal and stir in thoroughly.

Bring this to a boil. Remember to stir this thoroughly and regularly because if you don’t it will stick to the bottom and burn. If the cereal begins to stick, scrape the sticking with your spoon and don’t let it burn.

Once boiling, lower the heat to a strong simmer (occasional boil) for 25 minutes.  Adjust the heat as needed but keep the mixture at a strong simmer/mellow boil for 25 minutes.

While the cereal is cooking, take your cilantro out of the water, (rinse again if necessary), shake out the water and chop it finely.

After 25 minutes of a mellow boil/strong simmer and stirring regularly, turn off the heat, stir in the ¼ of an onion finely chopped and the chopped cilantro, and let the mixture sit for ten minutes (if you can resist).

Pour a bowl and top it liberally with nutritional yeast and enjoy!!!

Freeze what you don’t use after two days and add water when reheating.

Before eating add SGMKJ. (This is an acronym of a prayer/salutation.)

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24 Responses to Savory (Sour) Cereal Recipe

  1. diswasn says:

    Awesome!

  2. Jen says:

    I had this wonderful cereal when I visited the siddha yoga ashram (South Fallsburg) in 1992. I’ve always remembered how delicious and satisfying this was. I recently looked for a recipe online and I’ve found a few, and the recipes all seem to be a bit different. I like ‘your’ recipe. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Allen says:

    Jen, thank you so much! I do appreciate the comment!

  4. Anton says:

    Allen

    So glad I found you. I recently reconnected with meditation and the Guru Gita. This lead to finding and reading the books “Wheat Belly” by William Davis and “Sweet Poison” by David Gillespie. Following their guidance, I lost 8 kg in three weeks and I am looking forward to loosing another 8kg in order to restore ‘normal’ weight.

    This approach requires one to dump all wheat and sugar from one’s diet and eat ‘real’ food in order to restore health.

    And now to my comment. The most difficult part of this approach is getting something tasty and healthy that is essentially wheat and sugar free for breakfast. Well, the sour cereal does the job perfectly.

    Love your comment “Before eating add SGMKJ”! Getting away from packaged food and spending time at the fruit and vegetable market and in the kitchen is what adds health to your system. Easting the product is definitely part of the requirement but only a small part and not the main focus.

    Baba’s vision does not only cover the few decades after his death, it applies now more than ever. Wished there was a Siddha Yoga cookbook. If everyone where to eat ashram food every day, that would solve much of the world’s obesity problem.

    I’d like to add my thanks to the others who are rediscovering this great dish.

    Anton.

  5. Allen says:

    You say, “I recently reconnected with meditation and the Guru Gita.” That is the real medicine. You also say, “Getting away from packaged food and spending time at the fruit and vegetable market and in the kitchen is what adds health to your system.” I think this is really what benefits our lives…nice comment.

    “Eat with love and contentment — to live and to acquire strength. Do not live to eat. Perceive food as God.” – Swami Muktananda, Mukteshwari I, 448

    I think the essence of what Baba is saying here is to live for God. One of the greatest gifts of Siddha Yoga has been to teach me how to find things in my life that I’m passionate about…to find things that inspire us. I think food becomes a problem when we aren’t following our dreams.

    Thanks for your comment Anton.

  6. Emilie says:

    Thank you for posting this recipe. I also was in Siddha Yoga during the 80’s….Oakland mainly with 2 months at Ganeshpuri. I really miss this cereal and had lost my recipe years ago. Also miss the warm Chai made with buffalo milk! Didn’t the cereal also have fresh garlic and more spices … I think I will add tumeric and coriander seeds and give it a try.

  7. Anjani says:

    I lived in the Oakland ashram in the 1980’s. I was able to meet Baba. I’m still a devotee. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I consider this cereal a sacred potion. I can feel the batch I just made, thanks to Allen, already nourishing my body and my spirit. I compared several recipes but yours spoke to me. It was easy to follow. I felt you were in my kitchen guiding me along step by step. I added more cumin and some hot chili flakes to my bowl…and yes, the golden nutritional yeast. I’ll be at the ashram tomorrow morning chanting the Guru Gita (after years doing it at home). SGMKJ

  8. Allen says:

    Yes, sometimes we made it with coriander seeds and other items. There are many recipes out there. This is one of many of Sour Cereal (Savory) recipes. The chai?…ah! The best! Maybe I’ll post that someday when I have the time to do it right. Thank you so much for your post! Love and Blessings, Allen

  9. Allen says:

    Baba’s influence in my life is immeasurable. This little recipe contains, for me, much of the love of that time. It evokes memories of a remarkable time…a time full of wonderful friendships and deep commitment to path.
    I’m so glad to receive your share and thank you for sharing your modifications. There are so many great variations on this blessed cereal. I see that you are also adding one of my favorite ingredients, swadhyaya.
    Again, thank you so much for your share!

  10. I was at the South Fallsburg ashram in 1982 with my family as a teen and also did a lot of seva in the kitchen. We were CRAZY about this sour cereal and I have been craving it for decades! Thank you so much!

  11. Allen says:

    You are very welcome Jessica! Thank you for the comment. It’s amazing that, after so many years, we all love sour cereal. Rich in shakti and memories. Again, thanks for your comment!

  12. Kathy says:

    How wonderful that you’re sharing this great recipe! I make sour cereal (yes, I still call it “sour” too) whenever I want a hit of my years visiting the ashram. If I close my eyes, the aroma alone takes me right back to the dining hall, with Sri Ram, Jay Ram playing in the background!
    I’m currently down with a cold, and found your posting as a result of my search for “ashram tonic,” which was always available at the ashram during cold and flu season. I know it contains ginger and lemon. Maybe honey? Maybe chili powder? Do you have that recipe?

  13. SueI says:

    Hi Allen. I am preparing v sour cereal for 45-60 – do I increase spices by simply multiplying or do you have another approach. Thanks. I can hardly wait to share Baba’s gift. Sue

  14. Allen says:

    Sue, please accept my apologies for the delayed response. To answer your question: This recipe should yield about 15-20 servings. If you are going to triple this recipe, you have to back off the dates and chilies a little: maybe 2 ½ chilies and 12 Medjool dates. When I use to cook larger quantities, a lot of my choices were intuitive. For example, if the Medjool dates were very moist, I may use less. If you are only tripling the recipe, the other spices should be fine. Let me know if it works out. Thank you so much for the question.

  15. Allen says:

    So sorry for my terribly tardy response! What a great share! Thank you! You are referring to ginger tea and there are many variations. Your note inspired this quick post: http://www.thedawnofawareness.com/ginger-tea/

  16. nitajet says:

    Thank you so much. I awoke craving sour cereal, having also been blessed to stay in the Santa Monica ashram in 81. Blessing my breakfast with sgmkj at the end of cooking filled me with joy. And now I can eat. Miracles occur everyday.

  17. Diana Grasselli says:

    I was in South Fallsburg in the early 80’s with Babaji. As I was thinking about my current minor health issues today, I was just remembering the food I had there for those several years of visits and how wonderful it made me feel, along with all the powerful shakti in Baba’s presence. I really NEVER felt better. Thank you for this recipe. Tho I have them somewhere, I am happy to find this recipe so easily accessible.Thank you for sharing it! I will buy all the ingredients tomorrow and make it. Now I need to find the curried vegetables, dahl and basmati rice recipes. If you happen to remember those, please pass them on. Thank you!

  18. Jennifer Lumley says:

    This recipe is the reason I love the internet! I have longed for sour cereal since I visited South Fallsburg Ashram 30 years ago. Thank you thank you for posting. Can’t wait to go and make it!

  19. Allen Astin says:

    Thank you Jennifer!

  20. Allen Astin says:

    Diana,
    Thank you so much for sharing. I too had the good fortune of spending two years with Baba and was with him in India when he passed. To me, he offered love beyond my imagination. My gratitude for what he gave me is unending.
    Again, thank you so much for sharing. Here is a link to an old Siddha Yoga cookbook that may have some of the old recipes: http://www.allenastin.com/docs/So%20what%27s%20cooking%20-%20old%20Siddha%20Yoga%20cookbook.pdf
    Sincerely,
    Allen Astin

  21. Allen Astin says:

    Nitajet,
    If you were around the Santa Monica ashram in ’81, then we probably knew of each other. Thank you so much for your comment. Indeed, this moment is the supreme miracle. Love and blessings my friend.
    Allen

  22. Please post the chai recipe. Would love to have it

  23. Allen Astin says:

    Jeanne, I’ll try and do that this weekend. Thanks for the comment!

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