Semiya upma is a popular South Indian breakfast made with vermicelli, spices, herbs, lentils and peanuts. Also known as vermicelli upma, it is a super quick dish that can be made under 25 minutes. Serve semiya upma for a breakfast or a meal anytime of the day with peanut podi, coconut podi, and coconut chutney or with seasoned yogurt. In this post I share 2 ways to make semiya upma without vegetables and with vegetables.
About semiya upma
“Semiya” is a South Indian word meaning “vermicelli” & “upma” is a South Indian breakfast made with semolina & tempering ingredients. So semiya upma is a variation of the Rava upma.
Upma is a popular traditional breakfast made with semolina, curry leaves, mustard seeds, lentils, ginger and peanuts. There are many variations of upma made with different ingredients like poha, sabudana, oats, millets and quinoa. Semiya upma is one such variation and made the same way as the rava upma.
How to choose vermicelli
Different kinds of vermicelli made with many different grains are available in the market. You can find vermicelli made with rice, wheat flour, with semolina, ragi and many other millets. For the traditional semiya upma, wheat vermicelli is used. You can easily find the info labelled on the pack as made from wheat or semolina.
There are 2 kinds of wheat semiya – roasted and unroasted. The unroasted semiya requires roasting them prior to cooking. To save roasting time you may buy roasted semiya and skip the roasting part mentioned in the recipe. However the flavor of pre-roasted semiya is nutty and is completely different.
There are numerous brands selling wheat vermicelli. I use the Bambino or MTR vermicelli as the results are consistent with these brands.
While making semiya upma it is very important to use the right amount of water as we don’t want mushy vermicelli. With the right amount of water it turns out fluffy, non-sticky and beautiful.
For a quick 25 mins meal, make this dish without any veggies or use frozen veggies as chopping fresh vegetables takes some time. On occasions we have the vegetable semiya upma for a dinner with a spicy seasoned yogurt which I have shared below.
Vegetables like carrots, peas and young green beans go well in this. My mom would usually add a parboiled potato to this. But do not add the raw potato as it takes time to cook.
How to make semiya upma (stepwise photos)
Roasting vermicelli & peanuts
1. Skip this step if using roasted semiya. Dry roast 1 cup vermicelli (110 grams) on a low to medium flame stirring often until light & slightly golden. Do not brown the vermicelli as the flavor alters. Transfer this to a plate.
2. Pour ½ tablespoon oil to a hot pan. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons peanuts. On a medium heat, roast them until golden and crunchy. Remove to a plate and set aside for garnishing.
3. Pour 1 tablespoon oil to the hot pan or pot. Add
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon chana dal (skinned bengal gram)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (skinned, split black dal)
4. Fry all the ingredients until the lentils become golden. Then add 8 to 10 cashew nuts (optional). Saute until all of the lentils become deep golden but not burnt.
5. Then add 1 sprig curry leaves, 1 slit or chopped green chilies and 3 to 4 tbsps chopped onions. (1 small onion)
6. Saute until the onions turn golden or transparent. The add a pinch of hing and 1 teaspoon fine chopped ginger. Saute for 30 to 60 seconds until the ginger turns aromatic.
7. Pour 1½ cups water and add ½ teaspoon salt. Start with 1/3 teaspoon and add more if required. Stir very well and taste test the water after which you can adjust the salt and spice (green chili). The water has to be slightly salty.
Tip: If using thin vermicelli 1 ¼ cup water would be sufficient.
8. Bring the water to a rapid boil. Then add all of the vermicelli at one time. I have used store bought roasted vermicelli here.
9. Mix very well.
10. Cover and cook on a low heat until all of the water is absorbed and the semiya is cooked.
11. When the water is completely absorbed, taste test to check if the semiya is done properly. It has to be soft and fully cooked but not mushy or sticky. Turn off the heat and keep the pot covered for at least 5 to 10 minutes. This step is important and makes your semiya upma fluffy. Sprinkle some coriander leaves and fresh grated coconut if you want.
I do not add any extra water. But if your semiya is undercooked, bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small pan and sprinkle little by little water and cook. The quantity of water I have mentioned works well with both MTR and Bambino.
Garnish semiya upma with roasted peanuts. Squeeze some lemon juice if you like and serve with peanut podi.
How to make vermicelli upma with vegetables
1. Roast the vermicelli if required. Set aside. For this recipe you will require 110 grams. Pour half tablespoon oil to a pan and roast the peanuts on a medium heat until golden and crunchy. Remove to a plate and set aside for garnish.
3. To the same pan, pour 1 tablespoon oil and add –
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 1 teaspoon chana dal
4. Fry until the dal turns lightly golden. Add –
- 1 pinch hing
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon chopped ginger(optional)
- 1 chopped green chili.
5. Add 1 small sliced onion and saute until transparent. Optional – You can also skip the vegetables. Add ¾ cup mixed vegetables – carrots, peas and french beans. Ensure the veggies are fine chopped otherwise they won’t cook fast. I sprinkle little salt so the veggies release moisture and cook easily.
6. Cover and cook on a low flame till they turn tender and almost cooked. If they don’t cook well, then sprinkle little water and cook.
7. Add salt and pour 1½ cups water. Stir and taste test the water. It has to be slightly salty. If using thin vermicelli 1 ¼ cup water would be sufficient.
8. Bring it to a rolling boil on a high flame.
9. Add the roasted vermicelli. Stir well to prevent lumps.
10. Cook on a medium high flame till all the water is absorbed. By then the semiya should be cooked well. (Troubleshooting tip: If the semiya does not cook well then boil little hot water and pour it here. Read tips below.)
11. Cover and cook on a low flame for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off and rest for 5 minutes.
When the temperature comes down a bit, sprinkle lemon juice and add coriander leaves. Mix and garnish with roasted peanuts or cashews. Serve it hot with peanut podi.
This is the semiya upma I made without veggies. It turns out good even without veggies.
1. There are 2 kinds of semiya in the market – roasted & unroasted. If using preroasted vermicelli, you don’t need to roast them again. Otherwise you have to roast them following my step 1 otherwise the dish will turn mushy and sticky.
2. The quantity of water to use differs for thick and thin variety vermicelli. I use the thicker bambino semiya which takes 1½ cups water for every cup of semiya. If using thin semiya then it would only need 1¼ cups.
3. Semiya upma is always made with wheat vermicelli and not with rice vermicelli. If using rice vermicelli, then boil them following the instructions on the pack. Drain them and then just do the tempering without adding water. Then just mix the precooked vermicelli there. Cover and cook for 1 to 2 mins.
Semiya upma (vermicelli upma)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup semiya (110 grams vermicelli)
- 1½ cups water for thick semiya (1 cup for thin variety,1¼ cup for instant pot)
- ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 1 small onion (3 to 4 tbsps, thinly sliced or chopped)
- 1 green chili slit or chopped
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon ginger chopped finely
Tempering ingredients for semiya upma
- 1½ tablespoon oil or ghee
- ¼ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon channa dal (split bengal gram) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal (skinned black gram) (optional)
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) (optional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoon peanuts or cashews (or both)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (to serve, optional)
- ¾ cup mix vegetables carrot, peas, green beans – fine chopped
- 2 tablespoon coriander leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoon fresh grated coconut for garnish
- If using roasted vermicelli, then skip this step. Dry roast semiya uniformly on a medium flame until lightly golden. Keep stirring and fry without browning them. They will turn light when done. Transfer to a plate.
How to make semiya upma
- Heat oil in a pan. Add peanuts or cashews. Fry them until golden and crunchy. Remove to a plate.
- To the same pan add mustard, cumin, chana dal & urad dal . Fry until the dal turn golden and roasted well.
- Next add hing, onions, ginger, green chilli and curry leaves. Fry for about 2 to 3 minutes until the onions turn transparent or light golden.
- This step is optional. If using carrot, beans and peas add them now and saute for another 3 mins. Cook covered on a low flame till they turn slightly tender.
- Pour water and add salt. Stir and check by tasting the water. It has to be slightly salty. If needed add more salt.
- Bring it to a rapid boil. Transfer roasted semiya to the pan & stir immediately.
- Cook covered on a medium flame till all the water is absorbed by the vermicelli. (If you feel the semiya is uncooked then pour little boiling water.)
- Once the water is absorbed, mix well and cook covered on a lowest heat for 2 minutes. Turn off and rest for another 5 minutes.
- When the temperature cools down a bit sprinkle some lemon juice & coriander leaves.
- Garnish semiya upma with grated coconut (optional), roasted peanuts or cashews. Serve with peanut podi or pickle.
Instant pot semiya upma
- Follow all the steps on a saute mode. Add semiya and mixed vegetables if using. Pour 1¼ cups water and deglaze.
- Secure the IP with the lid and position the steam release handle to sealing. Pressure cook for 1 minute. When the instant pot is done, wait for 2 mins and release the pressure manually.
- Remove the steel insert and fluff up with a fork. I keep it covered further for another 5 to 10 mins. Serve semiya upma hot.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Semiya upma recipe first published in May 2015. Updated and republished in July 2021.