Upma recipe with simple step-by-step instructions & video for beginners. Also known as rava upma, this is an easiest Indian breakfast made with semolina, spices, curry leaves and nuts. It is a staple & an everyday instant food made in South Indian homes, restaurants and tiffin centers. Whether you are a newbie or an experienced cook, this recipe will help you make the best at home.
A well-made upma is delicious, non-sticky & fluffy with bursting flavors of ginger, curry leaves, green chilies, mustard, cumin seeds and roasted lentils. Making this delicious dish is no rocket science & is the simplest you can whip up under 20 minutes.
If you are new to Indian cuisine and wondering what is upma?
Upma is a traditional South Indian breakfast dish made by simmering roasted rava in tempered & spiced boiling water. Rava is the South Indian word for ‘semolina’ so it is also known as rava upma.
Traditionally it is made with coarse ground rice or wheat but these days it is also made with many other ingredients like oats, vermicelli, poha, bread etc.
About this recipe
This upma recipe follows the traditional method of making it where semolina is dry roasted until crunchy. Next a tempering is made with basic spices, chana dal, urad dal and curry leaves.
Onions are sautéed in the tempering and then the right of water it poured to make the spiced mixture. Lastly roasted rava is incorporated in a slow stream so the upma turns out soft and smooth without lumps.
Peanuts, cashews, mixed vegetables, ghee etc are also optionally used to enhance the taste of the rava upma. Vegetables like carrots, peas and beans can also be used to up the nutrition profile of the dish.
Choosing good quality rava is very important to make good upma. Buy double roasted rava / suji if possible as it has a better shelf life and flavor than the regular rava .
This is very easily available in the Indian stores. Since it is already roasted, you can cut down the roasting time in the recipe.
Making rava upma is a breeze if you have the preroasted rava handy. So I usually roast the whole pack of rava when I cut open it. Cool it completely and store in a clean air tight jar.
This cuts down your roasting time whenever you want to make upma. Plus this step keeps your semolina fresh for longer.
How to make upma (stepwise photos)
1. Clean 1 cup semolina (bombay rava). Add it to a pan and roast on a low to medium heat until it turns crunchy. Keep stirring to prevent discoloring. We don’t want the rava to brown. If you are using double roasted semolina, then roasting takes only a minute. When it is crunchy set aside to cool.
2. While you roast the rava, prepare the following:
1 small onion (slice or fine chop)
½ inch ginger (½ to ¾ teaspoon fine chopped)
1 to 2 green chilies (chopped or sliced).
If you like to add vegetables you may add ¼ cup green peas, ¼ cup fine chopped carrots and 2 French beans. Ensure they are fine chopped else they won’t cook well.
3. Pour 2 tablespoons oil to a hot pan. When the oil becomes hot, add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (Jeera, optional).
4. When the seeds splutter, add 1 teaspoon urad dal & 1½ teaspoon chana dal.
5. Add 2 tablespoons peanuts and 8 cashews (split). You can use either peanuts or cashews alone. Saute on a medium heat until the lentils turn golden & peanuts get roasted well.
6. Then add 1 pinch of hing (optional).
7. Next goes in 1 to 2 chopped green chilies and half teaspoon fine chopped ginger. Ginger is optional.
8. Add 1 sprig curry leaves. Fry for a minute until the ginger turns fragrant & the curry leaves turn crisp.
9. Then add 1 small chopped onion.
10. Saute just for 3 to 4 mins, until the onions turn transparent.
Optional: If using veggies, you can add green peas, carrots & French beans. Cover and cook on a low heat until the veggies turn slightly tender.
11. Pour 2½ cups water and add ½ teaspoon salt. Mix it well and taste the water. The water should be slightly salty. If needed add more salt.
12. Bring the water to a rolling boil on a medium flame, then reduce the flame to low heat.
13. Pour the roasted rava in a very slow stream with one hand and constantly stir the water with the other hand. This incorporates the rava well to the water without turning lumpy. (check video if you are a beginner).
14. Stir well and check for any lumps. Break up if any. Be cautious at this moment, as it begins to splash.
15. You will see all of the water is absorbed. Then cover and cook.
16. After 2 to 4 mins, open and stir the rava upma.
17. Lastly add ghee at this stage. This is optional. Switch off and keep the pan covered for about 5 mins.
Let the upma cool down a bit. You can add fresh grated coconut if you like. Sprinkle lemon juice while serving. Do not squeeze the lemon when it is very hot. Serve upma with peanut podi, flaxseed podi, chutney, pickle, papad or sambar. As the rava upma cools down, it becomes fluffy and won’t be mushy.
Choosing Rava: There are many kinds of rava available in the market, but the most commonly used one to make upma is Bombay rava. This is fine semolina and is also known as granulated wheat. You can also use bansi rava, which is made from a special kind of wheat. It is not as much refined as the regular suji.
To reduce the cook time of the upma, you can buy double roasted suji.
Roasting rava: Roast the rava well on a low to medium heat, stirring constantly until it becomes crunchy. You will begin to get the aroma of roasted rava when it is done. This step will make good, fluffy and non-sticky upma. Also ensure the color of the rava does not change to brown as it alters the flavor of upma.
If the rava is not roasted well, upma becomes sticky due to the starch. You can also preroast the whole pack of rava and store it in a jar for about a month.
Rava & water proportion: This recipe will yield you fluffy upma that is not porridge like or sticky. I know some people who love this like a thick porridge. If you like it that way, you can use about 4 cups of water for 1 cup rava.
Upma when made in small quantity ex- ½ cup rava usually absorbs upto 1½ cups water (1:3). When you make in large quantity, 1 cup and above use 2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups water per 1 cup of rava. This gives you non-sticky upma.
Adding rava in a slow stream: I follow the traditional method of pouring rava in a slow stream to the boiling water. Ensure you keep stirring the water constantly in the pot with your right hand while you pour the rava with your other hand. This incorporate the rava well into the water avoiding lumps.
Quantity of oil: Do not reduce the amount of oil mentioned in the recipe. Using a good amount of oil prevents the upma from turning sticky. You may use ghee in place of oil.
Ghee: We usually top hot upma with ghee. You can add as per your preference or even skip it. 1 teaspoon per serving enhances the aroma of your upma.
Lentils: Chana dal and urad dal are the lentils used in this recipe. They impart a nutty aroma to the dish and adds some texture. Chana dal is known as bengal gram and urad dal is skinned and split black lentils.
Rava is the Indian word for semolina. It is simply granulated wheat that is used in a lot of Indian recipes like rava upma, rava dosa and rava idli.
Idli rava cannot be used to make upma since it is made with parboiled rice. To make rava upma use wheat semolina.
Upma becomes sticky if the rava is not roasted well. Also adding rava to water that is not hot enough makes it sticky. Mix rava just until well incorporated into the boiling water. Avoid over mixing as the starch in rava makes it sticky.
Yes! upma is good for weight loss if made with whole grain rava like whole wheat rava, ragi rava or jowar rava. Whole grain semolina is fiber-rich & takes longer to digest. It keeps your hunger pangs away for long hours.
Yes. upma is good for dinner if you include lots of chopped veggies for added nutrition. Also serve it with peanut podi so you also add some protein to your meal.
Rava upma is made with Bombay rava which is a refined food. So enjoy it in moderation. To make your upma healthy, use bansi rava or any whole grain rava.
How to make instant upma mix?
To save some time you can make your own instant upma mix. This premix can be used whenever needed by just cooking it in hot water. Roasting rava is one of the steps that consumes most of the time while making rava. So if you have this premix ready, making upma will only take 6 to 7 mins.
So to make the instant upma mix, skip onions completely & fine chop curry leaves & green chilies.
First make the tempering and add unroasted rava. Roast the rava along with the tempering until it turns crunchy.
Ensure curry leaves have turned dry and completely crisp meaning there is no moisture in the premix. Cool this and store in a clean air tight container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 2 months.
Whenever you want to make upma, Bring water to a rolling boil and add salt. Pour this rava upma mix in a slow stream and incorporate it with the hot water. Cover the pan and cook on a lot heat.
How to make masala upma?
As such the traditional upma has no ground masala or tomatoes added to it. But there is a Tiffin center version of making it with ground spices, tomatoes & mixed veggies. It is known as Khara bath.
To make this, a bit of vangi bath or bisi bele bath masala is added to flavor up the rava upma. If you do not have both these spice powders, you can use pav bhaji masala. You may check the recipe of khara bath here.
Is rava upma healthy?
Though rava or semolina is made from whole wheat grain, it is a refined food. During the processing or milling, the fibre rich skin from the whole wheat is removed first.
This also removes the nutrient rich germ that is attached to the outer skin. The resulting starch rich part is ground to rawa. Eating upma regularly may not be healthy as it is made from refined food.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup semolina ( bombay rava or sooji)
Tempering ingredients for upma
- 2 tablespoons oil or ghee (refer notes)
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera, optional, adds aroma)
- 1 teaspoon urad dal
- 1½ teaspoon channa dal (optional, adds nice aroma)
- 2 tablespoons peanuts
- 8 cashews (optional)
- 1 sprig curry leaves
- 1 pinch asafoetida (hing) (optional)
- 1 small onion (chopped or sliced thinly)
- 2 green chili slit
- ½ inch ginger (½ to ¾ teaspoon very finely chopped)(optional)
- 2½ to 2¾ cups water (refer notes)
- ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon ghee (optional)
- lemon juice (optional) for serving
- Add 1 cup rava to a pan and dry roast on a low to medium heat until crunchy. Keep stirring often for even roasting.
- Do not brown the rava as the flavor of upma changes. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside to cool.
- Chop 1 small onion, 1 to 2 green chilies and ½ inch ginger. (Optional: To make vegetable upma, you can also use ¼ cup green peas, ¼ cup fine chopped carrots and 2 fine chopped french beans)
How to make upma
- Pour 2 tablespoons oil to a hot pan. Next add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon urad dal, 1½ teaspoon channa dal, 2 tablespoons peanuts & 8 cashews (split open).
- Fry them stirring until the dals and peanuts turn golden and aromatic.
- Add 1 pinch hing, slit green chilies, chopped ginger and curry leaves. Saute for a minute. Add chopped onions and fry until transparent.
- Optional: To make vegetable upma, you can add ¼ cup green peas, ¼ cup fine chopped carrots and 2 french beans. Stir and cook covered until slightly tender.
- Pour water and add ½ teaspoon salt. Mix and taste test the water. It has to be slightly salty. If needed add more.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil. Set the flame to low.
- With one hand pour rava in a slow stream to the boiling water, while you stir the rava in the water with the other hand. This way incorporate the entire rava into the boiling water. (check video)
- Stir everything once to check any lumps. Break up if any.
- Cover and cook on the lowest flame until the water is completely absorbed. This just takes 2 to 4 mins depending on the kind of pot or pan used.
- Open the lid and stir once. Add ghee if you like. Give a quick stir.
- Switch off the stove and cover again. Allow upma to rest for 5 mins, this helps it to become fluffy.
- Serve rava upma plain or with spiced peanut podi, chutney, pickle or curd.
- Roasting: Rava can be roasted ahead & stored in an air tight jar for a month. This saves some time when you want to make the upma. Roast rava well, stirring continuously on a low to medium heat until crunchy and slightly aromatic. We don’t want to brown the rava as it alters the flavor. Upma can become sticky if the rava is not roasted well.
- Oil: Using the right amount of oil helps to cook up the semolina to a fluffy texture without turning sticky.
- Water to rava proportion: If you want to make a single serving of upma with ½ cup semolina, you can use 1½ cups water. Upma when made in small quantity takes up more water. To make in larger quantity, 1 cup or more – use 2 ½ to 2 ¾ cups water for every cup of rava.
- To make smooth & soft upma like in Karnataka restaurants, use 4 tbsps ghee or oil and 4 cups of water for every cup of rava. Also increase the tempering ingredients proportionately. This serves 4.
- Garnishing: You can roast peanuts & cashews in teaspoon oil until golden and crunchy. Set them aside for garnish.
- Adding rava in a slow stream: Regulate the flame to low while you incorporate the rava to the boiling water. Also keep stirring else lumps can form.
- Ghee: We usually top hot upma with ghee. You can add as per your preference or even skip it. 1 teaspoon per serving enhances the aroma of your upma.
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
This upma recipe was first published in July 2016. Updated & republished in January 2021.