Upma recipe – A basic South Indian breakfast recipe made with semolina, spices, herbs & veggies. Most Indian breakfast foods take a considerable amount of time – to plan, prepare and to cook. Upma tops the list of easiest & quickest instant breakfasts that can be made just under 20 mins.
Whether you are a newbie, a student or a bachelor trying to cook for yourself with minimum effort then upma is a must try. It is tasty, nutrient rich and will be ready in no time.
If you are new to South Indian cuisine and wondering what upma is? Then read on…
What is upma?
Upma is a traditional South Indian breakfast dish made by simmering roasted semolina in spiced boiling water.
The term UPMA is derived from various South Indian words like uppumavu, upittu, uppindi. All of these literally comprise of 2 words uppu & maavu/ittu/pindi.
Where uppu translates to salt and mavu/ ittu/ pindi translate to flour in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu.
What is it made of?
Traditionally upma was made with coarse ground rice or wheat which is known as rava, suji & semolina.
But these days we make upma with so many other ingredients like oats, vermicelli, poha, bread etc.
About this recipe
This Rava upma is made the easiest way by simply cooking dry roasted wheat semolina (rava) in water that is tempered with spices & herbs.
Peanuts, cashews, onions, ginger, mixed veggies, ghee etc are also optionally used to enhance the taste of the rava upma.
Upma makes its appearance in most South Indian homes, tiffin centres and even during large gatherings like weddings, religious ceremonies etc.
It is not only simple, easy to make, but is also affordable by larger population hence it is seen so often everywhere.
Most people serve rava upma to kids with a dash of sugar & ghee on top to mellow down the heat from the chillies.
Preparation for rava upma
1. If using pre-roasted rava, skip this step. Clean and dry roast 1 cup semolina (bombay rava) on a low to medium heat until it turns crunchy. Keep stirring to prevent discoloring. When it is crunchy set aside to cool. 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.
2. Pour 2 tablespoons oil to a pan and heat it. Add ½ teaspoon mustard seeds and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds (Jeera, optional).
3. When the seeds splutter, add 1 teaspoon urad dal, 1½ teaspoon chana dal, 2 tablespoons peanuts and 8 cashews (split). You can use either peanuts or cashews alone. Saute on a medium heat until golden. Then add 1 pinch of hing (optional).
4. Next goes in 1 to 2 chopped green chilies, half teaspoon fine chopped ginger and 1 sprig curry leaves. Ginger is optional. Fry for a minute until the ginger turns fragrant.
5. Then add 1 chopped onion.
6.Saute just for 3 to 4 mins or 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.
7. 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. When we make this in small quantities, rava usually absorbs upto 3 times its quantity.
When you make in large quantity, it can be reduced to 2 ½ times. With these measurements the texture turns out to be fluffy and not sticky or mushy when it cools down.
8. When the water begins to boil, reduce the flame to medium heat.
How to make upma
9. Pour the roasted rava in a slow stream with one hand and constantly stir it in the water with the other hand. This incorporates the rava well to the water without turning lumpy. (check video if you are a beginner).
10. Quickly reduce the flame to low, stir and check for any lumps. Break up if any. Be cautious at this moment, as it begins to splash.
11. Cover and lower the flame.
12. After 2 to 4 mins, open and stir the rava upma. You can also add fresh grated coconut if you like. Switch off and keep the pan covered for about 5 mins. You can add your favorite toppings like lemon juice, podi or ghee.
Tips to make the best
Roasting rava well is the key to make good, fluffy and non-sticky upma. To reduce the cook time of the upma, you can buy double roasted suji or upma rava. You can also preroast the rava and store it in a jar for about a month.
Oil Using a good amount of oil is one of the key steps that prevents your upma from turning sticky. If you reduce the oil, the entire dish may turn sticky and will not taste good.
Choosing Rava: There are many kinds of rava available in the market, but the most commonly used one to make upma is Bombay rava.
Water: 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.
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.
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.
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 (1 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 medium.
- 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)
- Reduce the flame to low and stir everything once to check any lumps. Break up if any.
- Cover and cook on a low 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.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
For ½ cup rava, use about 1½ cups water. When upma is made in small quantity it absorbs more water. Notes on ghee and water:
To make soft and smooth upma that’s moist, you can use upto 4 tbsps ghee or oil along with 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of semolina. This upma can serve upto 4 people. For this variation you will need to add more tempering ingredients proportionately.
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.
© Swasthi’s Recipes