The upma I share here is adapted from my mom’s recipe and continues to be a favorite in my home. The ingredients used to flavor the rava give it a deliciously satisfying taste that will make this dish one of your new favorite go-to breakfasts.
What is Rava Upma
Upma is a flavorful South Indian breakfast dish made from rava or cream of wheat.
This traditional dish involves cooking roasted rava in water that has been flavored by ghee (or oil), cashews, urad dal (lentils), chana dal (husked chickpeas), onion, ginger and additional herbs and spices. Sugar can be added for a mildly sweet and savory dish.
This steaming hot breakfast dish can be made vegan by using oil instead of ghee. Full of warmth, flavor and deliciousness, this upma tastes so good.
So why not take a break from that boring oatmeal and try something new? You can’t lose!
The main ingredient in any upma recipe is rava. Also called ‘suji‘ in Hindi and ‘cream of wheat’ or ‘semolina’ in English, it is simply granulated wheat.
What really makes an upma breakfast dish special are all the fried ingredients that are used for tempering. These ingredients can vary depending on the recipe, but usually include some sweet, savory and nutty flavors.
Upma is a traditional breakfast served in restaurants throughout South India, including Maharashtra. It is also a common breakfast prepared in South Indian homes. In fact, upma was a regular breakfast or evening snack in my house while growing up.
Prep Tip to Make Upma Quicker
This warm, homemade breakfast can be made relatively quickly, especially with this one easy tip. In the step-by-step photo guide below, you will see the first few steps of roasting the rava (cream of wheat).
This can easily be done ahead of time and I actually recommend roasting your rava and keeping it in an air-tight container right after purchase. This will help it stay good longer and prevent it from becoming moldy or spoiled.
How to make Upma
Preparation and roasting rava
1. Prep the ingredients first. Take 1 cup rava (fine variety), ⅓ cup finely chopped onions, 1 teaspoon chopped green chillies, 1 teaspoon finely chopped ginger and 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (cilantro). Also take 8 to 10 curry leaves, 10 to 12 cashews, 1 teaspoon chana dal and 1 teaspoon urad dal.
2. Heat a pan or kadai first. Add 1 cup rava or cream of wheat (fine variety).
3. Begin to roast the rava. Stir often while roasting the rava.
4. The rava or sooji grains should become fragrant and start to look dry, separate and crisp. Don’t brown the rava.
5. Once the rava becomes fragrant and starts to look dry and crisp, switch off the flame and put the roasted rava on a plate and set aside.
Frying and sautéing
6. In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or oil. You could use sunflower oil or peanut oil or safflower oil or any neutral tasting oil.
7. Lower the heat. Add 1 teaspoon mustard seeds. When you hear the crackling sound of mustard seeds, it means they are getting fried.
8. Now add the ½ teaspoon cumin seeds along with 1 teaspoon chana dal (husked and split bengal gram) and 1 teaspoon urad dal (husked and split black gram).
9. Stirring often fry until the chana dal and urad dal begin to brown a bit.
10. Immediately add 10 to 12 cashews and begin to fry on a low to medium-low heat.
11. By the time the cashews get golden the dals should also be golden.
12. Now add the finely chopped onions.
13. Sauté the onions until they soften and become translucent on a low to medium-low heat.
14. Then add the chopped green chillies, ginger and curry leaves.
15. Mix well & sauté for a few seconds.
16. Then add 2.5 cups water to this mixture.
17. Add salt as required. Mix well and check the taste of water. It should be slightly salty.
18. Then add sugar. Sugar is optional and you can skip it. We prefer a slight sweet taste in the upma and hence we add it.
19. Stir well. On a medium to high flame, heat the water and let it come to a rolling boiling.
20. When the water comes to a rolling boil, lower the flame to its lowest. Then add the rava in 4 to 5 batches with a spoon.
21. Once you add the first batch of rava, stir and mix immediately.
22. Then add the next batch of rava. Mix and stir again very well.
23. Continue to add and stir the rava up to the last batch.
24. Quickly stir and mix very well. The rava grains will absorb water, swell and get cooked.
25. Cover and allow the rava upma to steam for 2 minutes on the low flame.
26. Then switch off the flame. Here the rava is cooked and the upma is ready.
27. Lastly add about 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (cilantro). You can add more coriander leaves if you like.
28. Mix again.
30. Serve upma hot with slices of lemon. I also sprinkle some sev (fried gram flour vermicelli) on upma while serving. Though this is not the way upma is traditionally served, the folks at home prefer this Mumbai style. You can also serve it with coconut chutney or lemon pickle or idli podi.
- Roasting rava: For an even roasting or toasting of rava, you need to stir rava often on a low or medium-low heat of the pan. See for signs of color change and the rava granules looking separate, crisp with a nice toasted aroma.
- Adding rava in batches: Always add rava to the hot water in batches. After adding each batch mix the rava evenly with the water. This ensures that your upma will turn smooth and soft.
- Oil or ghee: You can easily make upma with either oil or ghee. With ghee the upma tastes better though. You can even drizzle a bit of ghee when serving upma.
- Rava and water proportion: For a softer rava upma, you can use the proportion of 1:2.5 or 3 for rava and water respectively. Which means that for 1 cup of fine rava you can add 2.5 to 3 cups water.
- Variations: There are a few variations, you can make like tomato upma or vegetable upma or even ragi rava upma. I have listed them in the FAQs section below.
- Serving suggestions: Upma is best served hot or warm. Like me, you can top it up with some sev or bhujia with a drizzle of lemon juice. You can even serve upma with coconut chutney or lemon pickle or idli podi.
- Scaling and storing: You can easily halve or double this recipe. Leftover upma can be refrigerated for a couple of days. You can even freeze it. While reheating, sprinkle some water and reheat the upma in a pan.
Rava is coarsely ground wheat to a fine or semi-fine texture. It is not floury but has a fine grainy texture. Rava is also called cream of wheat or farina or semolina flour in English.
Use Kesari rava or Bombay rava as they are a fine variety of rava. Idli rava is used for making idli.
Roast both the rava and ragi flour separately. Follow this recipe. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add the rava and ragi. Depending on the amount of ragi and rava added you will need to increase the water quantity. Do roast ragi really well as undercooked ragi can cause stomach aches.
Yes, you can. Check the method I have listed in the below question.
Either steam the vegetables separately and then add once the rava is mixed with the water. Or after sautéing onions, add the veggies (grated carrots, green peas, grated potatoes, finely chopped french beans, chopped capsicum) and sauté until lightly golden. Add water and follow the recipe. You can garnish upma with grated coconut.
You can add tomatoes. Add them when the onions soften. Then sauté until the tomatoes soften.
Yes, you can add peanuts. Fry or roast the peanuts separately and then add as a topping or garnish on the upma.
Yes, you can. Some crushed black pepper can be added in place of green chillies.
Upma becomes lumpy when the rava is not mixed very well with the water. So add rava in batches and mix each batch of rava evenly in the water. Remember to use fine rava for this recipe. If you use a coarser rava, you will have to add more water so that the upma does not become lumpy.
Rava has to be roasted very well. If the rava is not roasted properly the upma will become sticky.
Chana dal is called Bengal gram in English. These are black chickpea lentils. Urad dal are called as black lentils or white lentils. They are shaped like mung beans except that the husk is black in color and the lentils are in white color. The other name for it is vigna mungo or black matpe beans.
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Upma is a savory South Indian breakfast dish made with cream of wheat (sooji or rava).
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine Indian, South Indian
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Difficulty Level: Easy
Finely chop 1 medium sized onion, 1 to 2 green chillies and 1/2 inch ginger and some coriander leaves.
Also take 8 to 10 curry leaves, 10 to 12 cashews, 1 tsp chana dal and 1 tsp urad dal.
Heat a pan or kadai first. Add 1 cup rava or cream of wheat.
Begin to roast the rava. Stir often while roasting the rava.
The rava or sooji grains should become fragrant and start to look dry, separate and crisp. Don’t brown the rava.
Switch off the flame and then add the roasted rava in a plate and keep aside.
Frying and sautéing
In a pan, heat 2 tbsp ghee or oil. add 1 tsp mustard seeds.
When you hear the crackling sound of mustard seeds, it means they are getting fried.
Now add the 1/2 tsp cumin seeds along with 1 tsp chana dal and 1 tsp urad dal.
Fry till they begin to brown a bit
Immediately then add cashews and begin to fry. By the time, the cashews get golden the dals would also get golden.
Now add the finely chopped onions. Saute the onions till they become translucent.
Then add the chopped green chilly, ginger, curry leaves. Saute for a minute.
Then add 2.5 cups water to this mixture. Add salt as required.
Then add sugar. Sugar is optional and you can skip it. We prefer a slight sweet taste in the upma and hence we add it. Stir well.
On a medium to high flame, heat the water and let it come to a to a rolling boiling.
When the water comes to a rolling boil, lower the flame to its lowest. Then add the rava in 4 to 5 batches with a spoon.
Once you add the rava, stir immediately. Then add the next batch of rava. Stir again.
This way keep on adding and stirring the rava up to the last batch.
Quickly stir and mix well. The rava grains absorb water and thus swell and get cooked.
Cover and allow the rava upma to steam for 2 minutes on the low flame.
Then switch off the flame. Here the rava is cooked and the upma is ready.
Lastly add about 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves. Stir well.
Serve upma with coconut chutney or lime slices or lime pickle.
Calories: 360kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 9gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 523mgPotassium: 175mgFiber: 5gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 43IUVitamin B1 (Thiamine): 1mgVitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 1mgVitamin B3 (Niacin): 16mgVitamin B6: 1mgVitamin C: 18mgVitamin E: 4mgVitamin K: 3µgCalcium: 425mgVitamin B9 (Folate): 157µgIron: 20mgMagnesium: 50mgPhosphorus: 194mgZinc: 1mg
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This recipe post from the archives (August 2009) has been republished and updated on 6 October 2020.