Upma Makes A Great Breakfast

Upma on two white dishes
Image by indianfoodimages, c/o www.123rf.com

Upma is a very popular Indian breakfast dish. It began life in Southern India but was also eaten in Sri Lanka and Maharashtra too. What is this great favourite? Why it is the equivalent of porridge but rather than using oats, it is prepared with a course rice flour and/or semolina which has been dry roasted. 

Upma is very versatile. There are many other ingredients that are added to generate a pleasant flavour so it really is open to experimentation. Naturally, we would always say breakfast but many households have it for lunch and supper too so it makes something extremely useful. Many folks will try it with a couple of idli or even with a dosa – it is up to you but it would make a great Indian breakfast and certainly a great alternative to the traditional English breakfast.

It usually takes about 30 minutes to make. Nutritionally, the basic recipe is 1130 calories and contains 32 grams of fat, 185 grams of carbohydrates and 31 grams of protein.


  • 1 cup of semolina
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (rapeseed, corn)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5 to 6 curry leaves
  • 2 green chili peppers  and split lengthwise
  • 1-inch piece of ginger  which needs to be grated
  • 2 medium-sized onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 2 cups hot water
  • a 1/2 teaspoon of of turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (juice of 1/2 a lime)
  • Garnish: 1/4 cup coriander (chopped)


  1. Heat a frying pan, griddle pan or skillet on medium heat. Roast the semolina very gently but do not allow it to brown. Some may be inevitable but to keep the pale colour just stir it regularly.
  2. Put the semolina to one side.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the curry leaves, mustard seed and green chillis and the ginger.
  4. Stir all the ingredients well and fry for a minute.
  5. Add the onion and fry until it is soft and translucent.
  6. Add the tomatoes to the mixture and cook.
  7. Add some hot water to loosen the mix, add turmeric and salt and then bring the whole mixture to the boil.
  8. The broth at this point should be slightly yellow. begin adding the semolina a couple of spoonfuls at a time. Keep stirring. It will go lumpy if it is not evenly stirred but you are looking for some thickening.
  9. Continue to warm but turn the heat down so that it simmers. The upma will begin to thicken and will become a thick porridge.
  10. Remove the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  11. Squeeze lime juice on the upma and mix in well.
  12. Serve garnished with coriander (cilantro)

There are many variants to this dish. One of the great favourites is to add some grated coconut which is used in place of onion when certain holy days occur. A few cuisinists like to use ghee as the frying oil and even toss the umpa in ghee for extra flavour.

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