Upma: Savory Cream of Wheat with Onions and Peas

Upma is one of my go-to Indian breakfast foods. It is a type of porridge made from rava, or semolina in English. Semolina has a texture similar to Cream of Wheat, and I often describe upma to people as “Indian Cream of Wheat.”

Bowl of upma

Rava (“sooji” or “suji” in Hindi) is a type of wheat flour and is used in lots of Indian foods, like the shells of pani puri, and for thickening beetgreens nu shaak. Upma is unusual because it makes the rava the feature.

Upma has always been served in my house as a breakfast food or as an afternoon snack. My mother ingrained in me the importance of having a “warm snack,” (“nashto” in Gujarati) in the afternoon. To her, “warm snack” is synonymous with healthy and nourishing, as opposed to something off the shelf, like chips.

Upma isn’t all flour, it is also loaded up with vegetables. It is a great vehicle for adding peas and carrots, and will easily take on other vegetables as well. Nothing wrong with mixing in some greens, like kale, or some cauliflower or broccoli.

Tips for Good Upma

  • Make sure to toast the rava enough before adding the water. If you don’t, it will come out too sticky. The rava should start to toast and brown– it should actually be slightly red in color before adding water.
  • The amount of water is important. If you add too much, you have to cook it longer. Keep in mind, even though it looks wet as it cools it will get drier.
Upma
What do you serve with upma?

Upma is eaten on it’s own, but accompanies a warm cup of chai very well. It is a typical “nashto”, which is a breakfast food or snack, so it is commonly paired with tea.

How might upma’s ingredients be changed to suit different tastes?

You can skip the peas if you don’t like them, or have them on hand. They add a nice contrast in taste and texture. If you do leave them out, you might want to find another vegetable to add in. 
You can also add cashews. Cashews add a nice little crunch to upma, and if they are toasted, they help to accentuate the toastiness of the rava.

Why won’t my semolina dry out all the way?

1. If you didn’t toast your rava enough.  
2. You added too much water. This is easily fixable, return it to the pan and burn it off the excess water. 
3. It’s drier than you think – if you let it cool a little, you may find it is the right dryness after all.

Upma (Savory Cream of Wheat with Onions and Peas)

A savory and nutritious breakfast made with rava and peas or other vegetables
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: cream of wheat, peas, rava
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 212kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup semolina (cream of wheat or wheat farina)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 sm onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chili finely chopped
  • ½ cup peas
  • ½ tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 cups water
  • lemon juice
  • fresh herbs

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a 12 inch wide skillet over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, toss in the cumin seeds. Let cook for about 10 seconds.
  • Add the onion and green chili with a pinch of salt. Saute the onions until they are soft and translucent.
  • Add the semolina. Dry roast the semolina, stirring constantly, until it becomes fragrant and smells toasty. About 5 to 7 minutes.
    Semolina toasting in pan
  • Add the water, peas, chili powder, and salt. Stir.
    Add water and peas
  • Let cook for 3 to 4 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
  • Sprinkle with lemon juice.
  • Fluff with a fork before serving.
    Fluff

Notes

Feel free to add turmeric or some toasted nuts if you want.

Nutrition

Serving: 340g | Calories: 212kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 4g | Sodium: 491mg | Potassium: 171mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 240IU | Vitamin C: 10.6mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 2.6mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Upma
(Originally published July 26, 2013; updated August 2, 2022)

10 comments

  1. My older brother learned how to make this when he was 8, and ever after, he’d make some for himself and for me with sugar and butter, instead of vegetables, herbs, and spices.

    My mom still made upma the usual way, but it should go without saying that I loved the sweet version much more than the savory.

    It’s been years since I’ve made some though. I think I’ll try it for a snack later this afternoon.

  2. Such a beautiful and surely wonderfully tasty idea! With the kind of pancake stadium in the middle which is then later fluffed, it reminds me a bit of Austrian Kaiserschmarrn which is done similarly. It’s so astonishing how close the different cuisines in the world are sometimes connected.

    1. You’re right. I am always amazed at how similar foods from the opposite sides of the world can be. I’ve never had the Austrian Kaiserschmarrn but I’m looking at recipes online and they look really yummy!

  3. Hi Puja! I just wanted to thank you for this. It was one of my favorite meals while in India. I’m having a bowl now thanks to you! I used whole wheat semolina since I’m out of the regular. Still delish!! Tha k you!

  4. Can’t tell you how much I was craving upma lately after days of eggs and toast! I was seriously discouraged because I knew I won’t be searching for the ingredients and where to find them in Los Angeles… thank god for your cream of wheat upma recipe!!! cravings satisfied with ingredients from target ?

  5. This sounds really wonderful, have to give it a try. I made some sweetened with molasses and peanut butter this morning but was wondering about a mid-day version.

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