Photographs by Sebastian John

Upma is my favorite breakfast and snack. Well..I can eat it for all three meals. Favorite accompaniments are coconut chutney, dhal or beef curry. Upma has a good number of accompanying dishes depending on tastes and the region where it is eaten. For this post I made coconut chutney.

A classic Southern Indian dish, the word “upma” is the combination of uppu (salt) and maavu (flour). The flour in upma is farina, referred as rava in India. Semolina is also used as a substitute. Upma made from semolina has a coarser texture. The US dish that is closest to upma is grits.

Ingredients(for 2 servings)


1. 1/2 cup of farina
2. 1/4 cup of diced onions
3. 2 green chilies
4. 1/2 tablespoon chopped ginger
5. 5-6 curry leaves
6. 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
(some recipes also add cumin seeds, but I avoid it for my recipe)
7. 2 teaspoon roasted split peas
(some recipes also add peanuts and cashews)
8. 1/4 cup of green peas
9. One cup hot boiled water
10. 2 tablespoon oil
11. Salt to taste
12. 1/4 cup grated coconut


Heat oil in a saute pan, and splutter mustard seeds. Lower to medium heat, add roasted split peas, and saute them till they turn slightly golden brown. Add chopped ginger, chilies and curry leaves, and saute them for one minute.  Add onions and saute till they turn translucent. Add green peas and cook for two minutes. Salt to taste (Enough salt should be added to flavor the whole dish.)

Add farina to the spice mixture and roast on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes till the flour soaks in all the flavors of the spices. (I don’t roast farina beforehand as is done commonly.) Stirring constantly add hot water till you get a smooth dough-like consistency. The key to making good upma is to avoid lumps. If that happens there would be smalls balls of dough with a uncooked center. Cover the pan, lower the heat, and cook for two minutes.

Upma is a dish that can be made in less than 20 minutes that includes prep time.

Coconut chutney

This is a variant of the chutney my mom and grandmother make in Kerala. It is traditionally made on a “Kori Palakka” (though I am not sure how to translate it to English, it is essentially a thick slab of teak that is used to make chutnies and crush spices. The chutney always had a slight lingering taste of wood, which I enjoyed very much.) Since I don’t have a Kori Palakka I use a food processor. The chutney is chunkier with small bites of green chilies, ginger and curry leaves.


1. Fresh dessicated coconut.
(When I don’t have fresh dessicated coconut, I soak 1/4 cup of dry dessicated unsweetened coconut in 3 tablespoons of coconut milk.
2. 2 green chillies
3. 1/2 teaspoon chopped ginger.
4. 3-5 curry leaves.
5. Salt to taste.

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and grind for about one minute till everything mixes well, and tiny parts of green chillies are still visible.

Serve with upma.


2 thoughts on “Upma

  1. Hi Sebastian, I just happened to stumble on your blog, wonderful blog and pictures I must say. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all your posts! Some of your recipes are very similar to my mum’s and aunt’s food! Good work!

    Best Regards,

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