Restaurant-Style Sooji / Rava Upma

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If you are looking for a South Indian rava upma recipe that is soft, moist and melts in your mouth, just like the ones served in Udupi restaurants, then you are at the right place.

Ready in 20 minutes, this delicious semolina-based breakfast dish makes for a filling and satisfying meal when paired with coconut chutney and sambar

Rava upma served in a steel plate
Rava / Sooji Upma Recipe

What is upma

Upma is a popular South Indian breakfast/snack dish made from semolina or cream of wheat. Semolina is called rava in most South Indian homes, whereas in Northern India, it is popularly called sooji or suji.

For those who never had rava upma, think of it as a savory porridge made from semolina as its key ingredient. It is made by roasting semolina till it turns aromatic, which is then cooked in boiling water. The flavor in this dish comes from the addition of sauteed onions, green chilies, and the tempering of mustard seeds, urad dal, chana dal, and curry leaves.

While upma is often served as breakfast or snack in South India and Maharashtra, you can pack it for school/office lunch too. It makes for a filling meal when loaded with veggies.

The fact that it is easy to cook and takes very little time is also one of the reasons why it is a popular item to serve in hostels and large gatherings. 

History of the recipe

Though the origin of this scrumptious dish is shrouded in mystery, it is probably a modified version of a simple meal that widows used to eat in the days of yore. The widows were not supposed to have salt or spices, so they used to eat rava cooked in water for dinner.

Over the centuries, it probably evolved into a quick and delicious snack between meals and into the upma that we know.  

Upma is known by many different names across the country. It is called Kharabhat and Uppittu in Kannada, Uppumavu in Tamil, Uppindi in Telugu, and in Marathi, it is called Uppeet, but the most commonly used name is upma, rava upma, suji ka upma.

It is believed the name is derived from the word uppu – which in many South Indian languages is the word for salt and mavu, which is the word for flour. 

What is rava / semolina?

Semolina (rava / rawa) is the coarse flour made from the endosperm of durum wheat – a particular variety of wheat. While the rest of the world uses semolina flour in pasta, porridge, and bread, Indians love it to make savory and sweet dishes such as –

  • Rava laddoo – sweet, crumbly balls made from semolina that are a hot favorite with folks of all ages!
  • Suji ka halwa – Crumbly, sweet, and delicious – that’s how you would describe sheera, also known as suji ka halwa. Learn how to make this simple and traditional dessert in less than 30 minutes.
  • Rava idli – Enjoy hot, soft, and fluffy idlis anytime with this easy instant rava idli recipe.

How is semolina different from whole wheat flour?

I know semolina sounds similar to whole wheat flour, but it is not. To understand the difference between the two, you need to understand the different parts of the wheat kernel.

A wheat kernel has three edible partsbran(outer skin rich in fiber and antioxidants), endosperm (the largest part of the kernel that contains starchy carbs and proteins), and germ (the embryo which contains healthy fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals).

The difference between whole wheat flour (atta in Hindi) and semolina is that atta is made from the entire wheat kernel (including the bran, germ, and endosperm), while rava is made only from the endosperm.

Since fiber, vitamins, and minerals are lost during the processing of durum wheat to make semolina, manufacturers often add nutrients to create an enriched semolina product that has a higher fiber and protein content.

Is semolina (rava) healthy?

Here’s why enriched semolina is good for you – 

  • Supports heart health – Semolina contains nutrients like folate and magnesium that are considered heart-healthy.
  • Boosts energy – Enriched semolina is rich in micro-nutrients, minerals, and vitamins like thiamine and folate that help energy production.
  • Keeps you from snacking – Being rich in protein, semolina takes longer to digest and keeps you satiated for a long time, avoiding unnecessary snacking. 

Here is an informative article to spruce up your knowledge on semolina – its nutritional value and health benefits.

What kind of rava to use in upma?

Upma is typically made from Bombay rava (the coarser kind of rava), but you can also use Bansi rava (a type of semolina from Karnataka that is light brown in color).

Rava upma served in a steel plate along with cooconut chutney and pickle
Sooji ka upma (rava upma)

Here’s what you need to make the recipe

Ingredient notes/swaps

  • Semolina / rava – I prefer coarse semolina (Bombay rava), but you can also use Bansi rava (fine rava)
  • Hot water – to cook the semolina

Tempering

  • Oil/ghee – I either use avocado oil or ghee. You can use any oil of your choice.
  • Onions – finely chopped.
  • Mustard seeds
  • Curry leaves – a sprig of these flavorful leaves
  • Urad dal (split black gram) and chana dal (split Bengal gram)
  • Ginger – finely grated
  • Cashew nuts – for added crunch and taste

Other ingredients

  • salt and sugar

Finish off with

  • Ghee – for flavor
  • Cilantro/coriander leaves
  • Grated coconut (optional)
  • Lime juice – along with the sugar, gives the upma a nice flavor.

Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list below.

How to make upma

There are two ways to make upma – one way is to make it moist, and the other version is dry, fluffy, and crumbly, very much like the suji halwa (sweet semolina pudding). My mom used to make the drier version, which I was not a huge fan of (sorry, mom!). 

My dislike for upma continued into adulthood until I came across this soft and moist version in a Udupi restaurant. The upma they served was very moist (those melt-in-the-mouth kinds) and was accompanied by coconut chutney and sambar. 

I wondered what was different from the other versions I have had before, and I realized it came down to three things – the moist texture, a tad bit of ghee, and a generous amount of coriander mixed in while cooking.

Step-by-step instructions to make rava upma

  1. In a saucepan, add 3 cups of water and let it come to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil (or ghee if using) in a medium-sized wok kept over medium heat, and then add mustard seeds.
  3. As they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, urad dal, and cashews(if using). Fry them for a minute.
  4. Add grated ginger, chopped chilies, and onions. Fry the onions till they are translucent. Add salt and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add sooji and continue frying till it starts to change to a light golden brown color and a sweet aroma emanates from the mixture (approximately 6-8 minutes).
  6. Add hot water carefully to the semolina mixture and keep stirring the upma as you add water to ensure it is lump-free.
  7. Lower the gas to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the sooji mixture is moist but not dry.
  8. Add ghee, lime juice, and cilantro and mix them in.
  9. Take the wok off the heat and serve upma hot as is or accompanied by chutney, pickle, or sambar.
A collage of images showing how to make upma step by step
Step-by-Step Upma Recipe

Traditional sooji upma recipe

Note: Traditionally, the process of making upma is slightly different (see below). I like my process listed above better because it is faster and tastes just as good πŸ™‚

  1. Dry roast the semolina in medium-low heat in a wok till it turns aromatic (6-8 minutes). Transfer the semolina to a plate.
  2. Then, to the same wok, add oil or ghee. Set the heat to medium. Once the oil/ghee has been heated, add mustard seeds.
  3. As they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, and cashews(if using). Fry them for a minute.
  4. Add grated ginger, chopped chilies, and onions. Fry the onions till they are translucent. Add salt and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add water to the onions. Let the water come to a boil, and then add the roasted semolina, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir continuously to avoid lumps. 
  6. Lower the gas to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the sooji mixture is moist but not dry.
  7. Add ghee, lime juice, and cilantro and mix them in.
  8. Take the wok off the heat and serve upma hot as is or accompanied by chutney, pickle, or sambar.

Tips to avoid lumpy/sticky upma

Tester’s notes

  • Roast the rava on medium-low heat till they turn aromatic.
  • Follow the right water ratio: Use a 1:3 ratio, i.e., for every cup of semolina, use 3 cups of water. If you prefer it more crumbly and dry, use 2.5 cups of water instead of 3. 
  • Constant stirring: Reduce the gas to low, and constantly stir when introducing upma with water.
  • Bonus tip for flavor: When the rava is done cooking, add a tablespoon of ghee and chopped cilantro. Mix them well and take the upma off the heat immediately. 

Variations to try

  1. Vegetable rava upma – You can also add veggies such as tomatoes, green peas, and chopped carrots to this dish. After the onions turn soft, add about 1/4 cup each of finely chopped tomatoes, peas, and carrots. Saute them till they are cooked through. Add the rava and follow the rest of the steps in the recipe card below.
  2. You could top this dish once cooked with some freshly grated coconut to mix it up.  
  3. To make it vegan, replace ghee with coconut oil. 
  4. Finish off with lime juice – once the cooking is completed, add about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice along with cilantro for added flavor. 

How to prep ahead

One way is to make the instant rava upma mix, as shared below. The other way is to merely roast the rava in advance. Let the roasted rava cool and store it in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Don’t need to roast the rava again when you make upma – this should shave 6-8 minutes from your total cooking time.

Instant Rava Upma Mix

Have you heard of the Instant upma mix? It is just like instant oatmeal, where you need to add hot water to the mix, and it is ready to eat. The mix lasts for about a week, unrefrigerated, and for about a month in the fridge, making it ideal for traveling or for when you want a quick breakfast or snack. 

Here’s how to make the Instant rava upma mix –

  1. Skip the onions – using them decreases the shelf life of this mix.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil (or ghee if using) in a medium-sized wok kept over medium heat, and then add mustard seeds.
  3. As they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, and cashews(if using). Fry them for a minute till the curry leaves are crisp.
  4. Add grated ginger and chopped chilies. Add salt and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add sooji and continue frying till it turns light brown and a sweet aroma emanates from the mixture (approximately 6-8 minutes).
  6. Once the semolina is roasted, turn off the heat. 
  7. Allow the mixture to cool down completely before storing it in either glass containers or Ziploc bags.
  8. Add hot water to the mix for a quick breakfast, stir, and enjoy. For every cup of premade mix, use 3 cups of hot water. 

Storage tips

Refrigerator: Store any leftover rava upma in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Freezer: Cool the upma completely before freezing it in a freezer-safe container. Before reheating, thaw overnight in the refrigerator for best results.

Reheat: To reheat, sprinkle a few drops of water (if the upma looks very dry) and mix well. Microwave it for 30-60 seconds until heated through.

Serve it with

Upma is best served as a breakfast or a snack with some coconut chutney on the side and a cup of hot South Indian freshly brewed coffee to accompany it.

However, it can be served with other chutneys, pickles, yogurt, and sometimes even sambar. Some people like to eat it with a little sugar too.

Some South Indian restaurants often pair sooji upma with kesari bhaat, a sweet dish. This particular combination of upma and kesari bhat is called chowchow bhat.

Rava upma served in a steel plate
Uppitu / Khara bhaat recipe
Pink circle with light bulb

Frequently asked questions

What is the ratio of rava to water in upma?

For crumbly, fluffy upma, use the ratio 1:2.5, i.e., for every cup of rava, use 2.5 cups water. If you prefer soft, melt-in-the-mouth restaurant-style upma, use a 1:3 ratio, i.e., for every cup of rava, use 3 cups of water.

How do you remove excess water from upma?

Continue cooking the upma on medium-low heat till the water is absorbed.

Why is my upma sticky?

Upma becomes sticky when the semolina or rava has not been roasted properly and if you added more water than needed. To make fluffy, non-sticky upma, you should roast the semolina properly, and add hot water in a ratio of 1:2.5 i.e., for every cup of rava, use 2.5 cups of water.

Why is my upma lumpy? How do I fix it?

To avoid lumpy upma, here are a few things you should do – roast the semolina properly, reduce the gas to medium-low, and constantly stir when introducing upma with water; make sure you follow the right ratio of water to upma. To fix lumpy upma, add hot water to the upma (the amount will vary, so start with 1/2 cup), break the lumps, and cook on low heat.

Other easy breakfast recipes to try

Hope you liked this upma recipe, and if you are looking for easy and delicious breakfast recipes, here are my reader favorites – 

  1. Semiya Upma (Lemon Vermicelli) – This delicious and tangy South Indian breakfast dish is just what you need to start your day. It is filling and comes together in 15 minutes from start to finish.
  2. Idli – You’ll love this post if you struggle to get soft and spongy idlis. Learn all my tips and tricks to get perfect fermented batter even in winter!
  3. Buttermilk dosa – Delicious and soft, this dosa is perfect for breakfast, snacks, and even lunch. Learn how to make it in a few easy steps.
  4. Bread upma – Savory, filling, and quick to make, this south Indian style bread upma recipe comes together in 20 minutes for a cozy and satisfying breakfast.
  5. Non-Sticky Sabudana Khichdi – This step-by-step recipe will show you how to make sabudana khichdi that looks as great as it tastes. No more clumpy or sticky mess! 
EASY BREAKFAST RECIPES

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Running out of ideas on what to make for breakfast? Here’s a list of easy Indian breakfast recipes for your inspiration so that you are never bored eating the same things over and over. 

This recipe rocks because..

You’ll get the same taste and texture of restaurant-style rava upma but with fewer steps!

Did you enjoy this recipe or have a question?Please leave a comment below. Don’t forget to rate!
Rava upma served in a steel plate
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4.78 from 9 votes

Restaurant-Style Rava / Sooji Upma Recipe

If you are looking for a South Indian rava upma recipe then you are at the right place. This recipe will yield you a soft, melt-in-your-mouth upma in less than 20 minutes. 
Pin Print Save
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves or kadipatta kadipatta roughly 10-12 leaves
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal
  • 1 teaspoon chana dal
  • 1 teaspoon cashew nuts chopped finely
  • 2 Indian or Thai green chilies (Bird’s eye) slit lengthwise
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt or to taste
  • 1 cup sooji / rava semolina / Bombay rava
  • 1 tablespoon ghee optional
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice optional
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro / coriander leaves for garnishing

Instructions
 

  • In a saucepan, add 3 cups of water and let it come to boil.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil (or ghee if using) in a medium-sized wok kept over medium heat and then add mustard seeds.
  • As they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal and cashews(if using). Fry them for a minute.
  • Add grated ginger, chopped chilies, and onions.
  • Fry the onions till they are translucent. Add salt and sugar. Mix well.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add sooji and mix well.
  • Continue frying till it starts to change to a light golden brown color and a sweet aroma emanates from the mixture (approximately 6-8 minutes).
  • Add hot water carefully to the semolina mixture and mix well to make sure it is lump-free.
  • Lower the gas to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the sooji mixture is moist but not dry. Add ghee, lime juice and cilantro and mix them in.
  • Take the wok off the heat and serve upma hot as is or accompanied by chutney, pickle, or sambar.

Notes

Tips to make it moist
  1. Follow the 1:3 ratio, i.e. for every cup of semolina, use 3 cups of water. If you prefer it more crumbly and dry, use 2.5 cups of water instead of 3. 
  2. When the rava is done cooking, add a tablespoon of ghee and chopped cilantro. Mix them well and take the upma off the heat immediately. 

Note: Traditionally, the process of making upma is slightly different, as noted below. I like my process listed above better because it is faster and tastes just as good πŸ™‚
  1. Dry roast the semolina in medium-low heat in a wok till it turns aromatic (6-8 minutes). Transfer the semolina to a plate.
  2. Then to the same wok, add oil or ghee. Set the heat to medium. Once the oil/ghee has been heated, add mustard seeds.
  3. As they begin to crackle, add curry leaves, urad dal, chana dal, and cashews(if using). Fry them for a minute.
  4. Add grated ginger, chopped chilies, and onions. Fry the onions till they are translucent. Add salt and sugar. Mix well.
  5. Add water to the onions. Let the water come to a boil, and then add the roasted semolina, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir continuously to avoid lumps. 
  6. Lower the gas to a simmer. Cover and cook for 2 minutes until all the water is absorbed and the sooji mixture is moist but not dry.
  7. Add ghee, lime juice, and cilantro and mix them in.
  8. Take the wok off the heat and serve upma hot as is or accompanied by chutney, pickle, or sambar.

Variations
  1. You can also add veggies such as tomatoes, peas, and carrots to this dish. After the onions turn soft, add about 1/4 cup each of finely chopped tomatoes, peas, and finely chopped carrots. Saute them till they are cooked through.
  2. You could top this dish once cooked with some freshly grated coconut to mix it up.  
  3. To make it vegan, replace ghee with coconut oil. 
  4. Finish off with lime juice – once the cooking is completed, add about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lime juice along with cilantro for added flavor. 
Read the post…For helpful information on ingredient swaps, storage tips, meal prep ideas, and variations!

Disclaimer: Approximate nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Nutrition

Calories: 284kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 6gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 958mgPotassium: 121mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 17IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 23mgIron: 2mg
Diet: Vegetarian
Course: Breakfast
Method: Stovetop
Keywords: moist, restaurant style, Udupi style
Cuisine: Indian

This post was originally published on 2/16/2014 and was completely updated with pictures on 5/15/2020 and with new text and step-by-step images on 5/3/2023.

Upma

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12 Comments

  1. Beginner question, do the dal need to be cooked prior to the tempering, or are they intended to be crunchy in the final product?

  2. First time I tried this method without dry roasting sooji first. it’s awesome. πŸ™πŸ‘

  3. 5 stars
    Used your recipe to make upma for the first time – it was very easy to follow and turned out great! My husband was impressed with how it turned out.

  4. You have chana dal in the ingredients, but not in the recipe. When is chana dal to be added?

    1. Thanks for letting me know, Jose. Add the chana dal along with the urad dal. I’ve fixed the recipe.

  5. I dry roast the sooji till it turns golden brown before making upma. I’ll try adding ghee towards the end to make it softer though. Thanks for the tip!