Restaurant-Style 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 chutney and sambar. 

Rava upma served in a steel plate
Rava Upma Recipe

For those who never had upma, think of it as a savory porridge made from semolina (also called rava in South India and sooji in Northern parts of India). It is pretty close to polenta in terms of texture but it is definitely spicier. 

While upma is often served as breakfast or snack, you can pack it for school/office lunch too. It makes for a filling meal when paired with sambar or coconut chutney

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 and origin

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 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.

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. 

Is rava healthy?

Upma is typically made from Bombay rava (which is the coarser kind of rava) but you can also use Bansi rava which is the finer version.

Bombay rava is made with durum wheat, a variety of hard wheat. It is milled from the endosperm of the wheat and contains more proteins and fiber than flour. 

Readwhat is sooji or rava in Indian food?

Here’s why semolina is good for you – 

  • Since rava is not refined, it contains all the goodness and nutrient of the wheat.
  • It is rich in micro-nutrients, vitamins, and minerals.
  • 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.

Rava upma served in a steel plate along with cooconut chutney and pickle

How to make upma

There are two versions of upma – one that is moist and the other one which is dry, 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 nailed down to three things – the moist texture, a tad bit of ghee, and a generous amount of coriander mixed in while cooking.

Tips to make it moist

  1. Follow 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 cups of water instead of 3. 
  2. When the rava is done cooking, add in some ghee and chopped cilantro. Mix them well and take it off the heat immediately. 
A collage of images showing how to make upma step by step
Step by Step Upma Recipe

Instructions –

  1. In a saucepan, add 3 cups of water and let it come to 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 onion till they are translucent. 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. Add hot water carefully to the semolina mixture and mix well to make sure 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 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.

Note: Traditionally, the process to make upma is slightly different as noted below. I like my process listed above better because it is faster and tastes just as good 🙂

  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.
  3. The next steps are the same as steps 2-4 above where you do the tempering process, and saute the onions till it is translucent. 
  4. Once the onions are translucent, the water is added.
  5. Once the water comes to a boil, the roasted semolina is introduced back in the pan, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir continuously to avoid lumps. 
  6. Then follow steps 7-9 above. 

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. If you are short of time, just skip roasting the semolina. I have tried it and I’ll tell you this – my husband couldn’t make out the difference.
  3. You could top this dish once cooked with some freshly grated coconut to mix it up.  
  4. To make it vegan, replace ghee with coconut oil. 
  5. 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. 

Meal prep instructions / Instant Rava Upma mix

Have you heard of the Instant rava 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 it decreases the shelf life of this mix.
  2. Follow all the steps from 2-5 above except adding the onions part. 
  3. Once the semolina is roasted, turn off the heat. 
  4. Allow the mixture to completely cool down before storing it in either glass containers or Ziploc bags.
  5. For a quick breakfast, just add hot water to the mix, stir, and enjoy. For every cup of premade mix, use 3 cups of hot water. 

Serving suggestions

Upma is best served as 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.

Often, especially in restaurants, it is paired with Kesari bhaat which is a sweet dish. This particular combination of upma and Kesari Bhat is called chowchow bhat.

Rava upma served in a steel plate
Rava Upma Recipe

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 have been struggling to get soft and spongy idlis. Learn all my tips and tricks to get perfect fermented batter even in winters!
  3. Buttermilk dosa – Buttermilk dosa – Delicious and soft, this dosa is perfect for breakfast, snack, and even lunch. Learn how to make it in a few easy steps.
  4. Kapparutti – Kappa rutti or Kappa rotti – This soft in the center and crispy on the sides 4-ingredient dosa or pancake from Mangalore is a culinary delight. Try it out today – no fermentation required!
  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! 


Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  
Rava upma served in a steel plate

Rava Upma Recipe

4.72 from 7 votes
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. 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Diet : Vegetarian
Course : Breakfast
Method: Stovetop
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, 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 cup sooji / rava, semolina / Bombay rava
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt , or to taste
  • 3 cups hot water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee, 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, 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.
  • Add sooji and continue frying till it turns light brown 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 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 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 cups of water instead of 3. 
  2. When the rava is done cooking, add in some ghee and chopped cilantro. Mix them well and take it off the heat immediately. 

Note: Traditionally, the process to make upma is slightly different as noted below. I like my process listed above better because it is faster and tastes just as good 🙂
  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.
  3. The next steps are the same as steps 2-4 above where you do the tempering process, and saute the onions till it is translucent. 
  4. Once the onions are translucent, the water is added.
  5. Once the water comes to a boil, the roasted semolina is introduced back in the pan, a few tablespoons at a time. Stir continuously to avoid lumps. 
  6. Then follow steps 7-9 above. 

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. If you are short of time, just skip roasting the semolina. I have tried it and I’ll tell you this – my husband couldn’t make out the difference.
  3. You could top this dish once cooked with some freshly grated coconut to mix it up.  
  4. To make it vegan, replace ghee with coconut oil. 
  5. 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. 

Meal prep instructions / Instant Rava Upma mix

Have you heard of the Instant rava 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 it decreases the shelf life of this mix.
  2. Follow all the steps from 2-5 above except adding the onions part. 
  3. Once the semolina is roasted, turn off the heat. 
  4. Allow the mixture to completely cool down before storing it in either glass containers or Ziploc bags.
  5. For a quick breakfast, just add hot water to the mix, stir, and enjoy. For every cup of premade mix, use 3 cups of hot water. 

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Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Calories: 284kcalCarbohydrates: 37gProtein: 6gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 958mgPotassium: 107mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3gVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 17mgIron: 2mg

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.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : moist, restaurant style, Udupi style

This post was originally published on 2/16/2014 and was completely updated with pictures on 5/15/2020.

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4 Comments

  1. 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!

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