Fluffy upma, made in the Kerala style, is a savoury ground rice breakfast much beloved in the southern part of India. It’s flavourful, satisfying, and quick to cook – try it as a change from your ordinary porridge, toast, or cereal, to add delicious variety to your mornings.

fluffy upma made with rava flour

This month, in our Eat the World recipe project, I’m travelling (armchair travelling, that is) to the vibrant, exciting country of India.

India has always been on my bucket list. The exotic colours, flavours, sights, and sounds draw me like a moth to a flame. I cannot wait to visit some day and revel in the explosion of sensory impressions.

Until I can get there, I’ll just have to satisfy myself with cooking some of India’s fantastic food.

I was shopping in Walmart a few weeks ago and picked up a bag of something called Idli/Rava Flour in the import foods section. It looks like Cream of Wheat cereal, but it only contains one ingredient: rice. It’s just finely ground rice grains. Having grown up on Cream of Wheat porridge, this bag made me feel nostalgic. I planned to bring it home and try cooking it like porridge.

a bag of idli/rava for making upma

When I got to the till to pay for my groceries (yes, I do occasionally pick up groceries there), I started chatting with the sales clerk, who was from India. She asked me what I was going to do with the bag of rava I had picked up. I mumbled something about porridge, and she told me that in Kerala, the southern part of India she comes from, they use rava to make Uppuma, a fluffy, savoury rice dish that is a really popular breakfast food. They just fry up some onions, ginger, and chilis and add the rava with some water. Then they eat it with banana for breakfast. Her face lit up as she talked about it and how much she loved it. She wrote the name down on the back of my receipt and said I could find lots of recipes for it online.

Well, the search was on. I was intrigued. I got home and started poking around on the internet, coming up with tons of recipes for upma (as well as lots of spellings for it). I started cooking. My bag of rava is empty and I’ve tried many different ways of making it.

I am hooked.

or try your upma with veggies

this version has a few veggie add-ins

I’ve combined the techniques from some of the versions. I like adding the dry rava to the cooked veggies so each grain of rava gets coated with fat, preventing the clumping you get if you add the water before adding the grains. You can make your upma two ways: just plain (with mustard seeds, ginger, onion, and chili) or you can add in a few small handfuls of veggies, a few lentils, and/or a few cashews or coconut. The fun part is eating it with banana slices!

Upma is a most tasty breakfast dish – I could scarf down a bowl of it every morning! I like making a double batch on the weekend and reheating it for weekday breakfasts. So quick and satisfying, it’s a total change from your regular toast or cereal regime.


Let’s get Cooking our Upma

You’ll need rava flour (rice, if you’re gluten free) or semolina (made with wheat)

There are recipes using toasted or untoasted rava. I’ve tried both and the flavour difference is small, however some of my family taste-testers preferred the toasted version – it is slighty more complex in flavour. However the salesclerk didn’t say anything about toasting it (it’s quicker to whip up without toasting). But you could toast up a large batch of it and then it would be ready for quick use. Just don’t over-toast it.

making upma - you can use plain or toasted rava

toast it til it’s just a light ivory colour, like on the right (this is rice rava)

Set it aside, then sauté up some mustard seeds in butter or oil until they pop. Add minced ginger, diced onion, and chili flakes or fresh chili. Cook for a few minutes, then pour in the rava, either plain or toasted. Stir to coat the grains, then add the water.

cooking upma, add the water

Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

plain upma, with no veggies

you can make plain upma, with no veggies or other add-ins

Kerala upma, with veggies

or you can throw in a few veggies or nuts

Pack the upma into a small bowl or cup and invert it, or just spoon it onto a plate.

a forkful of upma

Serve with banana slices to smush up and eat along with it. What a fun and tasty dish! Breakfast will never be the same again!

a mound of fluffy upma, Kerala style

* * * * *

a forkful of upma

Upma, Kerala Style: A Favourite South Indian Breakfast Dish (also called Uppuma)

Fluffy upma, made in the Kerala style, is a savoury ground rice breakfast much beloved in the southern part of India. It's flavourful, satisfying, and quick to cook - try it as a change from your ordinary porridge, toast, or cereal, to add delicious variety to your mornings.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • 1 cup (200gms) rava or coarse semolina (use rice rava for gluten-free)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, ghee, or coconut oil (use coconut oil for vegan)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 medium or large onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 1 - 2 small green chilis, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • cups (300ml) water

Optional add-ins:

  • 1 tablespoon urad dal skinned and split black lentils
  • 1 carrot, finely diced (about 1/3 cup) plus a handful of frozen peas or sliced green beans (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons cashew nuts, coarsely chopped, or shredded coconut


  • You can use the rava either toasted or plain. To toast it, pour the rava into a skillet and cook it over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 8 minutes, until it turns an ivory colour but doesn't get brown. Pour it into another bowl and set it aside.
  • In the skillet, melt the butter, ghee, or coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook them over medium heat until they start to pop. Add the minced ginger, diced onion, chili flakes, and salt.
  • *If using any or all of the optional add-ins, put them into the skillet now, too. Or just make the upma with the mustard seeds, ginger, onion, and chilis.
  • Cook and stir the onions and any add-ins for 5 minutes, until translucent.
  • Add the rava (toasted or not), and stir until all the grains are coated with fat. This will help keep the rava from forming lumps. Pour in the water and stir. Lower the heat to medium-low. Cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring once. Fluff up the upma grains with a fork or spatula.
  • To serve, pack the upma into a tea cup or small bowl and invert onto the plate, or just spoon it onto plates. Serve each portion with a half of a banana, cut into slices. To eat, squish the banana slices into rough chunks with a fork and eat along with the upma. Or serve the upma with your favourite chutney.
  • Serves 3 to 4


Look for idli or rava flour in the import section of large supermarkets or in small import shops. Look for rice rava if you need to cook gluten-free. It looks like coarse flour or fine white cornmeal.
Keyword breakfast, Eat the World, gluten free breakfast, India, Indian breakfast, Indian food, Kerala, rava, rice, upma, uppuma
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


Guten Appetit!


Check out all the wonderful Indian dishes, in honor of Diwali, prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!

Juli: Gulab Jamun
Evelyne: Soan Papdi Indian sweet
Loreto and Nicoletta: Indian-Inspired Cauliflower Kadhai
Syama: Almond Puri
Camilla: Keema Matar
Wendy: Samosas
Amy: Spiced Golden Milk (Turmeric Milk)
Margaret: Upma, Kerala Style – A Southern Indian Savoury Breakfast Dish

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Upma is a south Indian savoury breakfast dish - tasty and quick (cooks in 10 minutes). Try it for a welcome change from toast or cereal!


Check out some of my other ‘Eat the World’ Recipe Challenge posts:

(in alphabetical order)