Lalitha’s Upma

Lalitha’s Upma

Lalitha taught Deborah how to make this and Deborah taught me. Lalitha grew up in Madras, India, and this is a recipe she grew up making. It's pronounced oop-mah. It's good and easy to make. It's really good left over, even better the next day.
I don't have specific amounts for most ingredients. Use quantities that seem right to you. (The Wikipedia page for Upma says There are many ways Upma is prepared; indeed, every upma cook usually will impart a small difference in flavour.)
Course Main Course


  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. black mustard seeds
  • 3 tbsp. canola oil or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth or chicken broth (chicken broth is not traditional in this vegetarian dish)
  • chopped vegetables such as carrot, potato, cabbage, green beans, broccoli, whatever sounds good (Note: 1 lb thawed frozen mixed vegetables works well.)
  • cereal such as cream of wheat or corn grits or corn meal or blue corn meal or a mixture of these
  • salt
  • jalepeno or green chile or red chile, finely chopped, or red pepper flakes (use a little or a lot, depending on how spicy you like it)
  • fresh tomato, chopped (optional but highly recommended)
  • yoghurt (optional)


  • Saute cumin seeds and black mustard seeds in oil until mustard seeds pop — about a minute.
  • Add onion and garlic and saute till golden.
  • If chile isn’t already cooked, saute it with the onions.
  • Add water or broth.
  • Add chopped vegetables, and chile if you haven’t already done so.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Boil till vegetables are cooked as much as you want (don’t overcook).
  • Stir in cereal. Don’t make it too thick. Be sure there’s lots of liquid to begin with. At the time you add the cereal, the liquid to cereal ratio should be at least 4 to 1, maybe 5 to 1 or 6 to 1.
  • Cook till cereal is done. Should be about the consistency of breakfast cream of wheat. Stir as needed so it doesn’t burn.
  • Add tomato towards the end.
  • Serve with yoghurt if you wish.

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