Uppma is the glorious ubiquitous morning savory ‘porridge’ of South India.  It is eaten in homes and sold on streets. Use whatever vegetables are available at the time – tomatoes are a great addition in the summer. 

makes ~4 cups


4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or ghee 

1 tsp black mustard seeds 

1 Tbsp raw lentils (urad dal)

8-10 kari leaves, chopped  

1 cup red onion, minced  

2 cups cauliflower, chopped

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen  

½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1 serrano pepper, minced

1 Tbsp ginger purée 

½ tsp salt (to taste)  

2 ½ cups water 

1 cup semolina or fine cornmeal  

Lemon juice from one lemon  

Cilantro, chopped  


  1. In a stockpot or a Dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat and pop the mustard seeds. Immediately add the raw lentils. Cook for a few seconds until the lentils are golden. 
  2. Add the chopped kari leaves, red onion, and cauliflower. Sauté for 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Lower the heat and cover until the cauliflower is tender - another 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the corn and cook for a few more minutes. Add the peanuts, serrano, ginger puree, salt and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and add the semolina in a slow steady stream, stirring with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. The mixture will begin to thicken almost immediately. 
  4. Cover the stockpot with a tight fitting lid and lower the heat to its lowest setting and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes then turn the heat off. Let the uppma rest for 5-7 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice, chopped cilantro over it.

ideas / variations

  • Enjoy with raita and greens or replace half the semolina or cornmeal with quinoa.
  • While uppma is mostly eaten for breakfast in India, it works wonderfully in place of rice with a chicken stew or a shrimp or vegetable curry.