Vegetable upma with some grated cauliflower, is a delicious and healthy twist to a quick and easy savory Indian porridge. Better nutrition but with the same mouth watering and comforting taste. And we have you covered with lots of tips and tricks for making this popular Indian dish.
Vegan Cauliflower Upma
Upma is a south Indian breakfast that is popularly served at homes, restaurants, weddings and religious celebrations.
Roasted fine semolina is simmered in boiled salty water that has been seasoned with spices, herbs, sautéed lentils, onions, ginger and other vegetables. It is sort of like a savory polenta or southern grits porridge.
Traditional upma recipe is high in carbohydrates and low in fiber. But with some modifications, this common Indian breakfast can be taken to the next level, increasing the taste as well as nutrition potential. I have also added coconut milk which gives a nice flavor to this vegan upma, without needing the extra ghee.
This new recipe is especially great for older folks with chronic health conditions, who love this soft savory traditional porridge. Bonus is that this can be made in under 20 minutes.
Semolina (Rava), Cauliflower, Oil, Mustard Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Split Chickpeas, Peanuts, Ginger, Curry Leaves, Onions, Chili Pepper, Vegetables, Cilantro
All products are available at Indian grocery stores. Dry goods are also available online.
Semolina: Use fine semolina, also known as Bombay rava, sooji, or suji. Do not use idli rava. You may also use pre-roasted semolina. Cream of wheat available at US supermarkets may be used, but it will not be exactly like the semolina of Indian brands.
Cauliflower: Remove all the leaves, stalks and use only the florets.
Oil: Use a neutral tasting oil. Some original recipes use ghee. Festive upma recipes may use coconut oil too.
Split Lentils and Nuts: Split lentils, such as chana dal and urad dal add some flavor and nice surprises of texture. Likewise, peanuts and cashews can add taste, texture and extra nutrition.
Curry Leaves: This imparts the characteristic flavor to upma. Check out the mirchi ka salan blog post to learn how to dry curry leaves perfectly to have it available year round.
Chili Peppers: Remove seeds to lower the heat if you prefer. Jalapeños are mild, Serrano peppers are hot. Upma picks up heat very well, so use chili peppers judiciously.
Vegetables: Be sure to chop the vegetables finely. Choose a variety of colors and those with a nice texture. Carrots, green peas, green beans, tomatoes are commonly used.
- Dry roast semolina (rava) very well and evenly, at low medium heat, stirring often. It should turn light brown and fragrant, around 5 to 6 minutes.
- The water used for cooking upma should be salty and brought to a rolling boil.
- Use optimal amount of oil and salt for a tasty upma.
- For a softer upma, use three cups water for one cup sooji when making traditional recipe.
- Check the scaling feature in the recipe card below to increase or lower the quantity of dish you want to cook.
- The vegetables used for making upma should be finely chopped, for good texture. Large pieces of vegetables will not give a good texture and mouthfeel.
This recipe is vegan, vegetarian, egg free, soy free and dairy free.
Tomato Upma: Add chopped tomatoes to sautéed onions and cook until soft, and proceed with next steps. Skip the other vegetables if you prefer. You may add a pinch of garam masala or curry powder too.
Coconut Upma: Stir in grated fresh coconut into the upma at the end.
Semolina (Rava) Alternatives: Oats, roasted vermicelli, poha (Indian rice flakes), toasted or plain bread torn into pieces or bulgur wheat are some options to try instead.
Healthier Options: Try bulgur wheat, oats or whole grain bread as mentioned above.
Non Vegan/Vegetarian: Cook this recipe with some ghee, stir it in the end or drizzle on it before serving.
How to Serve Upma?
Serve it piping hot, when it is moist and mouth watering. It goes well with chutneys, Indian pickles, lemon wedges. Sometimes it is served with some coarse sugar on the side.
A drizzle of ghee and lemon juice on top of hot upma is simply amazing south Indian comfort food! Be sure to serve some hot coffee or tea with this famous Indian breakfast.
Pair it with a high protein chutney made with hemp seeds and you have a nourishing breakfast! Try our red pepper walnut chutney with it.
Make Ahead: Roast the semolina and store in an airtight container for some weeks. Processed cauliflower can be stored in refrigerator up to 3 days ahead. Prep and chop vegetables 1 to 2 days earlier.
Storage: Upma tastes the best when it is fresh. However, leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Sprinkle some water and reheat on stove top or in microwave.
Freeze: Cool cooked upma to room temperature and pack individual portions in airtight containers or small freezer safe bags. Thaw frozen upma to room temperature and reheat as above.
For this recipe, I used cauliflower to substitute part of the semolina. I grated the cauliflower so finely in the food processor that it looks and feels like cooked semolina and perfectly integrates into the dish.
The resulting dish is 40% lower in carbs, 25% lower in calories and with more nutrients than the traditional version, but retaining the same "Original Taste”!
As I explain in my post on creamy cauliflower stuffed meatballs, cauliflower is an amazingly versatile vegetable. So, the addition of cauliflower gives this upma a nutrient and antioxidant boost.
Frequently Asked Questions
Be sure to roast the semolina very well and bring the water to a rolling boil. Do not stir the semolina too much after mixing it into the boiled water.
Roast the semolina very well and add it gradually to the boiled water, making sure to briskly stir the semolina into the water. If needed, lower the heat or take it away from the stove while adding the semolina. This will further prevent lump formation.
Upma is made with semolina which is produced through a process of milling. This results in the loss of nutrient rich parts of the wheat grain, that is the bran and the germ. What remains after sifting are coarse pieces of the carbohydrate rich endosperm.
It also depends on how upma is cooked. If it is simply made with semolina and some spices, then it will be mainly a source of carbs and not much of other nutrients.
But upma can be made healthier with addition of vegetables and nuts. And use of whole wheat bulgur, instead of rava or part substitution with grated cauliflower, as we do in the recipe here.
It is not necessarily a product for weight loss. More important is to consider the portion size. If moderate portion sizes are used, then it can be part of a heathy diet, especially when prepared with added vegetables and nuts. For weight management, the cauliflower upma here is better than traditional upma.
No, it is not particularly good for diabetics as such. But it can be included in a diabetic diet, making sure to count the carbohydrates. Because, traditional upma is a rich source of carbs.
The recipe used here is a fabulous replacement to include in a diabetic diet. As it is relatively lower in carbs and calories, higher in fiber and other nutrients. Increase the protein content with suggestions from below to make it even better for a diabetic.
Add more nuts, edamame, sautéed paneer or tofu, lentils, etc., to the recipe. Serve it with a protein rich chutney and/or yogurt.
More Indian Recipes
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Vegetable Upma With Cauliflower
- 1½ pounds cauliflower florets, chopped, about ½ cauliflower head
- ¾ cup semolina Bombay rava or sooji, see note
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds optional
- 2 teaspoons chana dal split chickpeas, or use 1 tsp chana and 1 tsp urad dal
- 2 tablespoons peanuts
- 2 tablespoons cashews optional
- 8 curry leaves
- ½ tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 1 chili pepper chopped, jalapeño mild or serrano hot
- ¼ cup mushrooms finely chopped
- ¼ cup carrots or tomatoes, finely chopped
- ¼ cup green peas or green beans, finely chopped
- 2½ cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt adjust as needed
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice optional
- Steam the chopped cauliflower for 10 minutes. Then, process it until it acquires a fine rice like texture.
- Place the processed cauliflower in a clean cheese cloth or kitchen towel and squeeze out the moisture as well as you can.
- The mixture should be very dry. It should be about 1½ cups in quantity.
- Make sure that the vegetables are all finely chopped.
- Roast the semolina (rava) in a skillet over low medium heat, stirring often and until light brown and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Let it cool.
- In a large and wide sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil at medium setting. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chana dal.
- When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the peanuts and cashews. Sauté few minutes until the nuts turn light brown. Add the curry leaves, ginger and stir two minutes until fragrant.
- Then add the onions. Sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add chopped peppers and stir for a minute. Then add the mushrooms, carrots (or tomatoes), green peas (or beans) and cook few minutes until slightly tender.
- Add water and salt. Make sure that the water tastes slightly salty. Bring it all to a rolling boil.
- Then reduce the heat to low medium. Slowly and gradually pour the roasted semolina/rava, while stirring continuously with the other hand. This will ensure that the rava is incorporated well and with no lumps. Stir well and break up any lumps formed.
- When the mixture starts to bubble, add the processed cauliflower, coconut milk, cilantro and stir it well.
- Lower the heat, place the lid and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat.
- Serve this healthy vegetable upma hot with hemp seed or walnut chutney.
- Semolina: Use fine semolina, also known as Bombay rava, sooji, or suji. Do not use idli rava. You can try pre-roasted semolina. Cream of wheat available in USA may be used, but it will not be exactly like the semolina of Indian brands.
- Semolina/Rava Substitute: Oats, roasted vermicelli, poha (Indian rice flakes), toasted or plain bread torn into pieces or bulgur wheat are some options to try instead.
- Healthier Options: Try bulgur wheat, oats or whole grain bread as mentioned above.
- Curry Leaves: Check out this mirchi ka salan blog post to learn how to dry curry leaves perfectly to have it available year round.
- Make Ahead: Roast semolina and store in an airtight container for some weeks. Process cauliflower up to 3 days before. Prep and chop vegetables couple days ahead.
- Storage: Upma tastes best when it is fresh. But leftovers may be refrigerated for 3 to 4 days. Sprinkle some water and reheat on stove top or in microwave.
- Freeze: Cool cooked upma to room temperature and pack individual portions in airtight containers or small freezer safe bags. Thaw frozen upma to room temperature and reheat as above.
- Check the scaling feature in the recipe card above to adjust the amount of upma you want to make.
- Tomato upma, coconut upma, other variations and tips are in the blog post above.
- All products are available at Indian grocery stores. Dry goods are also available online.
This post was first published on May 31st 2016 and has been updated with photos, improvements in recipe formatting, tips, FAQs and additional enhancements.