Dr. Padma Garvey

The plant-based Doctor Mom 


Upma is a classic South Indian dish that is made with cream of wheat, vegetables and nuts.  It is traditionally eaten for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack. Friends have told me that it is a really good runner's meal. I have several versions using whole grains instead of cream of wheat.  Often times I make a large batch to take with me to the hospital when on call.

I have made upma with whole wheat couscous, millet, quinoa, barley, whole wheat capellini (that is cut into pieces about one inch long), or cracked wheat.  Note, quinoa is gluten-free.   The picture above is with cracked wheat or bulgur wheat.

Prep time 10 minutes

servings: 4 to 6

Cook time: 30 minutes


bulgur wheat

raw unsalted peanuts

urad dal

curry leaves

black mustard seeds

cumin seeds

hingh powder

medium white onion

small packet of frozen mixed vegetables

jalapeno pepper

turmeric powder

lemon juice


In a medium skillet, add one teaspoon of oil and heat to medium.  To the oil add the following ingredients in order of appearance.  You will find everything at an Indian grocery store.  In our area, there are two convenient Indian grocery stores, Saraswati Grocers in Hark Plaza at the intersection of route 9 and Old Hopewell Road  or Krishna Grocers on route 9, near the Poughkeepsie Galleria.  Many regular grocery stores carry these items as well, except for the curry leaves and the urad dal (which are optional)

1/3 cup raw, unsalted peanuts, wait 20 seconds, stirring constantly

one tablespoon of urad dal, wait 10 seconds

one teaspoon of black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

two dashes of hingh powder

When the black mustard seeds begin to pop, add one medium onion diced, one diced jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  When onions begin to sweat, add one packet of frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, beans, corn, lima beans).  Cover and let the vegetables soften.  Then add five to six curry leaves (optional, but really add great flavor). Add five cups of water to the mixture and bring to a boil.  Add two and 1/2 cups of whole grain (I used bulgur wheat).  Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder.  Reduce the heat to low. Stir occasionally to make sure the grain is cooking well and not burning on the bottom.  Add salt to taste.  Take off heat and add juice from half a lemon and stir well.  

You can also make this dish without any of the urad dal, mustard seeds, or cumin seeds.  You may need to add more lemon juice at the end for taste.