Millet pilaf (Upma)

– a recipe by our friend, Bharati Mandapati

Millet cooked with a classic seasoning combination from south India.  You can use the basic structure of this recipe (infuse some oil with a flavorful seasoning, add some vegetables and protein, millet and water) with any flavor profile you like. Just use what you have on hand.  See variation notes below for some ideas.

1.5 cups millet

1 cup diced carrot (3.5 oz carrot, diced in ¼ inch cubes)

1 cup edamame (fresh or frozen shelled)

4.5 cups of water


2 tbsp melted ghee or peanut oil

1 tbsp chana dal

½ tbsp urad dal

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 inch piece ginger, diced in 1/8 inch cubes

1.5 green thai chillies chopped in large pieces (increase or decrease to taste)

¾ tsp salt



  1. Toast millet: place a saucepan or wok on medium heat, add the millet to it – stir about for 4–5 min, till golden and fragrant. Pour out of pan and set aside.
  2. Place the pan back, this time on high heat. Wait for the pan to heat back up, and add the melted ghee or oil; after a minute or so, add the chana dal and urad dal – they will start to brown, just as they are changing color, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Don’t wait till the dals are dark brown, before adding the mustard seeds – by the time the mustard splutters, the dals will be burnt and infuse the entire seasoning with a burnt taste.  Once the mustard splutters, add the chillies and ginger. Let them fry a bit and infuse the oil with their flavor.
  3. Add the diced carrot and edamame, and salt, reduce the heat to medium and let them sautee for a couple minutes.
  4. Add the toasted millet to the pan, sautee for a couple minutes; then add 4.5 cups of water to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes – the millet will absorb all the water in the pan, keep an eye on the pan once most of water is gone – turn the heat off, put a lid on and let it sit for a 5 minutes.
  5. Fluff the millet grains, taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve with a slice of lemon; or plain yogurt; if you have some South Indian lime pickle lying around, by all means bring it on.


Change the seasoning: (a) add ¼ cup of diced onion along with the ginger and onion or (b) leave out the chana dal, urad dal and mustard seeds, and use a tsp of cumin seeds instead or (c) use a seasoning of dry red chili, sage, thyme, and onion with olive oil – sprinkle finished dish with a bit of feta.

Change the vegetables and protein. Try:  (a) spinach and chickpeas or (b) butternut squash and chickpeas (b) butternut squash and small diced pan fried tofu cubes (c) tomatoes and boiled peanuts (d) arugula and boiled cannellini beans (use a simple dry red chili, cumin seasoning with this). When using boiled beans make sure you use drain and rinse the well.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s