Polenta uppuma – gluten-free

Uppuma is a traditional South Indian dish that’s typically made with semolina (suji). It can be made with or without vegetables, depending on one’s preferences, and is usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack.

Mum used to make uppuma for us as a snack with peas and grated carrot during my school years. These days, I make it very simply using organic polenta, for a gluten-free version. I don’t add any vegetables – because I serve it as the carb component to vegetable curries or dhal, instead of rice.



Serves 4 | Cooling time 30–40 minutes | gluten-free, dairy-free option, vegetarian, vegan option

  • 2 tbsp ghee, or coconut/extra virgin olive oil (vegan)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 small (½ large) red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 stem curry leaves (optional)
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 cup fine organic polenta (non-instant)
  • 4 cups freshly boiled water
  • sea salt, to taste

In a medium-sized, heavy-based pot, heat the oil/ghee. Add the mustard seeds, and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the seeds start to pop, turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, cumin seeds and curry leaves.

Stir continually for up to five minutes, or until the onions caramelise. Add turmeric and chilli, and pan fry for another few seconds. Then pour in the polenta, and toast for a couple of minutes over gentle heat. Add the freshly boiled water, and allow the polenta to simmer gently. Stir often so the polenta doesn’t stick to the pan and become lumpy.

After about 10 minutes, stir in a teaspoon of salt. It’ll take roughly 20–30 minutes for the polenta to cook – you want it soft and creamy, not gritty. Taste to check.

Once the polenta is done, taste and add more salt if you wish.

Serve with dhal or any other type of curry that takes your fancy.


If you wish to eat your uppuma for breakfast (as a savoury porridge), you can add a small zucchini and carrot (both grated finely), and a ¼ cup of frozen green peas to the step where you toast the polenta (before adding the water), and serve it with one or two boiled/poached/fried eggs.

To cook polenta traditionally, with other variations, take a look at this post.


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