Cream of Wheat Revisited – Indian Style

I can honestly say that I have never once had Cream of Wheat as indicated on the box. There was never a need and besides it just doesn’t sound very appetizing – no flavor unless you count sugar.   I grew up eating cream of wheat in two, very different, and delicious ways – one savory, the other sweet.  Both of these dishes are quick to make and are generally served for breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea.  Indians usually don’t eat an early breakfast, opting instead for tea biscuits with their tea, and so both of these recipes are generally eaten for brunch or lunch.

There are probably many variations to the recipes below based on preferences.  I have developed mine over the years based on my mother’s original recipe which has been modified quite a bit for my own taste.

The sweet version of Cream of Wheat is called Sheera.  It is often served at special occasions and also made as an offering to gods during a pooja (prayer). I always have a container full in my fridge because my son will eat it at any time of the day.  He likes to heat it up a bit and add milk before he downs a bowlful.  Many will add chopped bananas or slivered almonds to this recipe but I choose to leave them out (child’s preference).  Interestingly sheera is often served with something savory like batata wadas (fried spicy potato balls) or pakoras (vegetable fritters). 

The savory version can be kicked up with as much heat as you desire and is called Upma (pronounced Oopmaa).  It is very popular in the South of India and can be varied in many ways by adding nuts or urid dal (split black lentils).  My version is fairly simple, with few ingredients and yet the end result is extremely tasty.  It is something I crave on weekends and will often make more than I need so I can enjoy it for lunch during the week.

Sheera Recipe


1 Cup Cream of Wheat (not the instant kind)
2 Cups whole milk (lowfat or fat free is fine too)
8-10 threads saffron (optional)
3 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 ¼ Cup sugar
½ Cup golden raisins
½ tsp cardamom powder
Place the milk in a small saucepan and heat on low flame. Meanwhile in a heavy

Hot milk with saffron

bottom pot on medium heat, toast the cream of wheat until it just starts to turn golden brown stirring constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn.  Once the cream of wheat is toasted, add the butter and salt and stir to combine until butter is completely melted.  By now the milk should be heated to just under boiling.  Turn off heat and add the saffron to the milk at this point and stir well.  Reduce the heat on the cream of wheat pot and add the hot milk whisking as you add.  Cover and simmer for 1 minute to steam.  Remove cover and add the sugar and cardamom and stir until glossy and the sugar has melted.  Add raisins, stir and remove from heat.  Serve warm with or without milk. 

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Upma Recipe

1 Cup Cream of Wheat (not the instant kind)
2 ¼ Cups of water
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsps black mustard seeds
2 – 3 Thai bird chilies (adjust to taste) cut in half – I don’t remove seeds or veins
10 fresh kefir lime leaves – I chiffonade mine but they can be left whole
½ medium onion chopped finely
1 tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp salt
½ cup frozen peas
Limes and fresh cilantro for garnish
In a heavy bottom stock pot on medium heat, toast the cream of wheat until it starts to turn golden stirring constantly.  Once toasted, remove from the pot

Toasting the Cream of Wheat

into a bowl and set aside.  Place stock pot back on stove on medium high heat.  Add the oil and mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds begin to pop, add the chilies and kefir lime leaves.  Be careful as they too will pop vehemently when they hit the hot oil.  Once the popping stops, add the onions and ginger and reduce heat to medium.  Do not let the onion brown by stirring for about a minute until it has softened.  Add the water and salt and bring to a boil.  Add peas and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and add the toasted cream of wheat in a steady stream to the pot stirring constantly to avoid clumps.  Cover and allow to steam for about 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand covered for another 5 minutes.  Serve with a wedge of lime and chopped cilantro.  


The savory version is often eaten with plain yogurt on the side, particularly if the heat level is cranked up with more chilies or added cayenne. Some add heat by eating it with Indian pickles.

Note: Kefir lime leaves and Thai green chilies can be found in most Indian markets and often at Asian markets.
So whether you are sweet or savory or both, I hope I have provided some of you a whole new look at that box of Cream of Wheat in the cereal aisle.  If you try either recipe, do let me know what you think.  And remember you can increase/decrease the amount of liquid added to get a whole different texture to the end result.  Adjust it for your own preference.

Happy cooking!! 

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