Upma is usually made with Semolina (called Rava or Suji in India). There are many ways Upma is prepared; indeed, every upma cook usually will incorporate variations in flavour when making Upma. This variation is obtained by varying or emphasising particular spices. A typical recipe includes:
A huge number of variations of Upma are made with whole or refined ground wheat and rice of varied grain size, vermicelli, Durum wheat semolina or pearl sago. A wide range of vegetables may be added, and may be garnished with a variety of beans (raw or sprouted), cashew and peanuts. For a variation called masala upma (known as 'Kharabath' in Karnataka), sambar masala or garam masala is added along with red chilli powder, instead of green chillies.
The Rice Upma, which is mainly popular in Tamil Nadu and southern parts of Karnataka is referred to as Akki Tari Uppittu (Rice coarse flour uppittu). Another variant of upma is prepared with grated coconuts instead of onions, especially on holy days, when onion is avoided. This type of upma is generally smeared with ghee at the end of preparation. Dishes similar to upma can be made by substituting small crumbs of leftover bread or Idli instead of flour. Upma made from coarser rava known as Sajjige is a dish of Udupi cuisine. It is sometimes served along with snacks such as sauted and spiced poha or Chevdo.
Another variation is Corn Upma which serves as a healthy breakfast due to the ingredients like corn, milk & nuts, Curry Leaves are added for flavour.
In Karnataka, Upma is also served with another popular sweet dish of Karnataka Kesari bhath, both in equal quantity in one plate which is very popularly called as the "Chow Chow Bath".