Vermicelli Upma. Noodle Vegetable Pilaf

For a wonderful vegetarian one-pot dish vermicelli upma is a veggie packed filling and delicious brunch, lunch or light dinner option. Vermicelli upma is similar to rice pilaf but is made instead with fine noodles called vermicelli.

What is vermicelli?

Vermicelli are fine dry noodles made with either whole wheat flour, rice flour or millet flour. These noodles come in packages like you would purchase pasta, couscous and other such dry goods. Vermicelli are used in many Asian and Middle Eastern dishes in both savory and sweets, and can be found at Asian and Middle Eastern stores. I’ve even picked them up at our local grocery store in the international isle.

These very fine noodles are cooked by soaking them in hot water for a few of minutes or boiling them in hot water until soft and tender. The noodles are then stir fried with vegetables and spices.

About the recipe

I made this vermicelli dish in a very South Indian Tamil style which involves minimal spices and lots of vegetables. The spices are just three in total – mustard seeds, turmeric, and asafetida powder. Asafetida powder is a staple spice in every Tamil recipe. Just a little goes a long way with this unique spice. If you don’t have asafetida, that’s fine too. Between the fried onions, ginger, and green chilies you get a phenomenal flavor profile that tastes wonderful.

Vermicelli upma can be made with any variety of veggies. in this upma I chose to make it with a combination of veggies that I had a little of this and a little of that (you know what I mean) – I used half a small head of cauliflower, a carrot, zucchini and pepper. You can also try this upma with frozen mixed vegetables, or any other veggie combo you prefer. Just keep the total amount of veggies you use the same to keep the consistency of the upma nice and fluffy.

Vermecelli Upma


1 cup Whole wheat vermecelli
1 onion cut into small pieces
1 green chili finely cut (seeds removed if you want to keep it mild)
4-5 curry leaves (optional)
1 bell pepper cut into small pieces
1 zucchini cut into small chunks
2 cups cut cauliflower or broccoli, peas, or green beans
1 carrot cut into small chunks
Juice of 1 lemon
Cilantro for garnish
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp asafetida (if you have)
1 tsp turmeric


Cook the veggies: In a large pot warm 2 tbsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to pop. Cover the pot to prevent the seeds from popping all over the counter. Once the popping sound stops, add the asafetida powder and stir in the oil. Immediately add the onions, ginger and green chillies. Shallow fry until onions are tender. Add the turmeric and then all the vegetables. Add salt to taste. Cook the veggies until tender.

Cook the vermicelli: Cook the noodles according to package directions. Mine required that I cook the noodles in boiling water with salt and oil for 2 minutes. Then drain and set aside until ready to use.

Combine the veggies and noodles together: Add the tender noodles to the cooked veggies and combine. Taste and adjust for salt accordingly. Add lemon juice and stir in.

Vermicelli upma is ready. Serve with garnish of fresh cilantro

3 thoughts on “Vermicelli Upma. Noodle Vegetable Pilaf”

    1. Hi , unfortunately there is no substitute for asafetida – this has a very distinct fragrance that is not replicable in anything else. It is commonly used in South Indian cooking as it not only adds fragrance it is also a wonderful spice for indigestion and bloating – as in helps prevent bloating and indigestion. I tell my readers if you can’t find asafetida, just leave it out. the other spices such as mustard seeds and turmeric and veggies will give you enough flavor. Hope this helps.

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