idli recipe with video and step by step photos. this is a tried and tested method to make soft and fluffy idlis at home. if you are new to indian cuisine, then read on. if you are not new to indian cuisine then jump to recipe.
what is idli
idli is a soft, pillowy steamed savory cake made from rice and lentil batter. the lentils used in making idli are urad dal (black gram). idli is a traditional breakfast made in every south indian household including mine. idli is popular not only in the whole of india but outside india too. idlis are naturally vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and makes for one of the healthiest breakfast.
how is idli batter made
there are two ways you can prepare idli batter:
- one method uses idli rice along with urad dal. idli rice is parboiled rice and used specifically for making idli and dosa.
- the second method uses idli rava with urad dal. idli rava is coarsely ground idli rice and is easily available in shops and online. i have shared the method of making idli with idli rava in this post – idli made with idli rava.this idli recipe post shares the method of using rice to make the batter. generally only idli rice is used to prepare idlis. but not everywhere in india, is idli rice easily available. here the recipe shares the method of using two kinds of rice. one is parboiled rice and other is a regular rice. you can even make idli with short grained rice. on occasions, my mom makes one of the best idli with parmal rice. she only uses parmal rice and split urad dal. no methi seeds, no baking soda or anything. at times i also make idli with the traditional method of using only idli rice.
how is idli batter ground
for making a simple traditional idli, first both the rice and the urad dal are soaked separately for 4 to 5 hours. then the lentils (urad dal) are ground to a soft, fluffy batter. later the rice is ground to a semi fine consistency. both the batters are mixed and allowed to ferment. the grinding of the batters, can be done in a stone wet grinder or in a mixer-grinder.
grinding in a stone grinder is helpful if making a large quantity of idli batter. the advantage of grinding in a stone grinder is that the urad dal batter gets ground really well and thus the idli batter ferments also well.
i have both a stone grinder and a mixer grinder. for smaller quantities i use the mixie for grinding and for larger quantities i use the stone grinder. both work differently and the amount of water to be added also varies.
however, everyone does not have a stone grinder. so, here i have shared the detailed method on how to grind the batter in a mixer grinder with lots of tips and suggestions in the step by step pics.
tips for idli batter fermentation
fermentation is a key factor in getting soft, light and fluffy idli. for proper fermentation of idli batter a warm temperature is apt. in cold climates, fermentation does not happen well. i get a lot of queries on how to ferment idli or dosa batter in winters. so i have summarized my experiences in the following points below:
- keep the idli batter bowl in a warm place – e.g near a heater or in a warm place in your kitchen.
- you can also preheat your oven at a low temperature (80 to 90 degrees celsius) for about 10 to 15 minutes. then switch off the oven and keep the batter bowl inside – i use this method when it becomes very cold outside.
- alternatively, if your oven has lights, then keep the lights on and place the batter inside.
- addition of a bit of sugar does help in fermenting the batter. so i use this method at times in the winters here.
- during winters, skip adding salt to the idly batter as salt retards the fermentation process. its better to use rock salt or sea salt. i always use rock salt in the idli batter.
- in winters, keep the batter for a longer time to ferment, like 14 to 24 hours.
- do remember that even if you do not see the batter doubled or tripled, you should see tiny bubbles in the batter. you should also get the typical faint sour fermented aroma from the idli batter.
- you can even add ¼ to ½ tsp of instant yeast (dissolved in 2 to 3 teaspoons of water) 30 to 45 minutes before you steam the idli. but do this method when the batter has not fermented well. the downside of this method is that you have to use all the batter at once. if you refrigerate than the batter gets too yeasty and sour.
- you can also add ¼ to ½ baking soda and then ferment the batter in cold seasons.
- addition of methi seeds (fenugreek seeds) also help in fermentation.
- urad dal has to be ground really well. urad dal batter has to be soft, light and fluffy. so i suggest to grind both urad dal and rice separately to get soft and fluffy idli. a well ground urad dal batter also helps in fermentation.
- also do remember to add the correct amount of water in the batter. if the water is less, then the idli will become dense.
how is idli made
the ground idli batter is fermented overnight or for 8 to 9 hours. then the fermented idli batter is steamed in an idli pan. the steaming time is generally from 12 to 15 minutes. idli should never be over steamed as then they become dry and dense. idli pans or idli moulds are easily available in shops and even online.
variations with idli batter
there are many possible variations you can do with a basic idli batter. you can add lentils like moong dal and make moong dal idli. even millets, flattened rice (poha) can be added to the batter. oats can also be added. i have shared oats idli recipe. experiment with proportions and then decide on the one which gives you the best idli in terms of texture and taste.
other variations are making stuffed idli, idli sandwich or idli pizza etc. i have shared some traditional idli variations like:
difference between idli batter and dosa batter
both idli and dosa batter are made from rice and lentils. idli batter is more thick in consistency than a dosa batter. to make dosa, the batter is spread on the tava (griddle) and thus needs to have a slight flowing and spreadable consistency.
- for idli batter the ratio to be used is 4:1 of rice and lentils. from this 4:1 ratio of idli batter, you can even make dosa. i always use the proportion of 4:1 to make idli. the proportion of rice and urad dal is always a matter of controversy. so i suggest experiment with different types of rice and come to your own standard measurements which will give you perfect idli.
- for dosa, the ratio that is generally used is 3:1 of rice and lentils. also do not that for making dosa batter, you can easily use rice like sona masuri, parmal rice or can even use idli rava instead of idli rice.
idli is a breakfast i have grown up with. on every weekends, soaking rice & lentils, then preparing idli batter was a regular ritual. every sunday, i knew we would get piping hot idli or soft dosa for breakfast along with chutney and sambar.
initially, when preparing idli for the first time, i ran into problems. but now after so many years of experience, i can make really good idli and dosa.
for a more softer texture in idli, i always add thick poha (flattened rice) or cooked rice. this is optional and you can skip adding poha. you could also steam idli in a damp muslin cloth. steaming idli this way also gives a soft texture.
with this recipe of idli batter, you can also make crisp dosas. you can use this batter on the same day, the batter is fermented to make dosas. or else you can make idli on the first day and make dosa or uttapams on the second day. serve idli hot or warm with sambar and coconut chutney.
i have also attached video (2.08 minutes quick video) in the recipe card below. in the video i have shown the preparation of idli with 2 cups of idli rice. but you can even use 1 cup of regular rice and 1 cup of parboiled rice.
preparation to make idli recipe and idli batter
soaking rice and dal for making idli
1. in a bowl or pan take 1 cup parboiled rice and 1 cup regular rice. here i have used sona masuri rice along with parboiled rice. instead of this proportion, you can also use overall 2 cups of idli rice OR 2 cups of parboiled rice (as shown in video above).
2. pick and then rinse both the rice varieties for a couple of times. drain and keep aside.
3. take ¼ cup thick poha in a bowl.
4. rinse the poha once or twice with water.
5. then add the poha to the rice. add 2 cups water. mix very well and keep aside covered to soak for 4 to 5 hours.
6. in a separate bowl take ½ cup urad dal along with ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds.
7. rinse a couple of times.
8. add 1 cup water. cover and soak for 4 to 5 hours.
making idli batter
9. before grinding, drain the urad dal, but don’t throw away the water. reserve the soaked water.
10. in a wet grinder jar, add the urad dal. initially add ¼ cup of the reserved water.
11. and grind the urad dal for some seconds. then add ¼ cup water and continue to grind. the batter should be light and fluffy when completely ground.
12: pour the urad dal batter in a deep pan or bowl.
13: drain the rice & poha and add them in the wet grinder jar. i usually grind in two parts. depending on the capacity of your mixer-grinder you can grind in two to three parts. if the mixie gets heated up while grinding, then stop and let it cool. then continue with the grinding.
14: use the urad dal strained water or regular water to grind the rice and poha too. add water in parts and grind. the rice can have a fine rava like consistency in the batter. a smooth batter is also fine. i usually add a total of ¾ cup of water while grinding rice. the rice batter should not be too thick or thin.
15: now pour the rice batter in the bowl containing the urad dal batter.
16. add 1 teaspoon rock salt. mix very well with a spoon or spatula. if you live in a cool or cold region, then do not add salt. add salt later once the fermentation is done. if you live in a hot or warm climate, then add salt as it does not allow the batter to get over fermented in the time duration of 6 to 8 hours.
17. cover the bowl or container with a lid and keep the batter in a warm place. it should be left undisturbed for 8 to 9 hours. don’t use an air-tight lid. in colder climate, keep the batter for a longer time – from 12 to 24 hours.
18. the batter the next morning. it will ferment and increase in volume.
steaming idli from idli batter
19. grease the idli mould with oil. gently and lightly swirl the batter. don’t over do. now with a spoon pour portions of the batter in the greased idli moulds.
20. take your idli steamer or pressure cooker or electric cooker. add some 2 to 2.5 cups water and heat the water. keep the idli mould in the steamer or pressure cooker. steam for 12 to 15 minutes. timing will vary depending on the kind of equipment you have used. if using a pressure cooker, then cover the pressure cooker with its lid. remove the vent weight/whistle from the lid. steam the idlis for approx 12 to 15 minutes.
21. check for doneness by inserting a tooth pick. if it does not come out clean, then keep again for a few more minutes. when done remove the idli mould from the cooker. don’t overcook as then they become dry. dip a spoon or butter knife in water and slid them through the idlis. remove and place the idlis in a warm container like a casserole.
22. serve idli hot or warm with sambar and coconut chutney.
how is idli served
- idli is served with coconut chutney and sambar. idli is dunked in sambar and eaten. there are quite a number of both sambar and coconut chutney varieties that one can make to go with idli.
- idli is also served with idli podi or gun powder. idli podi is a condiment powder made with lentils and spices. if you do not have time to make sambar, then you can just serve idli with coconut chutney and idli podi. idli can also be served with curd which has been spiced and tempered.
what to do with leftover idli
at times there is an extra or surplus of idli left. you can use these idli the same day to make a new recipe or refrigerate them and use the next day. with leftover idli you can make the following recipes.
- idli manchurian – idli stir fried with veggies in a spicy, sweet and sour sauce.
- masala idli – idli sautéed in a onion and tomato masala.
- idli chilli – spicy indo chinese recipe of idli in a spicy and sour sauce.
- idli upma – tasty variety of upma made with idli.
INGREDIENTS FOR idli recipe
- 1 cup regular rice + 1 cup parboiled rice OR 2 cups idli rice OR 2 cups parboiled rice
- ½ cup whole or split urad dal OR 120 grams whole or split urad dal (husked black gram)
- ¼ cup thick poha OR 20 grams thick poha (flattened rice)
- ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- 2 cups water for soaking rice
- 1 cup water for soaking urad dal
- ½ cup water for grinding urad dal or add as required
- ¾ to 1 cup water for grinding rice or add as required
- 1 teaspoon rock salt (sendha namak) or sea salt
- oil as required to apply to the idli moulds
- 2.5 cups water for steaming idli
HOW TO MAKE idli recipe
soaking rice and dal for making idli
- pick and rinse both the regular rice and parboiled rice.
- rinse the poha and add to the rice.
- add water. mix well. cover and keep the rice + poha to soak for 4 to 5 hours.
- in a separate bowl, rinse the urad dal and methi seeds a couple of times.
- soak the urad dal with methi seeds separately in water for 4 to 5 hours.
making idli batter
- drain the soaked urad dal. reserve the water.
- grind the urad dal, methi seed with ¼ cup of the reserved water for some seconds. then add remaining ¼ cup water. grind till you get a smooth and fluffy batter.
- remove the urad dal batter in a bowl and keep aside.
- grind the rice in batches to make a smooth batter.
- mix both the batters together in a large bowl or pan. add salt and mix well.
- cover and let the batter ferment for 8 to 9 hours or more if required.
- after the fermentation process is over, the idli batter will become double in size and rise.
- grease the idli moulds.
- pour the batter in the moulds and steam the idli in a pressure cooker or steamer.
- if using pressure cooker remove the vent weight (whistle).
- steam for 12 to 15 mins or until the idli is done.
- serve the steaming hot idli with coconut chutney and sambar.
- remaining batter can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.