Shital's-Kitchen: Idli

Friday, March 29, 2013


Idlis are steamed cakes made of rice and lentils; one of the breakfast specialty of Southern India.

Being brought up in Mumbai, these steamed cakes can be eaten during for breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner :)

Earlier I have explained an easy way of preparing and fermenting Idli and Dosa batter. Now I have it with pictures! :)

Traditionally idli batter is made by soaking rice and lentils separately and grinding them on a grinding stone till it becomes a smooth paste and then fermenting the batter.

It is surely a long process and difficult to grind whole grain rice. So instead of using rice, I use rice flour :)

Soak  1 cup urad dal/ split white lentil in 2 cup water for 5-6 hours.

Soak 3 cups of rice flour in 3 1/4 cup water whisking well to avoid lumps and make a smooth paste. 

Cover and set is aside for 4-5 hours.

Discard excess water and grind soaked lentils in a blender or a food processor.

Add soaked rice flour paste to blend them well. It is okay if you cannot add the entire rice flour batter in your blender. Blend together whatever you can. Hand mix rest of it in a bowl.

Mix well for 4-5 minutes. Cover and set it aside in a warm place to ferment for 6-8 hours. Use a large bowl so that your fermented batter does not overflow.

The batter I made did ferment and overflew :( Luckily I had a big plate underneath the bowl and I could dump the overflown batter back into the bowl :) You could see the air pockets when fermented.

Add salt and mix well. I do not add any other rising agent like Soda bi carb.
Refrigerate or freeze extra batter and it is good for a busy week.

Grease idli mold/ idli plate with a drop of oil.

Add a spoonful of batter. Do not fill it completely.

I have an idli stand with 4 plates to make 16 idlis at a time.

Insert the idli stand when the water in the container starts to steam. 
These cakes are cooked over a steam bath. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes.

Gently open the lid and remove the stand. Let the idlis rest for 2 minutes.
Use the tip of a knife or a spoon and scoop out idlis carefully.

Serve over plantain leaf with coconut chutney or powder chutney with spicy rasam or sambhar :)

Use the same batter to make Uttapam (pancake) or Dosa (Crepes)
 My first ever Cooking Workshop at The Harker faculty retreat. It was so much fun to talk and demonstrate about Indian cooking to my colleagues. The participants could then get their hands on making some plain and masala Dosas.

I also demoed a cone dosa/cap dosa :)


 Mini Idlis Pan fried with spices.

Plan to make your batter soon!


  1. hi Shital, i tried your Idli recipe and it turned out so well ... was a very BIG hassel to grind the rice and still you wont get the fine batter and result which i got from your recipe. your brilliant idea works great in it.
    i tried your other recipes as well like Toast Sandwich and Mumbai bhel chutney and it was so perfect. A BIG THANK U FOR THIS.

    1. Thanks Kinnary for your kind words! So glad you enjoyed the recipes :)

      Thanks a lot for the feedback.
      Happy Cooking!

  2. Hi Sheetal ,

    Just wanted to know, How much water should I add to grind urad daal , so to get proper batter for Soft Idli ?


    1. Kinnary, You should have around 1/2 cup of water while you grind urad dal to make idlis. Idli batter is usually thicker than dosa. Also I have noticed lately, do not refrigerate the batter before steaming idlis. If it is refrigerated, thaw it well and then use. Nice fermented batter will yield soft fluffy one.


  3. Hi Sheetal,

    Thanks for the valuable tips and suggestions...


  4. Hi Sheetal,
    really glad to see this recipe as I just made idli with rice powder and it didn't turn out right. I used 3/4 cup of rice powder for 1 cup of ground urad dal. I wanted to know how much rice powder to add for 1 cup of ground urad dal (urad dal paste)?


    1. Hello Ani,

      You always want rice flour more than urad dal. I start with soaking 3 cup of rice flour and 1 of urad dal. This will surely double in size. If you have 1 cup of ground urad dal paste, add at least 1 1/2 cup of rice flour. Soak ice flour too before mixing in.

      I hope this works for you...looking forward to hearing from you soon.
      Happy Cooking!

  5. Thanks Shital for the quick response! :)... I did add one cup of rice flour and 1 cup of water. The idlis came out much better this time however it doesn t have the smooth texture when I soak rice and grind it. One thing more is that I have always used 1 cup of rice and 1/2 cup of urad dal with 1 handful of cooked rice along with 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds and its turned out really soft and smooth. Just mentioning this because all recipes I have seen seem to use triple amount of rice! :)..
    But thanks for the help though.. will test and try once more :D

    1. You are welcome Ani! :) Is your urad dal paste for soaked whole urad or powdered urad? Yes do try with fenugreek seeds. My bhabhi does make batter by adding it. Experiment till you get your correct consistency. Some people like it dense and coarse so they do use idli rawa. some people like it smooth and light. Do send me your recipe too.

      Have a great weekend!

  6. Hi Sheetal, sorry for the delay.. :)...had left the idli /dosa batter a few days.. experimenting takes a bit motivation... my urad dal paste was from soaked whole urad (only got powdered rice from home and hence all this experimenting).
    my recipe for dosa is:
    1 cup raw rice (we use ponni rice; think its parboiled)
    3/4 cup urad dal
    1 handful cooked rice
    1 tsp fenugreek seeds. Soak rice and dal separately for two hours in water and then keep in fridge for another two hours. Grind dal and fenu seeds first. Afterwards grind rice to a somewhat coarse consistency and add in the cooked rice in later stage of grinding. Mix both in a vessel and keep refrigerated till you want to begin the fermentation process. (I grind by noon and keep mixture in fridge till night around 9. After which I keep the amount required for next day for fermentation).
    For idli, instead of 3/4 cup dal , i use 1/2 cup dal.
    Thanks for your help though... :)

    1. Thank you Ani....this recipe sounds good too...
      The reason I use rice flour is because we do not have grinders here that could grind rice very fine.
      Try your recipe with rice flour and let me know which one you like better.

      Thanks for sharing,


  7. Thanks for the valuable tips and suggestions...
    Rice powder u meant is idly rice powder or raw rice powder?

  8. Hi Shital.I bought the idli rice from Indian grocery store.It is not that smooth as shown in the pics above it is in the form of fine granules.Can i use this?Which brand of rice flour u use?

    1. I normally buy deep rice flour. it is not very smooth but does not have any granules either. You can try using it and see if you can grind it a bit after soaking don't want granules in your idli.

  9. Hi shital,
    Tried this version of idli jus few mins back...n the softness is ahaaaa...this kind of idli in Bangalore is called as "mallige idli" mallige is a flower...which says softness of idli is like a flower...awesome idea to make this batter...all the best for ur cooking creativity...


  10. Hi shital,
    Very nice creation for different version of idli batter...the softness with this batter is good....this kind of idli we get in Bangalore is called as "mallige idli"... Mallige is flower in Kannada... Softness of idli is compared with flower....all the best for your cooking creativity...

  11. Hi Sheetal..have to try this very soon..Im a big fan of idlys and god knows how many ways i have tried to get soft idlys...but was never succesful....hope this new way helps me out...Thanks a Tonn!

  12. Hi Sheetal,

    Thank you for all the wonderful recipes.

    Can you please provide the ratio for the urad dal and rice rava to make idli and also the duration to soak them.

    Your time and effort are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again