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  • Writer's pictureShalini Vemuri

Traditional Idlis

Pillow soft clouds of healthy steamed dumplings. A popular South Indian breakfast dish made from fermented lentils and rice batter. A must try!

Idlis are super soft, light and fluffy cakes made with a batter that is fermented. This batter recipe is a KEEPER! You can also whip up some amazing Dosas and Uthappams with this batter!

Idli being naturally vegan and Gluten free. Protein rich with Urad Dhal (Polished black gram) yet unbelievable light on the stomach and easy to digest. The batter used to make idlis is fermented which makes it extra healthy!

Idlis call for very few ingredients but there is inactive prep time that takes in soaking the lentils and fermenting the ground batter. There are a couple of ways of making Idlis. One could either make them with Idli rice or with Cream of rice ( Idli rava). The outcomes are different. I am a fan of using Idli rice as I find the Idlis super soft!

There are books and chapters on fermentation. But to keep it simple, follow the steps below.

- Cold weather: Place the batter in a big bowl. Don't cover it with a air tight light. Place it in an oven that is off and turn on the light. Let the batter double in size.

- Warm weather: Just place it on the counter top and let it ferment overnight.

Key ingredients for this recipe are Urad Dhal, Parboiled rice or Raw rice, Fenugeek seeds and Flattened Rice. The softness is achieved due to fermentation and the flattened rice. These are soaked and ground into a fine batter. Fermentation of the batter plays a key role in this recipe to achieve soft idlis. It usual takes about 12 to 15 hours to ferment depending on climatic conditions. Easiest method is to use an Instant pot if you have one, and set on Yogurt mode for 12 to 14 hours.

The little specks you see in my batter are from Pink Himalayan salt.


Makes 30 Idlis Steam for 15 min


Before fermentation

3.5 cups Parboiled rice or regular rice

1 cup Urad dhal

1/2 cup Flattened rice/ Poha

1 tsp Fenugeek seeds

After fermentation

3 tsp Salt

To serve

Options to serve

Coconut Chutney


Chutney powder


1. Soak the lentils and fenugreek seeds in 5 cups of water for 6 hours. In another bowl add the rice and flattened rice and soak them in about 8 cups of water for 6 hours.

2. Save a couple of cups of the soaked water and use while grinding. This aids in fermentation.

3. I typically grind the urad dhal batter first and then separately grind the rice and fenugreek batter. You can grind using a Blendtec or a traditional wet grinder. If you are using a high powered blender grind the lentils and rice with chilled water. You want to avoid cooking the batter in the blender in high heat, this will dampen the fermentation process.

4. Take the mixture into a large sized bowl and beat it with your hands until well combined. Keep in mind that it doubles on fermentation. The batter should resemble cake batter like consistency.

5. Once fermented the batter will almost double in size and is lite and airy. Add salt and mix the batter.

5. Grease the Idli plates with oil.

6. Immediately add the batter to the idli tray and steam them in a vessel with a lid with water underneath for 15 min. Or Select the Steam option for 15 min in the Instant Pot. Set the vent to Sealed and do a natural pressure release.

This batter is Gold! Use it not only to make idlis but also for dosas, uthappams and paniyarams!


Serve steaming idlis the traditional way, with a hot cup of coffee and a newspaper!!

Idli batter can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

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