February 10, 2015

Rice Idli

There is no better food than "idli" to start your day on a rich & healthy note. These soft & spongy streamed rice cakes, made out of rice and black lentils, is a quintessential south-Indian breakfast that is now savored all over India and across the globe too!

Unlike US, where the first meal of the day is mostly grab-and-go, make-ahead, packaged-and-ready-to-eat types, Indians tend to have freshly cooked, detailed and complete breakfast. Especially in South India, idli stands out to be a popular breakfast food, for it is calorie-rich, steamed and fat-free.

Idli is an inevitable part of a south-Indian's diet right from when they were kids and introduced to solids. Though this spongy south-Indian classic can be devoured any time of the day, it is typically served for breakfast as it is rich in calories. Idli doesn't have much taste by itself and hence paired with chutney, sambar and milagai podi.

Idli is one of the most healthiest food across the globe and ranks top in India. They are easily digestible and hence, can be served to all, from little babies (as early as 6 months) to old people. The fermentation process breaks down the starches so that they are more readily metabolized by the body (info courtesy - wikipedia). Idli is an easily digestible food, and when taken with sambar, provides a mix of proteins and carbohydrates to the body.

There are many varieties of idli available like rava idly, stuffed idli, kancheepuram idli, sambar idli etc. However, my favorite and ultimate comfort food is "podi idly" - idly smeared with spicy milagai podi (chilli powder) - the best & convenient to-go food for travel / a great lunch to school.

Idli is known for its characteristic softness and the softness depends on the proportion of rice & black lentils. Interestingly, every south-Indian household has their own proportion for making idly. My mom uses half portion of black lentils to 1 portion of rice. Besides proportions of rice and dal, there are couple of other factors that can bring 'cloud-like' softness to idli viz., the smoothness of the batter and how well the batter ferments.

Idly rice / Parboiled rice - 3 cups
Whole urad dal - 1.5 cups
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

What do you need
Wet grinder
Idly molds & Idly cooker / pressure cooker

Making the batter
Wash & soak rice in water for about 6-8 hours. Soak fenugreek seeds separately for 6-8 hours. Just an hour before grinding, soak urad dal in water.

Drain water and grind urad dal into a smooth & frothy batter in a grinder. Sprinkle water little by little while grinding as necessary. Similarly, drain & grind rice into a smooth batter.

Mix the rice batter, urad dal batter well together along with salt.

Tips for getting a thick & smooth batter -
  • While grinding, sprinkle a handful of water in intervals as needed. 
  • Grind urad dal first followed by rice.
Fermenting the batter
Ground batter needs to be fermented in a warm place before it can be used for making idlis. India is a warmer country and so, idli batter ferments nicely and doubles even if left outside on the kitchen countertop (for about 8-9 hours / overnight). But, in colder places (like US / UK), conventional oven can be used. Leave the batter in a larger container (keep in mind to leave some room for the batter to rise) inside the oven with the oven lights on. Leave it for 6-8 hrs or overnight for fermentation to take place.

Making idli
Mix the batter well before making idli. Grease the idli molds well with oil (preferably gingelly oil) and fill 3/4th of the mold with the batter.

Steam cook idlis on medium flame for about 5 - 10 minutes in a idli cooker. To check if the idlis are done, insert a tooth-pick into the center and it should come out clean.

  • Allow the cooked idlis to cool down before removing them out of the molds.
  • To remove the idlis smoothly from the molds, dip the spoon/knife in a glass of water.
Serve hot with chutney and sambar.

Linking this to "Lets Cook - Rice" event hosted by Radhika


  1. Super soft and spongy idlis looks fabulous,our fav breakfast anytime.


  2. Wonderful Recipe. Pretty much ideal .. Thanks for sharing...
    Restaurant in South Campus