Posted in Breakfast, Kitchen 101

Idli Batter / Idli Maavu and How to make plain Idlis – Trust me this is a lifesaver, err… or atleast breakfast saver!

Every since I have made this switch to eating a freshly cooked breakfast instead of something out of a packet (read cereals, cookies, rusk, toast), planning meals is a bigger challenge. Well, I am not 100% successful, but there is a huge difference in my eating pattern, more than enough to motivate me to stay on track.

Well, if you are new to South Indian food and have never heard of Idlis, Wikipedia will give you a crash course on it here. Idlis are small steamed cakes made out of a fermented batter of black lentils and rice. Usually served with coconut chutney and sambar, there are so many variations about serving them that I doubt you will ever get bored with them! I haven’t, for sure!

The thing about Idlis is that it might look like a lot of work, but with a bit of the planning, it will be so easy to manage. The lentils and rice need at least 4 hours to soak, but overnight will work equally well and suits everyone in the terms that, this way is easier to plan and implement. Then, you grind these lentils and rice in a wet grinder (ideal, but not available in everyone’s kitchen) or a food processor’s grinder jar (this is how I do it and practically everyone without a grinder does).  You need to let the batter, once ground, ferment for another 10-12 hours depending on the climate where you leave. So, it’s best to start about a day in advance of when you want to serve and eat them.

I follow pretty much the recipe in Tarla Dalal’s cookbook and you can find the recipe here.


  • 3 cups parboiled rice / idli rice, see notes
  • 1 cup gota urad dal (skinned whole black lentils), see notes
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds, optional
  • salt, to taste


  1. Soak the lentils+fenugreek in a vessel and the rice in another for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Drain all the water from the dal. Grind in the wet grinder or the grinding attachment of your food processor about 1/2 cup at a time. Do not crowd the grinder jar with all the daal at once. Initially, do not add any water. Once it coarsely ground add a couple of tbsps of water at a time and grind till its a smooth and fluffy paste. Tip: To check if the Urad Daal is ground properly, drop a small amount of ground daal into a bowl of water, if it sinks, it is not enough light/fluffy, you need to add a tiny amount of water and grind more. 
  3. Transfer into a deep vessel.
  4. In the same grinder jar, add rice 1 cup at a time and grind in the same way as daal. You do not need to rinse the jar. Any daal that sticks to the walls of the jar will be mixed with the rice and that is fine since we are going to mix them later anyway. Do not add too much of water else the idli batter will be too watery.
  5. Transfer this to a vessel containing the ground urad dal.
  6. Once everything is ground, mix well with clean hands or a spoon. The urad dal will tend to settle down at the bottom of the vessel, so mix very well.
  7. Cover with a lid and leave it in a clean place for about 12 hours to ferment. In cold climates, it might take up to 24 hours.
  8. Once it has fermented well, risen to about twice its original volume, add salt and use it to make idlis immediately.
  9. If you plan to use later, do not mix the salt but store in an airtight container for later use. When you intend to make idlis, take the necessary quantity of batter in a vessel from the refrigerated container, put the rest of it back into the refrigerator immediately and let the amount of batter you intend to use, stand on the counter for an hour or so till it comes to room temperature.  Add salt just before using. For Dosa, dilute the batter to a pouring, but not watery, consistency. Also see point 5 of the notes.

Steaming the Idlis:

  1. There are special moulds available for steaming idlis, which look something like this. Heat a large pot, large enough to hold the steamer with about 1-2 inches of water, not touching the lowest set of moulds and heat it.
  2. Oil the moulds and spoon the prepared batter filling 3/4th of the mould. Tap gently settling the batter evenly.
  3. Once the water is steaming, gently lower the moulds into the pan, cover and let them steam for about 8-10 mins.
  4. Remove the moulds from the pan and let it cool on the counter for another 5-10 mins. Once slightly cool, unmold them using a spoon or a knife.
  5. Serve warm with Coconut Chutney and Sambar.


  1. The idli rice is short and stout grain and will be easily available at Indian Grocery Stores. If you use ordinary rice, the difference will be subtle and not drastic. Go ahead and use any variety of polished rice you have in stock. I haven’t tried making the same with brown rice. Will make a separate post when I try that.
  2. Gota Urad dal is black lentils which are skinned, but not split. If you cannot get the whole ones, please feel free to you the split ones, again the difference is subtle.
  3. The fenugreek seeds can be skipped, it won’t make any difference to the taste. The addition of these aids digestion.
  4. I make this once I week and use it for different meals in the form of dosas, uttapams, kuzhi paniyarams, etc apart from idlis. It stays well easily for about 4- 5 days. It has never lasted for more than 4 days for me, I just use it up so fast!
  5. Add 2 tsp of Toor Daal/Tuver Daal/Split Pigeon Peas to the batter, in addition, the above ingredients, it lends a beautiful golden hue to the Dosa!

Your $0.02 gladly accepted here, but kindly don't be rude:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s