idli featured image

All about idli

Idlis are the South Indian treat to the world. They are soft, fluffy, white, savoury rice cakes steamed to perfection. Idli is one of the healthiest breakfast options available today. The Urad dhal used in the preparation of idli is a powerhouse of proteins while the fenugreek seeds provide the much-needed fibre.

When paired with Sambar or Chutneys they are bliss, providing a nourishing and wholesome breaking-the-fast meal. They are usually made in round-shaped moulds, though these days square, triangle and shell-shaped moulds have also come up.

I shall get down to every minute detail, that you will need to know regarding idlis. It does require some preparatory efforts, which are easy to master. The grains undergo 3 main processes of soaking, grinding and fermenting. Rice and Urad dhal are soaked separately usually in the ratio of 4:1 along with some fenugreek seeds for 4 to 6 hours. They are then ground separately, mixed up, salt is added and left to ferment. This is an All in one batter, as you can make a lot of recipes with it.

In South India, we get a special variety of rice, called idli rice. This parboiled rice is predominantly used to make idlis in the states of Tamilnadu and Kerala. People in Karnataka, Andhra and Telangana mostly use idli rava, which is nothing but finely broken idli rice.

Till the advent of the electrical wet grinder, we had to manually grind the flour in a heavy stone grinder, which looked like the big brother of the mortar and pestle 🙂 . It was a long and cumbersome process, but everybody managed to grind at least once a week. I and my sister had a hard time satisfying mom.  She would have us grinding till she felt the urad dhal grains had become fluffy enough.

Manual Stone wet grinder

           Manual Stone Wet grinder

Now we have tabletop and tilting grinders. These have proved to be a boon as they have made the grinding process very easy.

Table top ultra grinder

Tabletop wet grinder


If the idlis turn out flat and hard, then the quantity of urad dhal is more and should be reduced next time. After trial and error, I now use 6 cups of rice for 1 cup of urad dhal. If the idlis turn out bulgy but are not soft then increase the quantity of urad dhal. Adding beaten rice or poha is optional. If you can get soft idlis without using it then there is no need to add it. But I always prefer to add it.

Another way of making idli is by just soaking 4 cups of rice, 1 cup of dhal and fenugreek together for 3 – 4 hrs, and grinding them together with a handful of poha or cooked rice. Either way, it gives soft idlis. This method is less time-consuming. The only downside is that you get a smaller quantity of batter, which will not last for a week.

I normally grind by the traditional method, but when we are in India on vacation I prefer this method, as our grinder is small and I always run short of time. When using cooked rice first grind the cooked rice for a few minutes and then add the remaining ingredients. Else cooked rice remains as such, and you will end up with cooked morsels of rice in your idli.

Save the water that you use to clean your grinder after removing the batter. This can be added to the batter, the next morning if it is too thick. Even otherwise we drain the water and add the sediments to the batter.

Always try out with a single idli plate when you are using a new variety of rice or dhal that you have never used before. If it comes out well, you can proceed, else the batter can be used to make dosa.

Hope I have touched upon everything with regard to idli making. Now over to my idli recipes.

Traditional idli

Idli batter in a mixer

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Soyabean idli thumbnail

Multigrain idli thumbnail

Kanchipuram idli thumbnail







Thatte idli thumbnail







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