Idli batter recipe, learn how to make south Indian idli batter the old school way, in wet grinder with stepwise pictures. In this post, I have shared tips and tricks to get perfect idli as well as dosa with same batter. You can also prepare paniyaram, uttapam with the same batter.
Idli batter is handy if you have in stock. You can prepare breakfast or dinner easily or even for evening hunger pangs.
💁♀️ It is Easy
Everything right from cooking, if we see from outside, or if we are just learners, it seems to be a big task. It will be looking more complicated, but if we do regularly, by practice, everything becomes so easy and perfect!
It's all about experience. Just like making round roti, puffy paratha, and even cooking rice! So do not dread and give up, each time, just take notes and adjust it until you get it right.
Why you should idli batter at home?
Firstly, it is hygenic and you know what goes in. Quality ingredients, handmade with care under your supervision. No preservatives or nasty chemicals to make soft idli.
Secondly, if you have idli batter in stock, it's easy to whip up breakfast or dinner. All you have to think about is side dish!
Thirdly, versatile! Do you know how many dishes you can prepare with the same batter? Idli, dosa, paniyaram, masala dosa, onion uthappam and the list gets longer with your creativity.
Also, refrigerator friendly. You can stock up to 5 days which can solve your weekday breakfast or dinner. Especially if you are office goer.
Finally, idli is steamed, fermented food which keeps you light (serving size matters😉) providing enough energy from it's carbohydrate and protein in it. Opt for millet batter for more nutritional value.
For a making soft idli, quality of ingredients matters.
Urad dal - Whole urad dal, good quality, fresh stock gives best volume. They takes more water and gives a fluffy result.
Idli rice - I get this inquiry a lot, whether we can use raw rice or other par boiled rice (ponni eating rice for example) for making idli dosa batter. But the answer is, for authentic way, idli rice is must. It gives best moist and soft results.
Fenugreek seeds - I vouch for adding vendhayam commonly known as methi seeds in the batter. I never make without it. It helps mainly in softness, fermentation and flavor.
💭 Top tip
- My secret to get most out of urad dal is I use Ice cold water while grinding. This gives best volume, aerated batter and helps keeping the grinder also cool.
- You can let the lentil soak for 1 or 2 hours, keep the soaking in fridge for an hour before grinding (not compulsory, but it's a good tip)
⭐ How to make soft idli?
Making soft idli is our main motto, nobody wants a dense, hard or dry idli. Apart from the main factors ingredients and batter grinding techniques, Here are my tips to make soft idli:
- For my method, batter should not be disturbed (stirred too much) before making idli. You can gently stir couple of times to mix the batter if it is too much raised.
- Keep the idli mold inside idli pot only after water boils. Do not heat it along.
- I use batter from the top of the idli dosa batter vessel to make idli and bottom batter for dosa.
Is there a specific perfect ratio of idli rice to urad to use each time? The answer is it depends on lentil's quantity. My suggestion, start with 1 cup uraddal, 4 cups idli rice.
Let's see the possible ratios and its results. This can also be your fact checker to see if ratio is the problem. Urad dal : Rice
- 1: 1 - if you use equal amount of urad and rice, the steamed idli will be too moist (kozha kozha) and dosa will stick to the pan.
- 1: 2 - Idli will be lesser moist than above, still have a sticky feel, it will stick to hands. Dosa will still stick to pan if urad is more.
- 1: 3 - Idli will be soft, not spongy and airy. It will get dense as it cools. Dosa will come too thin as the lentil is more.
- 1: 4 - Safe ratio, especially for people who live abroad and cant get very best urad dal. Dosa comes decently.
- 1:5 - If you know that your urad dal gives good volume (already tried) you can use this ratio. Will get best idli and dosa.
- 1:6 - With fresh lentil stock, this is my default ratio. Gives perfect idli and dosa as well.
- 1:7 - My mom in law says she uses this ratio if the lentil gives extra ordinary volumes. I would suggest this even if you get such result and you already have experience in grinding batter.
If the ulundu (lentil) quality is not so good, You can soak either sago or aval/ poha/ rice flakes ¼ cup, along with rice which makes idli more softer.
Also adding ½ cup of cooked rice while you grind rice makes idly softer.
Adding the above mentioned ingredients unnecessarily in more quantity or along with good quality, will result in sticky idli and dosa also sticks to pan.
🧂 Mixing salt
I have seen my grandma, mom, MIL, many other of our relatives, all of us including me (I too make for 16 yrs now) NEVER mix after fermentation. We in fact, mix rock salt always while mixing both batters and keep for fermentation.
Is it a messy job?
For me before marriage, I found all these grinding and mixing works to be messy (especially the batter mixing process and washing the grinder😰).
I have told my mom many times that, in my life I would never do this, rather I will keep a servant to make all these messy things. But here I am!
Nowadays I make idli dosa batter every week. So, even I started like you, from zero to now, make a decent idli/ dosa.
For best idli, your batter should ferment properly. As I said the fenugreek seeds is an important factor for an easy fermentation process. Other factors:
- Weather - Hot weather gives fast fermentation. Cold weather takes longer time.
- Consistency of batter - If you do not add enough water wile grinding ulundu batter, it makes it hard for the batter to rise. Light batter = easily rises.
Over fermentation - If you are in a hot humid weather, the batter will rise too much and overflows. The batter will turn sour too. This affects the texture as we need to stir the batter.
My solution will be less fermentation time and keep refrigerated once it raises enough. We are looking for maximum only double the volume.
At times, using bad quality rice or lentil also makes abnormal over flowing. There could be tiny infestation in the ingredients, so check the stock.
Using cooked rice / old rice will also at times leads to abnormal over fermentation. Such abnormalities will lead to over flowing even after keeping inside fridge.
If you are in a cold region or even the season is cold season, then the batter will never rise no matter how long you keep it. This gives denser idlis and note the following:
- A dense, skin like yellow layer forms in the top. Batter's volume hardly changes.
- Not so pleasant smell while opening the lid of the batter vessel.
My note is do not leave the batter hoping it would rise even after 16 hours. Put inside fridge after that. Otherwise it may smell weird as well as turn sour.
Idli batter recipe | Soft idli recipe
Equipments (Amazon Affiliate links)
- Wet grinder
- 3 cup Idli rice
- ½ cup Urad dal
- 1 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds / vendhayam
- Water - as needed
- Take rice firstly in a vessel, wash 2-3 times and add enough water. Keep covered to let it soak for 3 hrs.
- After that, soak urad dal and fenugreek seeds in another vessel for same 3 hrs.
Grinding idli batter
- Once done, drain water, grind urad dal firstly. Use ice cold water for grinding.
- Add ½ cup water initially grind for 4 minutes. Stand near by and use a spatula to wipe the dal, to ensure no dal or fenugreek seeds gets stuck to the side walls of the grinder container.
- After this, add ¼ cup water at regular interval (say 4-5 mins) as needed. (Will need water more or less depending upon the quality of dal).
- If ground right, the batter will fluff nicely like a whipped cream. It looks stiff, soft, aerated and light.
- Collect the ground urad dal batter in vessel. Keep aside.
- Now drain the water in the rice and add the rice little by little while your wet grinder is running (this is to avoid the grinder getting stuck because of over loading).
- Add enough water for the grinder to run smoothly. Use the spatula to wipe off the sides at the beginning. This is to ensure even grinding.
- Add more water when the grinder runs slowly and batter gets heated.
- Grind till it is smooth. Add more water if its needed. Basically, it should be like a paste, not too runny or watery.
- It takes about 25-30 mins approximately. Time may vary, according to make and model of grinder.
- Mix this rice batter to the urad dal batter and add salt. Mix well with your hand.
- Keep the batter closed in a warm place for fermenting minimum of 12-14 hrs.
- I soak around 1.00 PM, grind at 4.00 PM and keep over night and make idly for the morning breakfast.
- I pour the rest of the batter and refrigerate it.
- A well fermented batter will be soft, aerated, rised doubled in volume.
- The consistency should be light and airy to get a spongy soft idli. If batter is heavy and not fluffy and light, then idlies also will turn hard.
- To make idli, boil 2 cups water in a idli steamer. Grease idli plate with few drops of sesame oil.
- Scoop the batter using ladle and fill the idli moulds. Steam for 8-10 mins.
- Once the idli is cooked, take out and wait for a minute. Dip a spoon in water and un mould the idli.
- I use a wet, pure cotton cloth (steamer cloth/ kaada cloth) to line the idli plate. In that case, just sprinkle little water to moisten the idli cloth and invert over a plate.
- Peek the cloth off the idli to take out. Store in a hot pack until serving.
- The steps I have given only the water quantity and the time it took for the urad dal I have, so take it as a rough idea and use water accordingly and grind till you get a smooth batter!
- If your urad dal is not a good quality, you will not get much volume. The batter will become watery and it will not be white comparatively.
- Increase urad dal if your idli turns hard. Start with ¼ cup more and add increase until you get desired texture. You can only test each time and find this.
- Cooking time of the idli is approximately 8-10 minutes.. Mine is a tiny with only two plates, so it takes hardly 5 mins 🙂
- Don’t stir the batter when you make idlies. If idli falls flat, you can consider stirring slightly.
- The batter if you grind in proper way, will be light and foam like, which gives you a soft idli. If the batter itself is heavy, then you get idli in harder side. That means you have to add more water in urad dal batter next time you grind.
- Make sure to grind the rice batter not too watery. Add water more for urad dal batter only, which will help give you aerated batter after fermentation.
📸 Step by step photos
- Firstly, wash, soak rice in a vessel. Urad dal + fenugreek seeds in another vessel for minimum 3 hrs.
- Drain water, grind urad dal first. Use ice cold water for grinding.
- Add ½ cup water initially grind for 4 minutes. Stand near by and use the plastic spatula to wipe the dal, to ensure no dal or fenugreek seeds gets stuck to the side walls of the grinder container.
- After this, sprinkle water at regular interval as needed.(Will need water more or less depending upon the quality of dal). The batter will be light, fluffy and have microbubbles when seen keenly.
Tip: You can keep a bowl of water and drop a teaspoon of batter in it. If it floats, you have ground it enough.
- Collect the ground urad dal batter in a big container, that is enough to hold the raising fermented batter the next day.
- Now drain the water in the rice and add the rice little by little while your wet grinder is running (this is to avoid the grinder getting stuck because of overloading). Add enough water for the grinder to run smoothly. Use the spatula to wipe off the sides at the beginning
- Add more water when the grinder runs slowly and the batter gets heated.
- Grind till it is smooth or a little coarse (whichever consistency you prefer, I personally grind smooth). Add more water if its needed.
- It takes about 25-30 mins approximately. Time may vary, according to make and model of grinder.
- Transfer this rice batter to the urad dal batter and add salt and mix well with your hands.
Fermentation of idli batter
- Keep closed in a warm place for fermenting minimum of 12-14 hrs. I soak around 1.00 PM,grind around 4.00 PM and keep over night and make idly for the morning breakfast. The next day morning it will be fermented and raised in quantity. A well fermented batter gives,soft and tasty Idlies. Hope you can see the batter raised and see the batter standing stiff like a foam.
- The consistency should be like this to get a spongy soft idli. If its heavy and not fluffy and light, then idli also will turn hard.vI have my Idli pot given by my MIL,its gives soft idli which after getting cold too doesn't form a layer(dry).
- I use cloth in it to cook the idli, you can make with the ordinary idli cooker too. When you use idli plate without cloth in the idli cooker, grease the idli plates with sesame oil before pouring the batter.
- After it gets cooked, you have to take it out and let it sit for 1 minute so that the idli comes out without sticking to the plate. Steaming idli will take around 8-10 minutes.
My kid loves both idli and dosa. This batter is perfect for making idli, dosa and uthappam too.
How to make dosa with the same batter
For making thin, roast dosa, you have to spoon required amount of batter in a vessel and mix little (very little) water. Then make dosa by spreading it over tawa. This is for even spreading and to get golden brown dosa! refer the video for understanding.
🧖♀️ Top tips
Which is the best rice to make idli?
We get parboiled rice meant for making idli batter, which has more starch content. Look for 'Idli rice' in supermarkets. It is a short grained rice, looks stout, dull white in colour. Cannot be used to steam and eat as rice.
Can we use eating ponni rice or raw rice for making idli?
Idli rice gives best texture, volume and taste. I suggest atleast you should use a 50 50 ratio.
Which urad dal is best for making idli?
Whole, white urad dal (without skin, not split) gives best volume. It gives fluffy batter. I always get mine from India which my mom in law or mom buys from local supermarket. Mostly it won't be branded.
Just they ask for fresh stock and insists it should give lots of volume. The local small shops in Tamil Nadu, they even take back if the stock is not good and replace with a good one. (if they find it not satisfactory after first use).
Still, if you want a branded one, I have used Udhayam and 24 mantra organic whole white urad dal. Both yielded good volume, provided, the stock is not old.
In Singapore, Sri murugan brand is better too.
Why you are not stirring the batter?
For the method we follow, I suggest not to stir the batter before making idli. Because, as we grind adding lots of water in urad dal, the batter gets aerated.
And as we mix with rice batter and ferment, it rises and have some air bubbles which gives the soft spongy texture. So it is better not to stir the batter.
We stir only if the batter gives too flat idlis sometimes if the urad dal ratio is more.
Do we need eno to make idli?
For traditional method, we never add eno or cooking soda for our batter. It is a big NO. Natural process will give you soft idli.
How to make idli softer if my urad dal is not yielding good volume?
You can use ¼ cup poha or sago to this recipe. Soak along rice and grind. If you are fine with adding cooked rice, add ¼ cup of cooked rice while grinding rice.
Can I grind all together instead of separate grinding?
So far, I get best results only if the batter is made this way. If you want to grind together, I suggest you to look for other recipes in internet. This recipe is only works best for this method.
Can I skip fenugreek seeds?
Fenugreek seeds, methi or vendhayam helps in fermentation, softness and even an amazing flavour to the idli. I always add it.
I feel if fenugreek is not added, the flavour of urad dal is more in my recipe. So if you want to skip, you can. But do try adding once and look for which one you like better.
What are the reasons for idli falling flat?
Main reason is too much urad dal. So next time, reduce accordingly.
If it is too soft and flat this is the reason. If it too flat with a jelly like harder texture, it means too much water in your batter.
How to choose good quality urad dal?
Local shops in south India sell best urad dal for idli. Just we have to make sure asking them will it give good volume? In fact, my MIL makes sure to ask this (nalla mavu kaanuma?) She will also tell them, if not, she will come and exchange for good ones.
Only small local shops will assure you so and do an exchange too.
I can hear you how everyone can have access😀 I know we can't. Usually I ask my MIL to buy and I bring to Singapore each time (one of the main thing I make sure to carry)
I carry as much as 5 kg so that I can manage for a while and then ask someone to bring if they are visiting us here.
Some of the best urad dal brand I buy which will be also helpful for people abroad are Udhayam, 24 mantra organic. Singapore also have Sri Murugan brand. I have to warn you these stocks must be fresh, otherwise it won't be giving fullest volume.
My learning process
I want to admit, I love idli and dosai being a south Indian. Especially after marriage, I got more value for food.
I started loving my mom in law's idli a lot (it's default menu for breakfast most of the week days). She makes idli plate lined with cloth (thuni idli). When I started to make idli of my own after coming to Singapore, I adapted to that method.
As I had Aj as baby when I moved here to Singapore, idli was so handy for me to feed him. Later he became a big fan of dosai. So I regularly make idli dosa batter weekly basis and use it for 3 days or so.
Hope I could cover the doubts we get, during this idli making process. This is purely for beginners! And if you have any doubt in this process, please feel free to write to me to my Email ID .
By posting this, I am not claiming that I am an expert in making Idli, just sharing what I know, How I do. Don't panic by seeing the elaborate post - I have just wrote it elaborate, so that it will be easy for beginners.
As you keep making, you will learn the knack to get perfect soft idli. It comes handy throughout the week for breakfast and dinner.