Idli needs no introduction to Indians. This signature breakfast item from South India has a devoted following all over India. It’s no exaggeration to say that Idlis are responsible for providing morning nutrition to about 200 million people everyday in the four southern states of India.

There are many ways to enjoy idlis. North Indians would swear by the idli-sambhar combo. I like them hot with a drizzle of ghee on top and some coconut chutney. Some people eat it with chutney powder. However you eat it, it’s good. Seriously, there is no breakfast like idli-chutney. It’s my favorite, followed closely by plain rava uppittu.

Idlis look like a very uncomplicated food. A batter made from rice and urad dal and then steamed into round, flat balls. No frying to be done, no spices to be added, no vegetables to be cut. As simple as this sounds, getting them soft and fluffy requires practice and attention to small details. There have been probably as many experiments conducted to get the idlis right as the number of stars in the sky but once you learn it, it becomes as easy as 1-2-3.

If you like idlis and would like to learn how to make them, I think this recipe will help. I have also given here the exact amount of water to be added to batter while grinding. This will help in getting the right consistency batter. The cup measure is as per the American standard (slightly smaller than a coffee mug)

1/2 cup Par boiled Rice (I use Ponni brand rice)
1/2 cup raw/regular rice
1/2  cup whole Urad Dal without the black skin
1/4 cup poha/puffed rice
1.5 tea spoon salt
Idli stand
A pot big and deep enough to hold the idli stand

Parboiled rice is rice that has been boiled in husk. It is more shiny and nutritious than regular rice and helps make idlis soft and spongy.

1. Soak the rice and urad dal separately in 4-5 cups of water for about 3 hours.
2. When ready to grind, add poha to the soaked rice.
3. Drain off all water from urad dal. Grind the urad dal until it is very soft and fluffy. You will need to add about 1 cup of water while grinding. When you feel the paste, it should have no grainy texture.
4. Drain off all water from rice. Grind rice along with poha/puffed rice in a grinder/mixer until almost smooth. You will need about 3/4 cup of water. The paste will feel just slightly coarse when you rub it between fingers.
5. Pour the ground rice and urad dal into a big pot and add 1.5 tea spoon of salt and mix the batter with your hand until salt is properly incorporated into the batter.
6. Cover the pot with a lid and put it away in a warm place for at least 12 hours. Here in California, I put it in oven and turn the oven light on. This works really well to ferment the batter. On a really cold day, I cover the pot with a big bath towel and then put it in the oven.
7. Once the batter is fermented, without stirring the batter, put a small ladleful of batter into each idli plate.
8. Bring 4-5 cups of water to boil in a pot big and deep enough to hold the idli stand. Once the water starts boiling, put the Idli stand in pot cover it with a lid and steam for about 7-8 minutes. Shut off the stove and remove the idli stand after 4-5 minutes.
9. Remove each plate from the idli stand, turn it upside down and let it run under water. Run a sharp edge spoon or spatula around the edge of the idli and scoop it out in a circular motion. Keep it in a container with a lid.


8 Responses to “Idli”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hi I knew an Anupama Bhat when my family was in Bhavnagar,Gujrat from 1983-1988. Wondering if you are the same person? Did u study in KPES school? IS your father’s name Dr.Rajan?
    Your blog is great.

  2. S J Says:

    Hi ,
    Can u also let us know how many people your recepies serve.

  3. Rupa Says:

    Hi Anupama, I have full boiled rice at home and your recipe calls for par-boiled rice….would there be any changes to the measurements due to this ?…..thanks !

  4. Saira Says:

    Thanks Anupama! Yes, if I try it with idli-rava, I will certainly let u know. However, I am not sure if I want to do that as I tried another recipe with the rava and the texture was not to my liking. I might just pick up the rice and make it like ur original recipe. Either way I will let u know. Thanks a bunch!!

  5. Anupama Krishnamurthy Says:

    Hi Saira,
    Yes, you can substitute idli-rava for par-boiled rice.
    Use 2.5 cups of Idli-rava for 1 cup of urad dal. When you start grinding the urad dal, at that time, soak the idli rava in about 4 cups of warm water (assuming you are using 2.5 cups of idli-rava.) Grind the urad dal until very soft and fluffy. By this time the idli-rava will have absorbed most of the water. Add the idli-rava to the urad dal batter. (no need to grind the idli-rava separately) Mix well along with salt. Ferment as usual. BTW, I use the standard American cup measurement.

    I know many people who make idlis this way and are quite pleased with it. Please do try this. And if you do, would you mind leaving a note as to how it came out?

    If you live in San Francisco, finding par-boiled rice at an Indian grocery store should be easy. I life in the SFO bay area and almost all of them carry it such as Namaste Plaza, Bharat Bazaar etc. There is a store called Coconut Hill in Newark (near Fremont) its address is: Coconut Hill – 39207 Cedar Blvd – Newark – California – US – Ph: (510)742 8704) which has parboiled rice. You don’t have to use Ponni brand, any brand should be ok.

    All the best to you.


  6. Anonymous Says:

    Hi, I am trying to make idli for the first time. I saw your recipe and wanted to try it out. But when I went to the store to get the ingredients, I couldn’t find a small enough bag of par boiled rice. There were only 20lb bags which I didn’t want to buy. I got instead something called idli rava which is par boiled. Could you please tell me if I can use that and get same results? If so, how should the quantity be altered? I am thinking idli rava is the ground version of the par boiled rice you’ve mentioned. Please help me with an altered recipe for the idli rava.

  7. Anupama Krishnamurthy Says:

    Thanks Nilima for the two great pointers. In cold climates fermentation takes time but the oven method i mention above really works, in case you are interested.


  8. Nilima Says:

    I have been making idlis using Idli Rava in place of rice which also makes soft and fluffy idlis. A little time-saving, since rice is pre-ground.

    I have not had very much luck w/fermentation, but found 2 tips on to be very helpful 1) using filtered or boiled water (this removes chlorine in water), and, 2) using salt that is not iodized, to help tremendously w/fermentation.

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