Jun 3, 2015

Idli – The Ultimate Guide to Softest Idlis.

Idli. Enough said. That spongy, light as air, uber healthy, steamed breakfast of millions in India. It is every idli lover’s dream to make the fluffiest, softest, ‘malli poo’ idlis (as soft as jasmine flower) at home. Idli is the stuff of  culinary dreams. The perfect idli seems so much in reach and yet, so elusive. As my friend put it, “Idli is the cause and weapon of marital fights at our home.” If you want Idli to be the cause of marital harmony rather than distress, or if you are looking for a healthy breakfast recipe, read on..

Much has been written about how to grind the perfect idli batter. Family and friends who have tasted my idlis have been reminding me to document my recipe at the blog. So here I am, with my method of making idli batter. Do share what works for you as well. It would be great to hear from everyone.

The key to good food begins with good ingredients. I use Salem idli rice. I use the best quality whole white urad that I can find. In Bangalore, Salem idli rice and whole white urad can be bought at most wholesale rice and grain shops. (rice mandi) Some supermarkets like Nilgiris, Spar, Star Bazaar, Towness also carry them. “Can I use idli rava instead of the rice?” You can. But the texture of idli will be different. Don’t tell me I did not warn you.

The next step is correct technique. For fermentation, timing is key! I soak the grains overnight, grind it the next morning and leave it to ferment through the day. By evening, the batter is ready. I store the fermented batter in the fridge and use it for up to a week without any loss of flavours.

Idli topped with two chutneys 

If you are eager to make the perfect idlis for your family, follow these steps carefully. Please read the method thoroughly before trying. As with other recipes, perfection comes with practise. If you have any doubts, write to me and I can try to sort it for you.


COOKWARE – Wet grinder, big bowls, spatula, idli steamer 


  1. 4 cups Salem Idli Rice
  2. 1 cup Whole white urad
  3. 1 tsp Fenugreek seeds – (optional)
  4. 2 tsp Salt
  5. 5-7 cups chilled drinking water for grinding.


  1. Measure out rice and urad in two separate bowls. Add fenugreek seeds, if using, to rice bowl. Rinse in enough changes of water till water runs clear. Soak in fresh drinking water. Water level should be 1 inch above the grains. Soaking time can range from minimum of 4 hours to maximum of 8-9 hours. I soak overnight. (about 8 hours)
  2. Measure out 2+1/2 cups of drinking water. Drain the soaking water from urad and grind in wet grinder. Keep sprinkling a quarter cup of water every 8-10 minutes. Use all of the 2 cups of water. Add as much of the 1/2 cup as needed. I grind for 40-45 minutes. Remove to a deep bowl when the batter looks doubled in volume and is silky smooth when you feel between your fingers.
  3. Measure out 3+1 cups of chilled drinking water. Drain out the soaking water from rice. Grind in wet grinder with 1 cup of water to begin with. Sprinkle just enough water to keep the grinder running smoothly. Keep checking every 4-5 minutes while grinding. Add water as necessary. I grind rice for 20 minutes. I stop grinding when the rice feels a little coarse and before the rice becomes a very smooth paste. That is not to say a semolina texture. Rather, between fine semolina and paste….
  4. Remove to same bowl as urad batter. Add salt and mix well with your hand. Yes, I dip most of my forearm into the batter to mix it up. This is vital to good fermentation. Have you not heard?
  5. Set this covered bowl of batter to rest in a warm place. Make sure to fill you bowl only half way to give room for rising. You can divide the batter into two bowls too. At my home, the batter takes about 8 hours to ferment. If your room temperature is below 20C, set to ferment inside your cold oven. Or cover the bowl with a beach towel/blanket. And pray that the batter does not attach itself to your blanket!
  6. The batter is completely fermented when it rises to double in volume, has a sour-sweet fragrance. Stir it lightly. Pour into greased idli moulds.
  7. Steam for 10-12 minutes over a medium flame. The idlis are done when a knife inserted through the centre comes clean.
  8. Serve hot with assorted chutneys, or molaga podi or sambar. Or all of them!

Mini idli served with love

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