Idli Podi is a flavorful South Indian powdered condiment made with lentils, seeds and spices. Some versions use peanuts, dried coconut and curry leaves too for added flavor. While Podi is a general South Indian word that means “powder”, this specific spicy podi is known as Idli Podi because it is served with a popular breakfast – “Idli”, steamed lentil cakes. In this post I share a recipe to make unique super flavorful and delicious Idli podi that everyone will love!
About Idli Podi
Idli Podi is also known as Milagai Podi in Tamil, which translates to chili/spicy powder. The Tamil word “Milagai” means chilies and “Podi” is powder. Idli Podi is known by various names across South India such as Idli karam podi, gun powder & chutney pudi.
Usually this spicy condiment is served with hot idlis & a drizzle of unrefined sesame oil or melted Ghee. However it is very common for South Indians to sprinkle this over Dosa, Uttapam, Upma, Semiya upma, plain rice, Curd rice & Lemon rice.
Basically it is an all-in-one flavorsome spicy powdered condiment that’s going to add zing to your palate. This condiment is sheer delight with every bite since it is unique in every way – taste, texture & appearance.
When you are short of time to cook your meal, try the simple hack of mixing this coarse powder with steaming hot rice and ghee – It takes you to food heaven for sure!
Idli Podi is a South Indian invention & has three main ingredients. Raw lentils, seeds and red chilies (the hot the better). They are roasted to bring out the flavors, cooled and then ground to a coarse powder in a grinder.
The resulting reddish-brown powder is a tongue twister in every way. You’ll find different versions in different homes and even regional variations among the states.
My time-tested recipe is our favorite at home and it comes with so many variations you can try. Do check out the variations section below after the recipe card.
More of roasted dal gives you a milder podi while the use of Guntur chilies can set your tongue on fire. Some grind it to a fine powder. Other prefer a coarser crunch to it.
Some add curry leaves and even dry ginger during winters. Others keep it simple with only lentils, chili and curry leaves. You can swap sesame seeds with flax seed or peanuts, add coconut, garlic, tamarind, or even jaggery to suit your taste.
How to make Idli Podi (Stepwise Photos)
1. To make idli podi prepare the following ingredients:
- ¼ cup chana dal (Bengal gram)
- ¼ cup urad dal (prefer split, skinned split black lentils)
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 8 to 16 dried red chilies (or 1 to 1 ¼ tablespoon Kashmiri red chilli powder, adjust to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon Hing (asafetida, optional. I don’t use)
2. Here are the optional ingredients which are our favorite. These ingredients are going to take your podi to the next level.
- 2 to 3 sprigs curry leaves (optional, rinse and pat dry)
- 2 garlic cloves (optional)
- ¼ cup dried coconut (optional -unsweetened shredded coconut, copra)
3. Since the roasting time of each ingredient is different, you need to dry roast them individually / separately for best results. To a heavy bottom pan, add chana dal. On a medium heat, dry roast them stiring often until they change their color to light brown.
4. Roasting them on a high heat is only going to change their color fast without roasting them from inside. So it is important to roast on a low to medium heat. Transfer them to a plate when they change to light brown color.
5. To the same pan, add urad dal and stir fry on a medium heat.
6. These lentils tend to burn fast if you don’t stir often. So be careful. Remove them to the same plate once they turn to light brown color.
7. Add sesame seeds and roast them the same way. They may sizzle or steam when they are about to be done. Remove to the same plate.
8. Add cumin seeds and roast until deep golden to light brown. They begin to smell earthy and pungent when done. Remove to the same plate.
9. Next add red chilies and roast until crisp. Keep regulating the flame from low to medium and vice versa as needed.
10. They turn slightly crisp when done but will turn fully crisp upon cooling. Transfer to a plate.
11. To the same pan, add curry leaves. Please make sure you pat dry them before using.
12. Roast the leaves until crisp. This takes only a few minutes. Remove them to the plate.
13. Add garlic and dry roast for 2 to 3 mins.
14. Stir in the coconut and roast until hot and aromatic. Keep this in the pan itself
15. Cool all the ingredients.
16. If you try to grind all the roasted ingredients together, you may end up with a too coarse powder. First grind the red chilies, salt and curry leaves in a grinder to make a fine powder. A lot of people also add hing. If you want you may add ¼ teaspoon at this stage.
17. Try to grind as fine as possible because this also gives a nice color to your podi. You may set aside some of this chilli podi so you can adjust the heat level later.
18. Scrape off the sides of the blender jar, then add dal, cumin and sesame.
19. Grind to a fine or coarse powder as per your liking. Add coconut and garlic.
20. Grind again. Taste test and add more salt. If the idli podi is not spicy, you may add little red chilli powder and grind again. You can also heat the chili powder, cool and add it here for better shelf life.
Store idli podi in an airtight glass or steel jar at room temperature. It stores well for several months.
Different regions make idli podi in different ways. Here are some variations:
Variations of Idli Podi
1. Traditional Tamil style milagai podi is made of only 6 ingredients – urad dal, chana dal, sesame seeds, red chilies, hing & salt. However ingredients like jeera, tamarind, jaggery & garlic are also included by many.
2. Andhra style idli karam podi is made in so many different ways. Each region has their own variations. The ingredients are the same as shared in the recipe card below. But includes coriander seeds and excludes sesame seeds.
To make idli podi, I use chana dal, urad dal, dried coconut and sesame seeds in equal quantities. Dried coconut is optional but I prefer to use since it is high in calcium. It gives a nice nutty aroma but ensure to use fresh and good quality copra. Do not use rancid smelling coconut.
Red chilies are used to spice up the idli podi. To add flavor cumin and garlic are used. For health benefits curry leaves or flax seeds can also be added. These proportions work well to make a flavorful milagai podi.
I do not use tamarind and jaggery, only reason there is no way to filter and use them for this recipe, so i skip them. idli podi remains fresh for a couple of months if handled with moist free spoons.
I make idli podi with so many variations, you can try with peanuts, flax seeds or even with some almonds.
Idli Podi Recipe (Milagai Podi)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ¼ cup chana dal (bengal gram)
- ¼ cup urad dal (urad dal, skinned split black lentils)
- ¼ cup sesame seeds (or peanuts or 2 tbsps flaxseeds)
- ¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 8 to 16 dried red chilies (or 1 to 1¼ tbsp Kashmiri red chili powder. adjust to suit your taste)
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds (jeera)
- 2 to 3 sprigs curry leaves (optional but recommended)
- ¼ cup dried coconut (optional, copra, desiccated coconut)
- 1 to 2 garlic cloves (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon hing (optional, asafetida)
- Wash curry leaves and pat dry with a kitchen tissue. Clean all the ingredients, pick debris and discard.
- Add chana dal to a heavy bottom pan and dry roast on a medium heat until light brown and aromatic. Remove them to a plate.
- Roast urad dal in the same pan, on a low to medium flame until golden and aromatic. Transfer to the same plate.
- Add sesame seeds to the same pan & roast until they sizzle or steam. Do not over roast as they can taste bitter. (If using peanuts, dry roast them until deep golden and aromatic.) Transfer to the same plate.
- To the same pan, add cumin seeds and roast until aromatic and deep brown. Do not burn. Transfer to the same plate.
- Dry roast red chilies till crisp & remove to the same plate.
- To the same pan, add curry leaves and roast on a low flame till they turn crisp. Set these aside as well.
- Add garlic to the hot pan & roast for 2 mins. Remove and roast coconut until aromatic. Cool all the ingredients.
How to make Idli Podi
- Grind red chilies, curry leaves and salt to a fine powder. If you want you may add hing at this stage.
- To the same jar, add dal, cumin & sesame. Grind to a fine or coarse powder as per your choice.
- Lastly add coconut and garlic. Grind to a powder.
- Taste test and add more salt. If you want more heat or deeper color you may heat little red chili powder or black pepper in a pan and add to the podi.
- Store idli podi in an airtight dry jar. Serve with idli, dosa, uttapam or with rice and ghee.
- I have not used oil completely in this recipe. However you can fry the red chilies and curry leaves in hot oil. If you prefer to store the idli podi for a few months then avoid oil and coconut too in the recipe.
- I always use sesame and coconut in my idli podi as they are high in calcium & other nutrients. You may skip if you do not like or have them.
- Adjust the amount of red chilies. The number of chilies mentioned in the recipe will give you a moderately spiced idli podi.
- For variations you can also use roasted peanuts or flax seeds.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
Watch Idli Podi Video
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Idli Podi Recipe first published in March 2015. Updated in April 2023.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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