Idli recipe, Learn to make soft idli batter with rice or rava. Soft idli can be made in 2 ways, one is using rice and the other using idli rava. I am sharing both the methods in this post. Making idli using rava is a breeze, we don’t need to grind the rice to make the batter. The texture of the idly made using rava also turn out very soft and nice. Idly rava is also called as rice rava in some parts of India.
What is idli?
Idli is a soft & fluffy steamed cake made of fermented rice & lentil batter. These are one of the healthiest protein packed Breakfasts from South Indian cuisine. Idli are easily digestible as the rice & lentils known as DAL are soaked, ground, fermented & then prepared by steaming the batter. These are served with a chutney and or with a tiffin sambar.
Is idli healthy?
Idli is considered to be the healthiest food due to the unique method of preparation which enhances the bioavailability of the nutrients in urad dal and rice. Soaking the lentils, blending to batter and fermenting enhances the nutrients and they are still preserved as idli are steam cooked for a short time.
This is what makes idly suitable to all including babies to folks on diet and even to the aged, who generally have poor digestion.
What is idli made of?
Idli is made of urad dal or skinned black gram and rice. Urad dal is high in protein and calcium. It is absorbed by the body better in the form of idly as it is made from soaked & fermented batter.
How to make healthy idli?
Restaurants or Hotels use a ratio of almost 1:4 (dal : rava or rice, as rice is cheaper for them). So I suppose we must favor more dal as it is high in protein and less rice or rava specially for home cooking. Since the cost doesn’t matter for home cooked foods as long as they are healthy and nutritious.
This idli recipe does not need too much of rice or rava as it is not a healthy choice. The carbs we need for our body comes even from the urad dal.
When it comes to fermenting, dal contributes more towards the fermentation rather than the rice. So using lesser rava or rice too you can make super soft idly.
My idli recipe doesn’t call for using cooked rice as it is not a healthy idea to ferment cooked rice. The traditional recipe which has been followed for generations in South India is to soak the grains, blend, and then ferment the batter.
Lastly steam cook for health benefits. But using already cooked rice to make the batter is using stale food. Furthermore this no more remains healthy.
Ayurveda links eating stale rice to many metabolic disorders like thyroid and diabetes. I truly believe this hence sharing this point. To retain the health benefits of idly, it is better not to use cooked rice. But use poha or beaten rice if needed.
This recipe yields super white, soft, light and fluffy idlis.
How is idli batter made?
There are 2 ways idli batter can be made
1. The first method uses idli rava which is made of a special kind of parboiled rice. This method is very popular in the south Indian states where the idli rava is available. Making idlis using this method is super quick as the rice need not be ground.
2. The second method is a traditional one which uses idli rice or parboiled rice. However they can be made with most kinds of rice including sona masuri, ponni or parmal rice.
How is idli batter ground?
Traditionally idli batter was ground in a stone mortar pestle to make the urad dal batter very light and fluffy. This light fluffy batter is the key to soft, fluffy and pillowy idlis.
In the current days, it is made either in a wet grinder or mixer grinder. Wet grinder works as good as a stone mortar in grinding the urad dal to a smooth and fluffy texture. If it is made in wet grinder then ingredients like poha or methi seeds can be skipped.
Most women prefer making batter in mixer grinder as it is easy to handle. If the batter is made in mixer then poha or methi seeds will be helpful to make fluffy idlis.
Mixer grinder vs wet ginder for idli
As per my experience both yield the same results if good quality dal is used & blended following the correct method. I do have a wet grinder & a mixer grinder.
I use the wet grinder only when I have guests home from India. During other times I use the regular mixer grinder. Making idli batter in wet grinder is good for larger families – like 5 or more. Otherwise it is quite easy to manage with a mixer grinder like me.
4 Important factors to making soft idli batter
(Based on my experience), no matter whether you use a wet grinder or a mixer.
1. Age of the dal used for idli recipe: Urad dal from the current years harvest is best suitable to make soft idli. But how do we identify? The current year’s yield will be white in color with no pale yellow shades on it.
While the yield from the previous years, will be pale yellow in color. Or sometimes pale yellow spots on the dal. Using the new dal will surely result in good fermentation.
This gives you super soft idly provided you take care of the other 3 factors. For folks who are not accessible to fresh stock, other ingredients like fenugreek seeds or poha are used to aid the fermentation.
2. Non-iodized salt for idli recipe: always use enough non iodized salt, avoid iodized salts since it do not favor the fermentation process.
3. Temperature to ferment batter for soft idli recipe: Cold climates do not favor fermentation process. So keep your batter in a warm place. If you live in cold countries or in high altitude places, use a preheated oven for fermenting it. Or turn on the light in the oven.
You can also use the fermentation or yogurt making option in your oven, electric cooker or Instant pot.
4. Lastly consistency of soft idli batter (the amount of water to use): For good fermentation, the batter must be of the right consistency. If you make it runny or thin, it will not rise. But the fermentation will be ok, though not perfect. The result will be wet and flat idly.
But again, if it does not have enough water in it (very thick batter), it will not ferment. I understand this as “the organisms need enough moisture for a healthy cultivation”. So blending it to a right consistency is important. So the soft idli batter must be of a thick but pouring consistency.
Can you refrigerate idli batter?
Yes. It can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days. After grinding, it must be transferred to separate containers. Then fermented separately. Next refrigerated after fermentation without disturbing it.
I usually make the idli batter good enough for 2 days. Then transfer it to 2 different containers and ferment them separately.
Use up one the next morning and refrigerate the other as it is without stirring it. For the second day, I use a glass bowl or a corning ware casserole. Plastic or steel containers may make it sour. My idli turns out soft with no sour smell.
On the third day, I am left with some batter that is not enough for all of us. So I mix up ragi flour in luke warm water and add it to the left over. I allow it to rest for 30 mins out of the fridge. Even these turn out good.
What to serve with idli?
We also eat Idli for a meal sometimes, most often it is for dinner. Then I prepare some kind of sambar along with some mini idlis for my kids. Here are some sambar options you may like to check.
Soft idli recipe
Idli recipe | How to make idli batter recipe
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
Ingredients for idli
- ½ cup urad dal or skinned black gram
- ¾ to 1 cup cold water (for grinding dal) – use chilled water in summer
- 1 cup idli rice for mixie (or 1 ½ cups for wet grinder) or 1 cup + 2 tbsp idli rava
- 2 tablespoon thick poha or attukulu or beaten rice Or ½ tsp. methi – fenugreek seeds
- Non-iodized salt or sea salt or rock salt, as needed
How to make the recipe
Preparation for idli recipe
- Add half cup urad dal to a bowl and 1 cup rice (or 1 heaped cup idli rava) to another bowl.
- Wash them very well separately until water runs clear.
- Soak them separately in lot of water for at least 5 to 6 hrs.
- If using fenugreek seeds, add them to the urad dal & soak. OR Soak poha for about 2 hrs, if using. Use at least one of them other wise the idlis will not turn fluffy.
- After 4 to 5 hours, drain the water from urad dal & rice or rava.
How to make idli batter
- Grinding urad dal – Add dal, salt & enough cold water to grinding jar or a wet grinder.
- If you live in a hot climate then skip adding salt now and add it just before making idli otherwise the batter turns sour. You will have to experiment with salt to know what works well for you.
- If using poha or methi seeds add them as well to the jar.
- Grind till thick, smooth, bubbly & frothy. The idli batter should not turn hot or even warm as it makes dense idli.
- Add very little water when ever needed. If you are using aged dal or old stock, it doesn’t get frothy even if it is grinded smooth. Transfer urad dal batter to a large utensil.
If using rice for idli
- Add rice to the blender with little water and grind little coarsely. Pour this to the dal batter. Mix both of them well.
If using idli rava
- Drain off the water thoroughly from the rava. Squeeze excess water from the rava with the help of both your palms. Rava must not look soggy. It must absolutely have no water in it, else the batter will become runny.
- Transfer this to the urad dal batter and mix well.
- Now mix everything well. Use your hand to mix as it helps to ferment faster and better. If needed can add little water, if the batter is too thick.
Fermenting idli batter
- Set the batter aside in a warm place for at least 6 to 12 hrs until the batter ferments and rises well. Sometimes it may take up to 18 hours depending on the weather and temperature.
- People living in high altitudes and cold climate can preheat the oven to 100 Degree C or 210 F. Turn off after preheating for 15 mins & place the idli batter in oven. Or Set the oven with the light bulb on.
- A well fermented batter will yield good soft idli. The batter must rise and look fluffy but not turn sour. You will need to experiment to know the fermentation time.
How to make idli
- On a high flame, bring enough water to boil in an idly steamer or a pressure cooker.
- Grease your idly plates lightly. You can also use thin muslin clothes.
- Just rinse them well and wring it well to remove the water. Spread the cloth on the idly plates.
- Mix the batter gently a few times. do not over do as the aerated batter will turn flat. Fill the molds with batter.
- When the water begins to bubble and steam up, place the stand in the steamer. Cover and steam for exactly 10 mins on a medium high flame.
- After 2 mins, remove the idly stand. Set aside to cool down for 2 to 3 mins. When cooled, the idli must not be wet on top.
- With the help of a spoon remove the idlis to a plate. Serve idli with a chutney or sambar.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
Notes for soft idli recipe
- Do not use air tight jars for fermenting.
- Use stainless steel or ceramic containers for fermenting.
- Avoid plastic jars. Never let your batter warm up while grinding, as it will make the idly harder.
If you are a beginner or new to Indian cooking, I highly suggest you to check the supporting step by step photos for best results. Step by step photos with description available below after the recipe card.
Preparation for idli recipe
1. Wash and soak dal for about 4 to 5 hours. If using fenugreek seeds, soak them with dal. Wash rice or rava and soak it separately. If using rava, nicely squeeze the rava and wash to get rid of the unwanted stuff. If using poha soak it for 2 hours.
2. After 4 to 5 hours, drain off the water from the dal and add it to the blender along with salt. If you live in a hot place, then skip adding salt now and add it after fermentation, just before making idli. Add cold water just enough to blend it to smooth. Using cold water prevents the mixer or grinder from turning hot. If the batter turns up hot, idli may turn hard.
3. Add more water as needed and blend till you get frothy thick smooth batter. Transfer this to a large utensil. Do not make it very runny.
4. Transfer this to a large pot.
5. If using rice refer method 2 with detailed step by step photos below. A short description is here as well. Add rice and very little water to the rice and grind coarsely. Pour it to the batter and mix well. Follow from step 6.
If using idly rava: Squeeze off the water by taking rava in between your palms and with pressure try to remove excess water. Transfer this to a plate. Squeeze again any excess water.
6. Next transfer it to the batter. If you are some one who do not like the slight coarse texture of rava, then you can also blend it well. Then add to the urad batter.
Fermenting idli batter
7. Mix well with your hands. Keep it aside for fermenting in a warm place for 6 to 12 hours, depending on the climate. It may take up to 18 to 20 hours too sometimes. Do not use air tight jars or containers for fermentation.
8. After fermentation. This time when i made this i had to ferment for about 18 hours as the climate was windy and cold.
9. Gently mix the batter, very lightly to make uniform. Sometimes it may be thick at some places and thin in other places. So to get a uniform consistency. I prefer to stir gently only a couple of times. It may shrink when we do this.
How to make soft idli recipe
10. Bring water to boil in a steamer or pressure cooker without weight on a medium high flame. Grease the idly plates. If needed sprinkle little water. The batter should be of thick pouring consistency. Pour it in the molds.
11. When the water begins to bubble up rapidly, place the idly stand in the steamer. Steam it for 10 minutes. Remember you need to be a bit tricky to adjust the flame. If the flame is very high, the water may bounce to the idly plates. If it is to low, they may not get steamed enough. So the flame should be on a medium high. Off the stove after 10 minutes. Leave it for 2 minutes. Remove the plates from the steamer and allow them to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
You can also find a collection of 33 South Indian Style chutney recipes.
method 2 – soft idli recipe using rice
If making in wet grinder you can use 3:1 proportion of rice : dal, But it also works with 2:1 prop. Urad dal that is ground in wet grinder turns very fluffy if the dal is from current harvest, hence you can use 3:1 proportion.
Next if making in mixer or blender i suggest using only 2:1 proportion. The step by step photos shown below were made with half cup urad dal and 1 cup rice with 2 tbsp poha.
1. Blend soaked dal,salt and poha adding water as needed until thick and frothy.
2. Grind rice until smooth or coarse to suit your liking. Add water as needed. Batter must be neither too thick nor too thin.
3. Next transfer to a pot. Set aside until fermented. The time it takes depends on the climate.
4. After 6 hours, the batter fermented and had a bubbly texture.
5. Lastly I greased the plates and poured the it in the plates. Steamed for exactly 6 to 7 minutes in the bubbling steamer. Since i made mini idli steamed for just 6 to 7 minutes else they has to be steamed for 10 minutes. Mini idli go well with idli sambar.