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 people 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, yet you can make super white, soft, light and fluffy idlis every time.
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. So it is the same traditional recipe which has been followed for generations in South India – to soak the grains, blend, and then ferment the batter. Lastly steam cook for health benefits.
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 blender. 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 a blender as it is easy to handle. If the batter is made in blender then poha or methi seeds will be helpful to make fluffy idlis.
Blender vs wet ginder for batter
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 & blender.
I use the wet grinder only when I have guests home from India. During other times I use the regular blender. Making idli batter in wet grinder is good for larger families – like 5 or more. Otherwise it is quite easy to manage with a blender.
4 Important factors to making soft idli batter
(Based on my experience), no matter whether you use a wet grinder or a blender.
1. Age of the dal used for idli recipe: Urad dal from the current year’s 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 those 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, 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 your batter is too 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 or ceramic bowl. Plastic or steel containers may make it sour. My idli turns out soft with no sour smell even on the subsequent days.
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 batter. 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
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
- ½ cup urad dal or skinned black gram
- 1 cup idli rice (or 1 cup + 2 tbsp idli rava)
- 2 tablespoon thick poha Or ½ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- ½ teaspoon Non-iodized salt (rock salt or pink salt)
- ¾ to 1 cup chilled water (for grinding dal)
- ½ cup water (for grinding rice)
- ½ cup urad dal
- 1½ cups idli rice
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
- 2 tablespoons thick poha (flattened rice) (substitute with ¼ tsp methi)
- ¾ to 1 cup chilled water (for grinding dal)
- ¾ cup water (for grinding rice)
How to make the recipe
Preparation for idli recipe
- Add urad dal & methi seeds to a bowl. Add rice or idli rava to another bowl.
- Wash them very well separately until water runs clear. Soak them separately in lot of water for at least 6 hrs.
- Rinse and soak poha with ¼ cup water for about 30 mins before blending.
How to make idli batter
- After 6 hours, drain the water from both the bowls.
- Add dal, methi, soaked poha, salt & ¾ cup water to a blender jar or a wet grinder. You may need another 2 to 4 tbsps water while blending.
- 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.
- Blend all of them till thick, smooth, bubbly & frothy. The idli batter should not turn hot or even warm as it makes dense idli.
- Transfer urad dal batter to a large bowl.
- A. If using rice : Add rice to the blender with water (mentioned in the ingredients). Grind to a little coarse batter (semolina texture). Pour this to the dal batter. Mix both of them well with your clean hands. The batter must be thick yet of pouring consistency. B. 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 8 to 14 hrs. The batter ferments and rises well to double the quantity. Sometimes it may take up to 18 hours depending on the weather and temperature.
- If you live in a cold country, keep it in the oven with the light bulb on. Or preheat the oven to 170 F or 80 C for 10 mins. Wait for 5 mins and then keep the batter inside.
- 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 water to a boil in an idly steamer or a pressure cooker. If using instant pot, pour 1½ cups water to your inner pot. Press the saute button and bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile grease your idly plates lightly. Mix the idli batter gently 1 to 2 times only. 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 high flame. If using Instant pot, when the water begins to boil, press CANCEL button. Keep the idli stand in the IP. Cover with the lid & position the steam release handle to venting . Then press STEAM button. Use an external timer to monitor & steam for 10 to 12 mins.
- Once done turn off and wait for 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 using wet grinder, you can use 1½ cups rice for recipe one.
- For Recipe two you can use 2 cups rice.
- Use more water proportionately.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.
1. Wash and soak dal for about 6 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 30 mins before blending.
2. After 6 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 3/4 cup cold water & blend it to smooth. Using cold water prevents the blender or grinder from turning hot. If the batter turns up hot, idli may turn hard.
3. Pour 2 to 4 tbsps more water if needed and blend till you get frothy thick smooth batter. Do not make it very runny.
4. Transfer this batter to a large pot or bowl.
5. If using rice refer method 2 with detailed step by step photos below. A short description is here as well. Add rice and water to the blender 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 – Using rice
The step by step photos shown below were made with half cup urad dal and 1 cup rice with 2 tbsp poha using recipe 1
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. I doubled the recipe 1 and made this. So I had to transfer the idli batter to 2 bowls.
4. After 14 hours, the batter fermented, doubled in volume and had a bubbly texture. Give a gentle stir only twice.
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.