Idlis – Soft and fluffy steamed South Indian cakes!

Idlis have been a part of my diet ever since I was introduced to my first solids. My mum, used to feed me these lovely and nutritious steamed cakes mashed in milk and sugar or dipped in ghee and sugar. These soft, fluffy and tempting white rice cakes find their place prominently in every South Indian home. As we grew from babies to childhood to teenage years, the idlis always played a special role in our diet but then when I got married and was left stranded by myself in my kitchen, the thought of the lovely soft idlis  hit me so hard. All the while, I enjoyed the spongy cakes at home but never bothered to make an attempt to learn it. I took for granted that idlis which were so easy to relish would be easy to make too!

Though I tried a hand at making the idlis, after mum explained it a couple of times over phone, I always managed to make some cracked-up white rocks. So on the very first visit my parents made to my place, my mom thought me the art of making the idlis. That’s when I realized my mistakes- I would either under cook it or over cook it, the timing was never perfect or the batter was not well fermented.

Having mastered this favourite dish, I make it very often for breakfast or for a light dinner. These steamed cakes ‘idlis’ can be savoured with sambar, chutney, idli podi, fish/chicken curry etc. There are various kinds of idlis made in every home. Some add rice cream/rava or cooked rice, ragi/finger millet idli and so on. The idlis can also be made with just ordinary rice and lentil.

These fluffy and tasty discs have not just restricted their presence in South-Indian homes but also in other Indian cuisines and across the globe, where our Indians have spread ‘the taste of India’.




  • 3 cups Rice
  • 1 cup (Polished)Urad Dal – split black gram.
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Salt
  • ¼ tsp Fenugreek seeds(Methi)
  • A pinch of Baking Soda(optional)
  • Oil for greasing


  • Wash and soak the dal and the rice, separately in two different containers, for 4-6 hours.
  • Soak the fenugreek seeds with the dal in the same container.
  • Now drain the rice. Grind it coarsely in a blender. Keep aside in a bowl/vessel.
  • Then grind the dal and fenugreek seeds, into a smooth and frothy paste.
  • Now mix the ground rice and dal together into a batter. Stir and mix well.
  • Mix salt and set aside in a warm place for 8-9 hours or overnight (if ground in the evening) for fermenting.
  • Idlis are ready to be cooked when the batter is well fermented.
  • Grease the idle holder  well with oil and fill each of them with 3/4th full of batter.
  • Steam cook idlis on medium flame for about 10 minutes or cook in a pressure cooker but without the weight, on medium flame for 5 minutes.
  • To check if idlis are done, insert a knife into it and if when taken out the batter does not stick on it, it means the idlis are ready to serve.
  • Use a butter knife to remove the idlis.
  • Serve steaming hot with chutney, sambar or idli podi(gun powder)-In the centre of the gun powder make a well and pour in gingely oil. Mix well and savour!

Makes : 25


  • The crux in the making of idlis is how well the batter is fermented and the timing for steaming.
  • To remove the idlis smoothly from the holder, dip the butter knife in a glass of water and remove idlis.
  • Get a good facial steam done while making your idlis- When the lid is opened and the piping hot idlis are removed from the cooker don’t loose out on the steam.
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