How to make soft and spongy idli at home

If you have not tried making your own idlis, you are missing out on some special emotion

How to make soft and spongy idli at home

( Representational Photo: Getty Images)

Idli with every meal.These steamed cakes made from rice and lentil batter are a part of most meals in South Indian cuisine.

Idli is like a steamed rice patty. Instead of just boiled rice on a plate puffed up, you might love to get it like this. This is like a breakfast sandwich of sorts in South Indian homes.The classic South Indian food is made with fermented rice and lentils batter. The fermentation process increases the bioavailability of proteins and enhances the vitamin B content in this food. Idlis are a great source of carbohydrates and protein. Use of lentils and rice is a good combination as the amino acids in them complement each other. It fills you up with fewer calories and is easily digestible as it is a steamed food. So what better than starting your day with a plateful of idlis – the soft and fluffy, round and steamed cakes without any spices apart from salt, served usually with a bowl of piping hot sambar and tangy coconut chutney.

Idli Recipe

Serves: 6
Preparation time: 60 minutes
Cooking time: 10-12 minutes



Split black lentils: 1 glass

Idli rice:  2 glasses

Rock salt:  1 tablespoon

Oil for greasing

Water as required


Wash and soak two glasses of idli rice and one glass of split black lentil separately in plenty of water for five to six hours.

Wash soaked black lentil repeatedly by rubbing in palms to remove the husk. Keep draining the water with husk and repeat this process again until most of the husk is removed. If little husk remains in the lentil, that is fine.

Grind the lentil to a soft, smooth and fluffy batter in a mixer-grinder.

Grind the rice to a slightly coarse consistency in a mixer-grinder.

Mix well both the batters in a big container with your hand. Keep it aside for fermentation for 10 to 12 hours.

Add one tablespoon of rock salt in the batter and mix well.

Grease the idli moulds.

Pour two tablespoons of batter in each mould.

Put two cups of water in the bottom of idli maker and give a boil. When it starts producing steam, place the idli moulds in this idli maker and close it.

Steam for 10 to 12 minutes.

Turn off flame.

Open the idli stand after giving a rest of five minutes and insert a knife in the centre of an idli to check whether idlis are cooked or not.

If the idlis are done, give them a rest of another two-three minutes before scooping them out. If you are in a hurry, pour water on the back side of the moulds before de moulding.

De-mould idlis with a sharp spoon or knife.

Serve hot with sambar and coconut chutney.

Tips to make your idlis soft and fluffy

Do not use split white lentils. The factory process of removing the black husk from the lentils requires a certain amount of heat. The heat might kill some of the good bacteria that is needed for fermentation. Instead use split black lentils and de husk them yourself by soaking them in plenty of water for four to five hours and then rubbing repeatedly in your palms and draining the husk with water. Repeat the process of rubbing and draining until all husk is removed. After all the washing, if some black husk is visible, that is fine.

Use idli rice to make perfect idlis. It is a unique short-grained fat rice that will give you desired results.

Use rock salt as it is minimally processed and does not contain anything else other than salt. Table salt may interfere in fermentation as it contains other ingredients which may interfere in fermentation process. There is no fixed rule for adding salt before or after fermentation. Because salt inhibits fermentation, so it is better to add it after fermentation in winter. It will avoid delay in fermentation. In summer, add it before fermentation to avoid over fermentation.

Add enough water while grinding the batter, neither too much, nor too less. If the batter will be too thick after grinding and then you will add water to adjust the consistency, then it would not work. The final ground batter should be smooth and velvety, with a consistency like that of a thick pan cake batter. It should also not be watery or runny, otherwise the idlis would be flat and hard. So be very careful while adding water at the time of grinding the batter. Use correct measurement.

Idli batter needs more fermentation than dosa batter. Give adequate time to ferment. It needs at least eight to 12 hours for proper fermentation. Then the dough will rise and tiny bubbles will appear.

In cold region or in winters, keep the idli batter in a warm place like near a heater for proper fermentation. After fermentation, you will get the typical sour fermented aroma from the batter and see tiny bubbles in the batter. The batter will also rise up. If the batter is not fermented properly, add half teaspoon of instant yeast dissolved in little water and mix well. Keep the batter aside for an hour before making idlis. Do this only if the batter is not fermented. This yeast-risen batter cannot be used later after being refrigerated because it would not give you soft idlis.

Grease the idli mould before pouring the batter into it to avoid sticking.

Steam the idlis for 10 to 15 minutes. Over steaming will make them dry. Insert a knife after 10 minutes. If it comes out clean, then your idlis are ready. If the batter sticks, steam it for some more time.

Idli is a traditional breakfast in South Indian households, and its batter can be found in almost every South Indian’s refrigerator. Idlis are steamed in a special mould. They are delicious to eat with sambar and coconut or other chutneys, or gunpowder, for breakfast or as a snack at any time of the day.

The healthy idli has long spread its wings, and is extremely popular across India, and even the world. Idlis are fun to make. If you have the time, go ahead and try this recipe at least once.