Idli is a South Indian food and is considered their staple food. But it’s cooked and loved in every part of the country. This is a high protein and fiber breakfast. Also, this is vegan and gluten-free. Perfect to include in weight loss diet.
South Indian Idli Recipe
The batter is generally a mixture of rice (par-boiled) and black gram lentils. However, the important step in making idli is the fermentation of the batter which takes a little more time like 10 – 12 hours or even more.
Once you have the fermented batter ready, you can make idli in just 15 minutes. So you may prepare the batter for the whole week and refrigerate. Remove and just pour into the molds and your healthy breakfast is ready in 12 – 15 minutes.
This is light and low-calorie food. Idli is one of the most popular and healthy breakfast options across the country. Even if you are on a weight loss diet, you can absolutely rely on this idli for a filling breakfast.
How to make idli from scratch?
This is an easy recipe but takes little planning and preparation. The major task is to make the batter and to ferment it properly. If the batter is not well fermented it may spoil all your efforts and preparation.
So here I will divide the whole task into 4 steps, soaking, grinding, fermenting, steaming. Also for better results, you need to choose the right ingredients.
Ingredients for perfect idli / dosa batter:
Rice:- While choosing rice for your idli, take only parboiled rice. Parboiled rice is easier to digest and packed with nutrients as compared to raw rice. But the main reason of taking this rice is that it ferments the best as compared to any other rice.
Black gram lentils:- Urad dal or black gram lentils come in three to 4 varieties like whole ones (with or without skin) and halved ones (with or without skin). Traditionally they use to take whole urad with skin (black) as it’s least processed. And remove the skin once it’s soaked. Then crush the soaked lentils few times and drain out the skins. You may need to repeat the process several times which is time-consuming too.
So to avoid one step, I always take skinned whole ones (whole urad white). The halved white urad is the most processed. Hence try to avoid this variety of lentils for this recipe.
Fenugreek Seeds – 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds or methi seeds are not so essential but they help in fermentation process. And trust me they don’t give that bitter taste at all.
Salt – Consider using only rock salt that is non-iodized salt and a form of pure salt. Whereas the table salt are processed and contains chemicals that inhibit the fermentation process. So it’s essential to take rock salt only for this batter.
Water – Avoid chlorinated water. Best one is filtered water. If water has chlorine or fluorine, it inhibits the process of fermentation. So use filtered water for blending the rice and lentils.
No other magic ingredients. But choosing the right ingredient helps in making softer and fluffier idli.
The perfect well-fermented batter for idli
Soak the ingredients (rice, lentils, fenugreek seeds)
Rinse the ingredients like rice and lentil thoroughly. Soak for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight. And use separate bowls to soak rice and lentils. Add 1 tsp fenugreek seeds to the bowl of lentils. This is an important part of the process to soak them in different bowls. This is because you need to grind both the ingredients separately as they require different power, time, water for blending.
The ratio of rice to lentils should be 3:1. That means for every 1 part of urad dal, add 3 parts of rice.
Grind the soaked rice & lentils to make the batter
Then drain out the water. And blend them separately to a fine paste and transfer to a large bowl for mixing.
Take high power blender like Vitamix for blending as in low power mixer grinder, it gets easily heated. And if the batter gets excess heated, it prevents the batter from fermenting. Also, add 4 – 5 cubes of ice to stop heating during the process. Also, the high power blender will take lesser time and hence no heating up of the batter.
Mixing the batter & consistency of the batter
Transfer the batter to a large container. Use hands to mix the batter preferably. But not compulsory. The theory comes from granny’s kitchen. If we use hands for mixing, the natural warmth of our hand helps in the fermentation process.
The consistency of the idli batter should be medium thick that is thick but flowing consistency. If it turns out more runny or watery, it will not ferment well and also the idli will be hard and not spongy. So after grinding, if you feel it’s thicker, add little water slowly and gradually until you get the desired consistency.
Fermentation of the batter
The main part of making soft and spongy idli is the fermentation process. The fermentation process helps rise the batter and makes it airy and fluffy. And it makes the idli soft, spongy and fluffy.
A well-fermented batter rises up to double or more the size of the batter. Once you make the batter, keep it in a warm place to ferment for 8 – 12 hrs. In cold places or winters, it even takes longer up to 16 hours to ferment.
To start the fermentation process, add salt to the batter first. Salt (non-iodized) activates and accelerates the fermentation process. At the same time, it prevents over-fermentation of the batter. The measurement is 1 tsp salt for every 1 cup of dry ingredients.
Next, keep the batter covered with a lid on the kitchen countertop or in some places where it stays warm. For cold weather just wrap the vessel with a blanket and choose the best possible warm place to allow the fermentation. Normally when the batter doubled in volume, that is considered as a well-fermented batter.
*You can also ferment the batter in an oven, microwave or an instant pot*
Fermentation in oven, microwave, instant pot
For oven – Preheat the oven at 180F for 10 minutes. Then wait for 5 minutes to reduce the temperature within it. Now place the batter container in it with lights on for 8 hours. This light will give the required warmth too, especially in cold weather or places.
For microwave – Place the container inside the microwave and turn on yogurt mode for 8 hrs or till the batter doubles up.
For instant pot – Place the batter in steel vessel of instant pot. Place it on yogurt mode and cover with a normal glass lid (not the instant pot lid as the risen batter may lock the lid)
Steaming the fermented batter
Heat water in a steamer or pressure cooker. Grease the molds with oil. Now take out the fermented batter, and pour one tbsp (appx) batter into each mould. Once the water starts boiling, place the idli stand and close with a lid. If you are using a pressure cooker, then remove the whistle from the lid. Steam for 12 – 15 minutes.
There are few variations to the traditional idli. We can stuff potatoes or paneer or veggies in this and also you would love the fried version of the same. Few other varieties with changing the ingredients are as follows.
Is idli good for weight loss?
These are again helpful in weight-loss or maintenance as these are low-calorie food. Moreover, it’s a healthy breakfast option that you can trust. But again check on the quantity you consume and not more than 3 at a time. (this is my diet-breakfast). Also, you can choose sambar in place of chutney as a diet option. Since sambar is made with high protein lentils, it helps in keeping you full for longer.
How to fix watery idli batter?
Take some rava or semolina. Add it to the batter. Let it sit for 30 minutes or until it looks thicker and your desired consistency. You can also consider adding some other alternatives as some rice powder or powdered poha also.
Can I store the idli batter for longer?
Absolutely. The best thing is you can make the batter (fermented) and refrigerate it for a week or more. But it makes the best idli in the first 2 – 4 days.
Or read my healthy breakfast collections on blog.
Recipe Card for Idli
South Indian Idli
- Rinse and soak rice and black gram (urad dal) for 5 -6 hours or overnight. Add fenugreek to the bowl of dal.
- Drain out water and transfer to a powerful blender or vitamix and blend well.
- Make sure to grind rice and dal separately.
- Add less water while grinding as it won't be smooth if you add more water in this stage.
- Add few ice cubes while grinding to maintain temperature of the batter.
- High speed blender won't take more than 1 minute to grind.
- Once perfectly done, transfer the batter to a large mixing bowl.
- Adjust the consistency (flowing thick ) of batter by adding little water slowly and gradually mixing thoroughly.
- Now add salt and mix it well (preferably with hands/ palms).
- Now cover the vessel with a lid and transfer to a warm place or kitchen counter.
- If required cover it around with a blanket or cloth to give the warmth.
- Keep it for fermentation for around 8 -10 hours.
- When the batter rises to double the original volume, take out required quanity.
- Heat water in a steamer or cooker and bring it to boil.
- Grease the molds lightly.
- Now pour 1 tbsp of batter in each mould.
- Place the mould stand inside steamer or cooker.
- Conver with lid.
- Remove whistle if using pressure cooker.
- Steam on medium high heat for 12 – 15 minutes.
- Turn off heat and wait for 2 minutes before opening the lid.
- Open the lid carefully as it's full with steam and may hurt the hand.
- Remove the stand and keep it aside for 5 minutes to cool naturally.
- Then with help of a spoon remove the idli from moulds.
- Serve idli with chutney or sambar.
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