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An overhead closeup of fluffy, soft idlis in a silver tray with a bowl of coconut chutney and curry leaves in the background.
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5 from 11 votes

Idli, a healthy, gut-friendly South Indian food

Idli, a popular south Indian food, is a delicious, moon-like rice and lentil cake. Probiotic and extremely healthy, it makes the perfect breakfast or snack food.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Batter fermenting time8 hrs
Total Time8 hrs 35 mins
Course: Breakfast/Brunch
Cuisine: Indian, Indian veg recipes
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 12 servings (about 48 to 50 idlis)
Calories: 175kcal



  • 1 cup black gram lentils (udad dal)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • ¼ cup flattened rice (poha)
  • 1 cup parboiled rice
  • 1 cup brown rice (white rice is fine too)


Make the idli batter:

  • Place the black gram lentils in a bowl with the flattened rice and fenugreek seeds and cover by at least two inches of water. Set aside to soak at least six hours or overnight.
  • Mix the parboiled rice and brown rice in another bowl and cover them with at least two inches of water. Set aside, again for at least six hours or overnight.
  • Drain the lentils and grind them in a high powered blender, adding just enough water to get a batter that's the consistency of a thick pancake batter. The batter should be very smooth. Remove the batter to a large bowl.
  • Add the rice to the blender, again with enough water to create the consistency of a thick pancake batter. This time, grind until the batter still has a slight coarseness -- you don't want to see broken grains of rice, but the batter should have a slight grittiness, like that of cornmeal, when you rub it between your fingers.

Ferment the batter:

  • Add the rice batter to the lentil batter and mix them both, preferably with your very clean hands. The reason for this is that the warmth of your hand helps start and hastens the fermentation process.
  • Cover the bowl very tightly with cling wrap. Your bowl should be large enough that the batter reaches only half way up because the batter will rise. If you're not sure, slide a plate or a baking sheet under your bowl to catch any overflow.
  • Place the bowl in a warm place or in a cold oven with the pilot light turned on and let it stand overnight or at least eight hours. By that time it should have become puff and risen.

Steam the idlis:

  • In a steamer or a large stockpot with a vented lid that lets steam escape, or in a pressure cooker with a removable pressure regulator, place a trivet and an inch of water.
  • Spray the idli molds lightly with cooking spray and fill them up, stopping just short of filling them up all the way because the idlis will puff up a bit as they steam. I first fill in the bottom-most plate of the mold, then slide on the second one, fill it up, slide on the third, fill it and so on.
  • Place the idli mold in the stockpot or pressure cooker and cover with the lid. Do not put the pressure regulator on the pressure cooker vent.
  • Place your stockpot or cooker on medium-high heat. When you see wisps of steam rise from the vent in the lid or the pressure cooker, set the timer to 10 minutes and let the idlis steam away. At the end of 10 minutes, turn off the heat and let the idlis stand for a couple of minutes before opening and removing the mold.
  • Disassemble the mold and let the idlis stand in the plates for another five minutes or so. Then slide them off, either with your fingers or with a spoon.


Serving: 4idli | Calories: 175kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.3g | Protein: 6.3g | Fat: 1g | Fiber: 2.8g | Sugar: 0.1g | Iron: 1.6mg