Friday, September 25, 2015

Home made Idli | How to make soft Idli | Typical TamilNadu Breakfast

Idli, one of the most famous breakfast foods from Tamilnadu. It's a steamed cake made from the fermented rice and urad dal batter. Today's science world suggests that 3 proportion of carbohydrate and 1 proportion of protein food is ideal to start your day. 
Our intellectual ancestors knew this  centuries ago and this idli is so apt for what the science world suggests now, more over it's also a fermented food. Lately we also came to know how good these (fermented foods) are to our health. Still in Tamilnadu, India, idli is the first solid food preferred by many people to given to their babies. 

Ok, now coming to the recipe, there are few steps to care take to get soft and spongy idli. Here i have few listed points to be remembered if you're trying the idly for first time. 
  • Buy good brand of urad dal & Idly rice.
  • Wash both the urad dal & rice well before soaking, i normally wash it for 3 times.
  • Always use fresh water at room temperature to grind, if you're using mixie instead of wet grinder, use ice cold water, it helps to avoid the heating of mixie hair
  • Don't use the soaked water to grind.
  • The urad dal batter should be fluffy & light.
  • Using wet grinder to grind for best result, but you can get soft idli using mixie also.
The key ingredient here  is urad dal and now fluffy you grind them.My mom still use skinned & splitted urad dal for idli, after the dal is soaked, she spent almost 20 mins to remove the skin from dal before grinding, It's really boring & tiresome job and definitely you need a lot of patience. 

Initially i had used the skinned urad dal, but now a days i use only whole urad dal, she says  that  the skinned urad dal would give best result, yeah that's true too. But now a days who has patience to do that, definitely not me. 

I have been using the whole urad dal for years now and honestly the result is awesome so far, so no complaints. I have seen some people use fenugreek seed to get softness, but we never used fenugreek seeds in idli. If you grind the urad dal batter soft and fluffy, then you don't need the fenugreek seed.

Next is the fermenting process, to get soft idli, the fermentation process is crucial. Normally in our home back in India, we don't do anything special to ferment the batter. Keep it in counter top on overnight is enough. 

But if you're living in cold places, the fermentation process  is really difficult, even after 12 hrs, if the batter is not fermented well, then there is a chance of whole batter get spoiled. To speed up the fermentation process, keep the batter in warm places. I lived in cold places for years and from my experience i have learnt that keeping the batter in oven with lights on really helps to ferment the batter properly.

Finally if you want your idli to stay fresh and soft for longer time, use the cloth for steaming the idli. Amma brought me a traditional idli pot years before and still i'm using the same, it has holes in the idli plate and you need cloth to cover and pour the batter. But i have heard from relatives & friends that the cloth idli stays soft for longer time.

 If you're using cloth for your idli, then you need to know that because of wrinkle in the cloth, your idli doesn't have that perfect round shape. Phew, that's all the points all remember now, it's really a long intro, hope it helps you to get soft idli.  

Homemade Idli| Soft Idli recipe

Preparation Time : 8 hrs | Cooking Time : 15 minsServes :
Recipe Category: Breakfast/Dinner | Recipe Cuisine: Indian
Idly Rice - 2 cup
Whole Unskined Urad Dal - 1/2 cup
Salt - 1/2 tbsp
Water to grind

Wash both idly rice & urad dal well and soak it separately for 3 hrs.
After 3 hrs, drain the water from urad dal and put it in wet grinder and add fresh water to grind it.The urad batter should be thick and dont add more water at the start.Just sprinkle one or two handful of water in between every 3 to 4 mins.It takes approximately 15 to 20 mins depends on your wet grinder.Dont remove the batter from wet grinder when all the dal  is mashed well, when you sprinkle water & allow to grind, it will become fluffy & light.
After 20 mins, collect  the batter in a large vessel and then drain the water from rice and add it in wet grinder and grind it to smooth batter, it takes 15 mins approximately.Collect  the rice batter in the same vessel. Now add 1/2 cup of water in wet grinder, wash the grinder well and add the washed water into the batter.
Add enough salt to the batter and mix it with hand well. The rice batter and urad dal batter should be mixed well. Cover the vessel and let it ferment for overnight.
Next morning, the batter will be fermented well, mix it vigorously with the ladle.
Take the idly pan and add some water & bring to boil.Take the idli plate & cover it  with damn cheese cloth, pour the laddle of batter in each hole of the plate. 
When the water in the idly pan comes to boil, place the idly plate and cover it .Cook it for 5-7 mins depends on the size of the idlis. 
Once cooked(toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean) remove the idly plate and invert it in another plate, remove the idly plate first and then the cheese cloth.
Piping hot & spongy idly is ready to serve.
Serve it with sambar & chutney. I served idly with Tiffin Sambar, Coconut Chutney, Kara Chutney,Coriander chutney ,Podi,Urad Dal Vada & Kesari.
  • Place the batter in large vessel to ferment don't fill the vessel more than 3/4 of its size, otherwise it spills over the vessel after fermenting.
  •  If your idly is hard, then the amount of urad dal is not enough, so add little more next time
  • If you idly is very flat, the the amount of urad dal is more, you have to reduce it next time.
  • If you're in cold country, keep the batter in oven with oven light on, it will help to ferment the batter, I used this technique when we were in Colorado.It works perfectly.
  • If you keep the batter in fridge, bring the batter to room temperature before making idly.
  • Cold batter gives hard idlies.


  1. Melt in the mouth idlis..I remember my mom making dahiwadas out of husked Urad Daal and then spending hours on removing that skin..times have changed !
    But your idlis look really nice and spongy..the whole platter is tempting me.

  2. Omg, those soft idlis looks simply out of the world, that breakfast platter is too good Sandhiya, great job..

  3. Idlis looks so soft and delicious.Love to taste them now with all those chutnies.

  4. Even my aunt use to make idli with husked urad dal and it was my cousin's job to wash and remove the husk. Idlies looks very soft and fluffy. Love the accompaniments you have served with the idli

  5. Must say this is my comfort food too anytime..such a wonderful breakfast thali you got for us!

  6. Thats the traditional way of making idly with the cloth in that aluminium vessel. It does makes a huge different.

  7. Love the idlis.. Such a comforting breakfast. So homey and so healthy

  8. Wow, that is one elaborate South Indian breakfast thali. Idlis look so soft & delicious.

  9. Soft idlis and this is comfort food for me.

  10. Lovely idli platter. I have never used a cheese cloth for making idlis.

  11. Love the idli nthe platter. I have never used cloth to make idlis. Will try next time.

  12. Loving those side dishes that you served with the idlis. Yummy platter.

  13. loved to read about the details in this article Sandhya....i could practically taste the idli through your post...

  14. Where can i get the cheese cloth. .?

    1. @ambika, if you're in india, you can get it from any cloth store or in departmental stores at all major cities.

  15. @ambika, if you're in india, you can get it from any cloth store or in departmental stores at all major cities.

  16. Hi Sandhiya, if we are making idlis using cloth - it doesn't retain the softness when it becomes cold. Is it normal?

    1. @Deepa, urad dal gives softness to the idli, either you use cloth or plate,it doesnt affect the softness. Always try to use good quality urad dal or you can increase 1 or 2 tbsp of urad dal than i mentioned here. And also grind the urad dal till it becomes fluffy and the urad dal batter should be float on water.

    2. Thanks Sandhya for your reply!

  17. Hi Sandhiya, if we are using cloth for making idlis - it doesn't retain the softness when it becomes cold. Is it normal?