Soft Idli Recipe

What is Idli?

Idli or Idly is a soft savoury rice cake made from fermented black lentils and rice. It originated in South India but is also popular in Sri Lanka. Although Idli is traditionally eaten as part of breakfast it can be eaten any time of the day and is typically served with Tiffin Sambar and Coconut Chutney. The snack is so soft that it melts in the mouth. As idli is made with black lentils it is healthier than eating just plain rice.

Idli is an easily digestible food as the rice and lentil dal are soaked, grounded, fermented and then prepared by steaming the batter. It is a healthy food because it does not contain any fats or oils, and it contains only 39 calories per piece. In India, Idli is considered to be a suitable food to all, including babies, every diet and even for the elderly who generally have poor digestion. Let us show you how to make make soft Idli.


Rice - (4 cups)

White or Black Urad Dal - (1 cup)

Non iodised salt - (2 teaspoons)

Fenugreek methi seeds - (1 teaspoon)

Water - 4 (cups)


1. Wash rice and de-husked Urad dal thoroughly, then soak fenugreek seeds along with the urad dal.

2. Soak the urad dal and rice in a separate bowl for no more than 2 hours. You will need twice as much water in the bowl for the urad dal as it expands as it soaks up water.

3. Drain the urad dal and rice, do not discard soaking water of dal as it helps with the fermentation. Discard excess water from rice fully. The rice has soaked up enough water for grinding.

Essential tip: If you need some water while grinding the rice use a little of the soaking water from the urad dal.

4. Grind the urad dal to a fine paste

5. Grind the rice to a not so fine paste with about 1 cup of water, use less if you can. Grind coarsely if the batter will only be used for Idli.

6. Mix the rice and urad dal pastes together with salt and methi

7. Optional : add fermentation starter and mix well

8. Set aside somewhere warm for ferment for 8 hours.

Essential tip: If your home is cold, you can heat the oven for a few minutes and then turn it off and place the batter in the oven the warm oven.

9. Grease one or more Idli pans well with ghee or vegetable oil. Then spoon the batter into the round indentations of the idli pan.

10. Steam for 12 minutes in a steamer or 16 minutes if you are using brown rice then remove idli from the pan with a sharp knife or thin spatula.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Idli got its name?

Idli looks like the Malli jasmine flower. Some food historians believe that the word Idli was derived from steamed rice in Indonesia. It’s believed that Idli was invented by the cooks of the Hindu Kings who ruled some parts of Indonesia during 800-1200 CE. Idli was first known as Mallipoo Idli which in Tamil refers to jasmine as it is as soft and looks similar to Jasmine.

Why are my Idli's hard and rubbery?

If idli is overcooked or steamed for too long it can result in Idli that is hard and rubbery. The cooking time in regular idli steamers is about to 10 - 20 minutes with a little resting time to cool after it has been steamed. It is much easier to make idli in an electric / steamer cooker and can take up to 15 minutes. You should also ensure that they are fermented for the recommend time otherwise this could also affect the texture. It is also important to stick to the ingredients and method because with the addition of any other ingredients or in wrong amounts this could cause the idli to lose their softness.

How do you eat Idli?

how to eat idli

The north Indian way of eating Idli. Hold the idli with your right hand, and break a piece out from it using left hand, dip it in the catouri of sambhar and eat it. After eating each piece of Idli, it's common to lick your fingers so that even the traces of idli is removed & It's delicious aroma and taste is filled in the tongue. Depending on what you are serving it with you may also want to use a fork and spoon to avoid making a mess.

Can I eat Idli every day?

In addition to being so delectable, Idli is one of the healthiest Indian snacks which can help in shedding a pound or two. It's also considered as one of the best foods to lose weight. Including Idli’s into your daily diet and you can enjoy wit healthy accompaniments.

Does Idli make you fat?

Idli is light meal or snack which contains no fats or cholesterol. Depending on the size it usually has 39 calories per piece of idli, which is small considering our daily calorie requirement, it is best eaten before exercise.

Can Idli be eaten at night?

There's no reason that this is easy to digest and wholesome food couldn’t be eaten any time of the day. It can be had as a breakfast, evening as a snack or as part of dinner. However you should avoid eating foods that are high in carbohydrates before bed as it can quickly turn to fat whilst you sleep.

Which type of Idli is good for health?

There are many types of Idli that are good for health, two of these are: Rava idli - this is made up of rava (durum wheat) & sujji (semolina) which is likely to be good for health. Alternatively, Ragi idli is made from raggi (millet powder), and it's good for muscle building and weight gain, also it is a great source of fibre which will keep you feeling fuller for longer. There are many other types of Idli which are good for health so it depends on you what you like to eat.

What are the different types of Idli?

The different types of Idli are - Rava idli, Rice Idli, Ragi Idli, Moong Dal & Spinach Idli and more.

Can Idli cause gas?

Idli is a fermented food  and can generate increased acidity in the stomach causing heartburn or similar issues like frequent burps, bloating, cramps, nausea or vomiting.

What is the difference between Idli & Dosa batter?

Whilst making idli, you soak and then grind your lentils and rice separately. When making dosa, all ingredients are combined together.

What is Idli served with?

idli serving suggestions

Idli is commonly known for its soft and fluffy texture and idli can be eaten with anything, however, in India its served with Tiffin Sambar, Coconut chutney and many types of chutney like Mango chutney, chilli chutney and also different types of sambhar.

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