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Guide to Perfect Idli’s

Guide to Perfect Idli’s

idlyEver had your Idlis not rise perfectly? Instead of airy and spongy they turn out rock hard? Here are a few tips from our group members to help you make those perfect Idlis.

Anupama Michael :

  • During winter, grind the batter early morning and keep in a warm place for the batter to ferment well. Depending upon the weather you may at times need 12-15 hrs of fermentation.
  • Also if available, use whole udid (dehusked but not split). It makes a difference.
  • Even though I have the electric tabletop grinder, I use my mixie to grind the urad daal and it gets done in a jiffy. Are you using too little water to grind?

Anupama’s Recipe

  • Soak 1 measure of whole urad daal with 2 tbsp of poha. Separately soak 2 and 1/2 measures of idli rawa. After 2 hrs, grind the urad poha with 2 tbsp of cooked rice (optional) mix as fine as possible using sufficient (not less or too much) water.
  • Transfer to a deep vessel. To this add the rawa (squeezed well so as to drain the water). Mix thoroughly and keep to ferment till the batter doubles. Just before steaming, add salt (water if required) and mix well till you can see bubbles. When the cooker is hot and steamy, place the filled idli stand and steam (without whistle) for 10-12 mts. Take out immediately and spread out the plates to cool.
  • One other thing you can do is sprinkle water liberally on your ready idlis and microwave it for 15-20 seconds. They turn out ultra soft and spongy. And yes, the only way you can perfect it, is keep trying till you find the method that works for you .

Natasha Ramarathnam

  • Not something I do, but when the batter doesn’t rise, some people put a bit of baking soda to ensure the idlis rise.
  • Have you tried placing the container with the batter in a larger container, and stuffing the spaces with newspaper while leaving it to ferment? That’s what my mother does when it is too cold.

Nivedita Koppiker

  • Keep your idli batter utensil inside an oven … Then place two med size bowls with hot water inside them below or on either side of the utensil. Also keep the light on. Do not open the oven door till next morning.
  • Keep a big tray beneath the utensil otherwise the batter may spill out when it starts rising. If it’s not risen then you can change the water & keep it a little longer. There’s no need to add soda. I do this every time & I get good results.

Roma Patil

  • Salt before or after makes no difference but fermentation is very important and the dough has to rise no matter what. Dough rises due to: 1) finest grinding of the Urad daal (like a tooth paste) 2) warm place for it to ferment. 3) Fermentation time: Minimum 8 -12 hours in winters. 4) Consistency: Ensure that your batter is ground with as less water as possible.. water can always be added later. Thinner dough can make the idlys dense.
  • When you are stirring the dough, you should get a hollow sound and when you spoon the batter in the idly mould, the batter peak should stay up and delicately sink down. That’s the best way to judge the consistency.
  • While steaming, make sure that the water starts boiling first in the steamer. Once it starts boiling vigorously, only then insert the idly stand, and close it and steam on high for as much as 7 to 8 minutes. The better should rise fast…that’s also how Idlys get the porosity. Close gas. Let stand for a a few minutes before removing them from the idly Patra.
  • Sometimes in winter, when the dough is stubborn, and refuses to rise even till its time to make Idlys, then yes, I do add Eno fruit Salt (regular flavor is the best)

Jyoti Venkatesh Archana Jain:

  • In UK, I keep the batter in airer/radiator room to ferment. It rises quite nicely.
  • Salt is always added immediately after grinding…that helps in fermenting.
  • When you are grinding in mixie, its better to give a break once in a while. It will cool down the mixer motor. And as roma has mentioned urad dal has to be really fine. In fact, my mother says even after its a paste, grind it for a little longer time by sprinkling water. If you keep grinding with the hot motor, it heats up the batter which is also a reason for the batter not fermenting.
  • One more imp thing while grinding in mixer is to use more urad dhal compare to grinder. Don’t use the same proportion. Not sure about your ratio but urad dhal batter doesn’t increase in mixer as much as it increases in grinder.

– Photo Courtesy: Uma Chinkaru, Compiled by Mona Malik


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  • sharfuddin

    i wanted know how to keep idli hot for longer time,if possible all food items

  • Dosa recipes guide

    i love idly.one of the best Indian breakfast recipe. coconut chutney is the best combination for that. thanks for sharing.

  • Kneader

    I do not agree with tip in the last section ie add salt beofore fermentation.Salt retards fermentation and therefore should be added after fermentation only.Adding a teas spoon of fenugreek seeds to 1 cup of Urid dal helps fermentation also goes to help the dosa brown.A wet grinder is the best tool as the grinding action incorporates air and makes the batter fluffy and increase in volume which goes to make soft idlies.A cup of cooked rice during grinding also makes the idlies softer as it acts as a binding agent that help create air pockets within idlies

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