Rice Idli Recipe

Rice Idli

Rice Idli

Idli is a steamed cake made with rice and lentil. Idli or idly are a type of savoury rice cake, popular as breakfast foods in India. The cakes are made by steaming a batter consisting of fermented black lentils (de-husked) and rice.  

The texture of the idli is what makes it sublime. Idlis are soft, pillowy, fluffy steamed rice cakes. Idli has to be the top most comfort food for all South Indians.  This recipe is a very simple recipe which uses only four ingredients namely urad dal (dehusked black gram), idli rice, poha, and salt. Although the ingredients are simple, idli requires lot of techniques to get them soft and pillowy.  

Idli and dosa is a breakfast I have grown up with. On every weekend, my mum would soak rice & lentils, to prepare idli and dosas. My all-time favourite has to be idli. I can eat plates of these white soft cotton balls. Give me a big plate of Idli with sambhar and chutney and I am in heaven. Lots of places idli is only served with coconut chutney or podi powder. I like all the trimmings with my idli!  Every Sunday, I knew we would get piping hot idli or crispy paper thin dosa for breakfast along with chutney and sambar. 

Like I mentioned earlier that although the ingredients are simple there is lots of technical knowhow and the right combinations you need before you make Idli. You can make idli using either idli rava or idli rice. Idli rice is parboiled rice and used specifically for making idli and dosa.  The second method uses idli rava with urad dal. Idli rava is coarsely ground idli rice and is easily available in shops and online. I am sharing method of making idli with idli rice in this post.

Another key difference is how to grind the ingredients. Most people would use a food processor but the authentic way to grind it is by using a wet grinder.  The stones in the grinder fluffs up the urad dal without making it hot. Make sure that each and every ingredient is ground separately. All the ingredients are soaked for a minimum of 3-4 hours and then ground. Wash all the ingredients in the beginning and then soak it in water. Wash the rice 3-4 times so the idli will be really white later. I would recommend reading the ‘ Tips and variations’ section of this recipe before starting as I have explained some tips in detail there.

Serve with Tomato Onion Chutney, Coconut Chutney, Green Coconut Chutney, Sambar, Masala Dosa, Onion Rava Dosa, Medu Vada and Rasam for a delicious South Indian Meal.


3/4 cup urad dal 
2 cups idli rice 
1 cup poha 
1 tablespoon salt (adjust according to taste) 




Wash the rice and dal under running water till the water comes clear.

Soak all the ingredients separately overnight or minimum of 4-5 hours.


Soak the poha in ½ cup water for 15-20 minutes.


Drain the soaked urad dal and grind it with soaked poha. The tip in grinding urad dal is to add the water slowly. If you add all the water at once, it will not fluff up well. The dal will fluff up to around 8-10 times of its original volume. Grind it till it is a smooth paste and then transfer the dal mixture into a bowl and set aside.


Drain the soaked rice and grind it until smooth. Add just enough water while grinding. Once ground, transfer the batter to the dal mixture bowl and mix well.

Cover and let the batter ferment for 8 to 12 hours (batter doubles in size indicating good fermentation and you can see some air pockets too on the top). Add salt to the batter and mix gently without disturbing the air pockets.


Put some water in an Idli vessel and put it on medium heat. Grease the idli plates and gently fill the rounds with the batter. Put it inside the idli vessel and let it steam for 8-10 minutes.

Serve hot with your favourite chutney and/or sambar!

Tips & Variations

1. Fermentation is a key factor in getting soft, light and fluffy idli. For proper fermentation of idli batter a warm temperature is essential. In cold climates, fermentation does not happen as well.
• Keep the idli batter bowl in a warm place – e.g. near a heater or in a warm place in your kitchen.
• You can also preheat your oven at a low temperature (80 to 90 degrees Celsius) for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then switch off the oven and keep the batter bowl inside – I use this method when it becomes very cold outside.
• Alternatively, if your oven has lights, then keep the lights on and place the batter inside.
• During winters, skip adding salt to the idli batter as salt retards the fermentation process. It is better to use rock salt or sea salt. I always use rock salt in the idli batter.
• In winters, keep the batter for a longer time to ferment, like 14 to 16 hours.
2. Do remember that even if you do not see the batter doubled or tripled, you should see tiny bubbles on the batter. You should also get the typical faint sour fermented aroma from the idli batter.
3. Urad dal must be ground well so that it is soft, light, and fluffy. So I suggest to grind both urad dal and rice separately to get soft and fluffy idli.
4. Also do remember to add the correct amount of water in the batter. If the water is less, then the idli will become dense, flat and not rise.
5. The one thing that’s important while grinding batter in a food processor is to make sure that the jar doesn’t get heated up. So, use ice water to grind the ingredients.
6. Wash all the ingredients several times in running water to get whiter idlis. Wash the ingredients till water runs clear.
7. Soak the ingredients for minimum of 4 hours. I prefer soaking them overnight as its easier to grind the ingredients.
8. The batter should be thick pouring consistency. The consistency that resembles a thick pan cake batter. When the ladle from the batter is lifted and the idli batter falls from the ladle, it should form a slight ribbon which slowly becomes flat on the surface. If it is too thick or the ribbon takes longer time to dissolve, add a little water to the batter.
9. I prefer not to use the water that I soaked the dal and rice in while grinding as it affects the colour of the idli.
10. Make sure to always grease the idli plates with little oil before ladling the batter.
11. Wait for 1-2 minutes and let idlis cool down before removing them from idli plates/mould as the idlis will break. If you are in a hurry and cannot wait, then pour little water on the back of the idli plate. Also use a sharp spoon to spoon out the idlis from the idli mould.
12. You do not need a special idli cooker for making idli. Any pan with lid in which you can fit the idli plates / moulds will work. Add a little water on the bottom and place the idli plates on top of it. Cover with the lid and steam.
13. Idli batter can be kept in the fridge for couple of days.
14. Idli rice is easily available in most India stores. If you are unable to buy idli rice you can also use parboiled rice.
15. I would recommend fermenting the batter in either ceramic or stainless-steel containers. Do not keep it in airtight container as the batter needs to breathe while fermenting.



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