Steamed Rice Idlis

This post has been long pending and i have been meaning to bring this recipe on my blog for a while now. Today i have for you all some delicious Idlis, the backbone of South Indian cuisine and one of my favorite Indian meals. So, lets dive right into the world of south Indian food and learn to make some  soft and fluffy Idlis !

As many of you may have noticed, i am doing more Indian dishes lately and has made me realize how comfortable i am when i am whipping out lentil dishes like dal makhni or making naans.. even elaborate stuff like this scrumptious biryani ! Today is no different. I am here with another popular Indian dish called Idlis.

rice idli

Now, for the non Indians or newbies to Indian cuisine, Idlis can be described as savory steamed cakes which are served along side sambhar (lentil soup) and coconut chutney. It is a staple in South Indian homes and is usually served as a breakfast item. Made with a fermented batter of husked urad dal and rice, Idlis are light, fluffy and are melt in the mouth soft.

steamed rice idlis close up

Being a north Indian, i am no pro when it comes to whipping out professional looking dosas (rice batter crepes), vadas or Idlis but i have been told that achieving soft idlis is not a joke for many people. I have had my share of dry, dense idlis too and after many trials – tweaking with proportions of lentil with the rice and adding a few more ingredients, here is one recipe i am actually proud of. I have made Idlis like this many times and i have achieved the lightness i always craved. Give this a go !

Steamed Rice Idlis

Steamed Rice Idlis

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

steamed rice idli copy


  • Urad Dal – 1 cup
  • Idli rice (ponni / sona masoori etc) – 2.5 cups
  • poha (flattened rice) – 1 cup
  • fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Water to soak dal, rice and for grinding
  • salt – 1 tsp
  • ghee for greasing – 1 tablespoon


Preparing the Batter

Utensils needed – Couple of mixing bowls (about 4), grinder/ food processor, mixing spoons.


  1. Take 2 mixing bowls. In one bowl, take the urad dal and wash thoroughly a couple of times. Soak the dal and fenugreek seeds together in enough water and soak overnight or for 6-8 hours.
  2. In another bowl, take rice and wash thoroughly a couple of times. Soak the rice in enough water overnight or for 6-8 hours.
  3. After the rice and dal have been well soaked, we will grind them. We would grind both dal and rice separately but combine them together later.


  1. grind urad dal + fenugreek seeds first. Drain the extra water and retain only about 1/2 cup.Use minimum amount of water to grind the dal into a smooth paste. Transfer into a big mixing bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, In the third bowl, take the poha and add soak in 1.5 cups water for half an hour.
  3. Next, grind the rice. Drain the rice and retain only about 1 cup water. Using minimum water, grind rice into a smooth paste. Add the rice paste into the big mixing bowl on top of the urad dal paste.
  4. Lastly, grind the soaked poha/ flattened rice into smooth paste. Again, use minimum water to grind. Transfer into the rice+ Dal paste.
  5. Mix everything together very well. Add salt into the mixed batter and combine well.

Fermenting the batter

  1. Place a lid on top of the mixing bowl with the batter and keep this container in a warm and dark spot for another 8-10 hours in order to ferment the batter into double quantity. On a hot day, the batter would ferment and double up in 5-6 hours. On a colder day, the batter might take as long as 24 hours to ferment properly.
  2. Once the batter ferments, beat the batter a little so that the excess air escapes and refrigerate the batter till needed. The batter will be fine to use under refrigeration for couple of days.

Steaming the Idlis

Utensils needed – Steamer/ large deep pot with lid, Idli stand, pastry brush (optional), silicon spatula

  1. In the steamer/ deep pot, add some water and put to boil.
  2. Now, grease the Idli stand cavities using the pastry brush or with fingers. Now, pour few tablespoons of batter and pour in the Idli tray to 3/4th of the capacity.
  3. Steam for 15-20 minutes or till the Idlis are cooked. To check if the idlis are done, insert a pin and if the pin comes out clean, the idlis are ready.
  4. Remove the Idli tray from the steamer. Let it rest for 7-10 minutes. now, you can scoop out the idlis using a butter knife or silicon spatula. Top up with a little ghee on top. Serve with Sambhar and Chutney

Wondering how to get that perfect shape?

Well there is a special utensil which is required to make them like that, called the Idli stand. If you are enthusiastic about buying one, you can check it out here or buy one of the similar shape.

Alternatively u can get creative and use an aebelskiver/appe pan, or even muffin cups… even bowls ! Anything which can be used inside the steamer. I sometime use cake tins for the same too. Jut steam a big cake and then cut into desired shapes 🙂

Try out some other recipes from my South Indian platter :

sambhar copymasala vada 1 copyonion dip copycoco stir fry vermicelli copyquinoa curd bhaat copycurd rice

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