(Basic Idli, Spongy Idlis, South Indian idli, Plain Idli, Fluffy Idli)

Idli is a staple breakfast in South India and SriLanka. It is a comfort food for most South Indians. It is one of the South Indian delicacies that is popular and enjoyed by people throughout India.

Idlis are made in two popular ways : using parboiled rice and using idli (rice) rava. The first method is traditionally followed by in Tamilnadu and Kerala while the second method is followed in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Here I will be sharing the one with parboiled rice.

These soft, spongy and savory rice cakes are made by making a batter of rice and black lentils, fermenting the batter and steaming it in special idli moulds. It is also served in weddings or other special occasions with sambhar, medhu vadai, chutney or idli milagai podi. It also goes very well with non veg gravies like chicken curry, egg curry etc and veg kurmas. Due to its soft texture it is given to kids as early as 6 months. Since it is steamed, it is healthy and gets easily digested. So it is also commonly given to ailing patients and old people.

Idlis are traditionally made in a special idli stand. It has a tree of idli plates that can be steamed in a idli cooker or pressure cooker or any vessel. These days idli stands are available in different sizes and forms. There is electric idli cooker, microwave idli stand, non stick stove top idli stand, mini idli stand etc. You can choose and buy one according to your choice. For those of you who do not have idli stand, you can still make idlis using stainless steel tumblers.

Video Instructions For Making Soft Idlis


Recipe For Making Soft Idlis
Preparation time: 10-15 hours (including fermentation time)
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-5

       1). Idli rice - 1 3/4 cup
       2). Black gram - 1/2 cup
       4). Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
       5). Salt - 1 tbsp


1). Wash and soak rice in a bowl. Wash and soak the black gram and fenugreek seeds i another bowl. Soak both for at least 2-6 hours. I have shared the procedure of making idli batter in detail in a separate post. 

2). Drain the water and grind the black gram to a smooth paste using a wet grinder or Indian mixie. Remove the batter into a bowl.

3). Next grind the rice smoothly. Remove the batter into the same bowl.

4). Add the salt and mix both the batters thoroughly.

5). Now leave the batter to ferment for 7-12 hours till the batter rises to almost double the size.

6). To make the idlis, first take about 1 cup of water in the idli cooker or pressure cooker. Keep it on flame and bring to boil.

7). Grease the idli plates with few drops of oil and fill with idli batter. Fill the molds with the fermented idli batter till it is 3/4 th full.

8). Place it in the idli cooker. Steam and cook for about 10 minutes.

Detailed Steps For Making Soft Idlis
Soak rice and black gram separately in water for at least 1 hour. Soaking overnight can be done too. Add fenugreek seeds to black gram. Increase the quantity if you are making a larger batch. I have shared the procedure of making idli batter in detail in a separate post. Here I will just quickly run through the steps.

Drain the water and grind the black gram to a silky soft texture. You can use a grinder or mixer. Just take a little batter and feel between your fingers if it has become a smooth paste

Next grind the rice smoothly. It is OK to have a slightly grainy texture while grinding rice. Mix it with black gram batter along with salt.

Now leave the batter to rest and ferment for at least 7 hours till the batter rises to almost double the size. It may take anywhere between 7 -12 hours to ferment.

To make the idlis, grease the idli plates with few drops of oil and fill with idli batter. Traditionally instead of greasing a thin white cloth is spread on the idli plate. I just do it by greasing with little sesame oil. If you are using a non-stick idli stand you do not have to grease it. Do not fill the molds all the way through, just leave a little space for expansion. You also get mini idli plates which are a great option for kids. Use a small spoon to fill batter in that.

Steam them for about 10 minutes till they rise and become firm. You can check if the idlis are done by inserting a knife or toothpick. If it comes out clean, the idlis are done. If some batter sticks to the knife, cook it for couple of minutes more.

Switch off the stove and leave it undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then use a wet spoon to gently remove the idlis from the idli plate. Store it in a hotbox till you are ready to eat.

Variation (Making Idli without Idli Maker)

1). Instead of idli mould, you can use ever silver tumblers to make tumbler idli or glass idli. I have explained in detail in a separate post. It tastes the same as idli cooked in mold, but with the shape of the tumbler.

2). These days you get microwave idli steamers also. It usually comes with 2 idli plates with 4 mold each. There is also microwave mini idli plate available in market. To make that take just 1/4 cup of water in the microwave bowl. Grease the idli plates and fill with batter. Cover with the lid and microwave on high powder for 2-4 minutes. My microwave is 900 watts and it took 4 minutes to cook 8 idlis and 2 minutes to cook 4 idlis. You need to experiment and find the cooking time with your oven. Just insert with a knife and see if the idlis are cooked. If the batter sticks to the knife, microwave for 1 or 2 minutes more.

Serving Suggestion

1). Idlis served with piping hot sambhar, coconut chutney and vada is an excellent combination.

2). Idli is one versatile dish that goes well with different curries like chicken curry, vada curry, tomato curry or any other vegetarian curries.  

3). This can also be served with any chutney varieties. My favorite is with carrot chutney. You can find many ideas to make different chutneys here.

4). One of the traditional homestyle combination is idli served with idli podi. The idli podi mixed with some ghee or sesame oil tastes awesome with spongy idlis.

5). Leftover Idlis can be used to make sambhar idli, curd idli, fried idli, masala idli, chilly idli or idli upma.

Idli with Carrot Chutney

Idli with Coconut Chutney, Sambar and Podi