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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Perfect Idly / Dosa Batter

Finally I nailed it…THE PERFECT IDLY / DOSA BATTER! My mom & mother – in – law makes some over the top soft idlis and I just love them dunked in Chicken Kuzhambu or just ghee ;) I never really cared to learn making idly batter before marriage and it was my mother – in – law who taught me ones. After that I had to try on my own every time, but it was nowhere close to hers. My idlis always turned out heavy, dense and cracked on top.  I took lot of idly course from my mom and mother – in – law over the phone and I still did not seem to crack the code. But this time, I banged it. The mistake I made? Not sufficient water, and that’s it. *Facepalm* My batter did not have sufficient water and hence I ended up with peaked and cracked idlis.

So this post may seem silly to many of you out there, but there may be a lot of young girls and recently married women who buy store bought idly batter just because they can’t seem to make their own. And this post is for them! I have not posted any step by step pictures as the batters seems the same in all :) But I have given a very elaborate explanation including the water quantity, so I hope this helps you.

The grinding time of the batter may vary from wet grinders. Mine is a year old this time is perfect for me, whereas if you have a relatively old grinder the time may vary. Try couple of time and make notes (that’s how I learnt on my own) you will get it right after couple of times.

The proportion of Idly rice to Urad dal is 4 : 1, which means 4 cups of rice to 1 cup of urad dal.

Softy Idly copy

You Will Need:

Idly Rice – 4 Cups
Urad Dal – 1 Cup
Fenugreek Seeds – 1/2 tbsp
Crystal Salt – 1 tbsp or to Taste

Water Required:

For Idly Rice – 2 Cups
For Urad Dal – 2 1/2 Cup, Yes Urad Dal Needs More Water


Step 1:

Wash and soak the rice and urad dal separately in a bowl for at least an 3 hrs or overnight. The fenugreek seeds needs to be soaked along with the urad dal in the same bowl.

Step 2:

Drain water from both the rice and urad dal.

Step 3:

The urad dal and rice needs to be ground separately. The urad dal goes in first, because its easy to scrap off from the grinder.

So place the urad dal in the grinder and this needs to be ground into a VERY SOFT, SMOOTH & FLUFFY batter. The batter will actually double the quantity when grinding. The water can go in immediately you start to grind the urad dal and it needs more water than the rice. And this is what will make the idly soft. When we grind the urad dal, it will reach 3 STAGES.

Stage 1. Very flat grainy initial stage with no volume at all.

Stage 2. In the second stage the urad dal will double in volume and become very soft and fluffy. By this time the batter will be smooth. This is where you need to stop.

Stage 3. This stage is over grinding of the batter, the fluffy urad dal will become heavy in this stage. So keep an eye and avoid this.
So the urad dal needs to be ground for a good 20 – 25 mins. More when the quantity is more.

Once done scrap it all off into a dry large bowl and add the salt.

Step 4:

No need to wash the grinder just tumble in the rice and start grinding. Don’t add water immediately to the rice it will not allow the rice to breakdown and grind. So after couple of mins add water little by little and grind. On contrary to the urad dal batter, the rice batter NEEDS TO BE GRAINY and NOT SMOOTH! The time taken to grind the rice batter is only half the time of urad dal, 10 – 12 mins will do.

Now scrap this rice batter on top of the urad dal.

Step 5:

Now, you need to mix the batter well until the urad dal batter and rice batter is well combined. Don’t use wooden spoon, metal spoon or spatula for mixing. You need to use your hands, because your body heat will initiate the fermenting of the batter. So wash your hand and mix the batter well. Make sure you reach all the way down to the bottom of the bowl and mix for a min.

Step 6:

Scrap down the sides and keep a lid over the bowl and let it ferment. So what will happen now is, the batter will begin to raise a lot. It will double the original quantity of the batter and form lot of small air pockets. So make sure you really have a large bowl for this so that the batter don’t overflow and make a mess.
The time taken to ferment differs from place to place. If you are living in a very hot & humid place 7 – 8 hours is enough. But in the place where I live is not that hot and not humid. So it takes a very long time for me to ferment the batter. So what I do is I prepare the batter in the morning and keep the batter under sun and out in my kitchen counter the whole night. Next morning my batter will be fermented and ready to use. So give time for the batter to ferment.

This is after the batter has fermented well. I have just given one quick stir and you can see the air bubbles and that texture indicating a very cloud like batter. 
Once it is well fermented, give a good stir and refrigerate until you need it. When using the batter (No need to add excess water), let it come to room temperature and pour the batter into greased idly molds and steam for 7 – 10 mins. 

Stick a toothpick to check if its cooked, if you don’t have wet batter in the tooth pick then its done. Alternatively, wet your finger in water and punch a hole in center of the idly to check if its cooked (This is what I do, you can see the puncher mark in one of the idlis above ;)

Serve Hot with coconut chutney, sambar or anything you like ;) !


  • If you don't find time to grind the batter and you have already soaked the rice and urad dal, then drain the water completely and refrigerate till needed. DO NOT leave it soaking, it will get spoiled. 
  • DON'T OVER MIX the batter after fermentation. The batter will have thousands of air pockets and it actually gives the softness to the idly. 
  • 2 days old batter is best for idly and not dosa. Batter older than 2 or 3 days is perfect for dosa. 
Happy Cooking!


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