Idli/Dosa batter

how to make perfect idli dosa batter

Idlis form the most important breakfast food  for South Indians which is prepared almost every other day or some even have it daily. I cannot think  of any other lighter healthier  way of starting my day  other than with steamed Idlis.

Idlis are one of the most easily digestible foods as it is steamed and no oil is used in preparation and forms an excellent breakfast option.

Typically Idlis are served with coconut chutneys or some other varieties of chutneys and sambar almost invariably is prepared for Idlis.

These are some of the earliest starter foods for infants and toddlers.

There are so many varieties of idlis being prepared nowadays that even hardcore cooks get confused. The proportions is another nightmare for many new comers to kitchen !

For instance the usual combination of rice and udad dal itself has several ratios .

Some use the 3:1,some use the 4:1 , the combination of rice to udad dal. It all depends on how they have been doing it for years the methods passed on from their mothers and grandmothers.

Most importantly the quality of ingredients used play an important role in getting the just right batter. Always use a fresh pack of Udad dal to give excellent idlis/dosas.

The secret to getting perfect fluffy Idlis also lies with grinding and fermenting methods.

Soaking the ingredients separately. Wash and soak in just enough water. Use that water for grinding purposes. The udad dal has been ground thick foamy and light , when a ball of this ground batter is dropped in water, it should float.

that is the time to remove from grinder or mixie.



Rice ground a little thinner than udad dal batter .Second pic shows batter mixed well and kept for fermentation in a tall vessel to give room for batter to rise.The batter shouldn’t be allowed to over ferment, just a good  rise with some bubbles is enough to ensure you have a good sour free  batter for the whole week. The third pic shows batter has risen appearing light and foamy. Mix it gently so that the heavy batter settled at the bottom will get mixed well .

Most important every time you make idlis, you have to use a spatula and stir the batter gently from the bottom to top to get even idlis., or else your second batch may give hard idlis.

While this batter is good enough for making both idlis and dosas, you can keep the whole batch for making only idlis to if you follow the tips well.

There is a practice of making idlis first and then dosas for next two days , reason being the top fresh batter will be light and airy and that gives very soft idlis, as we start using the batter, we get the settled rice batter more which is great for making dosas.  but if care is taken to see that batter is stirred and mixed well for every tray of idlis steamed, you will not waste a drop  aaadn you will get perfect idli till the last ladle of batter.


Now to the recipe…


  • 4 cups idli rice or use 3 cups idli rice and 1 cup raw rice….both work well.
  • 1  cup udad dal ( I use split udad dal while grinding in mixie which is what I do often for small quantities.) use whole fresh udad dal for grinding in stone grinder.
  • 2 tsp methi seeds
  • optional…… to add a small handful of beaten rice/poha/aval which gives the softest or fluffiest idlis

Preparation :

Soak the dals after rinsing them and minimum 3 1/2   to 4 hours hours of soaking is must.

After sufficient soaking remove the excess water and keep it aside ,dont throw away the soaked water. Use it for grinding.  intervals. Grind the udad dal first with methi into a thick smooth foamy batter, it has to look airy and buttery , with a satiny feel . Test the consistency by droping a bal of batter in a cup of water, the ball of batter must float , indicating it is light and perfect . Then remove the udad dal ground batter to a large vessel .  ( test is for beginners and bachelors, who are not so familiar with grinding for idli dosa  ) Next  grind the rice separately in the same grinder with soaked poha if using in recipe . with little water ( soaked  water ) to a slightly grainy texture, then mix both batter well, from top to bottom evenly. use a hand blender if you dont want to mix with hands, or a good whisk .

If you are using the blender or mixie to grind, use ice cold water to grind  to keep the jars cool. Also use split udad dal if you are using the blender or mixie to grind the dals, it will grind faster and need to add  1/4 cup extra udad dal if grinding in mixie.

You may need approximately 2   cups  of water to  finish grinding and around 25  minutes by wet grinder.
Do not leave the grinder to do the job and attend to other activities.It is necessary to keep pushing the ingredients at intervals and adding little water to smoothen the batter while grinding. use a spatula and keep pushing the dals and the flowing batter , so that you get even smooth texture. This also mimics the hand movements used while grinding in the traditional stone grinder in our homes . ( our grandmothers or even our mothers may have used the original stone grinder called aatukal in Tamil .)
Salt may be added if living in tropical regions as it wont interfere with fermentation , i prefer to add after fermentation though as the batter increases in volume.
Transfer the batter to a big container as the batter is going to ferment overnight and rise in volume.
Keep in a place away from too much heat .But for colder climates you need to keep near a warm kitchen counter.

Once the batter has risen next morning,stir well as the rice would have settled at the bottom and the top foamy udad dal batter will remain , so you need to mix gently, not vigorously as you shouldn’t disturb the fermentation also.and you should not remove the airy nature of the batter .Always keep batter in different small containers as you may use them in batches. If you plan to make few idlis first, dont allow the whole container to sit on the counter while you do small tasks, every minute will increase the sourness to the batter, the sooner it goes into the refrigerator, the better.

To prevent the batter from turning sour especially in warmer regions it is advisable to take the batter out of refrigerator only the portion you are going to use. Dont keep the whole container out for long to prevent sourness.
The best method is not to go overboard and grind for the week. You can do the grinding fresh two days a week as per your convenience to ensure freshest idlis and dosas. This is true for very hot regions.
No point in grinding in bulk and then ending up with sour idlis and dosas and finally uthappa. Your family will never forgive you.
While making idlis and dosas is no rocket science there are many tips and tricks which go a long way in getting it right. This comes only with practice.
Dont be afraid to grind. Once or twice you may not get the correct result but after a point you start doing it mechanically.

Preparation of idlis/dosas

Grease idlis moulds well with little oil and keep the idli steamer ready  with sufficient water boiling in it.,keep the plates  and steam for 7-8 minutes  Check for done ness by touching the top. It will be shiny and firm but soft too.
traditional practice is to layer the plates with thin white cotton cloth and the batter is poured on the cloth covered mould, this gives the most soft , moist idli and it will never dry out even till evening ., but now that practice is slowly dying out as it is quite cumbersome . I use special thin white cotton cloths once in a while .
You can check with a finger dipped in water and press the idly lightly, it will leave a dent but cooked inside.

Do not attempt to take out idlis from moulds immediately. Let cool for couple of minutes and they will come out well. Take a spoon and slowly edge out the idlis from the moulds.
A helpful video to show the grinding process and how the batter looks, kindly excuse the poor quality of light as it was hastily made in late evening hours under poor light ..but this will give you an idea, . am sure.

Serve idlis with Tiffin sambar which has authentic hotel style sambar and chutney/molga podi.
The tiffin sambar hotel style has been given i this blog.

If you do not like to make coconut chutney there are no. of other chutney recipes some of them Iam including in this blog.

Points to note.

Some pics of how the batter should look , the consistency test etc.

The batter after fermentation will be thick, foamy like, and will fall with a plop and not run over.It will coat the ladle well.

When you take a ladle full of batter, it will look like a  ball .


The batter will stay in the ladle and not run over..

Take a spoonful of batter and smear a pan to see the thickness, it should be a  bit grainy . When smeared, it should coat well.

Finally when you drop the batter in the pan, it will stay and not move around like a runny batter.



Some variations

Try making Mini idlis and serve with hotel style tiffin sambar on top and garnish with finely cut onions and coriander


Enjoy making idlis, happy grinding .!


  1. says

    Thanks for your nice recipes.

    I have a few questions regarding idli batter.

    1. What kind of rice do you use?
    2. At what stage is the poha and the methi seeds added to the batther?
    3. Is it ok if we use blender (grinder mode) instead of the wet grinder to make the batter?
    4. Do you add a pinch of eno(fruit salt)/baking soda to make the idlis soft? If I don't use eno, I find that my idlis are not so soft.
    5. At what stage do you add salt to the batter?

    Thanks for your help!


    • says

      hi, thanks for visiting. For idlis I use the idli rice available in the stores which is steamed rice of a thicker variety meant specially for idlis/dosas
      Poha and methi seesds to be soaked and groud with udad dal at grinding stage itself.

      You can use blender , as I myself use the mixie here in India for small quantities of batter and I find it cumbersome to grind it in the wet stone grinder. But while grinding in blender use ice cold water and also make sure your udad dal is cold , better keep in fridge for sometime before grinding .

      There is absolutely no need to add eno salt as the batter if ground well and kept for fermenting overnight will rise beautifully fermented. All you got to do is to mix well and start preparing idlis or dosas. Reason for not fermenting may be due to cold weather, ratios not correct, slightly runny batter or udad dal not used in right proportion or quality of udad dal may not be good.

      It is always better to buy the freshest , good quality whole udad dal and use for idlis, also aftr soaking you shoould see the dals slightly bloated, which means your dal is of good quality.
      So many reasons! but dont give up…first try i small proportion like 1 cup and blend and see. Hope you will find some interesting recipes here. Thanks for stopping by.

    • says

      No I use the same batter by thinning it a bit, but people do have separate batter for dosas, unless I make mysore masaa dosa or some other varieties, I use the same idli batter for dosa as well and it works fine.

    • says

      Not clear bout your doubt but I do use idli Rava and udad dal to ae idlis I have a separate post on the also it saves time and equally good though grainy any hotels use this method

  2. Anonymous says

    thank you for the wonderful summarization… I followed the same proportions, my batter got fermented, not much but it ferment in CA cold weather. but it tastes little raw, when I make dosa . can you pl suggest what can be missing?

    • says

      when the dosa tava is not heated well and you pour batter, or if you remove a bit early, or when batter is not fully fermented ( but not over ) the dosas can taste raw…main problem is not heating tava well, I feel.For people out Of India, the fermentation will take some time but it has to be done..I have lived in U.S and i would keep the batter covered with a cloth, and then kept in an oven with light..batter would ferment well though takes more time. Batter can also be kept inside a crock pot and lid kept on..I believe it works but crockpot should not be switched on.

  3. says

    hii. i tried to make idly batter 4 times with proportion you have told. but all time when i cook idly in steamer, its getting cooked only, its always wet, even after 30 mins.. where am going wrong?

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