Idli and Sambar Recipe


Idli, is a traditional breakfast in many South Indian Households. Idli is basically a ‘Steamed Rice Cake’ prepared with fermented batter of Rice and Urad Dal. It is also one of the food that I grew up having. Come any day at my mom’s place and you will be served with Idli’s or Dosa’s for breakfast, except for Sunday’s where we prefer Eggs. But after moving to Melbourne, I literally wait for the Spring and Summer so I can enjoy some delicious homemade Idli’s or Dosa’s. These Idli’s are soft and fluffy like a cotton ball and are best served with a Coconut Chutney/Dip and Sambar (Lentil-Veg Curry).

Idli 1

coconut chutney 2

I am sharing with you today a traditional South Indian Speciality breakfast recipe which I have learned from my mother in law. She makes her sambar a little differently than the ones we get at the Udupi Restaurants. So I call this one a Quick and Easy Sambar Recipe. 🙂

As suggested by my MIL, I follow the ratio of 3:1(Rice:Urad Dal) for Idli & 4:1(Rice:Urad Dal) for Dosa.

Idli 2

Here are the few things you need to know or take care of while making Idli’s:

  1. Quality of the Ingredient: The quality of rice and urad dal is very important. I never stock up the urad dal for long time and try to buy them when required.
  2. Soaking: Soaking for the suggested time is equally important. You have to wash and then soak the rice and urad dal separately, for 6 to 8 hours. I usually soak the rice early in the morning and then grind them around 4-5pm evening. And batter in fermented and ready for next morning. But while in Melbourne, I have to keep the batter for fermentation for 1 whole day. So instead of the next morning, the batter is ready to be used by 2 pm.
  3. Grinding: While in India, I had always used the wet grinder which had been a life saver for making the batter for Dosa/Idli. The softness of your Idli depends on the grinding and the consistency of the batter. Grind the urad dal first to a light and fluffy batter ( i.e. very important). Always grind in small batches if you are using the mixer grinder and add little water at a time as required. Always use cold water for grinding, if you are using the mixer grinder and not the traditional wet grinder. Transfer the batter to a large bowl. Now, grind the soaked rice in batches, using little water at a time. We want a thick smooth batter (you can keep them mildly coarse as well).
  4. Consistency: The Consistency of your batter is very important. If the batter is too thin or runny then your Idli’s will come flat. And if the batter is too thick then the Idli’s will turn out hard. And If you add too much water while grinding the urad dal then your idlis will be sticky. So take lot of care while adding water, as the urad dal and rice might have some water too as they were soaked.
  5. Fermenting: Proper fermentation is very essential. If you are staying in any tropical country like India then fermenting the batter is super easy. During summer leave the batter for less than 7 hours and while in winter keep for 10-12 hours. In extremely cold climate like Melbourne, it might take between 18 to 22 hours for the batter to ferment. You can keep the batter in your oven with its light on. Your batter should increase by at least 50% of its original volume. So you know the batter has fermented well.
  6. Steaming: Always bring the water to boiling point before steaming. You can use a idli steamer or a steamer or pressure cooker without weight for steaming. I have used the Idli steamer and small steel bowls for making Idli. Always grease the idli moulds well with oil and fill the batter just 2/3rd of the mould(in my case steel vatis). Steam the Idli for 12-15 minutes and use the toothpick to check if the batter is cooked fully in the middle. Serve hot with Chutney and Sambar.


For the Idli:
Makes – 24 medium size Idlis
  • 3 cup Sona Masoori / Kolam Rice
  • 1 cup Urad Dal
  • 1 tbsp Fenugreek Seeds (Methi seed), optional
  • a fistful of Thin Rice Flakes (Thin Poha), optional
  • Salt to taste
For the Sambar:
  • 1/2 cup Toor Dal, washed
  • 2 Tomato, fine chopped
  • 2 Eggplant / Baingan, peel and fine chopped
  • 1 Carrot, peel and fine chopped
  • 1 Potato, peel and fine chopped
  • 1 tbsp Tamarind Pulp
  • 2-3 tbsp Sambar Powder [ i have used a homemade sambar powder, but you can use any good brands ]
  • 1 tbsp Jaggery
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp Coriander Powder
  •  For Vogar: 2 tbsp Oil + 1 tsp Mustard seed + 2 Dry Red Chilies + a spring of curry leaves


For the Idli:
  1. Wash Urad Dal and Rice and soak them separately for at least 6 to 8 hours in water. Soak fenugreek seeds along with the rice.
  2. Grind the soaked urad dal to a light and fluffy batter by adding little water at a time as required. You will see that the urad batter has doubled in volume while grinding, which is a good sign. Remove and set aside the batter in a huge bowl.
  3. Grind the soaked rice to a smooth batter adding water in intervals. Do not discard the water used for soaking, you can use this water while grinding. Add few ice cubes to this water if you are using the mixer grinder, as they heat up pretty soon while grinding and it’s not good for fermentation. Also do small batches. [Back home we use wet grinders at home which are great for grinding Idli or Dosa batter.]
  4. Wash thin rice flakes in water twice and drain any excess water. Add them while grinding the rice.
  5. The consistency of the batter should not be too thin or too thick. It took me around 2-3 cup of water for grinding.
  6. Now Add the rice batter to the same huge bowl and mix.
  7. Add Salt and a tsp of sugar (optional) to the batter. And by using your hands, mix the batter well.
  8. Cover the bowl with a lid and keep it in a warm place for 8 to 22 hours, depending on the weather (see notes above). It took around 22 hours for my batter to ferment properly, on a day where it was 30°C in Melbourne.
  9. I had soaked for Idli in the morning, grinded at 4 pm evening and the batter was fermented and ready by 2 pm next day.
  10. For Making the Idlis: Heat the Idli steamer with 3-4 cups of water and bring to boiling point.
  11. Mix the fermented batter well and pour a spoonful of batter into the greased mould. I filled my idli moulds (small steel vatis) just 2/3rd leaving room for it to rise.
  12. Steam in a Idli steamer for 12-15 minutes or till they are fully cooked.
  13. Repeat with the remaining batter to make more idlis or store in an air-tight container and refrigerate immediately.
  14. Serve hot with sambar and coconut chutney.

I am not making a separate post this time for the sambar and posting it here itself.

For the Sambar:
  1. Wash, peel and finely chop the vegetables.
  2. Wash the toor dal and add it to the pressure cooker. Also add the chopped tomato, eggplant, carrot, potato, turmeric and salt to taste.
  3. Add 3-4 cup of water and pressure cook them. After the 1st whistle lower the flame and let it cook for 10 minutes.
  4. When it has cooled down add tamarind pulp, jaggery, sambar/rasam powder and coriander to the gravy.
  5. Bring the sambar to boil and then simmer for 5 more minutes. do check for taste and adjust the seasoning as per taste.
  6. For tadka: Take oil in small kadai. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter add red chilli and spring of curry leaves. Add this to the sambar.
  7.  Serve Hot with Idlis.

13 thoughts on “Idli and Sambar Recipe

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