Learn the easy recipe to make Idli Dosa Batter, along with tips and tricks to grind using a blender and ferment to perfection. This batter will result in soft, spongy idli's and perfect crispy dosa.
Table of contents
Idli and Dosa are traditional South Indian foods, which are also popular all over India. The only way to get the best idli's is to have perfectly fermented batter.
Idli is a savory rice cake, made by steaming a batter consisting of lentils and rice. Dosa is a crispy crepe made with the same batter of lentils and rice.
Being a North Indian, my mom did not make idli’s from scratch at home. Mostly we would use store-bought batter to make idli and dosa. Hence making idli dosa batter is something I had to learn for my love of South Indian food.
I used to have a hard time getting the batter right. Sometimes it would not ferment and rise enough, and at other times it would be perfect, keeping me wondering what went wrong. But eventually now I can make perfect batter evert time. So here I will share all the lessons I have learnt from all the times I have made Idli Dosa Batter.
Fermenting batter is difficult in colder places like the US, especially during the winter months. But guess what…the instant pot can come to the rescue here too. If you don't have an instant pot, you can use the oven to ferment batter too.
The idli’s will be soft and fluffy if the batter is fermented well. It does take some practice to get the batter right. Even if the batter does not come out perfectly fermented, it is always great to prepare dosa.
Usually batter is prepared once for the week and used multiple times. Prepare idli's initially, as they come out soft with fresh batter. When I prepare the batter, I first use it to make idli's, then to make dosas and any leftover batter to prepare uttapam. All of these meals, can be enjoyed with sambar and chutney.
Each state, or family in South India has a different recipe or proportion they prefer for the batter. Some also make different batter for idli and for dosa. I am sharing the recipe for Idli Dosa Batter that works for me.
If you plan to make only dosa, check out this recipe for crispy dosa!
How to make perfect Idli Dosa Batter?
Dal and Rice for Batter
Idli rice are very different than basmati rice, they are short grain parboiled rice. Tip: Do not use these idli rice to make rice to be eaten with a curry. My mother-in-law was curious, so she tried and they do not taste good.
Urad Dal is skinned black gram lentils. You can use the whole lentils called urad dal gota or split urad dal.
I also add fenugreek seeds (methi seeds) when making the batter. This was a tip from my South Indian friends mom, that it helps with fermentation.
Idli Batter Dal Rice Ratio
Now the next thing is to determine the best ratio for dal to rice. The ratio of dal to rice is 1:4.
You can make batter with 1:3 dal to rice ratio too, however the idli is not as soft as with the 1:4 ratio.
Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Then soak the idly rice in a bowl with enough water.
In a separate bowl, rinse and soak urad dal. Add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds to the soaked urad dal.
It is important to soak the dal and rice separately. The reason is that they both need different time to grind, so if we soak and grind together we might not get the ideal result.
Leave the rice and lentils soaked for 4 hours or overnight.
Grinding the batter
In South India, people use a wet grinder to grind idli batter. However I personally don't want to have a separate gadget just to make batter, so I use a high performance blender (Vitamix) to grind the batter. You need a strong grinder that can make the batter very fine, while not heating it up.
In India, most people have a mixie (short for mixer grinder) at home. These mixie's are often not high performance, and can heat the batter too much can will hinder proper fermentation. If you have to use a mixer to grind the batter, then grind in small quantities and add ice cold water to keep the batter cool.
The best way is to grind rice and dal separately and then mix them together.
Drain the water from the soaked urad dal. Add the urad dal to the Vitamix and grind it to a smooth batter. Add cold water or ice as needed when grinding the batter. It is important to add cold water, as we don't want the batter to heat up as that can hinder proper fermenting.
The batter should neither be thick, nor runny. It should also not be thick, it should be fluffy. I added about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water and ran the vitamix for less than a minute. Transfer the batter to a large bowl (or instant pot steel insert if fermenting in instant pot).
Now drain the soaked rice and add them to the same blender. Grind the rice to a smooth batter, again adding cold water or ice as needed. I added about 1.5 cups of water when grinding the rice and ran the vitamix for less than a minute.
Transfer the batter to the same bowl or instant pot steel insert.
Add salt and mix the batter well. Use non-iodized salt (rock salt), as iodized salt can hinder fermenting of the batter.
I got the tip from my friend that you want to mix the batter well with your clean hands, as that adds a little warmth to the batter.
The consistency of the batter should be as shown in the below picture. Flowing easily, but not runny and not too thick. If yours is thick, then add some ice cubes or cold water and mix well with your hands.
Fermenting the batter
You can ferment the batter in a warm place.
In normal or warm climate regions, you can ferment on the countertop. It can take anywhere from 8 hours to overnight to ferment the batter depending on the outside temperature.
However in cold regions, you can keep the batter to ferment in the oven with the lights on. The light gives enough warmth to ferment the batter. When I keep in the oven, it takes about 12 hours to ferment the batter well.
If you have an instant pot, you can use the "Yogurt" mode to ferment the batter.
Start the instant pot in the "Yogurt" mode on normal setting. Press adjust until the display shows 8 hours. Then press "+" to change to 12 hours. Cover instant pot with a glass (or steel) lid and let the batter ferment.
It is important to use a glass lid, and not the instant pot lid as sometimes the batter can overflow and lock the lid.
After 10 hours, the batter should have risen up, which means increased in volume. If it has not risen enough, place the glass lid again and leave for a couple of more hours.
It would be frothy on the top, and airy with some bubbles.
Fermenting the batter in oven
If you don't have an instant pot, you can ferment the batter in the oven. I usually just turn on the oven light, which gives the batter enough warmth to ferment. Place the pot covered with a lid just below the oven light. Leave it overnight or for 10 hours in the oven to ferment the batter.
After 10 hours, the batter should have risen well. If it has not risen enough, leave for a couple of more hours.
The batter is ready to use. Use it right away to make idli or cover it and store it in the refrigerator.
Tips and Tricks for perfect batter
- Use very cold water or ice cubes when grinding the batter, as that helps to not heat up the batter when grinding.
- One disadvantage of using the instant pot to prepare batter for me is that, the insert is now used for the batter and cannot be used for other things I want to prepare in the instant pot. Hence many times, I ferment the batter in the oven.
- If you need the instant pot insert for other preparations, you have to remove the batter to another vessel. This is not ideal as the fermented batter is disturbed. However it has still worked fine. Just remove the batter slowly without mixing it and store it in another pot or box. Mix it gently when you are ready to prepare the idli's.
- To prepare dosa's, add some water and make the batter consistency thinner. Mix gently and prepare dosa.
- Do not increase the quantity much more than suggested in this recipe. I have seen some posts where the batter has risen too much and the instant pot has locked. I also recommend use a glass lid to close the instant pot in yogurt mode when making batter.
- Prepare idli initially as they come out soft with fresh batter. Do not mix the whole batter, take out the required amount you need to prepare the idli in a separate bowl.
There is no direct substitute for methi seeds. You can skip them and still make the batter.
There could be many reasons for this.
1. Always use non-iodized salt. Adding iodized salt can hinder fermentation.
2. The batter sometimes gets too warm when grinding. Add ice cold water or ice cubes when grinding in a high powered blender.
3. The batter should also not be too thick or too runny. It does not ferment well if it is not the right consistency.
4. Mix the batter with clean hands before fermenting. This helps with fermentation.
5. The right amount of warmth is needed. If you live in a cold place, it can take longer to ferment. Place the batter in the oven with light turned on.
There is good news here. Even if the idli don't turn out soft. The batter will work great for dosa and uttapam. Here is my recipe for dosa where you can check how to make dosa.
Making idli & dosa with this batter
You grease the idli molds with ghee or oil. Then add small amount of batter in each mold.
You can steam the idli's in a stovetop idli stand such as the below. Add water to the bottom of the stand. Then cook for 12 minutes on high flame.
If making in the instant pot, add 1.5 cups of water to the instant pot and let it boil in sauté mode. Place the idli stand in the instant pot and cook it in steam mode in venting position.
The thing to note is that the timer on the instant pot does not work in the venting position, so you have to use a separate timer. In 12 minutes, the idli will be ready.
You can use this same batter to make dosa. If the batter seems thicker, you can mix a little water and stir well before making dosa. The batter is spread on a griddle to make dosa, which is why it needs a thinner consistency.
Serve dosa hot with sambar and chutney. Make dry potato bhaji to stuff in the dosa.
Storing Idli Dosa Batter
I like to prepare idli dosa batter once on the weekend and use it for the whole week to make idli, dosa and uttapam.
Initially, right after the batter is fermented make idli's. This helps to get the best idli with the freshly fermented batter.
Then I use the batter for the rest of the week to make dosa for lunch or dinner. And onion tomato uttapam for breakfast on another day.
You can store this batter for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Hope you try this Idli Dosa Batter. Please do let me know if you have any questions as you try this recipe. I would be happy to clarify and add more details.
Idli Dosa Batter
- Rinse urad dal with water until the water runs clear. Then soak it in a bowl with enough water. Add methi seeds to the soaked dal.
- Rinse idli rice with water until the water runs clear. Soak it in a separate bowl.
- Soak the dal and rice for 4 hours or overnight.
- Drain the water from the dal and rice.
- Transfer the dal to the high speed blender (or a wet grinder) and grind to a smooth paste. Add cold water or ice cubes (about 1/2 to 1 cup) as needed to grind the dal. Transfer the batter in the instant pot steel insert (or another large bowl if not using instant pot).
- Transfer the soaked idli rice to the grinder and grind to the smooth paste. Add cold water as needed to grind to a fine paste (about 1.5 cups). Transfer the batter to the same instant pot steel insert.
- Add salt and mix the batter well using your clean hands for a couple of minutes. The batter consistency should neither be thick nor runny, but rather it should be free flowing.
Fermenting in Instant Pot
- Place the steel insert in the instant pot and cover with a glass lid (do not use the instant pot lid, as sometimes batter can overflow and lock the lid).
- Set the instant pot to Yogurt mode for 12 hours by pressing the Adjust and + buttons.
- After the time is complete, the batter would be fermented and ready to use. If the batter has not risen well, ferment it for couple of more hours. The batter should be frothy and airy on the top.
- Enjoy idli or dosa made with the batter.
Fermenting batter without instant pot
- If fermenting without the instant pot, transfer the batter to a large bowl and prepare it as mentioned adding salt and mixing with clean hands. Then place it in the oven with the lights on (or on the counter in warm climate).
Steaming Idli in Instant Pot
- To make idli, grease the idli molds with ghee or oil. Then add small amount of batter in each mold. If making in the instant pot, add 1.5 cups of water to the instant pot and let it boil in sauté mode. Place the idli stand in the instant pot and cook it in steam mode in venting position (or a pressure cooker without whistle). The thing to note is that the timer on the instant pot does not work in the venting position, so you have to use a separate timer. In 12 minutes, the idli will be ready. Let it stand for 5 minutes, then take the idli out of the mold. Enjoy with sambar and coconut chutney.
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.