Idly is the staple food in south india that in tamilnadu it is very common. in most of the house the idly batter will be in stock alwaysJ.
But making soft idlys is little tricky. Rice and urad dhal is the main ingredient to make idly.
I have seen many people will add fenugreek seeds or poha/aval/flattened rice to make soft idlys. Some may add baking soda also.
But I never use those things, just idly rice and urad dhal in right propotions will definitely give soft, fluffy idlys.  
Generally I use the same batter for making idlys and dosa. For the first two times only I will make idlis with the batter, after that I will use the batter for making dosa/paniyaram only.
Because after fermenting I will never mix the batter, I have seen many people will mix the batter fully before making idlis. But my taught me like we should not mix the batter, and take the batter from the sides using the ladle, not to take the batter from the centre. Every time I ll take the batter from the sides only, because the batter in the bottom will be having more rice content, which will give dense idlys, (suitable for dosa/paniyaram/uthappam)
I have given what I knows and follows to make the idly batter and idlys here (please see notes section). This is for beginners and for the friends who is new in making idlis or preparing idli batter in homeJ.

Please check the below links for side dish ideas if interested

Ok now coming to the recipe.

Idly rice                      4 cup
Urad dhal                   1 cup
Salt                              as needed
Water                          as needed (around 1 to 1 ½ liter for grinding)
Wash and soak the rice and dhal separately for minimum 5 hours.

Grind them separately till smooth .(please check the notes section for more details and tips)

Grinding urad dhal

Grinding Idly rice

Add salt and mix well using hands. Both rice and urad dhal batter should be mixed well.

Let it ferment for overnight or minimum 10 hours. After fermenting the batter will be risen up. 

Grease the idly plate with oil or use thin wet cloth on the idly plate.
Don’t mix the batter. Just use the ladle and take the batter from the side of the vessel and pour in the idly mould.

Steam the idlys for around 10 minutes. Check the doneness by touching the top of the idlies using wet finger, it is not sticks, idly got cooked well.

Remove using a wet spoon(dip the spoon in water) or if using cloth, invert the plate and sprinkle some cold water on the top of  the cloth and remove the cloth gently.

Serve hot with any of the chutneys or sambhar of your choice.


  • Generally the rice and dhal ratio is 4:1.
  • Use good quality urad dhal and rice to get soft whitish idlys.
  • Urad dhal should not be too old, old dhal will not yield good amount of batter and results in dense idly.
  • Using fenugreek will give slight pale colour to the idly, so I will not use fenugreek.
  • Grinding the rice and urad dhal plays main role to get soft idlys.
  • I usually grind urad dhal first and then the rice, because it will be easy to wash the grinderJ my mom’s methodJ. But my mil first grinds rice and then urad dhal. Both will be fine.
  • While grinding the urad dhal don’t add water in one go, just add water little by little, that too for the first 5 minutes don’t add, if required just sprinkle, after 5 minutes ie., urad dhal grinds coarse add water in regular intervals.
  • Grind the it till very smooth, at one stage you can see very small bubbles and the batter will also be so light, smooth and fluffy, that is the right stage Remove from wet grinder or mixer grinder. For me it required around 500 ml to 600 ml for 1 cup of urad dhal to grind.
  • Use good quality idly rice, it is not same as the raw rice which we use for cooking. Idly rice is the one we get from boiled paddy.
  • Grind the idly rice till smooth (not like smooth paste) till you feel coarse batter (ie.,little grainy).
  • After adding half of the rice the grinder may stuck, add little water and then add the remaining rice.
  • For me it required around 750 ml of water to grind 4 cups of rice.
  • The water requirement is depends on the quality of the rice and dhal.
  • The amount of rice/urad dhal grind in one go is depends on the size of the wet grinder. I am having the smaller one ULTRA brand, it will grind 2 cups of rice in one go or ½ to ¾ cup of urad dhal in one go.
  • If using larger quantity divide the rice/urad dhal and grind.
  • I got the instruction from the seller while buying wet grinder as ,never add the rice /dhal and then switch on the grinder, First switch on the wet grinder and the add the rice /urad dhal little by little.
  • While grinding use the spatula or hand to remove any of the whole rice /dhal struck on the sides (walls) of the grinder.
  • Use bigger container to mix the batter and to ferment. There should be enough space for the fermenting batter, because it will rise up.
  • Always use hands to mix the batter.
  • My mom told for 1 padi (one of the traditional measuring cup in tamil --quantiy equals to 4 cups approximately ) 1 handful salt will be correct, but be careful in adding because everyone’s hand size may differJ.
  • Always use rock salt (kal uppu in tamil).
  • The climate plays main role in fermenting the batter, in cold climate it will take long time to ferment fully.
  • I will keep the batter container near to the gas in very cold days to make the fermentation faster.
  • If you are using the idly mould which is having holes in the pit, then you have to use cloth. After the idlys got cooked, invert the plate upside down in the plate and take plate. Then sprinkle some water on the cloth to remove the idlys without breaking.
  • If the idly plate is not having holes on the pit, then you can directly pour the batter in the mould, no need to use cloth, just grease it with sesame oil and proceed. After the idly got cooked use wet spoon(dip the spoon in water each and every time) to take out  the idly.
Things to be taken care while grinding in mixer grinder:

  • While grinding in mixer grinder use ice cold water to grind.
  • Divide and grind the rice /dhal, don’t grind so much in one go.
  • Don’t add too much of water, then the idly will be sticky and flat.

Hope I have covered the main points or things to be taken care while making idly batter, if anything missed out or if you have any doubts please ask me or send mail, will try to clear you as much as I canJ

Do try this recipe and please don’t forget to give your feedback in comments.

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