Soft Idli with Idli Rava

Soft and Fluffy Idli with Idli Rava(Idli Sooji) recipe |How to ferment batter in Instant Pot and make soft Idli.

Idli with Idli Rice

Idli Dosa and Sambhar are one of the most popular dishes from South Indian Cuisine. Who doesn’t like soft fluffy idlis, crispy dosa and little sweet , spicy and tangy Sambhar??!! Originated in South India, these are now a favourite of majority of North Indian and even has fans all over the world.


While growing up in North, Idli was not a part of our everyday meal. Though mom used to make Sambhar-Rice, Medu Vada and mixed lentil dosa(without fermentation) at home , but  Idli and Dosa was something that we relished at special South Indian/Udipi restaurants. Quite a few years back my younger sister, stayed in Chennai for an year. She learned making Idlis from the  owner of her hostel (P.G) and passed on that basic recipe to me.

I learned making good Idli with my experiments and with the help of my friends and neighbors in Mumbai. So, If you too struggle with getting soft and fluffy idli and right fermented batter, do read this post thoroughly and patiently!! It is a long post.. the pointers given will surely help you if you are in a place with harsh winters.

Tamil Nadu Cuisine

With my facebook group Shh Cooking Secretly Challenge, we traveled to state of Tamil Nadu. This month I was paired with talented Rafeeda who blogs at The Big Sweet Tooth. She has some wonderful deserts, Indian , International and fusion . Do check out her treasure of recipes!!

I gave Rafeeda two ingredients Rice and salt and she made this flavourful Curry Rice.

She gave me two ingredients Split Black gram Lentil(Urad Dal) and  Fenugreek Seeds (Methi Dana) , using which I had to prepare my dish. And I thought of making Idlis as this fermented Idli batter post was long due. I make Idlis often for weekend brunch, but somehow i just kept postponing.

Here I am with my soft fluffy Idli Recipe using Idli Rava with details on how to ferment batter with or without Instant Pot and oven!!

Tamil Nadu is a state in southern part of India, with Chennai as it’s capital . Tamil Nadu Cuisine, offers a wide range of dishes from vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. The seafood is equally popular in the coastal regions. Apart from Idli, Dosa, Sambhar, some other famous recipes from the state are..Chettinad Masala recipes,Pongal recipes,Iyenger Recipes and many more.

What is Idli

Idlis are steamed cakes made with fermented rice and lentil batter. One of the healthiest breakfast/meal option that is vegan-friendly, gluten-free and requires very less or absolutely no oil.

Idli are relished with coconut chutney/ red chutney , Sambhar or even with special South Indian spice mixes known as podi . Sambhar is a spicy lentil preparation stew/curry with vegetables .

Idli with Sambhar
Idli with Sambhar

Traditionally, rice and lentils/dal are soaked overnight or for at least 4-5 hrs, grind to smooth paste, mixed together and batter is fermented (8-12 hrs depending on climatic conditions) and then steamed in special vessel/steamer with idli plates(Idli Steamer).

Instant Khaman Dhokla is another recipe with steaming method, which is healthy and nutritious and uses less oil.

Looking out for more filling breakfast recipes. try these. Besan Chlila, Chole Bhature, Instant Ragi Dosa, Poha , Mix. Veg Daliya/Broken Wheat Pilaf and many more…

Perfect fermented batter for Idli

Getting a perfect Idli batter in North Indian climate especially in winters was not an easy task and when you don’t have an oven. Making Instant Rava Idlis(idli with sooji/rava and curd/yogurt) was easy and quick option.

I remember trying my first batch of Idli after my marriage while we were in Chandigarh. First time I tried it in winters and that time I had to put it somewhere in kitchen closet for the warmth wrapped in cloth, and the batter did not ferment well.Then with the tips given by my sister’s landlady, I started experimenting with Idli batter.

And yes, I used to made it with basmati rice!! In online recipes I had read about Idli rava and Idli rice but back then it was not commonly available in North Indian cities.

When we shifted to Mumbai, then I started making Idli with Idli rice/Idli Rava regularly, as my daughter loves Idli since she was a kid. Also, fermentation was also not a problem in Mumbai’s weather. I had my share of failures, but I always used to take tips from my South Indian neighbors and now get soft and fluffy Idlis  from good fermented batter.

Here in US too, winters are very harsh. Before buying Instant pot I used to keep batter in warm oven with lights on and got good fermentation. I had failures here too, and the batter was then used for making dosa or uttapam!!

Now with Instant Pot I can ferment batter in it especially during winters for soft fluffy idli.

What is Idli Rava

Traditionally, Idli Rice, is used for making Idlis, but can also make Idlis using Idli Rava, or the cream of idli Rice.

Idli Rava is finely ground Idli Rice/Cream of Idli rice. It doesn’t require so much grinding. We can make also dosa with the same batter.

Idli Rava is can also be used for making upma another popular breakfast item.

Other rice varieties can also be used for making Idli prefer the ones with small grains like Sona Massori, I always have used Idli Rice or Rava and in my initial days of experiments Basmati!!

Lentil/Dal used for Idli batter

I used whole skinned black lentils( here in this recipe). You can also use split skinned or dhuli urad, I use that often. I also use Chilka Urad(skinned split black gram) or Chilka Moong Dal for making Idlis, will update, recipe in another post.

Other Ingredients for Idli

Fenugreek seeds(Methi Dana) and flattened rice flakes(Poha), are also used along with rice/idli rava and dal for soft and fluffy Idlis. I add salt after fermentation, though many people add it while fermenting the batter. In places with hot climate, add salt afterwards only.

Oil is not used in preparing Idlis, so it is kind of zero oil recipe. Idli plates are brushed with oil to avoid sticking of steamed idlis on plates.

Ratio of Idli Rava to dal is same as we use for rice and dal in traditional idli batter. For every 2 cups of Idli Rava use 1/2 cup dal/lentil, 1/4 cup of Poha and 1 tsp of fenugreek seeds. 

All ingredients are available at Indian grocery stores.

Preparation for Idli Batter

While using Idli Rava, we don’t have to soak it for long duration. Soak Idli Rava and Dal for at least 3-4 hrs, separately.

Add fenugreek seeds with Dal. Poha can be soaked separately just 1-2 hrs before making Idlis.

Making Batter

Drain water from dal/lentil, and squeeze out water from Idli Rava using hand.  Don’t drain it in strainer /sieve as it is very fine and will drain away with water. Try to squeeze out as much water from rava as you can.

Now you can directly add soaked rava to dal and and grind to smooth paste. Or,  grind dal first and then add rava in dal paste. Both ways are good but will give slightly different texture.

Drain water from poha and add to dal/lentil before grinding.

I grind both rava and dal together but keep about 1/4 cup of rava to add to batter for a little grainy texture. Mix rava and dal batter lightly with hands. The batter should get the warmth from hands not overheated fro the heat of grinder.

Usually wet grinder(a special kind of grinder) is used to grind Idli and Dosa batter. You can find it in almost all South Indian homes. In India I used my Inalsa Grinder and  here in US I grind in Oyster blender or food processor. Powerful  Vitamix or Blendtec are good for making Idli batter.

My blender heats up quickly so I prefer using Idli Rava  for making Idlis. I do make with Idli rice, for that I grind in small batches of batter and add chilled water to avoid heating of batter.

Tips to keep in mind while making batter

  • The batter should not be too thick or too thin. It should be fluffy and of dropping consistency just like cake batter.
  • Batter should not heat up while grinding, for that use cold/chilled water. I usually keep soaked dal and rice(when using) in refrigerator before grinding. The same I do for making Dahi Vada or Medu Vadas. This way the batter doesn’t heat up while grinding.
  • For good texture of Idlis, batter should be little grainy not very smooth. Keep small amount of Idli Rava to add in smooth dal and rava batter.

How to ferment Idli Batter in Instant Pot

Fermenting batter in Indian Climate(summers) is not a problem. But if it is cold and chilly then batter takes time to ferment. Sometimes it takes 14-16 hrs also.

Batter ferments very nicely in Instant Pot. It takes 8-12 hrs depending on climate. I keep it late night after finishing all my kitchen work and early morning I get nicely fermented batter.

The only disadvantage of using Instant pot is that you can’t cook anything else it you have only one inner pot. So when using Instant Pot try fermenting batter at night and use for Idli the next morning. Remaining batter can be stored and used for making Dosa or Utappam or Appe.

How to ferment Idli batter in Oven

Don’t have Instant Pot no worries..keep batter in oven to ferment.

I preheat the oven to 200ºF , then leave it open for few minutes, when it is slightly warm, I keep the batter in steel pot, cover the container with oven lights on.

Do not keep batter to ferment in plastic container and do not cover it with cling flim or aluminium foil. Cover with plate or cloth. Glass container is also a good option but prefer the stainless steel ones.

How to ferment Idli batter without oven

During winters many North Indians have problem with batter fermentation. If you don’t have oven you can try below trick. It will take 14-16 hrs for batter to ferment, depending on how warm the room/kitchen is..

Keep it in kitchen closet wrapped with some warm cloth and over a big plate. Ensure that the vessel is big so that batter doesn’t overflows and spoils the cloth/shawl or closet.

You can also keep it in room with room heater on. Select a place where the batter is left undisturbed.

Steaming Idli from fermented batter

Once the batter is fermented, do not transfer it in other container. If you used your inner pot, keep the batter in it till making Idli or transfer the batter very lightly. Do not over mix the fermented batter, you will get dense Idlis.

I make Idlis in Idli steamer. I still have to use Instant Pot(I.P) as Idli plates are is quite big to fit in I.P. You can try to steam idli in in I.P friendly, muffin cups(silicone) or disposable paper glasses, but haven’t tried any of the method.

You can order Idli Steamer from Amazon.

To steam Idlis, brush Idli plate with oil(use any).

Put the steamer pot filled with water,till the marked level, on gas-stove at medium heat.Wait till the water boils.

Meanwhile transfer Idli batter in Idli mold. Once water starts boiling, keep Idli plates in steamer and cover the pot and let it steam for 6-7 minutes.

Check if the idlis are done switch off the gas, let it stand for few minutes then take out idli stand. Again keep it on counter for a couple of minutes and then take out Idli for the molds, You can use spoon to gently take out,  if idlis are sticking to plate.

Idli with Rava Idli

Prep Time6 hrs
Cook Time15 mins
Fermentation Time10 hrs
Total Time16 hrs 15 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: South Indian
Keyword: how to ferment Idli batter in Instant Pot, how to make Idli with Idli Rava
Servings: 16 Idli pieces

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Idli Rava/Cream of Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Skinned Black Gram(Split or Whole)
  • 1/2 Cup Flattened Rice flakes/Poha
  • 1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds/Methi Dana
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Oil to brush on Idli molds

Instructions

  • Wash Idli Rava and dal seperately and soak in enough water. Add fenugreek seeds in soaked dal.
  • Soak for 3-4 hrs.
  • Wash Poha/flattened rice flakes 1-2 hrs before grinding batter.
  • When ready to grid, drain water from rava, dal and poha.
  • Add dal, poha and Rava , leave about 1/4 rava. Squeeze water from Rava using hands.
  • Add about 1.2 cup water to dal rava mix and grind to smooth paste. The batter should be nice fluffy.
  • Add rest of rava and mix the batter lightly with hand.

Fermenting batter in Instant Pot(I.P)

  • Transfer the batter to inner pot of Instant Pot. Plug-in I.P
  • Set the setting to Yogurt Mode for 10 hrs(summers about 8 hrs)
  • Close the lid or cover with a glass or steel lid.
  • After the set timing, check for the fermentation of batter. It should double up and bubbly.
  • If it is still not done, set the Yogurt Mode On again for 2-3 hrs.
  • Once fermented use for making Idlis or keep in refrigerator. If required transfer the batter to other container and refrigerate. Do not over mix the batter.
  • Use fresh batter for making Idlis and left over batter, for dosa or uttapam.

Fermenting Batter in Oven

  • Pre-heat oven to 200F , leave the door open for few minutes.
  • When it is when not hot keep the container of batter with a plate under it, to avoid mess if batter overflows.
  • The vessel should be big enough to hold risen batter.

Steaming Idli

  • Brush Idli plate with oil(use any good plant based oil)
  • Put the steamer pot filled with water,till the marked level, on gas-stove at medium heat. Wait till the water boils.
  • Meanwhile transfer Idli batter in Idli mold. Once water starts boiling, keep Idli plates in steamer and cover the pot and let it steam for 10-15 minutes.
  • Check if the idlis are done switch off the gas, let it stand for few minutes then take out idli stand.
  • Again keep it on counter for a couple of minutes and then take out Idli for the molds, You can use spoon to gently take out,  if idlis are sticking to plate.
  • Serve with Chutney or Sambhar!!

Hope this post will be helpful for you if you are a first timer at making Idli or struggle with getting perfect fermented batter with or without Instant Pot or oven.

Do give me feedback on the recipe whenever you make it!! I will love hear from you.

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Author: Swati

Some who believes 'EAT WELL, READ DAILY, TRAVEL OFTEN AND LAUGH KHUL KE'!!! Hi!! Swati here!!! Chef, Chocolatier, food admirer, reader, love to travel, listen to music, Bollywood and shoot nature and food pics!! Welcome to my Foodtrails and join me in my food adventure!!

15 thoughts

  1. Wow, your idlis look so soft and fluffy, very inviting! Love the detailed post on how to get them just right. I have never tried idlis with idli rava, though – always use boiled rice. Should try out your version some time. 🙂

    1. Thanks Priya..Idli Rava comes handy here when I don;t want to do much of grinding with Idli rice. I should try boiled rice as I haven’t tried yet.

  2. Your idlis look so soft and fluffy Swaty ! I also prefer idli rava over rice as it saves time while grinding the batter.

  3. The idli dunked in sambar is just the way I like my idlis, and moreover it looks soft and just perfect. I like the way you have listed out how to ferment the batter. As you have said in colder climates this would be very useful. Nice post!

    1. Thanks Sujataji.. glad you liked the post and details here.. it is all based on my experience of making Idlis..

  4. You nailed it Swaty, idli’s came out perfectly with spongy and fluffy texture. Loved ur kutti utensils, and podi too. The way idli floating in sambar is just mouthwatering 😋.

  5. Perfectly made soft and fluffy looking idlis. I too used normal basmati rice back in Kenya but got introduced to Idli rice and sona masor rice in India.Love how you’ve fermented the batter in an IP. I don’t add rice flakes. Next batter will surely have this softening ingredient.

  6. The idlis have turned out super soft and looks so tempting dunked in that hot sambar. Wonderful tips there on how to ferment batter in cold places.

  7. I love Idlis made with Idli rava, Udupi restaurants always make it that way. I think living in India, atleast in Mumbai we take the weather for granted for they ferment super easy. The fluffy idlis look so good, Swati 🙂 well done !

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