Idli-dosa batter

At the mere sight of a canister filled with idli-dosa batter inside my refrigerator I feel totally relaxed as it helps my meal planning easier. With this multi-purpose batter I can make simple podi dosa when I feel lazy, or treat ourselves with a sumptuous feast, or give a traditional twist to overcome our meal monotony. It is needless to say that this batter is the quintessential stock inside the refrigerator in every South Indian’s home across the globe.

img_9526 Idli-dosa batter
Podi dosa, a simple breakfast
img_9629 Idli-dosa batter
An elaborate breakfast with idli & dosa
img_6395 Idli-dosa batter
Traditional breakfast with idli & dosa

Before moving onto the procedure for making batter let’s look into 3 essential factors for a fail-safe idli-dosa batter preparation:

  1. Consistency (water requirement)
  2. Measurement (rice & lentil ratio)
  3. Time (required for soaking, grinding & fermentation)

Consistency of idli-dos batter:

I feel we need to give utmost importance to the batter consistency particularly for making soft idli because if the water used is less than required, then idli becomes hard; if watery it does not rise above while steaming and become fluffy as shown below:

img_2685 Idli-dosa batter
How the consistency of batter is essential for making idli

Measurement for idli batter:

Our grandmothers managed to get the right consistency instinctively as they acquired this knowledge through years of practice. Here I share the measurements after several trials and the successful results:

  • The ratio between rice & urad dal for idli-dosa batter is rice : urad dal : salt = 2 cups (400 g) : Β½ cup (100 g) : 1 tbsp
  • Water required for grinding urad dal is 1:3
2-horz Idli-dosa batter
Urad dal
  • Water required for grinding rice is 1:1
img_2602 Idli-dosa batter
Idli arisi

Time required for soaking, grinding and fermentation:

Generally, soaking time of any grain or lentil depends on the growing period of those crops. (ie.) if your legumes take little time to get soaked, or cooked it means they were harvested from early-maturing crop varieties and vice versa. In a thickly populated country like India farmers prefer to grow early-maturing crop varieties than the conventional late-maturing varieties to meet the growing demand. So if you find grains or legumes taking longer time to get soaked or cooked, don’t get annoyed instead thank the farmer for sacrificing his profits considerably by growing traditional crops and continue buying from the same source to support him !

Soaking time of rice & lentils grown here is :

  • Lentils – 1 hour
  • Rice – 3 hours

Grinding time:

  • Lentils – 30 min.
  • Rice – 20 min

Fermentation time:

It takes 10 to 12 hours during winter (approx. 20 to 30 deg C), 6 to 8 hours during summer (upto 40 deg C) here; you can adjust the fermentation time according to your climate. You may also speed up the process by an hour by keeping it in a warmer (but not a hot) place.

Idli-dosa batter recipe

Now let’s look into an infallible procedure that I meticulously follow to churn out batter for making soft spongy idli or thin crispy dosa:

Things required:

  • Wet grinder (capacity mentioned by the manufacturer is 2 Ltrs.)
  • A bowl for soaking rice
  • A bowl for soaking lentil
  • A large vessel with a lid for fermentation [with the capacity of 8 Ltrs]
  • An air-tight container for refrigeration [I used a good quality Stainless Steel (eco-friendly) canister with the capacity of 5 Ltrs]
things Idli-dosa batter

Yields: 5 Ltrs


  1. Idli rice – 6 cups (1200 g)
  2. Black gram (urad dal/ vellai muzhu ulundhu) – 1Β½ cup (300 g)
  3. Fenugreek seeds* (vendhayam) – 1 tbsp (optional)
  4. Salt – 3 tbsp

* We prefer to add fenugreek seeds during summer and we can soak & grind it along with lentils.

Idli-dosa batter preparation:

There are 3 steps involved in this preparation viz., soaking rice & dal, grinding them and fermenting the batter.

Soaking idli rice & urad dal:

Wash and soak rice & lentils separately in water in the following ratio and we can use the remaining water while grinding lentils, and/or rinsing wet grinder at the end:

  • rice : water is 1 : 0.8
  • lentil : water is  1 : 2

So I soaked 1200 grams of rice in 1000 ml of water (approx. 80%) for 3 hours and used the remaining 200 ml of water for rinsing the wet grinder after grinding rice. Similarly, I soaked 300 grams of lentils in 600 ml of water for an hour and used the remaining 300 ml of water while grinding lentils.

How to grind idli batter in wet grinder:

  • Switch on the clean wet grinder and add lentils along with its soaking water* into it.
  • Pour 150 ml of water after 10 minutes and then remaining 150 ml of water in the next 10 minutes.
  • You may have to use a broad wooden spatula to turn about the batter every now & then for making it homogeneous.
  • Switch off in 30 minutes, remove lentil batter from grinder and gather into a large mixing vessel.
lentil Idli-dosa batter
how to grind urad dal for idli
  • Turn the power on again and add rice along with its soaking water* into it.
  • Allow it to grind into a smooth batter for 20 min.; no need to pour water while grinding rice.
  • Add salt just before removing batter and turn off.
  • Pour rice batter into the same mixing vessel.
  • Finally rinse wet grinder with remaining 200 ml of water by running it for a minute and pour into the batter.

Since fermentation begins to take place even while soaking rice & lentils, we should not discard it. However soaking them for quite a long time also affects the quality of batter.

rice-grnd Idli-dosa batter
how to grind rice for idli

Fermentation of idli-dosa batter:

  • Mix both rice & lentil batter with hand as the heat from our palm facilitates the fermentation process.
  • Keep the vessel covered allowing fermentation to take place and leave it undisturbed for a stipulated time.
  • Stir vigorously when done using a ladle for a minute and transfer it to a canister.
  • Now the batter is ready to use and can be refrigerated up to 10 days.
batter Idli-dosa batter
Fermentation of idli-dosa batter

Tips for making idli-dosa batter:

  • We should not soak rice or lentils in hot water to reduce the soaking time. We can follow this only when they are intended for cooking/ boiling but not for making batter.
  • I prefer to add salt into the batter before the fermentation as it also plays a role during fermentation.
  • If you leave batter longer than the stipulated time for fermentation, it becomes too sour and may rise up & spill over the vessel.
  • Based on the quantity of rice you are planning to use, you may have to select the appropriate mixing vessel, storage container & even wet grinder. I used a mixing vessel (8 Ltrs) & a storage container (5 Ltrs) for 1200 grams of rice; my wet grinder (2 Ltrs. capacity) is just right for grinding 300 grams of lentils not more than that.
  • You may treat this recipe as a reference and adjust all your variables accordingly to get the desired batter quality.

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  1. Excellent post !!! Wonder how i missed it before …… Nebertheless .. … I finished with the soaking bits…. in the morning… Have tried to follow your instructions to the tee !! Wish me luck, for I too want taste success ( read idlis with homemade batter ) πŸ˜‰

    1. Oh, great ! I’m sure your family would also taste your success !! πŸ™‚

      1. Hi Megala,
        A tad bit late in posting how it went for me …… but….. Your batter recipe was a major success. I used the batter for idli, dosai and uttampam. Excellent feed on the blog ! Many thanks for sharing the recipe. Best wishes to you.

  2. Oh dear I always go for readymade batter homemade batter seems to be tedious job.
    But I want to try this time by following your tips.

  3. I love to read how people make their idli batter and I liked the fact that you have given measure in weight as well. I find that gms are a more accurate instruction than cup.
    Also liked the ration of water to be used.

  4. Very informative post Megala!
    Sometimes when steaming idlis, the batter in the lower idli stand spaltters all over inside the pot. Am I putting in too much water for steaming?

    1. Thanks, Sandhya !
      Yes,this could be one of the reasons, if you are boiling water over high flame and/or using pressure cooker for steaming you may experience the same problem. It is preferred to keep idli stand inside the pot when the water begins to boil, and then reduce the flame to low till done. Hope this may prevent the batter splattering. Also you can check out my post on idli:

      1. Thanks so much for your prompt reply..yes I am generally in a hurry and the steaming pot is on high. Will try your method next time !

  5. Very informative post indeed! I was not aware that even the quantity of water used for soaking rice and lentils as well as time for which they are soaked, contribute to the batter. I will keep these points in mind the next time I make the batter. I use regular basmati rice for making my batter, use the 1:3 proportion for lentils to rice and here in Ireland, it takes 24 hours for the batter to get fermented. It doesn’t rise at all but still starts smelling fermented and yields great idli and dosas. Not to forget, I have to use my electric blender for grinding the rice and lentils. If you can give me any tips about my process, please do so! i will be extremely grateful! I will absorb the tips from your post nevertheless the next time I am at it. Always looking forward to learn more and more from the experts! πŸ˜€

    1. Glad that you find this post useful ! I’ve not tried basmati rice, but I guess this is why you may require more lentils (1:3), for idli rice it is 1:4 only. And for grinding, I feel we need to use wet grinder particularly for lentils to incorporate more air into the batter, so that you can get good volume. My 300 grams of lentils ground into approx. 2 Ltrs of batter, obviously you can’t get this volume in blender. I think this is the reason your batter does not rise up during fermentation. Hope all your doubts are clarified !!

  6. This is an splendid guide to make that batter, very informative, detailed and precise, thanks for sharing !

  7. Was just talking to a friend about buying this batter from the store and filling it with a potato and pea bhaji. It looks really good when its all said and done, but wow! I’m not sure I’d be able to get mine looking as good πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! This is the job that every south Indian woman does effortlessly on a regular basis!!

  8. Simply mouth watering podi doosa.. ? i loved the picture showing the idlis based on the batter consistency.. such a staple food! ?

    1. Thank you, I’m sure you would be delighted with the outcome and I would love to hear your experience !!

  9. Love this post ma’am. Very detailed, I feel it will definitely urge anyone to try it. I am in Muscat I thought orid dhal here is not good as it takes more time for soaking thanks for making it clear it is good.

  10. Wow! What an amazing lesson on making Idli dosa batter, a lesson we usually learn from our mothers and mothers-in law! We take this batter for granted but you’re right, knowing there is batter in the fridge makes planning breakfasts and evening tiffin so much easier! Keep writing!

  11. Very detailed and well explained! My mom used to make idli batter at home but we just get it in the store but my fave is always idli and dosa πŸ™‚ Amazing pics btw!

    1. Since it is a traditional preparation, it just needs to be explained well for better understanding !
      By the way thanks a lot for stopping by !!

  12. Such a beautiful write up and awesome info ✌✌ loved the thali with idli, dosa and various chutneys… it’s such a soul soothing food βœ”βœ”

  13. Uhmm! Yummy pictures of podi dosa and idli vada with accompanying chutnies. It made my mouth water. I am sure this post of making idli, dosa mavu has been useful to a lot of people.

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