Idli Podi

Idli Milagai podi is an indispensable condiment in every south Indian’s pantry.  I find idli podi satisfying only when I feel the coarse grits inside my mouth. Hence I prefer to use the gritty home-made podi over the powder-like store-bought idli podi. We use roasted rice for its sandy texture, roasted asafoetida & raw garlic for the wonderful aroma that brings everyone to the kitchen while grinding idli podi.

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Idli milagai podi

Idli podi reminiscences:

This recipe reminds me of my childhood days spent in my mother’s village along with my siblings & cousins. Every morning we used to walk to the nearby river (Thamiraparani) for taking bath and spend a couple of hours playing hide & seek inside the water. When we came out of the water our eyes were reddened and we were in grave hunger. We usually sat on the rocks to have our breakfast with scrumptious idli or dosa marinated in idli podi & cold pressed sesame oil (chekku ennai) packed in a banana leaf. When we begin to unwrap our food pack, a shoal of fish suddenly appears from nowhere waiting for us to feed them.

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In those days we just drank the river water itself to quench our thirst. It is the sweetest water I have ever tasted in my life. By the time we reach home the lunch would be almost ready that we could hear the mustard seeds crackling sound from the kitchen. We all cherish those beautiful childhood memories forever.

Idli podi, the quintessential ingredient of our travel food:

Earlier we used to carry our food wrapped in a banana leaf especially for a picnic like this or for long train travels. When the hot food is enveloped in a banana leaf, it gets infused with an aroma of banana leaf. So we can catch the whiff of its unique pleasant fragrance while unwrapping the pack. Still some of the restaurants here use banana leaves for packing/ serving food. We also serve food on a banana leaf at home during festivals and other special occasions.

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How to pack idli in a banana leaf

Idli Podi Recipe:

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Idli Podi

Time Taken: 20 min

Yields : 1½ cup


  1. Sesame oil – 1 tsp
  2. A pinch of asafoetida block
  3. Red chillies – 25 Nos.
  4. Split black gram (de-skinned) – ½ cup (100 g)
  5. Bengal gram (split chickpeas) – ½ cup (100 g)
  6. Idli Rice – 1 tbsp (15 g)
  7. Garlic – 1 bulb (10 pods)
  8. Salt – 1 tsp

Preparing Idli Podi:

  • Heat a pan with oil in medium flame, roast asafoetida and red chillies separately.
  • In the same pan roast black gram, Bengal gram & rice separately until they release nice aroma.
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  • Leave the roasted lentils aside until cool down.
  • Add red chillies into a dry mixer-grinder jar & blitz into a powder.
  • Then add lentils & grind into a coarse powder.
  • Add garlic & salt and blend together in “pulse” mode.
  • Transfer to an airtight glass jar or SS canister.
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  • We need to be careful while roasting red chillies and ensure that they don’t get burnt, as the color of idli podi is mainly dependent on the color of roasted chillies.
  • We can use garlic pods even without peeling its skin to enhance the flavor.


We can make some little changes in this milagai podi’s recipe and prepare different milagai podi as below:

i) Ellu milagai podi (Sesame seeds idli powder) :

We just need to include sesame seeds (½ cup), and alter the quantity of black gram to ¼ cup & Bengal gram to ¼ cup. I prefer to omit garlic & asafoetida as they may interfere with sesame seeds’ nutty flavor.

ii) Karivepilai podi (Curry leaves idli powder) :

We need to include curry leaves – ½ cup and alter the quantities of Blackgram to ¼ cup & Bengalgram to ¼ cup.

iii) Kollu podi (horsegram idli powder):

You may check out the recipe for kollu podi here.

Tips to make flavorful asafoetida:

Freshly roasted asafoetida is more flavorful than store-bought asafoetida powder. We can buy an asafoetida block that is soft & supple (if it is hard, we can keep it in a warm place for few hours), pinch and shape into thin sheets or tiny balls, dry them & store in a cool dark place so that it won’t get melted again.

These pieces can be used for the recipes like sambar (as it is dissolved in boiling water) or added into any masala powder (as it can be powdered) but not while stir-frying legumes (sundal), or vegetables (as it never gets mixed while stir frying). Alternatively we can roast these pieces in hot oil (or dry roast them), crush them into powder and store in a dry jar for later use.

90 comments on “Idli PodiAdd yours →

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  1. Wow! The all time hit combination with idli or dosa. It was explained beautifully. I have never added garlic to my podi mix. Shld surely try this. One doubt, shld we fry garlic too as other wise how does it merge with the podi as garlic is sticky. Please clarify my doubt.

    1. Glad that you also liked idli podi ! We use raw garlic only but add them at the end after grinding all the lentils and run the mixer in whipper mode for few seconds. This gives a beautiful aroma and it wont stick together.
      Please do share with me how it turned out !! 🙂

  2. Oh! I’ve never seen asafoetida in a block before! How long does it keep? I’m very curious about the taste of it fresh versus store-bought. The idli podi itself sounds wonderful and versatile, too.

    1. Thanks Liz! You can keep this block even for an year, it is more flavorful than store-bought powder but no difference in its taste.

  3. Such a versatile condiment! I’ve actually never had it before, but now it may become a indispensable part of my kitchen pantry. I can imagine it working well with an endless array of dishes.

  4. Beautiful video. This post is very nostalgic??. I used to have this straight from the jar, when I was a kid. Goes great with any Indian breakfast. Beautiful post Megala

  5. I found your reminiscing so fascinating as did my 6 year old granddaughter! How do you dry the Idli Podi? I dry in a food dehydrator and grind in a coffe grinder.

    1. 🙂 Thanks ! We do make idli podi in small quantity and we do not require to use food dehydrator for a tropical climate here in Chennai.

      1. Don’t worry, sent link to mom so now she’s gonna explore your recipes and I get to profit with the dishes.. Win win megala

  6. Lovely to read about those priceless childhood days on the banks of the Thamirabarani.I have heard that the its water is unique for its taste and that it is the reason behind the unbeatable taste of Iruttu Kadai halwa!
    Will try this idli podi recipe. Your photos are a winner.Thanks for sharing.

  7. Awesome childhood memories. Packing hot food in banana leaf is something very special and traditional. You bring lot of memories back in this post. Happy about it. Asafoetida tip is very useful Megala. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I’m going to try this Megala.. Ive never seen anyone add rice.. it’s interesting.. lovely reading about your childhood.. thanks for sharing ?

  9. Awesome post Megala…Loved it..So touching story of your childhood days..Just went into some flashback of my childhood days by reading this..Will try this soon.

  10. Spicy and yum! Tastes awesome with idli and dosa. I make it at home Megala. I have a query. Why do you use rice? I am hearing adding rice to it for the first time.

    1. Rice makes a significant difference and is used to give a coarse texture. Also roasted rice enhances the flavor. If the podi is powdery, it wont taste as good as the granular one.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Childhood memories are the most valuable treasure of our life…Thanks for sharing..I will definitely try..

  12. Such lovely memories…:) Megala can I ask what is asafoetida? I just googled it but I can’t understand what spice it comes close too. 🙂

    1. It is a gum extracted from a plant and it helps in digestion, but I have no idea about the plant! Too much of asafoetida (hing) is also not good, we just have to use only a pinch or more in powder form.
      Thanks a lot for stopping by!!

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