Idli ~ South India’s Pride (Rice Cakes)

I am from Tamil Nadu, a south Indian state. It has been almost 6 months since I started this blog. When I realized I did not post our signature dish yet, I decided to get it done ASAP.  IDLI (read id-lee) is our version of steamed rice cakes. Idli has gained worldwide popularity because of its simplicity, health benefits and taste! If you say you’re a South Indian, chances are – people will ask you about IDLI. 🙂 I grew up eating these rice cakes every other day. To be honest, these weren’t my favorite things in the world growing up. I craved for Pizzas, cakes & chocolates. But now, I would gladly give up a slice of Pizza for hot IDLIs. (or maybe I would want both :P) My point is, this has to be one of the most simple dishes that go easy on the stomach too. It is a popular breakfast dish, but we really eat it all the time coz its so easy to put together if you have the Idli Batter ready.

You would also need the IDLI-PLATE-STAND. It looks something like this –

What you do is pour the batter into each groove, stack them up and steam it. However, if you don’t have or do not want to invest in one, you could really pour the batter on any flat bottomed vessel and steam them. They wouldn’t exactly look like traditional IDLIs, but they will still be IDLIs 🙂

You also wanna make sure the batter is well fermented. A batter that hasn’t fermented well gives hard idlis and trust me – you don’t want hard idlis! 🙂

Take some of the batter. If it is not of pouring consistency, add a little water and beat well to make it of pouring consistency.

Oil the IDLI plates (or any other dish in which you plan to steam the batter) very well. This is an important step coz it helps the IDLIs to come out of the plate easily. We generally use Sesame oil and the smell is divine. But any normal vegetable oil is fine.

Pour the batter into the groove. Do not pour upto the brim as the batter will steam and rise slightly.

Get the IDLI plates ready. I only made it on one plate so I didn’t need the idli stand. If  you are going to be making a lot more, use the IDLI stand.

If you’re going to be making many IDLIs in the IDLI stand, you’ll need a steamer or a cooker big enough to hold the stand. As I just made it with 1 plate, I created my own steamer. I have a wok in which the IDLI plate fits perfectly. So I filled the wok half full with water & got that to a boil.

Place the IDLI plate on the mouth of the wok. This wouldn’t work if the wok is bigger than the plate. If you’re using the steamer / cooker, place the entire stand in.

Close with a lid.

Let that steam for about 7-10 minutes. You are looking for IDLIs that look fluffy and are fully cooked through. I can usually tell by just looking at them. But if you’re not sure, just pierce the center with a knife or toothpick. If it comes out clean, it is done.

Removing the IDLI from the IDLI plate is also important. If you tried removing them as soon as  they are out of the steamer, you will end up with squished, half idlis. Let them cool for a minute & then start loosening the edges. They come off easily. Similarly, if you don’t take them out soon enough, they will stick to the plate 😀 So its all about a balancing act.. find your own groove! 🙂

Serve with hot Sambar or coconut chutney or both 🙂

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South Indian Idli
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: South Indian
  • Idli Batter
  • Water (to loosen the batter to make it into pouring consistency)
  • Sesame Oil (or any vegetable oil)
  • Idli plates or any flat bottomed slightly raised plates
  • Steamer / Cooker / Wok
  1. Make sure the batter is well fermented. AIf the batter is thick, add some water and beat well to make it into pouring consistency. (should be something like a cake batter)
  2. Oil the plates in which you are going steam idli well. this prevents the idlis from sticking.
  3. Pour the batter into each hole in the plate. Don't pour upto the brim as the idlis would rise a bit as they cook.
  4. Steam for 7-10 minutes or until fully cooked through.
  5. Let it cool for a minute. Loosen the edges and take the IDLIs out.
  6. Serve hot with Sambar & Chutney
To make in a wok
  1. If your IDLI plate fits exactly on the mouth of a wok, you could make them in a wok too.
  2. Create a steaming effect by filling half the wok with water & bringing it to a boil.
  3. Place the IDLI plate (only one at a time) exactly on the mouth of the wok.
  4. Close it with a lid (that should NOT touch the idli batter)
  5. Let that cook for 7-10 minutes

You may wanna check out these to make your perfect idlis

8 Replies to “Idli ~ South India’s Pride (Rice Cakes)”

  1. love these idlis, I love Indian food; a well balanced meals. But I am not the one who will make my own meals I have to run to find a Indian restaurant in Toronto

  2. thank you for this recipe

  3. Wonderful Idli’s. I love to ea idli in my breakfast. It so yummy and light in stomach.You explained here very nice way.


  4. One of my favorite meals..light, healthy and yum!

  5. Hi, your rice cake look delicious. Very soft and puffy.

    Have a nice week ahead.Regards.

  6. Idli looks soft n fluffy.chutneys look gr8 🙂

  7. Now I am really hungry after looking at the soft soft idlis..:)
    Beautiful post dear..:)

  8. Sudhaa Gopinath says: Reply

    Nicely explained. I love idlis too 🙂

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