No longer just a South Indian favorite, Idlis are loved by people all around the world. Making an idli, is not difficult, nor does it need a lot of attention. The sourdough, however, does need preparation time for soaking and fermentation. So, just plan for 36 hours before cooking them.

Idli: Steamed Indian Lentil Rice Cakes [Vegan]


6 - 8



  • 2 1/4 cups shortgrained parboiled rice
  • 3/4 cup white lentils (urad dal)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 inch fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Water for soaking and grinding
  • Light oil for greasing the moulds


  1. Soak the rice and the lentils separately overnight for at least 12-14 hours.
  2. Wash and drain the grains.
  3. Place the rice in the blender with about 1/2 cup of water and add in the fenugreek and ginger and blend in a blender for about 5-7 minutes, pausing if needed to ensure are smooth paste with just a hint of texture.
  4. Place the liquid in a large container with a lid and enough space to allow the batter to ferment and expand, much like bread dough.
  5. Place the white lentils with about 1/4 cup of water and blend, until smooth. This should not take very long.
  6. Gently mix this into the rice mixture, the batter should have the consistency of thick pancake or waffle batter.
  7. Let the batter rest undisturbed for at least 15-20 hours.  At this point the batter should smell yeasty, fruity and be a mass of soft frothy bubbles.
  8. Lightly oil the idli moulds. Pour the batter into the mould till about 3/4 full, allowing a little room to let the buns rise.
  9. Add about 2 inches of water in a large stock pot, or a pressure cooker (note, I use this because it is the largest pot with a lid in my house that fits the idli moulds.
  10. Bring the water to a simmer, gently lower the filled idli moulds and cover and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the idlies rest for about 10 minutes, before gently un-molding them and serving.


It is essential to use a short grain parboiled rice, rather than the long grain basmati rice. This can be found in Indian stores sold as Idli rice.